Every year when my cousin, visits,  we take some kind of trip.  This year we chose the Virginia mountain area, because there were items from my “bucket list” there, and I was invited to a celebration in the area, and as timing turned out, we left early to attend the funeral of Granny Ward, my son-in-law, Jeff’s grandmother.

Our first stop was The Natural Bridge of Virginia.  I already saw this bridge when Matthew (Grandson) graduated from VMI.  We stayed there with Scott and his family in 2005.  Not only had Carol never see the Natural bridge, but also she had never seen VMI, so that was the first stop.  Both Scott and Matthew graduated from there, and I had been there many times.       IMG_2216

When we arrived at the Natural Bridge, it was late in the day, so we had the seafood buffet in the restaurant, and head down to the light show.  This picture was taken quite late in the day.IMG_2222

We had to sit quite a while waiting for dark, but something quite extraordinary happened.  A young couple sat in front of us with 4 children, and they intrigued me, so we began to chat.  (Anyone knows I can make a friend out of a stranger) and this was no exception.  They were from Australia and their children were ages 3 months, 2, 3, and 5.  They were planning on being in the country three months and were touring by RV. In Australia both mothers and fathers get maternity leave and it was 3 months.  They had already been to Disney World  and were headed to Niagara Falls.  It was absolutely fascinating asking questions about life in Australia, since my Uncle George loved it there.

Of course free health care is a given, as is money from the government to everybody, because Australia saves for emergencies.  The last economic downturn, every family got $2000 to boost the economy, or $25,000 if you bought a house.  The cost of living is high in Sidney my new friends said.

The next day we headed to Buena Vista to Granny Ward’s funeral.  Her grandson, Frank, gave a beautiful eulogy, in her Methodist Church.  http://www.roanoke.com/obituaries/ward-elizabeth-keiser/article_dccb2acd-8711-5754-ba2b-6bb607b06550.html

After the funeral, our destination was Waynesboro where we would spend the night after attending a Memorial Celebration of Fritz “Duke” Zeller. (I knew him from many years ago when he ran for Congress and Stacy and I got to meet Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner at the Plantation house on Northside Dr.)   His partner, Stu, and I had become friends after his death.  The celebration was a wonderful thank you to all their friends that helped when Duke was ill.

Getting to Afton where the celebration occurred was of course mountain driving, and the first of many episodes on this trip.  I hate drop offs and windy roads.  Oh boy, at this point we didn’t know what loomed.  (I cannot understand why I have always enjoyed roller coasters, but driving with a drop off freaks me totally out.  I am not prone to panic attacks, but I swear I had several on this trip.)

From Waynesboro, we headed toward The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs.  I thought it would be that simple trip that occurred last year going to the Greenbrier.  Well, it was 15 to 20 miles of the worst windy, drop off-road I ever driven.  I was a complete stressed out person on arrival.  And I kept asking “is there anyway out of here that is not mountain driving”? Answer, of course, was “no”.  It was a bucket list check, but I will never be seeing that place again.

We spent three days there, and I enjoyed the unusual swimming in body temperature spring water in the huge indoor pool.

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The last picture is Carol with The Casino restaurant in the background.  It is really the golf center, because Virginia doesn’t have real casinos.

Our next stop was Appomattox, Virginia.  I always wanted to see where the Civil War ended, and where my hero, Joshua Chamberlain, saluted the troops.  So that drive was in the mountains to get out of The Homestead, but over other mountains to get to Lynchburg.  Well, I am so thankful I am still here to write this.  Some horrible, irresponsible driver passed me and the person behind me on a curve, across the double yellow line, with no guard rails and a drop off,  and a car was coming up the mountain in that same lane.  I slammed on the brakes and that horrible driver squeaked in front of me, and all 5 cars, did not crash and go off the mountain.  After that experience, no more mountain driving for me.  The following is a map of how the little town of Appomattox looked at the time, a replica of The McLean House, and the salute by Chamberlain to the Southern troops as they laid down their arms and then went home.  http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm

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We spent the night at a delightful combination of a bed and breakfast and hotel called Acorn Hill Lodge in Lynchburg.  It was family built and managed, and a terrific place to stay either a night or long term if business takes you to Lynchburg.  http://www.acornhilllodge.net

Our last stop was a visit to Poplar Forrest, Thomas Jefferson’s second home and retreat in Forest, Virginia. It is a work in progress of renovating the inside. Jefferson’s hexagon house was beautiful, but from the history standpoint, they sort of glossed over the truth of this house greatly. It contributed to his overspending and ending up in bankruptcy. When I asked about Sally Hemmings visiting there, since her other brother lived there, I found the answer to be somewhat evasive. I would recommend the book, “The Twilight at Monticello,” which really is a good read of Jefferson’s whole life, but especially his later years. It was that book that intrigued me to see Poplar Forest.  http://www.poplarforest.org

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When we finally arrived home, I was grateful for a fun, safe trip and flat land!  (And three things crossed off my bucket list)  Carol and I finished our traveling the next weekend visiting with Holly and Will and their families and attending a soccer and T ball game.

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Carol, my beloved cousin and I spent two weeks together.  We certainly did reminisce a lot about all the family members that are no longer with us, and all the family stories.  It was a wonderful time.  And right after dinner,  on our last night together appeared this rainbow in the sky.  What a wonderful end to our adventure.

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