Blue Ridge Blues


In my last column, I mentioned that my eldest daughter participates in equestrian competitions, seemingly the most expensive and inconvenient activity available to inflict upon fathers of teenaged girls. I also mentioned that her riding team has continued to advance to higher (and more costly) levels of competition – despite my attempts at sabotage by replacing all of their riding boots with knitting needles. (I even offered to provide them with yarn and purchase t-shirts emblazoned with a new team name like The Doily Daredevils or The Afghan Aces.)

Rejecting my generous offers, though, her team managed to earn a trip to the National Hunt Seat Finals in Lexington, Virginia, nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and bordered by the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. Naturally, we were thrilled for her and excited to take the entire family to watch the competition and do a little sightseeing. We were also confident that our three daughters would understand that in order for us to pay for the trip, we would all be selling our plasma every week for the next 60 years.

One benefit of this trip was that we would be visiting a part of the country that is rich with history. In fact, our first night in Virginia was spent in a historically quaint little town at an extremely historical hotel. Keep in mind that when applied to hotels, the word “historical” is often a synonym for “creepy” and is used as an excuse to charge you more than you would normally be willing to pay for a night in complete discomfort. This hotel had a very historical history as an early 20th century hospital, and it possessed a very historical smell – like my grandmother’s boudoir. Our room had a very historical stain on the ceiling and a very historical mattress on the bed. (I’m pretty sure it was from the original tuberculosis ward of the hospital.) Each room also came with a complimentary haunting, and the historical lamp on the nightstand featured a disturbing porcelain cherub with only the jagged stump of an arm – which I was sure he would use to stab me in the neck when he came to life later that night.

Having survived our night in the Dust Bunny Inn and enjoyed a continental breakfast of bagels and coffee cake (which tasted very historical), the next leg of our trip involved an afternoon visit to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson – the American president famous for gracing that bill you don’t see very often because everyone keeps it in the top drawer with their Dinky the Dodo Bird Beanie Baby and other worthless junk that we thought would be valuable by now. (I’m willing to let Dinky go for another $2 bill if you’re interested.)

The mountainous scenery on our drive to Monticello was spectacular, and I encouraged my daughters to look out of the windows to witness the splendor of nature. They were so amazed by what they saw that they said, “Cool,” monotonously in unison and immediately went back to their iPhones to continue an edifying line of questioning with Siri. Below is an excerpt of their conversation:

Girls: Siri, have you ever tooted?

Siri: Who, me?

Girls: Uncontrollable giggling

Girls: Siri, blah, blah, blah!

Siri: Yah dah dah

Girls: Even more uncontrollable giggling accompanied by spastic gasping for breath.

Along with the educational enrichment my daughters were gaining in the back seat as they ensured our placement on a harassment watch list by the Apple Corporation, I was especially pleased that they would be able to experience such a famous historical American landmark. On the shuttle bus to the grounds of Monticello, I explained to them the importance of visiting the home of the American president whose face is not only on the $2 bill, but also on all of the nickels I steal from their piggy banks when I need to play the claw machine at Walmart. I could tell that my little talk with them had an impact because my youngest daughter lasted an entire two minutes on the tour before she asked if it was almost over. My middle daughter (who aspires to be a professional shopper someday – for herself and with my money) asked if we could skip the tour altogether and go straight to the gift shop.

One historical aspect of Jefferson’s home that they did appreciate was the central air conditioning because on the walk from the shuttle into the house they both threatened to evaporate if they got any hotter. Because I’m more serious about history than my children, my favorite part of the tour was to the basement area of the home where the original historical privies are located. (The tour guide was less than amused when I sat on one and asked if he had a magazine I could borrow.)

This first part of our trip had already been memorable, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us at the actual horse show. We were even able to take a brief jaunt through the souvenir shops of Washington, DC before our flight home, but that’s another story, and you’ll be glad to know that it involves no tooting at all – at least not from Siri.

– Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of East Texas, and an Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective, and his blog is published at . Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.


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