One of the highlights of my year is an annual road trip to Williamsburg with “the church ladies.” I have known and adored these great women, sisters in faith, for over ten years. We are each different with varied backgrounds and talents, but we just get each other. And we laugh. A lot. Busy schedules keep us from getting together as often as we’d like, so this amazing stretch of time together is an incredible gift.
All of us traditionalists, we always begin the journey with a stop at Starbucks. This is probably not the wisest way to begin a road trip with ladies of a certain age. Our bladders are unkind and unpredictable. So somewhere one or two hours into the three hour ride, the weakest of the group requests a stop. This request is generally met with silent relief by the other passengers.
One fateful year, our dear Penny suggested we wait for the rest stop on Rt. 64. She began to describe the cleanliness of the facilities in great detail, and this segued into a lengthy narrative on the benefits of this particular stop. She described the onsite picnic facilities, the plethora of Virginia tourism literature; playgrounds and grills, and the friendliness of the staff. Somewhere in the middle of her tribute, the rest of us began to smile. And then years of teasing began. Her description put to mind prancing deer, graceful butterflies, a Tchaikovsky ballet and Disney princesses. We began humming along to her description, adding our own hopping bunnies, daisies and rainbows. Bladder-straining laughter ensued, as it often does with the church ladies.
Every year since, a stop at the rest stop we now call Shangri-La is a part of the tradition. We frequently tease Penny about the massage and manicure appointments we’ve made there. We’ve staged many photos inside, and when traveling on our own, not one of us passes it without a text message announcing it to the rest of the group. Budget cuts have caused the state to shutter many of their rest stops, but not Shangri-La. Our road-side oasis continues to beckon us off the highway.