Virginia Road Trip 2013 (continued)

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Foamhenge

Our visit to Natural Bridge Caverns concluded the Presidents Package we had booked but before leaving the area, there was one more stop I wanted to make. I had researched this area a year or two ago and knew that there was a quirky roadside attraction called Foamhenge. It is located about a mile from Natural Bridge. It was done as an April Fools' Day prank by a local artist named Mark Cline. He created a life-sized replica of England's Stonehenge but he made it from styrofoam. There is a small sign on Route 11 indicating the entrance to this attraction. You will not find a parking lot or visitor center. Instead, we drove a short distance on a dirt road and parked on the grass. I was not even sure we were at the right place until Traci spotted another sign near the trees. We followed the path through the trees and finally saw Foamhenge at the top of a grassy hill. We walked up the hill to have a closer look and to touch the structure which was indeed made of styrofoam. Traci and I had the pleasure of visiting the "real" Stonehenge in England back in 2005. Foamhenge is an impressive replica. Traci and I took time to read some of the humorous signs posted at the structure before making our way back to the car. We had fun with this stop. In fact, it makes my list of Top 5 Quirky Attractions. I definitely recommend having a look at Foamhenge if you ever find yourself in the area.

Foamhenge

We continued on with my mystery birthday weekend road trip. Along the way, we made a stop at Red Lobster in Staunton, Virginia. Since it was my birthday, the waiters sang Happy Birthday to me.

Luray

A little more highway driving brought us to our lodging for the evening - the Mimslyn Inn in Luray, Virginia. This amazing place at the top of hill was a recommendation from Sugar and Audie. Its curb appeal was incredible. It has gleaming white columns and balconies, manicured landscaping, and a long semi-circular driveway. When I saw this, I just knew we would be shelling out a lot of dollars to stay there for the night. Furthermore, we were traveling with Sugar and Audie who normally do high-end when it comes to travel. Traci and I still joke with them about the $100 breakfast we had when we vacationed with them in New Orleans. However, we found the Mimslyn to be affordable for such a classy establishment. With our AAA discount, our overnight cost $143.

As we made our way to the entrance, we saw well-dressed diners enjoying dinner on the patio. The doorman welcomed us inside where we saw a grand piano, a spiral staircase, and a fireplace. The hotel uses a 1930's theme. It has restaurants with names like '31 and The Speakeasy. Our room, on the other hand, had modern furniture and free Wi-Fi. Sugar, Audie, and AJ had a nice suite down the hall from us. We all had a good time laughing and talking that evening before turning in for the night.

Mimslyn Inn

 

 

 

 

Audie and Traci hit the fitness room the next morning and also walked along Main Street. Sugar made 12:30 reservations for the five of us at the hotel's Sunday Champagne Brunch. This was a fabulous brunch consisting of breakfast foods, seafood, salads, pasta, prime rib, desserts, and more. Best of all, it only cost $14.95 per person. Even if you don't stay at the Mimslyn Inn, I highly recommend making a Sunday Brunch reservation. You will not be disappointed.

I guess by now you have figured out that the reason we were in Luray, Virginia was to see its #1 attraction - Luray Caverns. Sugar, Audie, and AJ have been here numerous times so they decided not to join Traci and me for this stop. We said goodbye and thanked them for joining us on my birthday weekend celebration.

Traci and I made the 5-minute drive from the hotel to Luray Caverns. This was Traci's first visit and my second visit. I'm not sure I can count my first visit since I was so young at the time. I could not have been more than six years old when my father drove our family of six in his green station wagon along the scenic highway of Skyline Drive to get the Luray. Other than learning that riding on mountain roads can cause your ears to pop, I don't remember much from that visit.

Fast forward several decades and I find myself with Traci by my side as we decent the steps to this magnificent underground world. The attraction was operating in self-guided tour mode on the day of our visit so after a brief introduction to the caverns by a staff person, we were sent on our way to explore the place on our own. There were guides stationed throughout the walkway to give commentary on some of the more popular rock formations.

Luray Caverns are the best caverns I have ever seen. It is 400 million years old. Stalactites hang from above. Stalagmites seem to have been pushed from the ground to amazing heights. There are other rock formations that seemed to have oozed and suddenly gotten frozen. There is an amazing body of water referred to as Dream Lake. It is so clear that I initially did not realize I was looking at a reflection of the cave rocks.

Luray Caverns

 

 

Another interesting attraction in the caverns is the Stalacpipe Organ that Leland Sprinkle created. The sound is not that great but I found the concept to be fascinating. Mr. Spinkle attached mallets to certain stalactites that produce a tone when struck. It took him 36 years to find the stalactites that resonate at the desired frequencies.

It took us an hour to make it through the caverns. It was a mind-blowing experience. Consequently, Luray Caverns has been added to my list of Top 5 Natural Landmarks.

Luray Caverns sits in a plaza with other attractions such as a garden maze, rope course bridge, museums, and more. The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum was included with our admission to the caverns. It took us no longer than 30 minutes to walk through this interesting museum full of really old cars and carriages. We also took a 15-minute nostalgic walk through the Toy Museum. The Fisher Price toys, Milton Bradley games, and train sets conjured up happy childhood memories of Christmas morning.

My favorite attraction other than the caverns was just across the road from the plaza. It was the Luray Valley Museum. Its admission is also included with your Luray Caverns ticket so make sure you keep your stub. This museum is all about the history of the Luray Valley. You start off by looking at stone weapons and tools discovered in the area. Some these date back as far as 5,000 B.C.. You quickly fast forward many millennia to artifacts from early European settlers and the Colonial period. There are potbelly stoves, old bibles, quilts, printing presses and more. Then it is on to slavery and the Civil War period where there are displays of uniforms, weapons, and diaries. I spent some time reading a moving diary entry written by a young girl who just learned that her "Pappy" was wounded in the Civil War. I read the writing of Bethany Veney, a former slave who lived in Luray. She had her autobiography published about her life as a slave and as a free person.

It took less than 30 minutes to walk through the Luray Valley Museum. I was truly impressed by the collection of Luray Valley artifacts on display. Outside the museum is a re-created Luray town where you can look inside buildings such as an authentic African American one-room schoolhouse and a church from 1825.

re-created Luray town outside the Luray Valley Museum

I had an awesome birthday weekend. My family did an outstanding job of planning it without me having a clue of what they were up to. It was a birthday I will always remember. Main Page...

Magnets Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)

Entire fridge magnet collection...

 

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