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Friday, December 26, 2008


I have to bring you back to Sept. to pick up at Massanutten, VA. We had such a great time there, and if you've never driven through the rural Virginia countryside, you're missing some great beauty. We stayed at the Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville VA, (a timeshare and member of RCI) but we also did some driving and took in some great local sights....

I left you last month after Rob beat my sister, brother-in-law, cousins, and me on the resort's fantastic miniature golf course. We went into Harrisonburg for dinner, but we spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other's company and catching up.

The next morning, Robyn, Rita and I met at the Woodstone Recreation Center Pool for water aerobics, and Rob headed back to the treadmill. Each morning there is an hour long water aerobics class, and it is quite a workout. Our instructor had us moving the entire time, and while it never was boring, it was not just fun and games; it was a workout. We jogged, stretched, balanced, used noodles and bicycled around the pool and used, for much of the hour, water weights. Those weights are an amazing addition to the workout, and by the time we were done, I really felt it in my shoulders. They provided the resistance exercises that are so necessary in a good workout. There were about 15 people in the class including a few men.
After the class we relaxed those muscles in the big hot tub--at 105 degrees--the same as at home. Rita and Robyn and another woman from the class were initially reluctant to enter at that temperature, but being an old hand at this, I got in and they followed. Another "classmate" demurred and just talked with us from the side. After our stay in the hottub, we three got back in the pool to cool down. What a great morning!!

We parted, went back to our suites, showered and changed, and met again for an afternoon drive through the Virginia countryside. In some fields the cornstalks were still standing while in others they had already been cut down in preparation for the winter. But the grass was still very green, and the dark brown Virginia cows were, for the most part, lying down, a sign of rain. Indeed, rain was forecast and the cloudy day foretold of the rain to come.

Our first stop was the indoor Mennonite Market at Dayton, a year round establishment filled with all kinds of possibilities. The Mennonites appear to mix more with the outside world. I saw cars and trucks in addition to the horsedrawn carriages. In addition to the homegrown produce and meats in the market, there were what seemed to be strange additions. For instance, this area of Virginia, still several hours from Blacksburg, was definitely Hokie territory, and the number of Virginia Tech items rivaled the college's own book store in downtown Blacksburg. On the other hand there were few UVA items. Other booths sold jewelry, lace, furniture, food, and there was one interesting store that specialized in handcrafted goods from third world countries offering everything from area rugs from Pakistan selling for several thousand dollars to attractive nut bowls made from recycled newspaper. We all made purchases, and then Rob and I stopped for lunch at Hank's Smokehouse--an outlet of our favorite restaurant in the area--and enjoyed marvelous pork BBQ and brisket sandwiches.

When we left the Dayton Mennonite Market, Rita guided us along the winding country roads and up and down the beautiful hills past farmers' stands with their tables loaded with vegetables and bright orange pumpkins of every size and shape, horses in their pastures, and in one place two young bucks. It was a wonderful ride. Virginia has so many older homes, some dating back several centuries. There are old towns and many spots marked for their Civil War fame with signs explaining the area's Civil War significance. We crossed over rivers and headed to a special park in Mt. Solon, VA.--Natural Chimneys, a remnant of the time when much of Virginia lay at the bottom of a prehistoric ocean.

With rain threatening we weren't too anxious to take a long hike, but the gatekeeper assured us that the chimneys were just a bit off the parking lot. There were people camping and a roadie setting up for a weekend music festival. Before us to the side of a big open field stood the chimneys, towering 120 ft. above us--tall, stately and foreboding. Much of the surface was covered with thick, green vines. From one angle, they look like chimneys; from another angle they look like the turrets of a long-forgotten fortress. Tree shoots protruded from every ledge or protrusion. Far away at the tops of the chimneys trees grew. There was a kind of grotesqueness about them that was not diminished by the guard rails, the keep out signs and the snake warnings. There was no need to tell me twice. I would admire the chimneys from a distance.

It is very important to have an idea of the chimneys' history in order to appreciate them. Let your imagination run a bit and think back to those primordial seas gradually receding as the earth thrust upward during the Appalachian Revolution. Then imagine the volcanic activity causing the layer of strata we observed six feet from the base of the chimneys. is the power of imagination thrusting the observer back through time that makes this a powerful experience. It is the current green field and eerie, forbidding peacefulness that emphasizes the tumult of the past.

In the evening we celebrated Bill's birthday in Robyn and Neal's suite, feasting on some of our purchases at Drayton including banana chips and then organic spinach spaghetti. Robyn made an unbelievable carrot cake, Bill's favorite, and the lovely day eased into a perfect evening.
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