1. A Fond Farewell to Hill, Virginia!

    AS WE WRAP UP our extended travelogue of beautiful Hill, Virginia, I am reminded of what a pal once told me he said upon being cornered at the office by a co-worker and her 3-inch wad of vacation photos.

    “Show me your ten best pictures.”

    That way he was polite, he didn’t offend…but he made it clear he wasn’t going to sit through ninety-four pictures of the parking lot shuttle approach to the ticket booth at Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colorado, either.

    So here’s the best of the rest – no more delightfully anachronistic packages design or disturbingly arachnidistic wildlife – just a small sampling of good ol’ fashioned vacation photos.

    …Hey, get back here!

    Here’s a shot of the back room of a junk store in a creaky old three story house. This place was pretty amazing. I could have spent my entire trip perusing its various and sundry wares but the storekeeper and, eh, my driver had gotten into a heated political discussion that threatened to erupt into something involving either us getting riddled with buckshot or, worse, me being intentionally overcharged for that vintage linen Tichnor Bros. postcard I found.

    Speaking of buckshot…

    Back at the ol’ homestead, we relaxed ’round back with some honest-to-goodness moonshine (true!) when my host, eh, Janko we’ll call him, spotted a woodchuck in the pasture below. Such creatures, while undeniably cuddly to the naked eye, are a danger down on the farm: they dig holes big enough for a horse to put a hoof in and break a leg – and then you’ve got to wait on them hand and foot for weeks!

    Woodchuck sighted, Janko headed inside, lay his rifle on the window sill and took aim. (Look carefully at the edge of the house.) Don’t worry, PETA freaks, the little bastard scampered back into the woods before he got off a shot. And that’s the true story that only my, what, six readers will ever know.

    I’m showing everyone else this photo and telling them it was just another day in the 160+ year-old Parsnips / McCoy Feud.

    Speaking of shocking backwoods surprises (it would have been, for the woodchuck, if he’d stayed around another minute)…

    It’s nearly ten miles of long, long rural hilly road from my Hill, Virginia lodgings to the business center of town – your Walmart, your Lowes, your Peebles and so on. In-between? Pretty much nothing but idyllic farm country, populated by peaceful gladefolk and their God-fearing cows. …Except for one tiny convenience store a mere quarter mile from the inn, and very recently opened, right next door, this place:

    To find a dollar store here of all places had me laughing out loud in a most delighted fashion. Ha Ha ha, I laughed, delightedly. I was further enchanted to hear it being advertised on the crazy talk radio station the innkeeper forced me to listen to six hours each day. (I need to start reading the fine print on these Groupons.)

    So of course I had to drop by. What was even more awesome was that the store is owned and operated by  Sam Drucker!

    Naw, I’m kidding.  But that would be cool, right?

    For the record, it was run by a very nice lady.

    Speaking of a very nice lady…

    …there was this lady.

    One day I went into town to sample some of the region’s famous, down-home, country-style, free-range, cornfed Wi-Fi. And what better place to try it than Wendy’s? As you know, I’m a big fan of Wendy’s. And as much as Los Angeles is a disgusting toilet where most of its quick-serve (industry term) restaurants are staffed by hopeless morons, LA Wendy’s are always a cut above the rest. Still, it struck me that this sort of plaque, just inside the door of the Hill, Virginia Wendy’s, is something you’d just never see in Los Angeles. It is therefore quite charming and deserved to be recognized photographically.

    Dorothy, you were like a grandmother to me, and I never met you.

    Speaking of Wi-Fi, and by extension, checking one’s email at Wendy’s,  a pal wrote, in part, “Oh my God they have candy corn Oreos!!! I am now officially living on these things!!! Breakfast, lunch and dinner!!! Do yourself a favor and buy a few cases today!!!!!!!”

    I don’t have the email handy, so he either wrote exactly that…or implied that he was mortified like any normal person would be. (I can’t remember which it was.) Not being normal myself, I was intrigued. Walmart is in the same shopping center as Wendy’s so I headed right over. Once inside, I visited their Oreo aisle.

    Nothing! Two hundred forty-seven different varieties of Oreos, but none flavored or colored like candy corn. Clearly they don’t exist and I had been the victim of a clever prank. Nice one, friend. I worked through the disappointment, humiliation, pain and ensuing depression by buying, and consuming forty-three bags of these things instead.

    Speaking of disappointment, the chief cook and bottle-washer at Field View Tavern closed the local watering hole for the day and took the whole family to the national historic landmark, Natural Bridge, despite insisting it might be a big let-down. Here’s me and the wife & kids:

    Oh, wait, no no no – my mistake! That’s just the image on the attraction’s webpage.

    Ha! Like I would ever allow a child, much less two, to clamber all over me. And I wish my wife were that attractive! (Don’t worry – like the rest of my family and close personal friends, she never reads my blog!)

    Anyway, our hostess, Katarina we’ll call her, sure, emphasized on the way there that Natural Bridge might be rather anticlimactic. That it could be potentially underwhelming. “Don’t get your hopes up, brother,” she cautioned me. “This ain’t the Tillamook Cheese Factory Tour!”

    Indeed, I was disappointed. I was hoping for some tacky overblown tourist trap to snap photos of to mock later on my blog, and it turns out that the damn natural bridge was spectacular!

    Look! Look!

    The only solace I have in you seeing this now is that you really can’t appreciate the goddamn scope and majesty of this thing from a mere photo. It’s a lot bigger in person. And the snack bar didn’t sell cheese curds.

    Speaking of cheese…

    All that viewing (and oohing) Natural Bridge helped us build up a healthy appetite. Lunch was at a 50s-themed diner, where I probably had a cheeseburger. (Ugh, these segues – they seem like a good idea at the beginning…)

    Anyway, outside the diner was this happy fellow.

    Like you, when I think of the 1950s and diners, I think of the 1933 film, King Kong. (Although sometimes think of the stunning 1976 remake.) I shouldn’t bother even mentioning the 2005 version, as this thing looks like it’s been here much longer than that.

    I asked my Hill, Virginia Bed & Breakfast innkeeper, Janko, to stand below the legs so that you might see the monster’s enormous scale. To no one’s surprise, he used this opportunity to make a most inappropriate gesture and the resulting photo is, alas, unpublishable.

    Speaking of unpredictable hairy creatures…

    …meet Country Whiskers, who of course is the cousin of beloved and oft-referenced Mr. Whiskers. Much like Mr. Whiskers, Country Whiskers runs into elaborate shots I’ve spent hours setting up and ruins them just as I press the shutter on my expensive blogging camera. In this case I was trying to photograph my shoe, when suddenly the cat darted in, rubbed his cat head-pheremones all over them, and then was off  again, just as quick as you please, to hunt field mice, a local delicacy. For cats.

    …Oh, what the hell – you love him, I love him – here’s another pic of ol’ Country!

    Hey, this is nothing! I’ve got one where I’ve picked ‘im up and he’s got his nose buried in my armpit. (Sorry, saving that one for this year’s Christmas card.)

    Speaking of whiskers, horses have whiskers too, prickly whiskers on their chins (just like Nana Parsnips, actually). Anyway, one day we went to a horse show!

    People in the country love horse shows because it’s their first chance to see what the horsamotive industry has planned for next year. We had a fine time looking at some of the 2013 models, including the new Hershrolet Equusnox.

    Seen here is the LX model – anti-deerfly tail-swatter (not seen) comes standard!

    Of course we saw a lot of amazing concept horses as well, some with crazy features – in-saddle GPS, self-hitching autorider technology, glucose boosters which propel the rider from zero to gallop in 3.8 seconds with just the push of a sugar cube into the horse’s mouth. Who knows if and when any of these things will ever be available to the general public, but it’s fun to see them.

    We weren’t supposed to take pictures of any of the concept horses, but I managed to snap one quick shot when we were leaving:

    The engineers had a great time with this one: They’ve managed to make an invisible* horse. First they created a skin made of tiny glass beads only 50 microns wide that doesn’t absorb light but rather lets light waves wrap around the horse itself. That got expensive real quick so they just ended up painting stripes on the damn thing and having it stand in tall grass.
    *to predators

    Speaking of tall grass, which is a plant, let’s talk tobacco which is also a plant. When you drive through the glades of Hill, Virginia, you’re going to see a lot of these things:

    Now here’s some history for you: These are tobacco shacks.

    They were used to dry tobacco, which used to be the area’s main crop. But they’re mostly abandoned because in the 1970s, the Government bought out most of the tobacco farmers in the area; that is to say, they paid them enormous amounts of money to no longer grow tobacco, making every single resident of Hill, Virginia filthy rich! Even the town drunk could buy and sell you a hundred times over, you better believe it.

    So guess what: An overreaching, over-spending government trying to change the behavior of its citizens didn’t start with the current administration! I’m as surprised as you are! Also, there will be no further discussion because as I have said before, this is not a political blog!

    Anyway, these tobacco shacks – dotting the landscape as they do – are wonderfully bucolic and slightly spooky; and like you, I presume every single one of them is haunted.

    What’s that?  ‘Wrap it up’…? You mean I’m over ten photos already…? But I’ve got like eighty more to go! I didn’t even get to the damn cows!

    My producer is telling me we’re running long, and we need to finish here.

    Where was I?  …Tobacco shacks…all probably haunted, scary…ah yes!

    Speaking of things that are scary…

    When traveling, I always try to book the seat farthest back in the plane – er, when I’m not flying first class, that is. Anyway, on one flight, from Roanoke to Chicago, I had about the last four rows to myself. (The, eh, family, they flew home ahead of me. Sure.)

    Since I had my expensive blogging camera with me and there was no one around me to bother, why not take some shots for that elaborate photo library I’m creating in hopes of building my fortune? (Forget buying gold! Licensing fees for generic photos for online use is where the real money is!)

    So there I am sitting in the back of the plane, snapping photos of stuff like this:

    Eventually, the flight attendant came up to me and asked me why I was taking photos of the inside of the plane.

    “Um, I have this blog, see…?”

    It never occurred to me – naturally angry-looking white male that I am, with that severe crewcut I for some reason insist on, traveling alone, on September 10th yet – that taking pictures from the back of the plane might somehow might raise a red flag.

    Surprisingly, TSA didn’t meet me as I deplaned.

    Frankly, I’m a little disappointed. Imagine the spike in traffic to this site if that had happened!

    Posted by on September 22, 2012, 7:25 PM.

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