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Sunday, November 30, 2008

MASSANUTTEN, VA. PART I

Ah, Virginia in September is absolutely gorgeous for a New Yorker. It's still summer here although there is just enough of a hint of autumn to make the temperatures absolutely delightful. Here we are, back at Massenutten Resort in McGaheysville, Va, just minutes off the I 81 in Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University. Massanutten is primarily a time share resort, the biggest in the Vacation Village chain. It's an easy drive from New York, and it is located in the magnificent Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. (Do you know that bluegrass song?)

We're staying in a different section of the resort this year (http://thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2008/03/massanutten-resort-in-virginia.html) . Last year was Eagle Trace, a Silver section in this resort; this year we're in Woodstone, a Gold Crown property. We've got a big, beautiful two bedroom, two-bath suite that is laid out to insure each couple’s privacy. There's a cozy gas fireplace which we use on the first night just because it adds a charming glow. Our balcony looks out over other units to the mountains. It's still early autumn here, several weeks behind New York, and the weather is delightful. We've met my cousin Rita from Richmond, my cousin Bill from Tucson, and my sister Robyn and brother-in-law Neal from upstate New York. They're staying at The Summit, another Gold Crown section here. Their two bedroom unit is laid out a bit differently from ours but offers the same amenities, and in this case, their Jacuzzi is a double while ours in only a single. Hmmmm At any rate, the units offer us plenty of opportunity and space to get together, hang out, and reminisce. That's what we're here for.

Yesterday before Rita and Bill arrived, Rob and I headed to the Woodstone Recreation Center, one of two recreation centers on the resort property. There we used the treadmill for a while and then headed back to get ready to meet Robyn and Neal. We four headed to James Madison University's Arboretum.

We were told it is one of the few university arboretums in the country open to the public. We took full advantage and picked up an Arboretum Walking Tour trail guide to help us identify the trees and remaining flowers. We ate our picnic lunch at one of the tables and just relaxed in the warm sun. The guide map sent us along lovely wood-chipped trails past signs that at the right seasons pointed out flowers in bloom or suggested a pause in the walk to admire a tree or bush. As it is late Sept., most of these treats are gone, and we were advised that in March and April, these trails are ablaze with a glorious outpouring of color and variety. Occasionally we'd come across a pavilion where a seminar was occurring and once a young, lone runner sped by, earbuds in place. He nodded as he passed us.

Our walk took us past a picturesque pond complete with stone waterfall and ducks. While it is possible to buy duck food from the machine for a quarter, Robyn had some bread crusts left from lunch, and the ducks seemed quite satisfied. We also saw turtles in the water or sunning themselves on rocks. In the middle of a bustling university, this natural haven seemed quite remote and peaceful.

There is also a Meditation Garden that we decided to save for another visit. Instead we headed back to the resort and the best miniature golf courses I've ever played. It's not only a good course attractively designed but also the views of the Shenandoah Mountains are so lovely that it's hard not to stop and admire the scenery. They're very clever at the resort; there are actually two 18-hole courses back to back with different colored flags to separate them. This way they avoid a pile-up when the facility gets crowded, not that it has been in any of the times we've come. Still, we like to travel off season, and indeed there is blessedly a lack of children at this time of year. We were on the 14th hole when Rita and Billy arrived, and I'd like to claim their arrival took me off my game and that's why I came in 3rd, but that would be a lie, and there are few things worse than a bad lie in golf. Ha Ha Simply means I'll have to come back to play again and try to beat Rob who came in first.

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