Thursday, October 17, 2013

Luray Trip: Day 2 Recap

Playground review: Heritage Park, Broadway, VA

Aside from visiting Shenandoah National Park, what is there to do in and around the town of Luray, Virginia?

"Oooh, I know I know! Luray Caverns! And aren't there are a bunch of other caverns around that area, too?" Yes, yes there are. However...I don't think Marla is old enough for a cave tour yet. Maybe in another year, once she's able to follow directions a little better. We didn't want her touching all of the cave walls the whole time (a big no-no) or running off towards who knows where, or whining during the entire second half of the tour. So, no caves for us this time.

View Larger Map

Instead, we started by going to downtown Luray, where we had a nice walk on the Hawksbill Greenway (point B on the map).

The greenway follows Hawksbill Creek, which was really roaring - more so than usual, I would suspect, due to all the rain they had gotten within the past week. There were also lots and lots of ducks.

After that, we started driving west towards West Virginia, and stopped at a small park in the town of Broadway (point C on the map) for lunch. (I'll attach a playground review at the bottom here, because it's probably not worth its own post...) to West Virginia for a scenic drive, a.k.a. drive to the Tucker County line and turn around, because when am I going to be this close to Tucker County again? Tucker County was one of only two counties I had yet to visit in West Virginia, and it's kind of a hard one to get to. That, and I thought the somewhat new US-48 highway through Grant and Hardy counties would make for a pleasant drive. This part of West Virginia, around Moorefield - part of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia - has underrated scenery, I think.

But the highlight of the drive was the return. We asked our GPS ("Jill") to take us from US-48 to this corn maze we were going to visit, and she got pretty creative with the routing. While the "shortcut" didn't work out the other day, this one - Trout Run Road and Wolf Gap Road from Wardensville, WV to Edinburg, VA - was an outstanding drive. Sure, the road was pretty narrow, and a bit exciting at times when a car drove by in the opposite direction (which didn't happen all that often), but that's part of the fun! At least it was paved the whole way. And actually, this road gave us the best foliage we saw all weekend.

That was great, but it started raining before we got to the corn maze. So for the second consecutive year during our fall trip, our attempt at a corn maze was rained out. I think Marla would really enjoy a corn maze, so maybe we'll look for one closer to home.

After that, we went to a barbecue restaurant in Harrisonburg (point F), and then back to the cabin at a reasonable hour, i.e. while it was still light out.

The next day, we basically drove straight home, except for a stop at a small breakfast diner in downtown Culpeper. Trip complete! It's about a 5 hour drive to the cabin, which, it seems weird to me that we can get to Savannah in the same amount of time as we can Luray.

Last year's fall trip was a full week long, so this one - three days, two nights - flew by in comparison. Our respective vacation time balances at work dictated our taking a shorter trip this year. Although if we had known the government was going to be shutdown in advance and that we wouldn't be missing much at work, then maybe we would have taken that whole week...


Playground review time!

Heritage Park - Turner Avenue, Broadway, VA
Visited: Sunday, October 13, 2013 | Google Street View

Summary: Every playground I've reviewed so far has been of a decent size. What if we stumbled upon a "playground" that was nothing more than a swing set in the middle of an empty field? Would that count as a playground? If so, what score would that get? I've always thought about this for the purposes of my ratings. Heritage Park is a little more than the theoretical "swing set in an empty field", but only slightly so. I think it's good to have at least one of these in my ratings.

(General disclaimer: The scoring system is designed so that 50% is an average score. "Perfect" scores are rarely given.)

(Also, I don't mean to be disparaging in my review here. Heritage Park is not trying to be a super fantastic mega large playground. It's just a small little park, and that's fine. Broadway is a small town, and this isn't even the largest playground in Broadway; after we left Heritage Park, we noticed that there is also a Broadway Community Park, which looked more similar in scope to the playgrounds we typically visit.)

(One more thing: These ratings ONLY apply to the small playground at Heritage Park, not the park as a whole. Heritage Park also has a pavilion / picnic area, a 1/4-mile trail, and a baseball field.)

Things for Marla to do: 2/14. A swing set, a couple of bouncy horses, and a tunnel thing.

Uniqueness: 2/10. From the side, the tunnel thing looks more like a worm, which was unique, I suppose.

Upkeep: 2/10. The playground equipment isn't in terrible shape, but there was a lot of trash spilling over from the neighboring pavilion onto the playground itself. In fact, there was even a shoe.

Which begs the question...where is the other shoe? Well, as we were getting ready to leave, we found it:

(Again, the ratings apply only to the playground, not the park as a whole. The accompanying trail is in fine shape.)

Crowd: 9/10. We had the playground to ourselves, but that may have just been because of the weather. And, even Google Street View shows people using the playground. So, I can't give a 10 here.

Marla enjoyment: 3/5. Put Marla on a swing, and she's generally happy. As for the bouncy horses, I think the only time Marla is ever interested in those is when we're trying to leave. (But Daddy, I'm not ready to go yet! Look at me having fun on this bouncy horse thing!)

TOTAL: 18/49, ranked 14th out of 14. Again, I don't mean to be disparaging here. This isn't a "bad" playground; it's just small.

Actually, that got me thinking. There are plenty of similarly-sized small playgrounds close to home, I'm sure. But, we never visit them. When we're at home, we can do our research and go to larger playgrounds instead. But when we're on the road and are looking for a place to stop, we typically just settle for the first one that we find, regardless of size or quality. Because of that, I suspect that the lowest-rated playgrounds will always be out-of-town playgrounds. And, since my reviews do not cover a scientific or complete sample - it is not a goal of mine to review every playground in the Durham area, for instance - it's not appropriate to say that Raleigh and Durham have "better" playgrounds just because they have a higher than average score in my ratings.


Spartangoogle said...

Do you remember going to Luray Caverns with us? I recall it being very commercialized and so different from, say, Mammoth Caves in that they weren't so watchful about people touching the formations or going off the path for pictures. Also lots of foreign tourists.

Chris Allen said...

I remember going, but not a whole lot about it. You don't pay much attention to how commercialized things are when you're a kid, I guess :) (Except for all the billboards, maybe.) Tickets are $24/adult now, which seems like a lot.