bhargavkesavan

Travelogue, Nostalgic memories and more…


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Adventure Zipline at Shenandoah State Park


Zipline is one of the adventure sport that I was planning to do from past two years. Finally the time came to make it happen! My wife Anu and I went to Virginia to meet our friend Praveen; who gave an idea to do Zipline when we planned to visit Richmond.

We booked a master suite for our stay through Airbnb near Praveen’s house. We like to have breakfast from Market Cafe in Richmond everytime we visit; Anu & I like the Pongal in Market Cafe. You should really try it if you happen to visit Richmond, VA anytime. The two varieties of chutneys are too good & the sambhar as well!

You may remember about my Luray Caverns trip during spring 2015, I wanted to take my wife there and after having breakfast we started to Luray Caverns which was the first place to visit for the day & the next was Zipline.

I’d looked for coupons in groupon and compared few zipline providers and decided to go with Virginia Canopy as they were ready to provide for the same rate in groupon. We got the 3’o clock batch for the activity. We then had a tight schedule to visit Luray Caverns and then to travel to Shenandoah State Park where Virginia Canopy is located.

The drive from Richmond to Luray Caverns was too good! Anu said that the route resembled the drive from Coimbatore to Ooty. Yes, It was like that but the difference is that the roads here were very broad and the curves were not risky to drive. Since the weather was almost like early summer in Hosur, We could see lot of bikers and cyclists through out the way.

We have to leave the caverns atleast by 2:15 so that we can reach Shenandoah State Park by 2:40 PM which is 17 Miles away from the caverns. As we reached Luray Caverns time was 1:10 PM but there was a huge line since it was Easter weekend. It would definitely take an hour to just enter the caves to get ticket & we would miss the reservation for Zipline for sure. Since it was heavily crowded and there was no space for parking, we parked our car in the lawn as directed by the staffs.

We then wandered the place for a while and took photos at the pond and took photos at the Love sign they’ve at the entrance. It was 2’o clock already & we’d decided to start to Zipline.

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Check my 500px & Flickr for more pics.

Virginia will remind you about your childhood days if you were ever grown up in village. Such a green and calm place throughout! It was drizzling as we entered Shenandoah State Park! The smell of soil welcomed us with smile! I felt I was at home when 🙂

Staff at the park entrance was very kind to explain me the route to reach the Zipline tours building. We reached the Zipline parking precisely at 2:40 PM.  As we entered the office we were given the forms to sign the disclaimer, for sure the papers may have said that they’re not responsible for any injury etc… when have we every read anything before signing? We signed it anyways!

Exactly at 3 o clock we were called at the backyard where they had all the zipline gears arranged for us. There were 9 people in our batch, Scott & Jennifer from Philadelphia and a family of four & three of us. The staffs helped us in wearing the zipline gears and even the helmet. As we are done with the setup we now got ready to board the UTV for the ride to woods.

Five of us were in a UTV and rest were in other vehicle, their staffs took us on the UTV trail ride. We enjoyed the off road up hill ride in the woods. After 10 minutes we got down somewhere in the forest and waited for the other set of people to arrive. After the remaining people arrived, we walked a few meters in the woods to the training spot.

Lion and Chris were with us since the training till end of the activity. They both were very kind and friendly. They both gave the basic training on how to move forward, how to slow down and if we at some point slow down how to get back in the rope. Like the ok sign in scuba diving, there was a sign to slow down. They made sure every one of us are comfortable with this and made us do all the basic training in the steel rope tied between two tall trees for this training purpose. After the training is over, we now marched towards the main activity tree (activity spot) 😀

The first zipline was 20 ft height and it was a short distance, it was very much sufficient height and distance to make us get use to the sport. haha that first feel was fantastic and very nice 😀 After the first line I felt like achieved something! We loved it so much! They ensured our safety and constantly communicated in their walkie talkie, Lion first went to the other end, Chris sent each of us one by one and came to other end as last person.

The next zipline was 40 ft height and the length was more than the first one. It was very fun standing in mid top of the tree and looking at the forest like how we see in discovery channel. Anu and I loved it so much! After the second zipline got over, we all got ready for the third ride which was 90 feet height form the forest level and the distance was approximately 400 meters. It was really fun! Looking at the mountain ahead of us and moving in 40 miles per hour speed in between the trees were amazing!

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IMG_9832As we finished the 3rd line and was waiting to go for next line, we were able to see some deer wandering in their home. Since it’s deer and not bear it ran away fast 😀 We then took the 4th line which was not very length, but height was almost same. It’s at this point their photographer Treesha took snaps of us when we were in motion in the zipline. As we reached down we took group photos and My wife and I looked at each other and we looked at Praveen discussed among us saying that’s it, activity completed. Since we were told it’s a three hours activity and it was just less than an hour and half, we thought they gave a false promise, but wait… The fun part & adventure were still pending.

We drank some water from the can they’d kept near the tree which was very clean & they were making fun statements that the water was not from Michigan flint water; which is a serious issue here due to lead poisoning (similar to how we discuss about Kaveri water when we go to KA).

We then took a short nature walk and Lion explained about some rare and poisonous plant in a fun way and kept all of us engaged and interested in the activity. We thought the activity is completed when we saw the UTV near us, but we were asked to climb the next tree (using the wooden steps they had attached to the tree!) it was a big relax when we saw the rope again and was excited more now! 🙂 After the 5th line, which was a short length, there was a Air Stair Bridge which we had to walk to pass on to the other end of tree, it was fun. Lion escorted four of us facing us and walked backwards, while we walked slowly following him. Anu dropped her bracelet while walking in the bridge, since I was walking behind her, I was able to take it as I passed it.

Then we crossed the sixth line each by shouting like different animals 😀 which was fun! Anu, Praveen what did you shout like? Comment below. I shouted like ape inspired by Ceaser (Don’t ask me who or what is Ceaser!). Then passed 7th line and now there was a Sky Bridge, which was easy to walk but Lion gave a open hand challenge, which means we should cross the bridge without using hand to balance.

And now the finalllllllll zipline! A lengthy one… It took 30 seconds to zip from one end to other end! As we reached this end I was joking to Anu saying we have to jump down from the tree and she was scared as well, but after everyone finished the zipline and assembled in the last tree, it was real! We really had to jump down from the 1,035″ tree! Not literally jump but we’d to rappel down from the tree! It was the adventurous part of the zipline but their staffs made it feel very easy! First Praveen went down then me and then Anu. It was very nice experience!

We took a short walk from the tree and in five minutes we’d arrived to the office where we started. We arrived to the place where we put on the gears & their staffs helped us to remove it all. They were very nice people. And the best part was, we were all issued a certificate for doing the Zipline! 🙂

They could have made a last zipline to end after the river which would have fulfilled the adventure sport absolutely thrilled! Of course, I left a feedback about it.  Definitely a fun day I’d with Anu. It’s a very nice place to do Zipline and enjoy the nature at the Shenandoah State Park where the Shenandoah River passes just opposite to the Zipline office.

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Taken at Shenandoah State Park River.

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Horse Riding at Fort valley Ranch


We came out of the adorable Luray caves after the spending a wonderful time there, We then spent half an hour at the entrance corridor and took rest. We were not sure about the next place to visit. We’d initially planned to visit White House on our way back to New Jersey, as we’re already in Virginia we’d planned to visit either Virginia beach or go for Skyline drive in Shenandoah national park. All of a sudden one of our friends suggested Horse riding.

Without second thought Ananth had called up fort valley people and inquired about the timing. The next batch was about to ride at 4 o clock. Before riding there will be a demonstration session for which we were required to be there exactly at 3:30 PM. But when we’d called the time was 3:15 and it was 10 miles away from where we’d stopped our car. Map showed that we could reach there only by 3:50 or so. But we didn’t want to miss this chance as it was the last ride for the day.

Ananth had started the car and all I could see him was nothing but Jason Statham in Transporter movie. He had bursted chuckles and gripped the steering firmly.

Though it was just 10 miles, since it was a valley, the roads had very sharp turns and if we go off the road, we’ll be down somewhere down the hill. So he was riding very carefully. On our way to the ride, it was already 3:30, I’d called them up and said ‘heyyyyy… hi…’ we’ve almost reached… We could see your place… yes the board’ (but we had no idea where we are and map showed 2 miles). The location outside was so beautiful , but we could barely enjoy it as we were in a hurry to make it to the place. Just when we thought we would reach the place after looking at the map that said ‘drive 1 mile straight and take right turn’ , it had said ‘drive for 800 meter and take left turn’ and so on… so every time it was like the crowd cheering the football player shouting ‘yeeeeeeeeeeeah’ to make it to goal, but when it is missed, they sit back shouting  ‘huuuuuuuu’ in chorus. Also there was a truck ahead of us going slowly without allowing us to pass through which slowed down us by few mins.

FInally we reached there at 3:45. Good job, Ananth. As soon as we entered the valley, a group of people who were waiting for us to arrive, so that they can go for ride breathed off like relieved, and the jockeys got ready and the front desk lady hurried up to enter and fill the disclaimer form. oh god! I was so happy until we reached there and when they gave the form to sign, I got scared reading at all the points. 1. If you fell off and broke your leg we’re not liable, 2. If you get hurt badly and lose life we’re not liable and all that which makes you scared. hmm… lets’s sign it, thought to myself and I’d signed.

She asked us to pick a helmet if we need and asked to keep our bag and my selfie stick 😦 there before getting to the Horse. She asked us to hurry up to the back of the office where the demonstration would take place, we went fast but the demonstration was almost complete and I heard only three points, 1. how to sit while climbing up the hill while sitting on the horse, 2. how to sit when climbing down 3. how to pull the horse up when it eats the grass and then said are you clear? We only got practiced to say yes, when this question was asked since childhood, so said yes clear in chorus and waited to see what’s next. 😀

There was a two steps stand to get on to the horse and he had picked us randomly and pulled horses from its stable. We missed to hear the first point itself! How to get on a horse, then how will we get on?!!! I was thinking in mind,,, dai don’t call me, don’t call me… let me see how others sit on the horse’… 😀  Everyone started getting horses and now I was thinking I should get a clean horse. Then came a white horse but faded off colors, I was thinking that he shouldn’t call me, and he turned to my side… (chaaa!!! I was thinking…) but he called Dhileep who was standing next to me 😀 😀 The next horse was wow!! Dark shining black Jersey horse (that’s how I have seen calling this kind of horse in Tamil movies and even my dad had said this Jersey horse name quite a few times). He called me and I looked at him and he gave the rope to control the horse and I sat on the saddle without any problem.

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This was the Horse I rode!

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Last time I went for a Horse ride was in 2006 I think. And it was in marina beach, That was my 4th or 5th time horse ride. Where the jockey use to hold the rope and walk for few meters and come back and that’s it, the horse ride is over and when I got down from the horse the last time, I got sprain on my right leg, yeah I remember it. Now I sat on this horse after a loooooooong years.

As it is Game of Thrones (GoT) season I sat on the horse with the GoTs theme music 😀 He walked with me and made the horse to stand in a line, I asked him, will you be coming with me? (I asked him this thinking, will he walk with my horse holding it’s rope) but he thought something else (will tell you what in next para) and said yes. Now I could smile as this ride will last for one hour and we’re going to ride on a mountain, I’d asked him that question.

He went back and helped other people to get on the horse and took them to the line. Now I was shocked to see him sit on a separate horse and he rode ahead of us and stood in front of the horses. Adapaavi!! (Exclaiming word in Tamil) I said to myself and looked at my friends, they were sitting happily! There was a jockey at front and there was a guy at back of the queue. So a 20 horses lined up and the horses started to move. Just when I started the GoT theme music fastly as it use to play, the horses walked slowly! The theme music faded down to slow phase in my mind 😀 😀

The horses are trained very well and it started to walk when the jockey at front started moving. He said it is going to be a slow walk on the mountain and we’ll climb off slowly after a while. I started looking around the places and when we just moved away from the back of office, we were beginning our horse ride. My first horse ride, without a jockey holding the rope and walking with me. We then entered at the bottom of a mountain and started climbing through the muddy pathway.

The trees had no leaves as it was fall season and climate was moderate. At the start of our ride was a small pond and a big landscape and behind these was a mountain! Wow! It was amazing as I use to watch it in documentaries and in cowboy movies! Wait it is just the beginning, something said to my heart and I’d smiled. 🙂 We then started moving towards the mountain and the horses followed one another gently. A horse at front had stopped so are the horses at the back till end. The jockey at front turned back and took a look, he said that horse is trying to pee, so it will move once it is done. As all the horses were stopped my horse moved forward… Ayayo!!! I was thinking to me wondering how to stop and I didn’t want to do anything with the rope other then turning left and right as I was afraid that might make the horse run fast. my horse chased Dhileep who was ahead of me in the line, while doing it my horse and his horse got fight!! Both were shouting in horse language 😀 We didn’t know what to do and my horse was trying to kick his horse… Luckily the first horse in the line had done with peeing and started moving! 😀 😀 So other horses started moving now and the fight got over abruptly.

We started moving further, the mountain was so calm place and all we could hear was chirps and tweets and singing of the birds. With the sunlight rays trying to enter the mountain through the tall giant trees with leaves off, the horses moved further walking and breaking the dried leaves that are on ground that had fell in that season.

We climbed few ups, the demonstration was absolutely helpful and I’d moved the horses left and right when it was needed. All of a sudden my horse stopped moving! And in this gap Dhileep’s horse tried to overtake me, but my horse’s kick kept him away from overtaking 😀 😀 The jockey said now my horse is peeing! 😀 I asked Ananth see if it spills on my shoe 😀 Luckily it wasn’t  😀 We then moved and only after half an hour or so I sat relaxed. There was small stream in the mountain and we got to cross that, It was very beautiful moment 🙂 The horses walked with ease in all ups and downs.

It was very quiet mountain and the tree shades made it very enjoyable though there were no leaves. I felt how important it is to plant trees and was smiling gladly thinking about more then ten trees that my dad and I’d planted in our house and thought to plant more trees further.

We then climbed down gradually and came out of the mountain, I was smiling so happily after reaching the starting point as nothing happened negatively as it was written in the forms we’d signed. It was a wonderful and best time ever. It was absolutely worth for the money we’d paid ($30/Person) & must enjoy. Thanks a lot to Ananth who decided to drive the ‘Transporter’ way, if he had thought we couldn’t make it to the place, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this ride until now and who knows I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anytime at all!

If you’re planning to visit Virginia, you must include this in your agenda. Tips: Don’t be afraid while riding, it is absolutely safe and enjoyable, unless you kick the horse in his sensitive area 😀

Here is the brochure I got from the Valley.

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On our way back was a spectacular meadows, Microsoft should have taken picture from here for the wallpaper instead of California. It was beautiful grass meadows with cows eating grasses. Stopped our car for a while in roadside and enjoyed the place and started back home 🙂

Uncut video version of this trip below (04:09 minutes). Subscribe to my YouTube channel to enjoy more videos.


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Luray Caverns, Virginia


We went to Chipotle before leaving D.C. and got take away for dinner. We were heading to Virginia for our night stay as we’d planned to visit Luray caves the next day. As we were heading to other state, the speed limit in the other state had increased, which was 70mph I think. I’d slept soon after we’d entered the highway. We missed to stay on a left lane which continuous to the highway & entered a different route, as the maps re-routed, the road we traveled was thrilling. It looked similar to the road that I saw in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil movie last month. By the time I woke up, we’d reached the night stay ‘Quality Inn’. It was a good place for stay. It was 23:30 when we reached, we had dinner as soon as we entered room. It was time to charge mobile, there were enough ports to charge mobile, however i thought to carry a three pin charger next time when I stay outside. I must mention that the room was neat and I’d a peaceful sleep.

I woke up first and got ready and alarmed others to get ready. one by one Ganesh, Ananth & Dhileep got ready. Meanwhile Varada and his wife were ready and were waiting in their room. We started from hotel at 10 AM. We stopped at Mc Donald’s for breakfast and the headed to Luray caves. It was not even a mile from there we’d reached our destination.

As we reached the destination I was wondering if that was the actual place for the caves. Because it appeared to me like a normal place. The entrance looked like a park or museum entrance. May be this is how entrance for all other caves looks, I don’t know… This is my first visit to a cave. As we were getting ready to enter, Ganesh had bought the entrance tickets. As we entered the queue we were asked to take pictures which the photographers will edit with the main theme of cave, we can buy it if we are interested when we come out of the cave, After taking pictures we entered the hallway, it was the store to purchase things about the caves, I was still wondering where the cave is.

We saw another queue inside the store and a women was allowing us to get to the stairs every 10 mins, as we’ll be escorted by the guide. Unlike India we don’t have to pay separately for guide nor the guide will scratch head end of the tour for extra money. After a few minutes we were allowed to enter a staircase which went beneath the store. Yaay! I could see the staircase leads to the cave. 🙂

As I entered the cave, I was so excited 🙂 We’d climbed down a few steps and we were on ground. That was the entrance to the cave and it was found by a farmer in 1878 in his land. It is now protected by Virginia state government. As I reached the ground I was so amazed at the rock formation and the way the cave looked. It was so beautiful and it the atmosphere was chill at the basement. After a few minutes a guide from Luray caves started explaining about the discovery of the place and that was the last thing I heard from him 😀 I was looking at the rock and turning 360 degree to enjoy the ceiling and the hanging formation of the rock.

As my group of friends were already on to photo session, I’d started moving forward alone to see the rest of the place as I was still at the entrance. As I headed forward I’d noticed the water droppings and I couldn’t find from where it was dropping. the ‘clip clip’ sound of the water dropping made me smile and I’d moved further. As I looked ahead of the path I was walking, the floor was constructed with bricks for the visitors, we were asked to stay on the bricks and not to walk on the rock surface as it might skit. The interior was so vast that we kept walking for two hours (of course looking at every place and slowly).

The path was almost similar to hiking a mountain but on a flat surface. There were ups, downs, zigzag, curve etc… What we could’t do was, there were many areas in the cave which were too deep, the vertical deepest point in the cave is 260 feet!

There is a place which is very famous for this cave, it is a water formation, a pond. It looks amazing! Such a beautiful view in the cave. The beauty about this pond is that it reflects the hanging sharp edges of the rock which reflects in the pond water. The pond appears to be 3-4 feet, but actual deepest point is 6-7 feet. This is must see point in the cave. A photogenic view in the cave. I moved forward without having my mind out of the pond.

As I went further in the cave, I could see giant pillars, which were architecturally looked like pillars in Indian temples. It was amazing when I realized that they are natural formation. I was enjoying the cave so much that I missed the group that was escorted by the guide I’d entered the cave with & not thought about the group of friends I came with 😀 After an hour or so my friends reached the place where I was still standing & admiring the beauty of the cave. The colors of the rocks varied from yellow, red, orange, green, grey etc…

DEEP DOWN IN THE HEART OF THE BEAUTIFUL CAVERNS OF LURAY, LIES THE LARGEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT IN THE WORLD.

The musical instrument The Great Stalacpipe Organ was created by American mathematician and scientist Leland W. Sprinkle. I couldn’t hear the melody and beauty of the instrument clearly in the caves as some kids were crying & their parents were shoo-ing them to be silent which further made more noise & other group were talking loudly about how to pose for a photo, by that time the music had stopped playing! But I looked at those stones that had created the music 🙂

I’d found this wonderful video about this music, do watch this.

As I moved further, there was a wishing pond, with lots of coins in it. And I learnt that not only people in India, people everywhere in world has some belief and hopes their prayer should come true in someway. The pond was filled with more coins, though it didn’t give me the feeling of throwing a coin, I thought to pray for my parents and through a coin, but I didn’t had a coin, haha I never expected there will be such pond in U.S. 😀 I’d asked my friends and even they didn’t had coins. Like India, I’d asked a visitor from Spanish speaking country but she didn’t had enough coins to give me change. To mention, the guide said and even there is a board there that said, those coins will be collected every year & it’ll be donated to some NGO (America is famous for NGO! Don’t know where are those NGOs and whom they help, there are loooooooot any homeless in U.S. ok, forget it for now! Will discuss that in a diff post!)

I headed further from the wishing pond to know that I’ve reached almost the exit of the caves, walked slowly to hold the memory of the cave and finally came out with a fulfillment. Usually I buy a small… as much as small thing from any place I visit, just for the memory of that place. As I looked for such thing there, everything was ‘Made in China’! Why would I buy something that is made in china for a place that I’d visited in U.S? hmm! I looked at almost all products, even the stones that can be kept in showcase were made in china! Are those stones from the cave or from China? I should have asked the people at cave! Anyways, I bought a magnet hanging with the cave name which was made in China 😀

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How will a post end without my pic 😀