Monday, June 30, 2008


Up early and finish packing. Always one last thing out of sight, out of mind and out of reach to complicated packing.

Twinges of sadness, but the cumulative effect of the week is a deep-seated fatigue and much information to process. I wonder how long we could maintain a pace like this.

We have a brief presentation about Selu from the Executive Director, then an explanation of the Council Room. We load out for the last time, and bump and lurch down the dusty, rutted road towards the interstate.

We stop in Radford, a quintessential college town, to make a brief survey of a block’s worth of downtown businesses and examine their demographics. Three tattoo parlors in a block; I think that gives us some idea.

The sky threatens, first time on the trip it’s done so while still morning. We drive only a short distance from Radford to stop at Dixie Caverns, our penultimate destination.

Note that Dixie Caverns sells Dreamsicles, and is named for a dog.

We gather for the tour, and are greeted by a young woman who is herself a college student at New River Community College and aspires to one of the four-year schools nearby. Her father worked as a tourguide here in 1974. The cave has been mangled and mauled by years of less-than-enlightened ownership and management; the decades-old scars of broken rock have barely begun to heal. We listen to the tour guide’s perfunctory spiel and play along hesitantly at the audience participation points; real personality shows through when our tour briefly intersects another tour. The other guide—a young man who would not be out of his element on the staff of any nationally renowned pizza franchise—is patiently and earnestly lying to his group about the cave’s endangered species.

Our guide turns aside and hisses to her compatriot: (Sotto voce) “We DO NOT HAVE THEM, you DUMBASS! I wish you’d STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT!” Then without missing a beat, she resumes the robotour.

We exit the cave into a heavy grey sky and the first few drops of rain. A brief and intense squall passes, and everything reverts immediately to thick, spongy humidity. As I look around for a place to mail some postcards, a car pulls up and the driver, a man in his late twenties, asks me where the cavern is. I point where we have just exited, and explain that you buy tickets and wait for the tour at the gift shop.

“How much is it?” (…good grief, does he mistake me for a Dixie Caverns Employee?)

“ I don’t know…I just finished the tour, but actually someone else paid for it.”

“Well, what did you think? Was it worth it?”

Long, pregnant, increasingly awkward silence. I shift uncomfortably. The woman in the passenger seat awaits my answer expectantly, as I wrestle with complex issues of ethics and morality.

Finally I fess up. “I’m pretty sure you’ve got better things to do with your day. Go watch it rain somewhere.” They laugh, thank me for my candor, and drive away. I hope they enjoy watching it rain.

But the lingering traces of rain complexificate our lunch plans. We end up lunching at Buchanan, the last little town we will explore, nestled besides the upper reaches of the James River. Leftovers in the light drizzle, watching the river run.

Here I part company with the crew of Top Gun, and rejoin Air Force One for the final steamy leg of the drive home. You know what they say—you leave with the one who brung ya.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads"

(With apologies to Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert & John Denver)

Almost heaven, (South)west(ern) Virginia
Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

All my memories gather round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
(South)west(ern) virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

I hear her voice, in the mornin hours she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
Drivin down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
(South)west(ern) virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads


Waterpenny Farm, Sperryville, VA. (CSA and internships)
Farmfoody CSA/PYO/Locavore Resource Site
Copper Fox Distillery, Sperryville, VA. America's only Single Malt Whisky

No comments: