Miles Traveled: 111; Current Location: Washington D.C.

I’m officially in love with Virginia.  Now I understand the slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers,” I think it must be a hard place not to love.  That being said, I take back my comment from yesterday about its perfectly paved roads.  Driving into D.C. is brutal.  Construction, potholes, tons of traffic.  If I can assume that this experience is only a small taste of the one that I’ll face tomorrow as I drive into New York City, I think I might be in trouble.  Luckily I’m sure the other drivers will be kind to me when they see my Massachusetts license plates and realize that I’m from out of town and presumably from Boston.  Right.

But back to Virginia.  I woke up early this morning to get to Shenandoah Caverns when it opened.  I read in the brochure last night and learned that the tours begin on the hour, and I wanted to make sure I was there for the first tour.  You can take the girl out of the workforce, but you can’t take the incessant need to be on time out of the girl.  Today though, punctuality worked in my favor because when I arrived at the caverns, the man at the counter told me that if I went with the visitors from the imminently arriving tour bus then I could go see the caverns free of charge.  I thought that this turn of events was really great, but perhaps I should have also thought, “this man must know something.”

As it turned out, the tour group was exclusively Asian.  I point this out only to reassure you that I had absolutely no hope of fitting in whatsoever.  Everyone, including the guide, clearly questioned how I had gotten mixed up with this crowd, but no one asked.  They’ll be wondering forever.  There were about thirty in the group, and none of them had any interest in listening to any sort of guidance or direction.  The tour took about twenty minutes longer than it was supposed to.  Truth be told though, I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to go along with this group.  Everyone on the tour was so enthusiastic about the caves and were audibly amazed each time we turned a corner.  It made the experience much more interesting than it would have been had I been wandering around by myself, alone with my cynical nature.  Everyone was very nice, and I grew to love my temporary posse.

As you might have guessed if you know me well, I didn’t actually have any interest in seeing the caverns.  I went to Rock City in Tennessee when I was about ten-years-old, so I’ve already seen a cave, and I’ve always thought that this warm memory would be enough to last a lifetime.  I’m also somewhat claustrophobic, so I was worried that the “cave experience” might prove to be a bit stressful, and I’m not a fan of stress.  You might now be wondering why I decided to go to the caverns at all, and naturally, I have an incredibly logical answer for you.

Before I left L.A., I researched Virginia and stumbled upon the existence of something called “America on Parade.”  If you guessed that this attraction is a parade float museum, you would be correct, and if you guessed that there was no way that I was missing it, you would be correct once more.  In a twist that makes nothing but sense, the admission for America on Parade is included in the ticket for the caverns.  When I thought that I was going to be paying money for this ticket, I figured I might as well suck it up and go into the caves while I was there.  And when I got the ticket for free, ducking out to see the parade floats seemed like it would be looking the gift horse in the mouth.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I did have my pick of things to see in Virginia.  Williamsburg, Monticello, sites from the Civil War.  They’re all there.  But when I found out about the existence of a museum dedicated entirely to retired parade floats, I think you can all agree that I wasn’t left with much of a choice.  I had to see America on Parade.

If I thought that the Big Chicken was frightening, I’m really not sure what I was thinking in my desire to see these floats.  I have no idea what I suspected that America on Parade might be, but what it is, is a warehouse full of giant sculptures pointed in your direction to greet you as you enter the building.  Ducks, King Tut, a Polynesian woman, rabbits, polar bears, a train… The Small World ride at Disney has nothing on this hodgepodge of ethnicities and species.

Some of the floats even have buttons to push so that you can witness them move… very….slowly.  I guess it looks more impressive on the actual parade route.  America on Parade features floats from presidential inaugurations, Thanksgiving Day and Rose Parades, and from my own personal favorite event, America’s bicentennial.

I’ve been bitter about missing the bicentennial ever since I first heard about it during the episode of Full House entitled, “Stephanie Gets Framed,” and it’s now my life’s goal to be around for the tricentennial in 2076.  In fact, a couple of years ago, I reached out to a tricentennial committee in an effort to start making ties prior to the big day.  They never responded to me, but now that I’ve seen all of these creations used in the bicentennial, I’m confident that I can start my own tricentennial committee and blow the existing group completely out of the water.

Something else that I learned at the museum is that the floats are reused from event to event.  The outer shells can also be changed, so for instance, polar bears that I saw today are white, but in the Rose Parade, they had been covered with moss.  So, over the years when I’ve said, “once you’ve seen one parade, you’ve seen them all,” I’ve actually been correct.

Today was one of my favorite days so far.  I loved interacting with my tour group in the caverns, and I was thrilled to see pieces from America’s 200th birthday.  Virginia is just great, and I plan to spend a lot more time here over the years.  And yes, next time I will go to Williamsburg, which I have no doubt I will tremendously enjoy.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been traveling for almost a month! I hope that everyone is having a great week leading into the long weekend.  Thanks for reading my blog, and the good news is, you’ll stop being pestered to continue reading it soon!

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