With Mel on retreat I thought I would relate a couple of my favorite Virginia stories.
In 1980 I got a Co-op job at NASA in Washington, DC. First time I had ever lived away from home. My buddy and classmate Tom also got a job in DC and we were invited to stay at the home of his Aunt & Uncle in suburban Maryland, right at the end of the Orange Line. The Metro was only about 3 years old at the time and considered a wonder, but that is not what this is about.
Tom’s branch of the family was the only one to venture north to New England, the rest had stayed in the metro DC Area where they were all government bureaucrats. Tom’s uncle Cliff was retired, as was his wife. He was a great guy, funny, intelligent, interesting. He had been quite successful at the Dept. of Agriculture and the family had bought a vacation home in Stanley, Virginia, right in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.
The first weekend we were in DC the Aunt & Uncle and their daughter and her 2 daughters planned to go to the mountain house. I was invited too. All but Tom and I left in the afternoon on Friday, we had to work so we left about 6. From the Maryland suburb it was about a 3 hour ride. I had never been on narrow winding roads like that. Tom was the navigator since he had been there a number of times. He said we would switch when we got close. Fine. We got to the booming metropolis of Stanley and got out to get some essentials. We switched drivers and proceeded. We go a while and then turn onto this one lane dirt road and Tom TURNS OUT THE HEADLIGHTS!!!! I’m flipping out! The stars are the ONLY light source. He continues on about 100 yards and then turns and stops—lights still out!! He then guns the engine and turns on the lights. We are heading down a hill that looked like we fell off the earth. He knows I hate Roller Coasters and that is what he was trying to replicate. We finally stopped and my heart started. I thought I was going to die. He later confessed he would not have gone downhill so fast if he realized there had been rain earlier in the day and there was mud at the bottom of the hill.
After two fabulous days of exploring beautiful winter scenery we left to go back to Maryland and our route brings us through Luray, VA. It is a picturesque little town with a built-in speed trap — a 30 MPH sign behind a tree about 100 yards after a 50 MPH sign. Yes, we got stopped. Tom was driving my car. The Luray police officer (Insert incredibly southern drawl) comes to the car and says “license and registration please boys.” While we are getting them out he says, “Where ya’ goin’ in such a hurry boys? I got you on Mov-in radar.” We said we were going back to Maryland. Well, we gave him and Tom’s license, my registration, for an out-of-state car. You’d have thought he was looking at the Easter Bunny! He looked back and forth at the two documents for about 30 seconds. You could hear the wheels going in his head, and his thinking “wow, I got a hot one here, Jasper, TWO NAMES!” He made his way to his cruiser looking back and forth at the license and registration. A few minutes later he came back and said, ”well, you boys be careful. I’m lettin’ ya go with a warnin’. The Judge is home eatin’ suppa and don’t want t’ be disturbed by two north’un boys.” Throughout the whole episode we had everything we could do to keep from breaking out in laughter.
Off we went, laughing hysterically, and happy to be going. We went through Luray several more times during the next 6 months when we left for home from the mountain house. EVERY time the same cop had a victim as we went past…we drove very slowly.
Over the next few months, I fell in love with Western Virginia. I came back to the Shenandoah year after year for the next decade sometimes twice a year. When I met my wife we went to VA once where she was fascinated by all the deer in the Shenandoah, but after that, the trips stopped because her idea of roughing it is a mall without a roof. I did get to bring my kids to DC and Shenandoah National Park in 2006 (minus wife) and they really loved it. Hikes, waterfalls, and two sightings of bears, one that was about 20 feet away! I still love it and I am sure always will.