Our snowbird winter is officially over. We left Georgia to begin our trek north, making an important stop in Virginia. Of course, you’ve already read about our stop at Everett and Missy’s farm in Hillsville, Virginia. After that brief stop, we made our way to Blacksburg, Virginia, our former home. It was a very short visit but we were able to catch up with a few friends, eat at our favorite local restaurants, and make a necessary stop at our storage unit.
We had plans of staying at the local Wal-Mart since we arrived so late into town but when we drove into downtown Blacksburg, it was as though the town expected our arrival. There was a parking spot right in front of our old house which was IN downtown. So, we parked there. For the night. (Take that, crazy landlord!) It was our first attempt at urban stealth camping, a new term we recently learned. I half expected to get a knock on the door during the night saying we couldn’t park there, especially since the police station is one block away. We were, however, apparently discreet enough (meaning that I wasn’t out in my bathrobe “Cousin Eddie Style” emptying the “sh*tter” into the sewer line). So, we had a lovely night of uninterrupted sleep and were convenient to my favorite breakfast place, Gillies, for the next morning.
After breakfast, we did a quick drive around campus and took pictures of our shiny home in Hokie land. And, then we were off to our storage unit. A task neither of us looked forward to.
We arrived at our storage unit and as with the previous visit could not for the life of us remember which unit number we were but knew it’s location. That doesn’t help when a) the office isn’t open; and, b) you need your unit number for the code to have the gate open. Thankfully (and, then again, not so much), a small gate was open and anyone could gain access via foot. So, we parked and walked to our unit. We opened our unit door and did the usual 10-minute stare at a bunch of crap mixed in with a few valuable items. In the end, we dropped a few more things off into the unit and collected a few items as well. What was so important that we needed from our storage unit? A maternity shirt (my one and only), Chris’ ripstick (???), Chris’ swimming flippers (???), a rope, a bottle of glass cleaner, a tuner (because that’s clearly the reason our ukulele songs sound so terrible), and a small stand for our ukulele music. See? Necessary items, right? Right.
We said our goodbyes to Blacksburg and made our way to Staunton, Virginia (Pronounced “Stanton”) to see family. Chris’ sister and her husband live in a really nice (and brand new) condo within walking distance to the wonderful town of Staunton, birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and the Statler Brothers. Their condo is in a former mental hospital/jail. The hospital’s campus (dating back to 1828) consists of many buildings and only a few have been renovated. The remaining buildings are abandoned and creepy.
This instantly became the coolest and creepiest overnight parking spot for us to date. Sure, there have been some sketchy campgrounds and Wal-Mart parking lots but nothing compares to the grounds of a former mental hospital-turned-jail whose long history includes a hospital director who was a firm believer in eugenics, a period of serving as a children’s aslyum, and it’s time as a medium-security correctional facility. Did I mention the old cemetery in the back that is full of unmarked graves? Yeah. There’s that, too.
We walked around the grounds and learned about the future renovations. Chris and his brother-in-law were immediately drawn to the open window and doors of some of the abandoned buildings. While my sister-in-law and I hesitantly followed. <Cue scary movie music now.> While the guys explored more thoroughly, we just took a few quick peeks in some of the rooms. The buildings were fascinating and creepy. It felt too much like a setting for a scary movie; and, in hindsight, we broke EVERY scary movie rule:
1) We split up (and a number of times said, “I’ll be right back.”) At one point, the girls left the guys and then the guys split up to find us. Classic scary movie stuff and a definite no-no.
2) Chris walked into a room that was significantly colder than the rest of the building even after Ty warned him he should NEVER do that.
3) We even had our token black guy (my brother-in-law), you know, the one who gets killed first, as he reminded us, should this adventure follow a scary movie script. Despite that fact, he was still eager to take the lead on more than one occasion. What a guy!
4) Lastly, and most obvious, we walked into an old abandoned mental hospital. Seriously, have we lost our minds?
Thankfully, we survived. It was a highly entertaining and interesting day. After a somewhat peaceful night’s sleep (with the exception of the random screams we heard–totally kidding), we were off to find a local campground so we could spend more time in this great town.
We spent the rest of the week at Shenandoah Valley Campground in Verona, Virginia. We had a lovely stay. A river runs along the campground and in the summer months they offer tubing. The park was a former KOA so it had some nice amenities. And, the staff was always friendly and helpful.
We made a few more visits to downtown Staunton during the week, eating at some wonderful local restaurants that serve food from local farms. We had delicious gelato and I’m totally sorry I didn’t make a second or third trip back to the gelato place. And, we went to a free screening of the movie, “Fresh” which features a local (and well-known) farmer, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm. In fact, his son was a speaker after the film. If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma or watched “Food, Inc.” then you are probably familiar with Mr. Salatin and his farm. “Fresh” was a great film and I highly recommend it.
All in all, our time in Blacksburg and Staunton was productive, a little bit crazy and a lot of fun!