Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters

Natural Bridge!

At long last: the one and only Natural Bridge!

If you’ve been following this miniseries up till now, you’ll know this wasn’t our best week. Between my infirmities and our frequent bouts of disappointment from half the attractions we visited, this was not Best Trip Ever. At all, in any way imaginable. Least of all from the Natural Bridge area, from their zoo to the Visitor Center.

Until we got under the Bridge.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 13: Seven Wonders on the Way Back

King Kong!


Roadside attractions are naturally part of our road-tripping experience. We won’t necessarily drive fifteen miles out of our way to see a Paul Bunyan statue in an area that has absolutely nothing else of interest, but if one just so happens to be standing across the street from a Presidential burial site, we might make time for a cheesy cameo along the way.

We’re more susceptible to oddball sights when we’re on our way home, have hours to kill, and need our monotony broken up. In the case of our westward trek across Virginia, monotony wouldn’t be a problem for long.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 12: Walk with the Animals, Balk at the Animals


A teenager taking a reluctant wildcat on a walk. What’s the worst that could happen?

When my son was younger and first began tagging along on our road trips in 2003, we tried to include either one zoo or one amusement park on each itinerary as a concession for his sake. We’d already fulfilled the 2008 quota with an entire day spent at Busch Gardens Europe. On our way home we ran across another zoo we hadn’t considered, that hadn’t shown up in our review of mainstream Virginia brochures. We were in the area, the timing was convenient, and the sign out front promised tourists could have their pictures taken with live tiger cubs, presumably small and furry and adorable. That part sounded fun.

I mean, sure, we wound up having one of the most frightening moments in our entire 18-year road trip history. But hey: happy fun animals! Well, some of them. Sorta. The ones that weren’t bitter, at least.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 11: The Jamestown Compromise

Anne + rigging!

Years after the fact I’m just now noticing the coincidence of scheduling two quite boat-forward attractions on the same day. Go figure.

As part of our social studies curriculum, school systems throughout central Indiana used to send all their fourth-graders on a field trip to Conner Prairie as part of their mandatory Indiana history lessons. This well-known living history park up on the north side of the city recreates 19th-century Hoosier living with knowledgeable cosplayers in a recreated olde-tyme town filled with replica props and other learning opportunities about the Way Things Were.

I’m not sure if all our present school systems can still afford field trips nowadays, but back in our time, sooner or later everyone went to Conner Prairie. It was a local universal experience. The only memories I carry with me from my own field trip are of the fresh mud everywhere and of the re-enactor’s Q&A at which I found I was the only kid in my class who knew that horses’ feet were called “hooves”. True if depressing story.

It’s extremely rare for anyone to pay a second visit to Conner Prairie. Sometimes adults will when it’s their turn to chaperon their own kids’ field trips. Living history museums are consequently not an activity we look for in our annual road-trip itineraries. Anne and I get the gist of the interactive playacting learning experience. We pass. Except this one time.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 10: Sinking Feelings on a Battleship

Wisconsin wide!

Battleship! Not from Milton Bradley!

Given that America’s east coast is the home of numerous military hot spots, it followed that the Virginia area would offer touring options for at least one of them. Our warcraft of choice was a bit of a drive from Virginia Beach, but seemed like an interesting idea at the time. We might remember it more fondly if it weren’t for my ongoing physical issues, and if hadn’t taken us two tries to gain battleship access.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 9: Busch-Whacked

Apollo's end!

When the roller coaster warning sign says “People with medical conditions should not ride,” it’s not a medical condition if it hasn’t been diagnosed by a trained professional yet, right? Asking for a friend.

With each respective chapter of all our annual road trips, I have memories remaining from every stop to varying degrees. We’ve completed so many and I’m so old that I can recall some in greater detail than others. Our 2008 visit to Busch Gardens is very nearly an exception. I’ve spent months straining to summon those images from the recesses of mental storage, but I remember virtually nothing. Not the rides, not the snacks, not the animals, and thankfully not the physical pains I brought with me. For reasons that’ll be apparent by the end of this chapter, that day is largely a blur.

I say “largely” because, as I worked through the “Historical Notes” section, a couple of repressed scenes came back to me. Now I wish they hadn’t.

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