Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Damp Day spent at the Shenandoah Caverns

This weekend was just a continuous torrent of rain. It pummeled the roof and windows through the day and night, unrelenting, and while it was a novelty to sit at home all day long watching movies or Alaska, The Final Frontier, by the time Sunday arrived with its grey sodden dawn I wanted out of the house. So the Shenandoah Caverns seemed the ideal destination. Being underground trudging through caves or walking amongst their exhibitions under warm roofs appealed to me and I jumped into Stuart without further ado, armed with my camera and quickly forgetting my nice cozy bed.
Unfortunately I realized after a few miles that I'd left my camera battery still charging on the kitchen wall. Haven't done that for a while but I wasn't daunted, the iPhone would suffice.
This is what I drove through pretty much all day. didn't get me down though, I was on an adventure!
I passed through some very pretty towns on the way down, which I would like to explore another time on a less damp day.
You don't see too many stores like this any more, proudly touting their various brands of cigarettes.
Meems covered bridge close to Quicksburg. And then I arrived at the caverns. I had no sooner paid for my ticket when I whisked to an elevator to join a group that had just dropped down underground.
The caverns weren't as commercialized as Luray but there weren't any formations that stood out for me, none that I hadn't really seen before. They had a couple that were lit with various colored lights entrancing the smaller kids and I did love looking at a formation that appeared to be studded with millions of diamonds, (3rd photo above). Our guide, a student, had a harsh disinterested tone sounding as though she was reading from a script and had done it a thousand times before, which maybe she had.
I was glad to get back upstairs again. The lobby had a retro feel to it, very old fashioned in a very charming way, with lots of wood and old signs. And here was the entrance to another of their attractions, Main Street of Yesteryear.This was a collection of windows showing antique animated Christmas window displays from famous stores.
Considering some of these models dated back to the 1920's they were incredibly intricately detailed and to me looked magically beautiful compared to a lot of today's garish displays. The Cinderella window was enthralling with too much detail for my iPhone to capture. This was a Christmas display at a former Woodward & Lothrop Department store in D.C. in the middle of the 20th Century.
These HUGE bears were once part of a 1993 Rose Parade and they moved their heads. I couldn't get over their size.
This interesting little cabinet caught my eye in the lobby, full of presidential memorabilia.
The next exhibition to see was American Celebration and this was a short walk down the road.
A large hall was filled with parade floats and inaugural celebration props. As I entered the vast room I was greeted by some very large cheery ducks. Many of these float characters are used again and again in different parades along with the many adornments and decorations. The models used for the Rose Parades are easy to spot as they have to be constructed from natural materials. Plants, flowers, bark, even grass seed are used.
20ft tall pelicans used in the 19993 Inaugural Parade and a colossal genie which won the Best Design Award in the 1992 Rose Parade.
Loved this Radio Flyer.
This massive flag has appeared in inaugural events for Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton. A great news article on it is here.
I couldn't see any information on this chap but he was endearing with his cheery salute.
I really enjoyed the exhibition and was in awe of the stature of these creations. My neck was constantly craning to see the tops of them yet I couldn't stop looking. I've never seen anything like this before, I'm sure there aren't too many exhibits like this in America and I felt very fortunate to have this so close to home. Even though it was impossible to capture many of the floats in my camera frame because everything was so close together, I wasn't concerned at my lack of photos. Whether packing so much in like this was a clever ploy to overload the senses of visitors or whether it was simply due to a lack of space, I couldn't tell and I didn't care. It had been a unique hour spent wandering around feeling like I was on a set from Land of the Giants. I have never been to a parade, I would change the channel if a parade was on TV, and had never wanted to go downtown to D.C. to see one first hand, but now my perspective and interest has changed.
The last attraction at Shenandoah Caverns was the Yellow Barn. This was a little disappointing as it was simply a gift shop selling nothing that I hadn't seen before. But they did have a bee hive built into a wall fronted with glass so that held my attention for a few minutes.
I also really liked the old fashioned photo setting for couples, although nobody took advantage of it while I was there. The barber shop scenario was also fun.
Shenandoah Caverns is definitely worth a visit, I'd seen a number of things that I hadn't set eyes on before, and I love vintage Americana. For their website click here. Maybe a return trip with a wide angle lens might be a good idea to try and photograph some of those humungous parade props. I left to drive home, not really surprised that it was still raining and not really surprised that it rained nearly all the way home either. But the grey damp aura everywhere did enhance the Halloween decorations that I saw along the route, and I was grateful to be able to quickly grab a shot from my phone rather than having to fiddle with settings on my camera in the rain. Sometimes things work out for the best and you just never realize until the last minute!

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