Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Spacecraft Design Engineer Tours Lynchburg

    One of the many technologies I took advantage of during my stay at Great Aunt P’s was the scale.  I had stepped on the scale the first evening I was there and discovered I had joined the large percentage of American’s with a weight problem.  I had lost around five pounds since the start of my trip and had definitely fallen into the category of underweight for someone my height.  There are many healthy ways to gain weight, but none of them are very fun.  For breakfast I had a large serving of breakfast casserole, a slice of sourdough bread and a large cream filled pastry.
    Great Aunt P and I decided to head to Natural Bridge, about thirty miles from Lynchburg.  I think it used to be one of the natural wonders of the world, but there were no signs indicating so when we got there (I suppose it was degraded at some point when man discovered more intriguing natural wonders).
    On my walk down to the bridge, I ran into a professor who works in the mechanical engineering department of the university I attended.  I talked with him some and told him about my plans.
    The natural bridge was much larger than I expected.  George Washington ran into the bridge on a surveying trip when he was a young man.  He climbed about twenty to thirty feet up one of the walls and chiseled in his initials.  Later, at the wax museum (yes, I know), I found out that a college kid from a local university had scaled the wall to carve his initials higher than Washington’s.  He succeeded, but couldn’t climb back down.  He climbed to the top, and, at the point of utter exhaustion, his friends pulled him onto the upper ledge.  That’s what he gets for trying to one up GW.
    There was a small Native American village mockup past the bridge, and I walked in to check it out.  There were many huts set up in the fenced in village and one early colonialist dressed man standing next to a rack of furs.  After he finished talking with some children about what animals furs he had on display, I asked a time-period related accusatory question while pointing to a metal pot above a small fire.  He politely explained that he was representing an eighteenth century English fur trader, so the metal pot was appropriate (I didn’t bother to ask why an English fur trader would be the only person in the Native American village or, more directly, what he had done with all the bodies of the Indians he had slaughtered).  He was actually quite informative in explaining things about the early years of Jamestowne and the colonizing of Virginia.
    On our way back to Lynchburg, Great Aunt P remembered a story about my grandfather.  When he was a teenager, he decided to make money by selling rabbits (intersting family pattern of raising animals gone wrong), but he had trouble finding any buyers.  The rabbits began breeding like…well, rabbits, and eventually the situation got so out of control that he let them all go.  The rabbits went wild eating vegetables in all the neighborhood gardens and everyone wanted to know where the f all the rabbits came from.  Anyway, hope nobody reads this and comes running to my family to collect reimbursements for eaten vegetables from fifty years ago.
    Great Aunt P and I checked out a couple of civil war sites in town.  This time it was the Union that attacked the Confederacy and the Confederacy’s reinforcements that caused the Union to have to retreat (opposite of Shiloh).  I believe this was right before Lee attacked Washington which was quite a surprise to the Union.
    After having an alcoholic beverage at Great Aunt P’s house, we had dinner with Great Aunt P’s rocket scientist idolizing daughters and a few of their friends at a nice local restaurant.  I talked with one gentleman who was some sort of Dean at a local university about his trips to Yellowstone.  He was a fan of driving places and had plans to visit Glacier National Park and some parks along the west coast.  I guess being in the profession of teaching provides more time for travel (though not as much as the profession of traveling bum).  I found out from Great Aunt P that when she was growing up, their family used to take trips every Sunday afternoon (in their 1936 Chevy truck) to various places around Virginia.  I think that is a very cool idea.  After stuffing my face with a giant dessert that Great Aunt P recommended called a Baked Alaskan, we headed back to her place where I continued the process of getting re-spoiled on modern conveniences.

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