Saturday, May 21, 2011

Foam Henge, Natural Bridge, Buena Vista & Staunton, Virginia

Mon, May 16th - Fri, May 20th

This is Foamhenge, a quirky replica of Stonehenge. According to the artist, Stonehenge was perhaps used as a temple, observatory or tomb and took 1,500 years to complete, using stones weighing as much as 50 tons. An estimated 600 to 1,000 men dragged stones 20 miles. Foamhenge was completed in 6 weeks using beaded styrofoam blocks up to 420 pounds delivered on four tractor trailer trips from 100 miles away. It took 4 to 5 Mexicans and one crazy white man to construct . The purpose is to educate and entertain.

The artist's friend had requested that he do something in his memory, so two days after his death, he made a mold of his face and used it to create King Arthur's Sorcerer, Merlin, and Foamhenge. It is located on a hill right along the highway near Natural Bridge, Va. It is free to stop and enjoy at your leisure. All he asks is that you treat the place with care and respect.

He has a quirky sense of humor. He sounds like the kind of guy that would be fun to meet and have a visit with.

Which theory do you like best?

Next we went to see the famous Natural Bridge. The first written description of it is in the diary of a German settler who followed Cedar Creek upstream in 1742. In 1750 a teenaged George Washington working with Thomas Jefferson's father, surveyed the Bridge and carved his initials and a surveyor's cross in the rock wall 23 feet up, where it is still easily seen. In 1774 Thomas Jefferson bought 157 acres, including the bridge, from King George III for 20 schillings ($160 in today's money), due to it's lack of farmable land. In 1804 he built a two-story stone and log house, where many famous friends came to stay and see the Natural Bridge, including four presidents, Daniel Boone and Sam Houston. In 1816 "freeman" Patrick Henry and his wife, Louise (whom he had bought as a slave and emancipated) leased the land to farm approximately 10 acres and serve as a custodian for the place. Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In 1830 a hotel was built and visitors were lowered in a cage to get a better look. Troops on both sides detoured to see the famous bridge during the Civil War. At dark they do a light and sound show "The Drama of Creation", which started in 1927 with Calvin Coolidge pulling the ceremonial switch. The sound system is amazing, the best I've ever heard. Symphonic music fills the ancient walls and a wonderful, deep voice reads the creation verses from Genesis while the lights fade at each day's end. It ends with beautiful choir music like you would hear in the great cathedrals of Europe. It is all very impressive. It started out as a footpath for the Indians and evolved into a main traffic route that is now U.S. Rt. 11.

There is a mile long hike along Cedar Creek that takes you by a Monacan Indian Village where they do demos on cooking, tanning, making clothing, ceramics, tools, etc. Lace Watefall is at the end of the trail. There are also caverns to tour, which we skipped. But we did go thru the Wax Museum and Factory and the Toy Museum which has 45,000 toys all collected by five members of the same family from 1900 to 2000. There were dolls of John Wayne, Mae West, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill, the Honeymoners, etc. What kind of parent buys their children Jesse James or Billy the Kid dolls? There were also soldier sets for practically every battle of every war ever fought. I found a Tammy Doll just like I used to have. The caption said in order to compete with Tammy, the new Malibu Barbie's bustline grew by 1/4 inch. The Tammy Doll only lasted three years. She never had a chance.

We had supper that evening at the Pink Cadillac Diner, which is also a museum of sorts. The food was really good and reasonable and the walls of the three dining rooms were covered with movie memorabilia. It was also just across the road from the KOA where we stayed our first four days here.

Then we moved a few miles to a city campground in nearby Buena Vista. It was very nice and just across the road from the River Walk.

So I had a very nice hike every night while John played on the computer or watched the tube. Here at the end of the trail was a nice park bench to sit and listen to the water and watch the deer graze among the wildflowers.

One evening after the rain at sunset, there was a very pretty rainbow.

This is Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista. It is a nondenominational school funded by the Mormons. I thought it was a beautiful bit of architecture. Another tidbit, Charlie Manuel, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, when they won the World Series, is from here.

At Staunton (pronounced Stanton), the county seat of Augusta County, there is this tribute to the Statler Brothers, who are from here. It is four bar stools standing on a record, a tribute to their style of sitting on stools when singing together.

We came to Staunton to see Woodrow Wilson's birthplace, library and museum. This is the back entrance with Victorian-style gardens to the Presbyterian Manse (parsonage) where he was born. He was the son, grandson and nephew of Presbyterian ministers. He graduated from Princeton and was a professor and president at several colleges and universities. He published textbooks, curriculum reforms, and many volumes about government, politics and administration. He became Governor of New Jersey and two years later ran for President and won. Teddy Roosevelt was the only other president who published as much as Wilson.

1919 Pierce-Arrow Limousine used by Wilson during his last year or so in office and purchased for him by a group of friends when he left office.

This portrait of Wilson was a gift from some greatful person in Europe, for joining the war and coming to their aid. It is totally embroidered on a flour sack from the food aid that the U.S. sent them. I wouldn't have even noticed that it wasn't a painting, if I hadn't read the caption and looked at it very closely. Very unique.

In the basement of the museum, it was set up like trenches used in the war. The moment you walk in the sounds of battle start, and you hear orders and conversations going on between soldiers. Along with the dark dank feeling of the basement, you really got a feeling of what it was like to be there. In the trenches there were rats and lice, unsanitary conditions causing dysentery and influenza, and water in the trenches caused a serious condition called trench foot. Even the slightest wounds became infected. If you were actually in the war trenches, I think this exhibit might be a very unpleasant experience.

Wilson's dream at the Paris Peace Talks of 1919 was to establish an international organization to resolve disputes without war. This is a picture of the Peace Talks in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles just outside Paris. We have actually been there. Luckily, it wasn't that crowded when we were there. Unfortunately, the European Allies were more interested in punishing the "aggressor nations", forcing Germany and Austria to accept disastrous peace terms that set in motion higher inflation, unemployment and economic depression. Wilson was unable to convince the American public to accept the League of Nations. The end result was WWII, following which Wilsons dream finally took hold in the form of the United Nations.

Wouldn't it be great if the United Nations could actually resolve issues between countries and thereby prevent all wars?


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