We began the day with yet another all you can stomach breakfast spectacular. This one was tended to by two women. The elder of the two spent most of her time sitting at a table, gabbing with the maintenance guy and coughing into the damp rag that she used to half-heartedly swipe at any spilled milk on the counter. The younger girl stood around, scowling at texts that she continually received and picking her teeth with her finger. A finger, I realized, that she was also using to arrange the bagels and pastries.
The kids again enjoyed the waffles.
Our plan for today was to hit a local geological wonder called The Natural Bridge, then, time permitting, maybe go to a nearby zoo and gawk at the animals and wonder how their breakfast was.
The internet changed our plans somewhat. Reviews for the zoo we were considering included entries like, “For the love of God, do not go here.” and “The animals are crammed in cement boxes. I’m ashamed that my money helped support this horrible cruelty.”
So, we decided to simply make a day out of The Natural Bridge Entertainment and Shopping Complex of Endless Joy. It actually wound up being a good idea, because with all the gift shops we were forced to exit through, we had little time left for anything else.
Our tickets included admission to The Natural Bridge, The Nature Trail, The Indian Village, The Toy Museum, The Wax Museum, The Wax Museum Factory Tour, and The Natural Bridge Caverns.
Overwhelmed by our seemingly limitless opportunities, we began our day at The Toy Museum, located conveniently directly on the way to The Natural Bridge.
The Toy Museum was a delightfully whimsical trash heap of dusty, dilapidated displays. Your tour begins with this subtle suggestion that touching the displays will result in immediate, high-tech death.
This threat may be responsible for the cleaning crew's reluctance to dust any of the displays or to even replace any of the figures which have toppled over the years.
I spent most of my time in the museum waiting to see some child unwittingly touch a GI Joe doll and then stare in mute horror as the giant death rays dropped from the ceiling and vaporized him. I guess the threat worked, however, as nobody was vaporized.
Many of the displays showed historically accurate reenactments of famous battles. Like the Battle of Gettysburg, as fought between Smurfs and Playmobil knights.
We wandered, awe-struck, through the seemingly endless display cases of junk. Music from a local pop music station blared from a tinny overhead speaker, enhancing the mood and making me seriously consider self-destruction as an appealing alternative. All I had to do was touch a display...
After we had seen all the terrifying dolls, nightmarish clowns, and chewed up He-Man figures we could tolerate, we exited through the dark, deserted gift shop.
It was so dark and deserted that I refused to believe it was actually the gift shop. Kerri had to drag me back to the sign that said, “Gift Shop. Ring bell for service. Area is monitored by closed circuit security cameras. Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Thanks for coming!”
We slipped outside and shook the odor of stagnant decay from our clothes before heading down the path that lead to The Natural Bridge. The path ran along a beautiful, cascading waterfall and ended at the snack bar “With 15 Kinds of Hot Dogs!!!!!” and “The Natural Bridge’s Famous Nacho Chips and Cheez!!!!!”
Somehow, we escaped the siren song of cheez and wandered toward the bridge. The Natural Bridge is absolutely stunning. Vaulting walls of carved rock soar skyward in an amazing display of geological architecture. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around under the bridge, craning our necks to view the majestic, scarred rock.
You can see what are alleged to be George Washington’s initials carved into the rock. Our first president was, evidently, also a vandal.
I was even more enthralled with the natural stone Buddha I saw in the rocks. This far below the Bible Belt, however, Buddha gets no mention.
We followed the footpath along the river for about three-fourths of a mile. stopping to check out Lace Falls, a beautiful, serene waterfall that tumbles slowly over the corrugated rocks that line the river bed.
We also took time to see the Indian village, but the lack of spicy, curried delicacies saddened me and I had to leave.
Despite our collective hunger, we somehow managed to once again avoid the tempting Natural Bridge Cheez in favor of a short drive to The Pink Cadillac Diner where authentic, tattooed, pierced waitresses–just like the one’s from the 1950’s–served us our food.
Our drive back to The Natural Bridge Entertainment Complex of Sorrow and Despair was briefly interrupted by a detour to Foamhenge, a mysterious full sized replica of Stonehenge, made entirely of styofoam.
Time, the elements, and vandals have eroded the styrofoam so that the entire area is covered with a thin, swirling layer of tiny pellets of styrofoam. The terrible environmental impact of the sculpture is dwarfed, however, by the very real threat that its creator may be lurking in the bushes nearby.
We raced back to our car and returned to the safety of The Natural Bridge Touris Trap Extravaganza. Next up were The Natural Bridge Caverns, “The Deepest Caverns in Town!”
When our tour began, the guide arrived and immediately captured our attention with his introduction, “Th’ nex toah bouttah b’gn so anyone gutta ticket, y’all line up ovah heah now an’ we git goin.”
It was all said in one breath and at the level of a low mumble.
The guide hurried us hrough the caverns, occasionally flitting his flashlight across some alleged point of interest for a half a second and mumbling, “Dis heah wheah th’ firsplorer of th’ caverns git stuck fo bouttah daynahaff till he gut rescued.”
Trying to decipher his authentic, redneck mumblings added a delightful thrill to the tour, which Alex had already pronounced, “Weak.”
The weakness of the caverns paled in comparison to the absolute and total weakness of The Wax Museum. The various tableaus presented at the museum all depicted some aspect of the history of The Natural Bridge. It was a history lesson that was brought to life by the dedicated artists and craftspeople who managed to make every person they depicted look like a horribly mutated Bill Cosby–a Bill Cosby affected by extra chromosomes, leprosy, and mange.
The self-guided factory tour showed us the painstaking processes involved in making all these likenesses of Bill Cosby. We all agreed that our favorite part of the tour was the cheery, red Exit sign that heralded our release.
We raced back to the hotel so the kids could once again frolic and play in the pool and Kerri could once again scramble to find us yet another hotel for tomorrow.
Another quick overview of online reviews had again changed our plans. Reviews for the hotel we had planned on staying in had a marked tendency to dwell on the unpleasant fact that the hotel is apparently built five feet from some very busy railroad tracks.
Comments like, “I was really tired, so I didn’t find all the trains rumbling by nearly as disturbing as some reviewers did” seemed somewhat mild compared to the spicier “The pool needs to be condemned by the heath department” and “The entire hotel shakes every time a train passes by. All night long.”
Kerri did manage to find a new place near Richmond. When I told the kids about the change of plans, they both hugged and thanked me.
“Will there be Make-Your-Own-Waffles at the next hotel?” Alex asked.
We honked down a hasty dinner of pizza and raced back, once again, to The Natural Bridge All Encompassing Diversion to view a spectacle billed as “The Drama of Creation” wherein, according to the promotional literature, The Natural Bridge is bathed in a brilliant explosion of multi-colored lights, choreographed to music and a narrative describing the creation of the bridge.
“So we’re leaving the pool and going all the way back there to watch them shine lights on the bridge and play some music?” Tori asked.
It sounded less appealing when worded that way, but our only real option was to risk contracting Dengue Fever or cholera by hanging around in the human skin chowder of the hotel hot tub.
So we raced back to The Natural Bridge Complex of Forbidden Pleasures and found an empty parking lot.
“Oh Boy!” I cried, “We get a private show!”
“Yeah. Because everybody else in the whole world is doing something that doesn’t suck,” Alex muttered.
But we will never know. I ran into the building where the clerk, busy polishing the death ray protecting the toy museum, told me that the show was out of order. “It’ll be up again by Friday,” she said.
“We’ll be gone by then,” I whined.
“Mhmmm,” she muttered, “Well, thanks for coming.”
Both kids were cheering wildly as we drove back to the hotel.
So I sent them to bed.