Virginia does not look like Minnesota. I’ll come back to that.
Our day began, as all productive days surely must, with Mom and I accidentally attempting to force our way on to the Dayton Air Force Base. We were under the impression–thanks to Bea the British GPS–that the Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Interpretive Center was there. The nice young man with the green eyes and the machine gun who was responsible for checking IDs at the gate pointed us in the right direction.
What we also didn’t know was that the HPFFIC (as the locals know it. Not really.) is a national park. And that inside the Interpretive Center there is an actual park ranger who will teach you how to fly a circa 1911 plane, via video game simulation.
The left lever could be pulled back for nose up/altitude gain or pushed forward for nose down/speed gain. The lever on the right (between my mom and the park ranger) could be pulled back for a right turn or pushed forward for a left turn. Operating both levers simultaneously, the goal was to stay in the air without incident for three minutes. You had two chances. Needless to say, I crashed on my first try, and only lasted for three minutes on my second because the ranger next to me was guiding my altitude subtly. Nevertheless, I was awarded a certificate that henceforth allows me to pilot any plane. Any place circa 1911, that is. As the ranger handed the certificate to me, he said ceremoniously, “If you can find it, you can fly it.” I pray that I’ll get my chance someday.
Outside, there was the Wright Brothers Memorial which overlooks the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Huffman is where Orville and Wilbur perfected their plane (having had the first successful flight in North Carolina). Huffman is referred to as the “first flying field in the world.” Imagine that! No one had flown in such a way until the Wright Brothers decided to dedicate their time and money to figuring out how to make an airplane work. And the world thought they were nuts. But that’s usually how it goes, isn’t it?
After a few hours of driving, I happened to check the map only to discover that we were very near to the turnoff for something called the Leo Petroglyph. It sounded too intriguing to pass up, so we wound through three miles of back roads and were stared at by dozens of western Ohioans who were sitting on their front porches enjoying the day. Then we came to this:
Carved seven hundred years ago. They look like they were done yesterday, don’t they?
We spent the rest of the day touring West Virginia via freeway and admiring the scenery. West Virginia is I think the prettiest state I’ve seen thus far on this trip. Mountains are something we don’t have in Minnesota, though, so there was a lot of: “Are those mountains? Or just hills? They’re tall, but I’m not sure … let’s check the map.” I think I actually Googled “West Virginia hills vs. mountains” at some point.
We entered Virginia at twilight and entered Charlottesville when it was dark enough that fireflies flashed near the tree line. Admittedly, I mostly wanted to come to Charlottesville because this is Kath’s stomping ground, and she makes it sound quite idyllic. Having walked up and down the Mall a few times, having had homemade smoked salmon ravioli from Bizou, and having wrapped up the evening with ice cream, I have to say that I like it here. I have a feeling I’ll like it even better when it’s light enough for me to rave about the historic buildings and to clomp around Monticello like the Jefferson groupie that I am.