After weeks of planning it was finally here, the vacation I had been anxiously awaiting for months. Four days in the mountains was going to be the perfect escape from the stress of dealing with twenty rowdy three year olds all day long. My girlfriend, Casey and my friends Dusty, Candace, Tiffany, with her son Jonathan, and I all meet up early Thursday morning to load the cars and get on the road. As Casey and I pulled up to Tiffany’s house we saw her truck and Dusty’s truck in the driveway already half way loaded and our excitement began to grow. We were on the road in no time and after filling up, the best weekend of our lives had finally begun.
We began our trek through what we expected to be heavy traffic all day and quickly realized that we were possibly the luckiest people in the history of road trips. We did not hit any real traffic jams over what should have been a four-hour drive and made it to Natural Bridge, Virginia in a little over three hours. Driving through the town of Natural Bridge felt like something out of an old slasher movie. Run down houses and farms dotted the landscape, broken down cars lined the road near the entrance to the town, creating an ominous portal into another world. A world away from the surf and city of Virginia Beach, a world like nothing I had seen before. Casey and I had to ask ourselves, “Are we really going to spend four days here?”
After discovering that the town only looked creepy and learning that the people were all very nice, we relaxed and let the best weekend of our lives continue. We arrived at the campground around twelve o’clock in the afternoon and by one had all of the tents set up and ready for the weekend. The rest of that afternoon was spent relaxing and exploring the campground, which we would call home for the next three days. The campground was beautiful, right on the river, with mountains and cliffs all around. Watching the sunset over the mountains from the riverbank was like watching God tuck the world in for bed, and kissing it goodnight. Sitting around the fire that night we talked about everything from music and movies to the big questions of life, like “Why are we here?” As I crawled into my sleeping bag that night I could not help but wonder what tomorrow would be like.
Waking up to the sound of bullfrogs and crickets every few hours does not really make for a good night of sleep, but the smell of the cool moist mountain air, mixed with the smoke of last night’s still smoldering campfire, is better than any coffee that I have ever had. We decided to go into town and see some of the crazy tourist attractions on Friday. The town of Natural Bridge has many interesting attractions including a toy museum, wax museum and what they call a monster museum, which was in all honesty just a haunted house. Along with these there is also the natural bridge itself and the caverns, we only went through the museums on Friday, because Jonathan is only six years old and therefore has the attention span of a guinea pig.
After spending the morning walking around museums and taking lots of pictures we returned to the campground to spend the afternoon swimming in the lake and just relaxing, since it was, after all a vacation. We ran out of firewood our first night, so while the girls made dinner, Dusty and I drove up the road and found a place that sold wood for cheap. When we got back to the campsite we realized that the wood we had was much to large for the fire pit at the campsite. So after dinner, we began to cut the wood down to size while Casey, and Candace watched. Being that is was very hot we removed our shirts in a rather seductive manner and continued to give them a little bit of a show by simply being manly and splitting wood. Once we had finally gotten the fire going I went down to the lake with Casey so that I could rinse the sweat off and cool down a little bit. When Casey and I returned to the fireside where we began discussing the hardships of working with children. Shortly thereafter Tiffany and I began to argue and I chose to walk away before anything escalated. I decided to retire to my tent and prepare for bed, during which time Casey came and calmed me down with gentle loving words and a warm embrace. As my frustrations faded away, I began to wonder what my life would be like if I had never met Casey. I let my self go into a completely relaxed state, and let the world fall away from my view.
Sleep came much easier Friday night, and on Saturday morning I awoke with great excitement about our tubing trip down the river. The first thing that Dusty and I did that morning was figure out which cooler would fit best into the tube so that we would have plenty of food and drink for the four hour tube ride. To do so we measured our cooler against all of the different tubes, and found that we needed a tube that had a bottom built in. We returned to the campsite to find breakfast ready for us to eat, and everyone else ready to get moving. As we loaded the tubes onto the trailer and waited for the other family to get their act together we talked about the things that could be lurking in the river, snakes and sea monsters and the possibility of sharks. The drive from the campground to the river was long and beautiful. We followed the winding mountain roads up to the creek that would get us to the James River.
As we stumbled down the steep rocky path that led down to the creek, we began to wonder about the temperature of the water. When we finally reached the water, we decided that getting in slowly would not be worth it. So, we jumped into the frigid water crawled into our tubes and were on our way down the mighty James River. Dusty had thought ahead and brought some rock climbing rope with him so that we could tie the tubes together on the river. So for the first half hour we all got situated and got the tubes roped together to make one big raft, and after that the fun began. Every time the water got shallow enough to stand someone would get out and catch the raft to stop it from moving just to annoy the rest of us. At one point we even found a fully inflated tire, which Dusty decided would be a great souvenir, so he tied it onto the back of our little raft.
Close to the end of our journey the water became very still, and almost completely stopped flowing. This part of the tube ride was a little frightening to me, especially when I began to hear banjo music and started having “Deliverance” flashbacks. We began to paddle faster to get away from the hillbilly’s, until we found a rope swing on the riverbank and all tried to swing without hitting the water and landing in the shallow water near shore. By the end of our tube trip we were all very ready for a nice long nap, which we all took as soon as we got back to the campground. Saturday night was rather uneventful and a more than welcome change from the past two nights. Relaxing around the campfire with good friends and making s’mores is truly the best part about any camping trip.
Sunday morning we all woke up late and began to clean up the campsite. First packing our clothes away and cleaning out the tents. Taking the tents down and packing the cars took no time at all and by twelve o’clock we were on our way home. Casey and I decide that on our way home we would stop and see the Natural Bridge and hike all around the bridge, as well as take a tour of the caverns. After taking our time, and spending the afternoon underground Casey and I headed home. We made it home without hitting any traffic, and ended the best vacation of my life by unpacking the car and kissing each other goodnight.