Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Little Slice o' Roadside Cheeze!

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! I grew up a mere couple of hours from this place--it was there all along--and yet only last week did I walk through the portals of Dinosaur Land!

Airfares to Charlottesville, Shendandoah Valley Airport, Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg--anyplace less than a hundred miles away from Waynesboro, basically--being obscene, Jeff and I opted to fly into Dulles and rent a car. Since our return flight was not until after 8:00 p.m., we decided to take the scenic route up the valley (via U.S. 11, mostly), which included time to stop and tour this mecca of roadside dino-parks.

From the moment you enter the gift shop and ticket emporium, you know you have hit paydirt. The gift shop is huge (three rooms, one is enormous), and chock full of souvenirs in the grand old tradition of roadside attractions of yore. Take it from a tourist trap aficionada, it's hard to find a good cheezy souvenir shop nowadays. At any rate, this one had all the goods, from a whole counter of cedar plaques (mostly of wolves, eagles, and Jesus),

to an impressive array of fireworks

and, of course, all things dino, and sauro, and thera, and... you get the picture.

For a mere five bucks apiece, you can tour the grounds, which contain a host of creatures, very few of which ever trod this Earth together. What a treat!

The entrance, through the gaping maw of a fiberglass tree face, extends a warning:

Right inside the enclosure, you come across an octopus with the eyes of a cartoon... and its little pal.

Right next to that is a skeery shark... why, it's literally a fish out of water! (That's a recurring theme, folks... stay tuned!)

Near the start of the dino trail, we came upon Dimetrodon, which, as Jeff was quick to point out, is not really a dinosaur (despite what the nearby info plaque said). It is a pelycosaur--a mammal-like reptile. And no, I'm not a compendium of knowledge of dinos. Jeff is, though, kinda, so I'm depending on him for the skinny on these creatures.

I don't know what this guy is, but he certainly looks pissed off. I think I will call him Scowlosaurus.

Old Scowlface was followed in short order by this contented fellow (or gal... how do you tell the gender of a dinosaur?).

If you are wondering why this terrifying tableau of nature red in tooth and claw is not garnering Jeff's attention,

it is because he can't take his eyes off this stunning example of instant-onset rigor-mortis.

Of course, Dinosaur Land also shows the tenderer side of the saurian world with several touching scenes such as this:

Cute little tyke, huh?

Then there is the Mosasaur who, with his pal the big-ass frog, is "swimming" in a sandbox as opposed to a sea.

What does Dinosaur Land have against our aquatic friends?

This guy caught my eye because he (or she--lord help her) is just one ugly dino. Whew!

They even had a statue of Ann Coulter! Now, this place is only an hour (if that) from D.C., so it stands to reason they would have a lovely tribute to Mantis, stick insect of the SS and all-around beltway insider.

Hey! Duuhh... where'd these EGGS come from?

Now, I know this guy isn't from the Jurassic, although I'm sure there are some who would make the argument that I am...

First the jaws of death, now the palm of peril--this was quite the thrill stroll for me!

And finally, without the aid of a sign Jeff is left to puzzle out whether this is Heckleosaurus or Jeckleosaurus.

Seriously, though, if you ever find yourself in Northern Virginia with a free morning or afternoon, head over to White Post (west of D.C. and south of Winchester), where, at the intersection of routes 277, 522, and 340 you will find Dinosaur Land! You won't regret it!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More WV State Fair Shenanigans

Here is the "more" I promised yesterday evening.

As many state fairgoers can attest, there is more to a fair than the midway. There is the "buy stuff" hall (featured briefly in yesterday's installment). Then there is the craft hall. The craft hall had lots of quilts hanging from the ceiling, but the one that caught my eye was this, the quilt of presidents:

I hope you can see it in all its nephew-art splendor--some of the prezzies are hard to identify without their nametags. All snittiness aside, I do think it is a noble effort at quiltery. It did give me just a bit of pause that W's dates in office have been rendered as "2000-200 " with no end date given. I can only hope that indicates the quilter was hoping against hope that s/he could insert a pre-2009 date for the end of the nimrod-in-chief's term.

There was a seal show that we missed, but we were just in time for the photo-op.

They were charging folks ten smackeroos to have their pictures taken with the placid pinnipeds, but I snapped this photo gratis...

As I still had my braces on, I couldn't avail myself of this foodstand, much as I wanted to:

Note the helpful signage.

To divert my attention from golden ears of corn slathered in rich creamery butter, we headed to the livestock barns to see what was up. We watched the heiffer judging for a while:

This little guy and his heiffer were a class of one, as were several other entrants. No matter, each received a ribbon right from the hands of the dairy princess, who appeared to have had enough of the entire enterprise:

To be fair (at the fair--get it?), she'd probably been looking at heiffers of one sort or another all day long.

Next, we proceded to the horse barn, where Beth made an equine friend:

We went into the swine barn (which the porcines shared with the goats). The goats were stinky. Really stinky. The pigs were kind of stinky, but nowhere near as stinky as the goats. And who couldn't love this sweet face?

The rabbits were next. The first bunny to catch our eye was this guy, a Flemish Giant:

Since there is nothing in the photo to provide a size reference, you are going to have to trust me on this--this guy was BIG. He (or she, didn't note which gender) was every bit as big as Shelly, our 15-pound fluffy divacat. If not more so. As you can see, I uploaded a big version of the bun to try to approximate the rabbity splendor.

Then there was this guy, some kind of angora rabbit:

Or a tribble.

We wanted to see the poultry next--as I have seen chickens at both the Virginia and New York state fairs with amazing fountainesque crests and feathers that look like the tribble's--I mean, the bunny's--fur, but they had canceled the poultry exhibit this year due to concerns about avian flu. Well, better safe than sorry, I guess. But dag.

As night fell and soft lights began to play on the souvenir stands,

a cheezy oldies band took the stage. Their first number? "Oh What a Night." Indeed.

At least their dinner jackets are sparkly.

The bloke whose job it is to goad passersby until they pay to try to soak him took his place on his precarious platform.

He had the patter down, but the real source of annoyance was his nasal, Haskellesque laugh. Ugh. We did see him get soaked, though. Twice in a row. Heh.

There is something magical about a carnival midway at night. The peeling paint and rickety-looking nuts, bolts, and beams recede into the darkness, and the lights just take over:

The lights can't obscure the torture-chamber aspect of some of these thrill rides, though. Note the giant four-toed claw that not only swings patrons up and down as if they are affixed to a sideways pendulum, but whirls them around and back and forth and you name the direction, they are getting shunted in it, feet dangling and hands clutching their harnesses for dear life. Can you pick out the ride I'm describing?

Now look to the left, at that ride nestled within the archway of golden incandescence. That is the flying saucer ride, where they herd the willing victims into a centrifuge and spin the living crap out of them. Here's the warning sign posted in front of said attractive nuisance (I'm uploading a large version in the hope that you will be able to read it):

Please note the additional warning someone has written in: "Low Suger" (sic) in a faded circle with slash.

At least they offered the tame and pleasantly retro Tilt-a-Whirl

And, naturally, you cannot have a midway without a carousel.

Not nearly as imposing or utterly creepy as the one at House on the Rock, but sweet and kid-sized. And you can actually RIDE this one.

Footsore and weary, we reluctantly left the midway and headed back toward the BAV, our sojourn at the West Virginia State Fair over for this year.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Lure of the Midway

About a week and half ago, Jeff and I managed to wrangle some time off from work, and we headed down to Virginia for an all too quick visit with my mom, my brother, and our very great pals Barb and Beth, and their sweeties Charlie and Cortney. The weekend happened to include Barb and Charlie's daughter Jenni's birthday (she's 14--damn, does that make me feel OLD!), and a portion of the festivities included a road trip to the West Virginia State Fair where Jenni and her pal Summer could ride the rides and scream their lungs out while ogling Corbin Bleu. Now, until that very weekend, I had no idea who this Corbin Bleu fellow was--hermit that I am. But I was put wise, pronto.

At any rate, on Friday, August 17, Jeff and I found ourselves tooling west on I-64 with Barb, Beth, Cortney, Jenni, Summer, and Stacy (who came along to wrangle the teens), bound for Lewisburg in Barb's BAV (Big-Ass Vehicle). Our destination:

Lights! Action! Souvenirs!

Now, I have only attended two other state fairs in my life (well, multiple times for each): the Virginia State Fair and the New York State Fair. The West Virginia State Fair is smaller than either of those--about double the size of a decent county fair. But that doesn't mean it didn't pack lots of amusment into a petite package (as state fairs go).

Of course, there were the rides--guaranteed to make everyone over the age of 16 sick as a dog:

There were the ubiquitous funnel cakes (this picture is for YOU, Barb!):

There was the hall of commerce, where you could buy all kinds of funky things, such as Bat Boy...

And the sparkly goodness of blown glass.

Just in case you're wondering, this is what a West Virginia State Fair glassblower looks like (he's the one on the left... I think...):

Beth and Barb succumbed to the high-tech siren song of the handwriting analysis computer:

And just in case you are wondering what the West Virginia State Fair handwriting analysis computer looks like, well, it looks an awful lot like the handwriting analysis computer that graced the Virginia State Fair in the '70s and the New York State Fair in the '80s, right down to its operator. Except now it is bilingual:

Soft-serve ice cream was touted on the midway...

As were games...

Cortney won Beth a nice prize at the pick up the duck game--a game that requires a steady hand and a steely resolve:

Then there was the dime-toss game. Check out these guys. We decided that they were headed to a wedding, forgot to get a gift, and decided to stop by the state fair to win some fine glassware before the ceremony:

There was one game with no carney barking for it... lonely and deserted. We couldn't figure out what the hell it was, except for its skeery name:

This was probably the worst juxtaposition of attractions on the midway proper--The Bible Story and Face Painting tent placed right in front of the Mardi Gras funhouse:

Just in case you can't see what's painted in technicolor splendor on the facade of said funhouse, here is a closer look:

Good lord! Think of the children!!

And speaking of children, here's a kiddie ride I could have been persuaded to try, had I only purchased any ride tickets:

Alas, the one thing this midway lacked was any kind of sideshow. I realize that freak shows are a thing of the distant past, but where the heck was Ooka, the woman who turned into a gorilla before your very eyes? Where was the world's littlest horse? Where were the hootchie-cootchie girls? Nowhere to be found at the West Virginia State Fair. So Beth did her best to make up for the lack of general weirdness:

Well, this is getting long, and I have more pictures with which to regale my readership: exhibitions, foodstuffs, LIVESTOCK! And the midway at night. Stay tuned for more!

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