Saturday, October 20, 2007

Juice `N' Ash's Weekend Virginia Adventure

The wife and I went out for a bit of camping this weekend. And while there are loads of places in our area to do this, none of them are conveniently located near a gem and bead-craft show, so we traveled to Chantilly, VA to camp.

It's been a while since Ash and I have camped. In fact, the last time we set up our tent was during my first visit to the Tri-Metro area, in June of 2001, when we first came up to look for a place to stay during her schooling. The last time we camped otherwise was just after she graduated, when we took her folks over to Kumbrabow State Park for a couple of days spent in their teeny tiny camper. It was a fun time, but we spent two days searching the streams and creeks for "big trout" until a ranger clued us in that the little six inch trout we had been catching were the big trout.

While our old tent is a nice one and easy enough to set up, it's not exactly comfortable and uncramped for more than one person to stay in. This being the case, we went to K-Mart and bought a gargantu 18' by 11' tent on the logic that A) it was on sale; and B) we'd like to own a tent inside of which we could set up our old tent and still have plenty of room for us. Thus armed, we set out for Chantilly and our camping location of Bull Run State Park.

Just before we arrived at Bull Run, it rained. It was dry enough by the time we found our campsite, but the humidity rose to the point where we could see haze in the air. This felt like having our own personal Mississippi surrounding us and made setting up our new tent a sweaty experience. Having gone through a similar sweaty camping experience when tent-camping in the Florida Keys, we both thought we would soon be at one another's throats. However, after the tent was set up and we'd had a quick rinse off in the shower house, the haze cleared out and a nice breeze began to blow. We headed out for an evening's dining, Cold Stone Creamery-eating and film-watching (Stardust is excellent, by the way). By the time we returned to the tent, everything was nice and cooled off.

Bead shows are to my wife Ashley what comic cons are to me and my nerdy friends. And just as Ashley would probably be able to tolerate an hour or so spent in the dealer's room of a comic con, I can take about as much of a bead show before my eyes grow tired of all the glittery things and I have to escape. So after barely an hour spent at the bead show on Saturday, I fled to find a nerd store.

Ever since our local comic shop died back in April (the "selling new comics each week" part of it actually died in back in December, but the rest of it lingered away on life-support for a few more months) I've had to do all my comics ordering online and am still playing catch up for a lot of things. Visiting towns with proper nerd stores is a thrill for me again.

The first such store I visited was Game Parlor. As you might expect, Game Parlor was a gaming store, but with a smattering of comics. As game stores go, it seemed to be an excellent one, with three store-front sections of retail space and loads of space for actual game play in the back. Comics were thin on the ground, though, so I negotiated with the guy running things for directions to a shop with more. He drew me a map to Phoenix Comics in Fairfax.

Phoenix Comics & Toys is a fantastic little comic store. They don't have a huge amount of space, but what they have is used to its fullest. They have a great selection of current books, arranged alphabetically, as well as an impressive selection of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. And they do what I've seen only one or two other comic shops do, which is have a completely separate trade and GN section arranged by author. I spent well over an hour there and could have gone absolutely spend-crazy, but managed to reign myself in and only bought around $20 worth of stuff (including 52 #40, Doktor Sleepless #1, Following Cerebus #10 and the Vol.2 trade of Runaways).

By the time I got back to the bead show, Ash was also sick of the place and we fled to go dine on Indian food at a buffet we'd noticed earlier.

We spent another night at the campsite, for which the weather was even better. I perfected my Reese's-Peanut-Butter-Cup-Smore-Making-Technique while Ash made fun of me and constructed a more classic type of smore.

Our trip home was eventful because we were finally able to visit the Green Valley Book Fair. This is a book fair that I've been hearing about from patrons for a year or two. It's located near Harrisonburg, VA, way out on a farm that's had one of its buildings converted into retail space. Several times per year, they open it up for a week to sell of remaindered books at 60 to 90 percent off retail price. I actually found almost all of my purchases within six minutes of entering the building, for they had a table of graphic novels prominently displayed. I picked up Eddie Campbell's the Fate of the Artist, Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, Grady Klein's The Lost Colony, Vampire Loves, and the Infinite Crisis novelization by Greg Cox, all for around $3 each. Later I found Neil Simon's memoir, Rewrites. All in all, it was a fun day and a weekend well-spent.

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