Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest Post from Ray: Ain't Seen Nothing Like It

Another guest post from our buddy Ray in Pennsylvania:

Ain’t Seen Nothing Like It
In the same complex as Shenandoah Caverns is a large metal building called America on Parade. Since it was included in the cave ticket price, I went to check it out. There was a car show going on so I stopped to look at that first. The only thing I really noticed was that an AMC Gremlin is now car show material. I suppose the bad cars deserve a look as well. It did make me wonder what will show up at car shows 25 years from now. Will there be AMC Pacers, Ford Pintos, and Pontiac Azteks? Will a pristine Chevrolet Blazer be an object of admiration in the manner of a Chrysler Airflow?

Outside the America on Parade building you are greeted by this guy. I did not find him to be a comforting sight.

Before entering, I took a close look at this old fire truck parked outside the main entrance. I am fascinated by fire apparatus old and new. I photographed some very modern apparatus recently and the control panel for the pump was more complex and had more gauges and controls than the Mercury space capsule. Here it was three dials and four valves. Turning out for a barn fire on a cold winter’s night in this rig had to be unpleasant for the firefighters.

Once inside the building I could see what it was about. The guy who owns the caverns built floats for big parades and some of his best work was on display here. Excessive was a word that came to mind. And yet, there was whimsy on huge scale. And there was fascination in the moving parts along with curiosity about “how did he do that?” Small two dimensional images can hardly do justice to the scale of these displays. But they will have to do. Just imagine being a bit overwhelmed when standing close to these things and you will have some notion.

If you follow the suggested route about the hall, you end up at this pelican jazz band float. What is interesting about it is that the driver’s compartment is open and you can sit and see how little is visible to the man operating the rig. I tried sitting in the seat and instantly knew that the driver was a small man, very small. I could not get my foot onto the clutch pedal without jamming the steering wheel. I have a lot more respect for those guys now. The “cab” is at the left side, very nearly at the back end of the float.

This is the guest register and you can see by the comments that visitors were quite taken by the exhibits. I have to admit that I was impressed by the size, by the artistry, and the craftsmanship of all the floats. I wouldn’t recommend a special trip to see the parade but if you have time and are running down Interstate 81, it is well worth the side trip to see the caverns and as long as you are there, check out the floats.

And that’s what I have about a couple days in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. There are more stories to follow as the muse inspires and time allows.

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