Thursday, July 22, 2010

Luray Caves and Gladys

Gladys leads us. We never get lost anymore because she is constantly guiding us from Roanoke to Hatteras or Gettysburg. Gladys has never been there herself but she knows the way. Even when she told me Gettysburg was 500 miles west of us, instead of 100 miles north, the mistake was mine, not hers, because I told her to find Gettysburg Ohio... my bad. Gladys is constantly in touch with anywhere from 10 to 15 unseen satellites, listening to their tiny signals beeping away from their geosynchronous locations scattered above us. When Gladys speaks we stop our conversations and listen to her instead. "When possible make a legal U turn" or "Prepare to remain on current road in 1/2 mile". She never gets testy when we make a wrong turn but simply says "recalculating route..." in the same patient tone. I can't believe what a difference Gladys has made in our travelling lives. Maps, folded to the current region, are looked at for a general reference and then ignored. We navigate heads-up through the unfamiliar streets of American towns, confidently making turns and negotiating streets like a born local.

At the end of a long driving day through the Virginia mountains and the Shenandoah National Park we have set our sights on Luray Caverns as in; Y'all lookin' for th' Loo-Ray Caverns? Neither of us have seen real-live caves before (the kind with stalactites and stalagmites) and this one seems to be the mother of all U.S. caverns. Although the admission is a hefty price we are not disappointed. The size of the formations give new meaning to the phrase - been there a long time...
What an amazing place! The larger of the formations are over 40 feet high and have been formed grain by grain for millenia before anyone ever saw them.
And yet... the tell-tale signs of diamond drill holes and careful blasting (but still, blasting) behind the formations to create wide level walkways, paved with bricks, show that under man's care the last hundred years or so of these magnificent formations have been a lot more destructive than creative... In the name of easy access, how many of these formations are missing? There are areas where formations seem to have been... removed? covered with levelling sand? changed? Anyway, what is left is pretty magnificent. If you can get a chance to see them, do so.

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