Austin Roadtrip: MD and VA


The adventure began early on an August Monday at my parents’ house in Maryland. First order of business: glamour shot of Billy Bob.

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I packed up a ton of my stuff and set aside some things to ship out later. My dad helped pack up my Subaru for the trip. Okay, he was the sole car packer; all I did was bring things out to the porch.

I already knew my dad was a pro at packing after all the family road trips we’d been on (5 of us in one minivan), but he worked a small miracle that day. He somehow managed to pack all of my worldly possessions into my car with room to spare. I actually went back into the house to look for more things to pack. This is a true story, folks. Commit it to memory because you may never hear of something like this again.

Anyway, the car was packed in a jiffy and my dad and I said goodbye to my mom and sister and set out for a long drive to Tennessee. We were bound for the Great Smoky Mountains via pretty much the entire state of Virginia. 10 hours in all.

But even in those days I was pretty much an expert trip planner and I already had a lunch stop in mind: Natural Bridge, VA.

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Billy Bob gets his picture taken with a black bear in Natural Bridge, VA. He comes in at about 1 ft tall.

I’d never been to a Natural Bridge before, so my expectations were high and I was pretty pleased with myself for finding such a cool stop. But when we got there the pictures of the bridge seemed a bit meh against the price tag of the tour to see it in person. It didn’t look much like anything I hadn’t already seen in the Petrified Forest. So we ate lunch and moved on back to the highway.

But the Natural Bridge isn’t the only thing in Natural Bridge, VA. On our way back to the interstate we stumbled upon several redeeming factors of Virginia. Three, to be exact.

Number 1: The Natural Bridge Zoo.

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Who knew podunk Virginia had a zoo, right? Here’s one of the main attractions at this particular zoo:

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Billy Bob gets a photo op at the Natural Bridge Zoo

That’s right. All of the animals at the Natural Bridge Zoo were made of plaster. And seemed to be taken straight out of a circus. Uh, what?

And the zoo was just the tip of the VA/TN iceberg.

Number 2: Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom

The zoo was weird. But it was just one thing, right?

Nope.

Next we came across the Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom attraction. Same road, maybe a mile from the zoo.

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Billy Bob poses with a velociraptor who has just escaped captivity.

I had just come to terms with the circus animals, but dinosaurs? Natural Bridge was really pushing the envelope. But there was an actual beat up truck and a really realistic velociraptor. You have to admit that’s pretty cool.

And yet, did you think I would end on a low note?

Number 3: Foamhenge.

If you’re ever in the Mid-Atlantic region, do yourself a favor and drive however long it takes to get to Foamhenge. I think this was pretty easily one of the highlights of the trip for my dad. He was even remarking on the educational value of it.

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Foamhenge, as you may or may not have imagined, is a full-scale replica of Stonehenge, made out of foam.

Yeah, take that in for a second.

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Billy Bob visits Foamhenge

I’ve never been to Stonehenge, but clearly now I don’t need to go. Been there, done that.

In all seriousness, this place was worth the stop. A sign told us that the whole thing was just some guy’s idea to recreate Stonehenge and make it available for visitors. No fee, no fence, just foam.

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Oh, and the necromancer.

Foamhenge definitely gets the Dad Seal of Approval.

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Dad making sure they were doing it right.

This was around the time I confirmed this road trip was going to be awesome. And so we got back in the car and headed for Tennessee.

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