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Back to the Blue Ridge: Natural Bridge

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It was time to travel back to the state where I was raised, Virginia. There was a family wedding, and nearly everyone would be there. I couldn't wait to see my brother and sisters! Liam and I stopped for gas before hitting the highway and saw this, which sent me into fits of laughter. Something about the shameless Muppets knockoff and the troupe's name gave us the giggles. It was going to be a good trip.

The drive from southeast Ohio to Lexington VA, of course, was fabulous. Mountains and sky and green and blue. Heaven, Almost Heaven, Heaven.

My dear brother Bob at the "I Do Barbeque" with his newest grandson, Simon.

I haven't experienced it, but boy do I get it. Your baby's baby. Oh my. The love was obviously mutual as Simon asked for more kisses.

He wanted my iPhone something awful. His daddy keeps his iPhone hidden away. All that will come too soon. Oh what a face! Liam and I were totally Simonized.

He got the phone! Bob's grandchildren Gabe and Emma as witness. 
We spent a great deal of time simply watching Simon. Baby TV. 

We all fetched up in a hotel in Lexington.  There was much yakking and hanging out with kids. Max wanted his hair to look like Liam's, so there was pomade applied in the hotel lobby.

On the morning of the 5:30 pm wedding, we decided to go as a herd to see Natural Bridge, an enormous rock formation about 10 miles away. We scattered like sheep, but should have caravaned. Liam and I climbed in sister Micky and David's back seat; I launched my iPhone's map function with great confidence, and chose "Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge, VA." That oughta do it. 

We saw signs pointing to Natural Bridge, but figured they referred not to the formation but to the town. We followed the GPS against my sister's better instincts in the opposite direction, down a very narrow country road. It was beautiful! It went on and on! With no sign of Natural Bridge! And dwindling hope of ever finding it!

We wound up at the intersection of two narrow country roads, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Arrived. Arrived. Arrived! Siri kept saying that until I made her stop. Not arrived. Not even close.

We retraced our route, followed analogue signs like they did in olden days, and my sister and brother in law didn't even get mad at me. We finally found the Visitor Center for Natural Bridge, regrouped via text message, bought our tickets and proceeded as a clan.

The reason Nancy, Micky, Barb and I wanted to go to Natural Bridge was to vanquish our only collective memory of it, which was the Easter morning in 1967 our parents woke us at 3:30 AM, stuffed us in the car with cereal and acrid orange juice from concentrate in our bellies, and raced to make it from Richmond out to Natural Bridge before sunrise. There was to be a service at sunrise with the Virginia  Polytechnic Institute (aka Virginia Tech) choir singing, and my brother Bob was singing with them, and we had to race to get there in time for it. Hauling kids out of bed in the middle of the night always takes longer than you'd hope. I was nine. Micky was 11. Nancy was 17. Barb was 21. Bob was 19. Lucky him, he was already there with the choir. He didn't have to make the drive with DOD at the wheel and Ida fretting shotgun. "Day-ull! Slow DOWN!" My father tore through the dark streets of downtown Richmond, and we were already feeling queasy when he hit the curving mountain roads in pre-dawn darkness. Then the throwing up began. He would slow the car down, have the urper open the car door, disgorge, then command us to close the door so he could proceed at his dizzying, pukifying pace.  No mollycoddling for us! It was a low point for both parents and parented. I remember gazing at Natural Bridge through a lingering haze of nausea and astonishment that we'd done all that to get here for this. We all needed a new memory for the place. Gorblimey, that was 50 years ago!

A nature hike should do the trick! Let's look at nature. Nature's pretty neat.

Jules! Come see this bracket fungus!

Amy and Charlie smile for the camera. Sorta.

 A huge fishing spider waits on a rock.

Northern water snake basks in flood debris.

A male bluegill tends his neat round gravelly nest, hoping a female will come by to lay eggs. Or perhaps he's watching over eggs already laid in the gravel.

A gigantic snapping turtle haunts the waters along the path, hoping someone will throw a salami sammitch in. He ain't picky. Snapping turtle is hungry!

Sticklebacks in stickleback towns on the submerged rock surfaces. I told what I could remember of Bert Holldobler's teachings in Animal Behavior. He gave me a B plus. I was a half-point off of an A in my favorite class EVER. Standard issue Teutonic professor behavior.

Some elegant serif-enhanced graffiti on the way. Wow. Nice font! Especially to be carved in solid rock. We're so soft and lazy these days, with our spray cans.

An equally elegant six-spotted tiger beetle rests for a moment on the rock face. 

Natural Bridge did not disappoint. What a piece of rock. Man. 

Standing directly beneath it, I could hear an occasional car roar over. Unbelievably, Route 11 (Lexington's main drag) goes RIGHT OVER TOP OF NATURAL BRIDGE. 

An ugly little metal wall was erected on either side of the road so people wouldn't know they were atop the bridge. There had been suicides. I was told you can't tell when you pass over it now. The walls keep you from looking over. You can just see the straight line of the wall in this photo, at the bottom of the U of sky. 

Look! George Washington was here!!

The beautiful stream that cut Natural Bridge proceeds on its way, with a waterfall.

There were Louisiana waterthrushes and phoebes singing all the way. My sister Barbara stopped to chat with Amy and Cate about their jewelry and shoes.

Another visitor offered to take a shot of me, Liam and Max when it became apparent that we were having trouble getting the whole scene in a selfie.

The boys, dwarfed by the monstrous structure, pass by the rows of pews where we listened to the Virginia Tech choir on Easter morning FIFTY YEARS AGO. Gaah I feel so ooollld.

The visit and the hike were marvelous. I now think of Natural Bridge in a completely different light, the bright blue, green and white light of a July day, with my family all around. 

Next: the wedding, and all the magic around it.


Beautiful place! And all that wildlife you came upon. Simon is a cutie pie! What a great age. You're so right--just watch Simon "TV!" Looks as if Liam found his shadow in Max! Love it that he wanted his hair like Liam's. Adoration.

Thanks already for what I have seen of the family and am looking to the next posts. Love you all so muchlToot

Love, love, love this post! This is what summer is for -- family, nature, reconnecting.

My old stomping ground! Nice to "visit" again. My sister still,lives in Lexington, but I don't get back there very often. 3,000 miles is a long way!

Lawsy, but I was gaffawing aloud at the description of that first trip!!! So happy this one was filled with so much happiness, and much less nausea.

Ooooh!! Love every note and syllable and photo! Smooches to the whole family!

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