The Fancy Hill Restaurant in Fancy Hill, VA was no exception to the earlier mention of this bizarre place being home to a population of effortlessly bizarre people. Behind us, a mother sat on the same side of the booth as her young son in order to contain him at the table. The boy, in turn, proposed to her at least four times. Across the restaurant sat a family consisting of a bespectacled blonde, her Hispanic husband, their four children, and her father. She explained gently and carefully to her father and husband what "nachos" are, came to her father's aid when he was confused by the cell phone, and artfully handled all interaction between her party and the waiter. She carried herself with the kind of pride one would feel when your loved ones are utterly dependent on both the volume of your knowledge and the wisdom with which you dispense it.
Our waiter was right to be concerned about having been perceived as a retard. These three tables overwhelmed him.
We saved Foamhenge for Sunday, to allow us a final savor of the absurd. When we pulled up to the path, the gate was closed and chained. Fearful of missing our opportunity, but respectful of the site, we called the number we had for Foamhenge, which happened to be the same number for the Natural Bridge, Dinosaur Kingdom, and the Haunted Museum. The human I was finally able to speak to seemed to have nearly forgotten about Foamhenge, was surprised that anyone was calling him asking about it, and didn't care in the least if we simply parked on the side of the road and jumped the gate. He probably would not have minded if I asked to drive through the gate.
I have had the good fortune to have visited Stonehenge. I'll say it right now: Stonehenge is no Foamhenge. Standing among the foam monoliths was nothing short of spiritual. The contrast of natural beauty and genuine artificiality left nothing in the mind but the sound of one hand clapping. My heart swelled with patriotism. Foamhenge is American Awesome. Just when you think we lost it all to the Japanese, you find yourself standing in the inner circle of a styrofoam replica of Stonehenge surrounded by a field of wildflowers, gazing at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the horizon.
God Bless America.
And, like Dinosaur Island, Mr. Cline inscribed the following plaque for the viewing public:
Thank you for visiting Foamhenge, a full-scale replica of the mystical Stonehenge of England.
Please enjoy yourself at this site but please be gentle, it is foam not stone.
Stonehenge took 1500 years to complete using stones weighing as much as 50 tons. An estimated 600-1000 men dragged the stones from Marlborough Downs, 20 miles north. Perhaps used as a temple, observatory, or tomb.
Foamhenge completed in six weeks using beaded styrofoam blocks weighing up to 420 pounds. Delivered on 4 tractor trailer trips from Winchester VA, 100 miles north. It took 4-5 Mexicans and one crazy man to construct. It's to educate and entertain.
That's about when we thought our weekend was over. There was a zoo up the street but it didn't seem like it would fit with the theme of the trip. There were a few sculptures in the parking lot, so we went into the gift shop for water and with the hopes of finding some appropriately tacky souvenirs. Then we noticed a cage full of monkeys. Since recent visits to places featuring monkeys had proven so fruitful, we decided to check out some monkeys.
The Natural Bridge Zoo has not gotten caught up in the recent trend for zoos to create "environments" for the animals on display. This is not some fake jungle. It's a zoo. Since the animals are contained within heavy cages, the need to distance the animals from the public with some sort of fourth wall is unnecessary. We stood about 3 feet away from this tiger as he paced back and forth menacingly and then strolled to the back of his cage to dunk his balls in his water trough.
In the gift shop, there was a sign offering photographs with a baby tiger, but sadly, the next opportunity was a while away. Conveniently enough, we arrived just in time for the elephant rides. It seemed sort of silly to me at first to pay an extra $10 for this, and that we were only people on line without a child with us, and I wasn't sure if it was worth it, but then it dawned on me, I HAVE A CHANCE TO RIDE AN ELEPHANT. And ride the elephant we did. What we do was think to ask another patron to take our picture for us.
Some more zoo highlights:
We finished up with the zoo at as perfect a time as we started: it was Baby Tiger Picture Time. The same sort of thoughts ran through my head as did with the elephant ride; do I really want a polaroid of this, another $10, there's a line, bladdity blah, and again, clarity struck. If someone said I could touch a tiger for $10 I'd totally do it, polaroid or no. In summation: at one zoo in about one hour, I touched both a tiger and an elephant.
The weekend really seemed over this time. We got back on the road and psyched ourselves up for the anticlimactic drive home. Less than 10 miles up the highway, traffic hit a dead standstill. For the first time on the trip, the car's satellite navigation system was used for more than comic relief (Make a. U. Turn in five. hundred feet.), and found us a secondary road. It became apparent that we weren't the only people in the traffic jam with the same technology, so we tried a tertiary road. As we wound up a mountain on a road barely a lane and a half wide, the cause of the traffic jam revealed itself in the form of a blinding, pounding rain blown sideways by fierce wind.
The weather calmed a bit, and the road widened and flattened. Then we found ourselves in what was likely that village's biggest traffic jam in years, stuck behind two SUV's not sure why they were stopped. One turned off the road, the other paused, and then moved forward, revealing a downed tree in the street. The SUV ahead of us just drove over it. The tree wasn't that big, but too big to drive a car over, so we just got out and moved it, restoring traffic flow to the delight of our fellow motorists.
Our detour lead us to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and as we got to the top of the mountain, the weather had passed and a beautiful day was left behind. We stopped at an overlook met up with some other folks who had also bailed off the highway with the kind of camaraderie reserved for people who share in nontraumatic experiences. It seemed fitting that our ride home from such a strange place strayed so far from the usual.
So too did our decision to dine at the Golden Corral.