It only took 18 years for a good friend of mine to finally visit here in Roanoke the week before Easter. The only reason she did was because it was a good stopping point on her way to Orlando. She was gracious enough to bring my cousin along for the ride and leave him here until her return trip back to NYC. Since I really had only one full day to show her and her kids around, I tried to give them a good sampling of Roanoke.
She and her kids had never visited a cavern before so after her "must-have" Southern breakfast of grits, and biscuits and gravy at Mac and Bob's, we headed to Dixie Caverns in Salem. I've been there a couple of times when my kids were smaller so I assured her we would both "fit" inside the tight walls. Unfortunately, I forgot about all the steps, which killed my knees. Thank you RA!
The kids seemed to really like it and were amazed to see real live bats on the ceiling.
My cousin, a typical New Yorker, thought they were put there for "effect." "C'mon, in all these caverns the guide knows exactly where two bats are. Oh, please, they're fake." I think they are real, but maybe he's right, I've been living in the south too long.
From there we headed downtown to visit the vendors and grab a snack in the City Building. They thought downtown was quaint, "Where's the rest of the city?" "Ummm, that's pretty much it, and you're lucky it's a Saturday, or it would be dead." One of my friend's sons wanted to go on top of a mountain so naturally we drove to the Mill Mountain Star.
They really liked it and her son wanted to hike it. "You could pick me up at the bottom." Yeah, no. I had no idea where the trail wound up so told him next time he comes he could hike it. They were too big for the zoo so we skipped that. And the weather was still cool so there weren't any nice showy flowers or trees.
I think the highlight for the kids might have been the immense smorgasbord of "Chinese" food at the mega buffet joint by Crossroads Mall. They liked everything they ate, well almost everything, "Stay away from the cubes of Jello!" No problem there. They also seemed to enjoy our ping-pong table and pinball machine. Although we had every intention of playing board games, by the time night fell and our glasses were filled, we never got around to it. They left early Sunday morning and headed South.
Lucky for me I still had a playmate for the week -- my cousin.
We laughed, ate, laughed, ate, laughed & ate some more. I took him to the saddest place on earth, Happy's Flea Market. We visited all my favorite stores and restaurants. We saw a great act at the Roanoke Public Library -- Megan Jean & the KFB band. I blogged more in depth about it here. We walked to Jamison's Orchards where he bought, "the best granola I've ever tasted." We checked out Black Dog Salvage. He thought it was interesting but definitely over-priced. We never got to see the Winston Link Museum, but we did get to the Taubman.
We were the only visitors in there, and I do believe there were more security guards than artwork. He said he was glad it was free. We had hoped to visit the card store right next door to it but there was a sign on the door saying they were only open on Saturdays, and by appointment for the rest of the week. Huh?
All in all, it was a great week that alleviated my homesickness, but went too quick. My friend and her kids really liked Roanoke, but she wasn't too thrilled with Salem. Driving to my home on Electric Road from I-81 she got a speeding ticket. The officer said he "gave her a break" by not making it "reckless" but it still cost her $151. I had specifically warned her to go the speed limit as soon as she got off of 81 because I know the cops troll that road. You don't realize how fast you're going after driving 13 hours on a freeway, and when you do the limit you feel like you're travelling backwards. "I should have listened to you!" Yeah, you should have listened to me 15 years ago too when I told you to move down here so I wouldn't be so alone...
I still have hope that one day they will listen to me.