There definitely wasn't a lot of "free time" during the trip. The drive time should have been just at three hours to get there but that stretched into four and a half. It started with a whole lot of...
And ended with a whole lot of...
mountains on the horizon.
I got in very late Wednesday night and just checked directly into the hotel. The conference was all day Thursday and Friday... and I do mean allll day, with scheduled activities from 7:45 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. There were a couple of pockets of time Thursday when I could get out to explore though and I tried to make the most of them. The first was about ninety-minutes free between the last session and dinner. Adventurous world traveler that I am, I went to the Goodwill. Several other teachers had talked during the morning about the books they found for their class libraries at thrift stores and I saw the big Goodwill when I was searching for the hotel the night before. I will never have the patience to look through clothing racks, but a new universal truth to second-hand shopping is that College Towns are JACKPOTS for books!
The other pocket of free time was after dinner and before a meeting back at the hotel. The conference gave us dinner vouchers at a schmasy place in the downtown "Historic & Arts" section, Clementines. I was far more impressed with the bathrooms and fancy sink than the over-priced and under-sized entrees.
Before dinner, I ducked into a couple of Free Trade shops, one for clothes and accessories, the other with home interiors and jewelry. The second shop had a few interesting items, but I was too rushed to make a decision. After dinner I explored the rest of downtown... and absolutely fell in love. It reminded me of sections of St. Augustine, but with a modern hippie vibe.
Lots of cyclists, a yoga studio next to the bike shop next to the "Organic Acai Bowls and Smoothies" shop. There was a magical blend of old shops and new businesses, like a 50's sandwich counter next to a tarot card reader.
There were ducks just randomly wandering the streets. Hopefully, not on the menu at "L&S Diner," which reminded me very much of The English Grill, where I grew up, once a trailer cafe, now demolished.
Why did the ducks cross the road? Because the diner ran out of chicken!
(This pic actually is the parking lot across from the diner.)
The best part of visiting Harrisonburg were the mountains.
It was like a mythological landscaper many centuries ago just scooped out part of a mountain and planted a town. In any direction you drove there were mountains before you, behind you, all around you. I had family visit when I lived in Maryland and they would comment how "flat" everything was and that would seem like a very odd thing to say. Then, when you visit somewhere like this, when you drive down winding roads with warning signs to "Watch Out for Falling Rocks" from the mountains that sandwich the road (umm... WHAT?), you begin to grasp just how very different that mountainous region is from home. It gives you a real appreciation, admiration for nature. It makes you want to grab a backpack and hike off to camp in the middle of the forest... until you remember there are no bathrooms amongst the woodland creatures.
The best part of the trip overall was MY BOOTY!
The conference gave us 11 books and I, with great restraint, bought another 8 at the Goodwill. I liked Harrisonburg, not just for the books bounty. I know JMU is a college that Cameron is considering so I look forward to making another visit soon!
And, I will hit that Thrift Shop book shelf again!