If you recall, I love a good, old-fashioned carousel, especially one that is in a trolley park!
Some friends invited us to join them at Kennywood near Pittsburgh. As it was only supposed to be about a 3-hour drive, we decided we’d make a day trip of it even though we knew it would be a little rough spending that much time in the car.
We headed out early that morning with the address programmed into my smartphone. Everything was going smoothly. I had some good coffee in my travel cup, GPS was working, and The Fellow was napping in the front seat. Then about an hour into our trip, the GPS whipped us off of the main road and onto an unmarked, dirt road.
Now, that doesn’t really merit mentioning as it happens fairly often on my road trips. What did cause a problem was me almost missing the turn, and the cell phone going flying, hitting its screen, and clearing out the map.
So there we are, no map, on a dirt road, and no cell phone service to be able to use our data plan to load a new map – at which point The Fellow wakes up from his nap.
Now, I have a few life rules. The two main rules being, never lend more than you can afford to lose, and the other is that as long as you have gas, you’re never truly lost (at least on the East coast side of the US). Eventually, you will find someone or someplace to stop and ask directions.
The Fellow, however, gets seriously stressed in these types of situations.
I figured we may as well keep driving, because we know we’ve got to keep going forward, and eventually we’ll get back into cell phone service or find a place or we can head home. No worries. Until we hit a fork in the road.
Now, once many years ago I was lost on a mountain road and called my father for help, and he told me, “Now, mountain ranges run north to south, which means the valleys run east to west, and moss grows on the north side of a tree so you should never be lost.” To which I replied, “By the time I’m out of my car looking for a tree, I’ve got bigger problems.”
Not concerned enough to go moss hunting, I suggested that we try the left fork.
As it turns out, going left took us in a circle, so we tried the right fork, and things started to seem a bit familiar as I’d been lost there before.
Finally, we hit Paw Paw, a tiny little town in WV, and pulled over to try to get cell phone service.
As The Fellow was fiddling with the cell phone, a car pulled into the next driveway over from where we were stopped, and a man hopped out with his morning coffee.
I rolled down the window and hollered across the road, “Excuse me!” (as The Fellow looked at me like I was crazy). He walked over to us, and I said, “We seem to have gotten ourselves a bit lost; we’re heading to Pittsburg.” He just chuckled and gave us directions.
Two hours later, and over an hour late, we pulled into the parking lot at Kennywood.
It was a really fun day with friends riding the rides, eating park food, and hanging out.
And that, my friends, is the story of how we made it to Pittsburgh via Paw Paw.
Hey Guys, MiaT is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This means I get to link you to awesome stuff, and I will make a little commission to help keep MiaT up and running!
So, this is kind of a strange post for me. I’m going to be sharing some awesome background on the new Fallout 76 video game!
Now, as you probably can guess, I’ve never been a video game person – even playing Mario is stressful – seriously. I’m terrible at it. My exposure to video games as a kid was basically, occasionally playing the full-size Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game my brother bought at an auction in our basement.
The Fellow plays video games which means that I end up watching the games while he plays. His list of games includes the last few Fallouts.
As soon as the trailer for Fallout 76 hit, my social feeds went crazy. Friends from all over West Virginia were posting about it and listing the WV landmarks they were catching in the trailer. At the same time, I saw an out-of-state friend misidentify The Greenbrier resort as the White House. I figured if you’re going to be (virtually) in WV, you may as well know where you’re standing.
You might’ve seen this on the WV State quarter. It’s without a doubt one of the most memorable landmarks in the state. Construction began in 1974, and for a time it was the longest single-span arch bridge. It now is the fourth longest. Bridge Day (which is always on the third Saturday in October) is West Virginia’s largest one-day festival and draws tourists from all over the world. Bridge Day activities include BASE jumping, music, ziplining, food, and more!
The capital of WV shifted several times between Wheeling and Charleston before citizens finally voted Charleston as the official and final capital. There have been three different Charleston capitol buildings. The first was leveled by a fire in 1921, and a temporary building was hastily raised to replace it. The third and current capitol building was designed by the architect Cass Gilbert.
Construction began on this building in 1924, and Gilbert liked his design of the West Virginia capitol’s interior so well that he reused part of the design for the United States Supreme Court building. You really can’t tell from the screen shot/video, but that dome is gilded in 23 and ½ karat gold leaf applied to the copper and lead roof in tiny 3 and 3/8 inch squares. Also, the 293-foot gold dome is five feet higher than the dome of the U.S. Capitol.
OK, so Watoga Estates may be a fictional place. (If not, let me know!) BUT Watoga State Park is a real place! In fact, Watoga State Park is the largest of West Virginia’s state parks at just a bit over 10,100 acres! You’ll have plenty of outdoor activities to entertain you if you rent an onsite cabin (which are open year-round) such as hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, an observation tower, and a museum for those rainy days you may want to stay inside.
While I picked quaint, artistic Sheperd University for my college experience, there’s no denying the overwhelming love for WVU, both its sports and college experience. I went home to WV the other day and had aaaalmost forgotten how many WVU apparel items you’ll see in a WV group setting!
I know blue and gold are Vault-Tec colors, but I can’t help but be reminded of a WVU game when I see those blue and gold banners in the vault. My friends who went to WVU were going crazy when they saw WVU and Woodburn Hall in the trailer.
Woodburn Hall was completed in 1876 and is the best-known symbol of the university. Designed by Morgantown native architect Elmer F Jacobs, it is considered one of the finest examples of Second Empire architecture in the state of West Virginia.
As students are wont to do, they find a way to leave their mark. In Woodburn Hall, the place of choice is a small cupola room in the hall’s upper floors. The hall has seen the inaugurations of university presidents and been the setting for the reception of US presidents, but always most importantly, each new generation of Mountaineers.
The Greenbrier is the absolute best place I can think of for a post-apocalyptic game to be set. Why you ask? Well, despite being a 5-star luxury resort, The Greenbrier is home to one of the worst-kept secrets in WV. This secret is precisely why I think it’s so perfect for Fallout – The Greenbrier secret underground bunker, or vault if you would like. This bunker was built during the Cold War to serve as an emergency shelter for the U.S. Congress. It’s since been declassified, and code name “Project Greek Island” has become more common knowledge.
I love old amusement parks and have a thing for old carousels. That’s why I’m so excited to learn more about Camden Park. This old trolley park has immediately gone to the top of my “Must-Do” list.
Camden Park was established in 1902 as a picnic spot by the Camden Interstate Railway Company. It is one of only thirteen trolley parks that remain open in the United States. Its location was unique as it was on the trolley line between Huntington and other cities, so passengers could stop, picnic, and enjoy rides before heading to their next destination.
Its attractions include the Big Dipper – a wooden roller coaster, the Little Dipper (You guessed it – a miniature wooden roller coaster), the Camden Princess (a customized Zamperla Rockin’ Tug), the Carousel, and swan-shaped paddleboats among other rides!
The park is typically open six days a week from late May to early August, with a more limited schedule in late August, and select dates in September and October.
I’ve been to some of the places on this list, and I’m so excited to see them shared with thousands of online players. I’ve heard rumors that the Mothman may be featured, and I can’t wait to watch The Fellow play.
As with all things, when I hear WV is going to be highlighted by a nationally-reaching medium, I tense up. (I’m looking at you, Bones. What is with those accents?!) But I have high hopes that Bethesda Games will do my West Virginia proud.
I wanted to give you all a heads up about an upcoming West Virginia Event – The Almost Heaven BBQ Bash. You’ll forgive me if I tell you it should be a crazy good time!
I needed forgiveness for that sentence because this BBQ festival is being held in a place that (strangely) holds some awesome memories for me – the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
Yupp. You read that right. BBQ at an insane asylum.
Now, if I were you right about now I’d be wondering how an insane asylum is on my list of fun memories, and I can’t blame you.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) is one of the first WV trips I went on. Way back in high school, my WV Tourism and Hospitality class went on a field trip to TALA. We went on both the historical and the supernatural tours.
After that first visit, I was hooked. I went back with friends a few times for their Halloween festivities. (They put on a truly terrifying haunted house and a “Witches Ball” which is basically a metal concert on the front lawn). I even went on an overnight ghost hunt as a first date! (Ya know those early warning signs in relationships you should listen to? Yea, I was never good at reading those . . . )
I love old buildings, and there’s something phenomenal about standing in a place that has spanned years before your life and feeling the energy of that space. It’s breathtaking. But this energy is well, different. The grounds total 666 acres and since TALA operated from 1864 to 1994, it has a lot of dark history. From civil war soldiers to lobotomies, it’s no surprise that ghost hunters from all over have come to meet the former patients.
I’ll let you make up your own mind if you believe in spirits, but either way you should head over to Weston, WV for a beautiful scenic drive to some delicious BBQ, and if you’re in the mood for some history or a haunting check out the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, since you’re in the neighborhood.
This past weekend I got to head back to my dear West Virginia for a festival. WV has a ton of festivals, and I’ve made it a goal of mine to try to go to more of them. From small festivals to large ones like the Mountain State Forest Festival, there is always something to be celebrated.
This particular adventure was to the Ramps & Rails festival in Elkins, WV. It made the top of my list because my dear friend “A” (my maid of honor) and her fellow “C” were assisting at a tie dye booth, so I was able to hit the festival and spend the weekend with her.
Now, you may be asking – what’s a ramp? I’ve always heard them described as a wild onion, perhaps a better description is a wild leek. Ramps have a bulb, flat leaves, and a sharp garlicky taste. They are also rather, well, pungent.
The festival was held at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center. There was live music, about 50 different vendors, and lots and lots of ramp-inspired foods.
Everyone knows the best part of a carnival is the food – kettle corn, cotton candy, and other classic favorites. Festivals are no different. There’s just something about food from a festival vendor that tastes twice as good. “A” laughed at me as I hopped completely on board for all of the ramp food offerings.
We had a deep-fried ramp wantons (which were sinfully good), a pulled pork sandwich with slaw and a mild ramp BBQ sauce, a chocolate ramp-infused cupcake with ramp buttercream icing (Yup, you read that right.), and just when I thought I’d tried everything – I saw it. There, scribbled in dry erase on the window of a food truck, was – rampperoni rolls!
Now y’all, I am a pepperoni roll purist. Nothing belongs in my pepperoni rolls, but well, pepperoni, but you don’t get much more Appalachian than a rampperoni roll. The ramps made the whole flavor change. Honestly, it had a green pepper vibe to it, and it was like eating a supreme pizza roll.
The Fellow was super bummed he couldn’t make it to the festival, so I brought him home a Rampperoni roll (They were originally made to be carried in coal miners’ lunches, so they travel well and don’t need refrigerated.), and he loved it.
We hung out with some old friends, listened to the live music, and watched a little square dancing. It was absolutely the WV fix I needed.
What is your favorite festival (or your favorite part of a festival)? Let me know in the comments!
It’s West Virginia Day! This special day is when West Virginia officially broke from Virginia and was admitted to the Union.
It’s funny, but it’s still weird for me not to be at 4-H camp when June 20th rolls around. I was fortunate enough to be home at Jackson’s Mill (the boyhood home of Stonewall Jackson) for the sesquicentennial. We had so many awesome events that year including a walk through history with famous West Virginians which ended at the pond where a huge lighted outline of our beloved state was reflected in the water at the close of our candle lighting ceremony.
I’ll never forget that amazing state birthday.
I made so many friends from all over the state through 4-H, and I loved hearing about their counties. It’s part of what sparked our WV road trips.
We sing a song near the end of 4-H camp called “Come Home to West Virginia.” It never fails to make me tear up, now more than ever, as I find myself just shy of the right side of the West Virginia line.
“Come home to West Virginia; come hear the mountain song. You’ve been away too long.”
On her birthday, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite places I’ve explored and the wonderful friends I’ve made. Several of whom are hiding their tears behind those sunglasses as they sing in that video.
Thank you all for sharing these awesome adventures with me. I can’t see to where my next adventure will take me.
On our latest WV trip, we stayed at Hawks Nest State Park. The park is situated in the Gorge overlooking the New River. For a few more dollars, we opted to book a corner suite, and it was completely worth it.
Because it was a corner room, it seemed as if the room was suspended in the trees. Both walls had large windows with the most amazing views of the river.
As we drove back from dinner, we were heading straight into some pretty dark clouds, and we just made it into the room as the storm broke.
I love thunder storms, the wide, open power and the feel of the warm wind as it whips through the trees. Sitting on the balcony at the Hawks Nest was incredible. As far as you can see, there is nothing but trees and mountains. As the thunder cracked, I could hear the sound travel and listen as it echoed through the hills. The lightning flashed illuminating the light sides of the leaves, and it left me breathless. I sat out for at least an hour that night.
After a good nights sleep, I got up and spent another hour in the calm after the storm and watched the sun creep over the mountains. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience I am so glad that I got a chance to have.
On the final leg of our WV travels, we stopped at the John Henry statue in Talcott, WV. As a kid, one of my brother and I’s favorite movies was Tall Tale, a collection of folk legends and stories of the Wild West. One of the prominent characters in the film was John Henry, famous for his race against a steel-driving machine.
When I watched the movie, I never realized that he was actually a real flesh and blood man nor that his famous stand against the machine took place in the hills of West Virginia.
The statue once sat along the road (a rather precarious place to pull off and visit), but has since been relocated to the mouth of the Big Bend Tunnel where the contest took place.
The history of the tunnel and John Henry is fascinating. Befitting an American legend, he was a mountain of a man who could swing two hammers at once (He used smaller hammers so he could swing them one-handed). As he would swing the hammers, he would sing to keep time. When the company brought in a drilling machine, the idea of losing an honest day’s work didn’t sit right with John Henry, and he entered into a competition with the machine. He drove a steel spike 4 feet deeper than the machine, preserving his livelihood.
Some versions of the story end with him dying of exertion in the mouth of the tunnel with his hammer in his hand. While that may be a bit of poetic embellishment, it is more generally believed that this great figure died in an explosion and was laid to rest without a marker in a mass grave at the end of the tunnel along with other workers and mules.
The years have blurred the details of the life of this “Steel-Driving Man.” His story has been the basis for so many poems, songs, movies, and plays that John Henry has almost been forgotten as a real man and has become just another Tall Tale.
This past weekend we finished up our WV road trips. I’ve now set foot in all 55 of West Virginia’s counties. We still need to circle back and get a picture by the Mineral County sign, but it’s close so no worries there.
The first day of our journey was straight forward enough – a short stop at the John Henry statue in Talcott, lunch at the Chestnut in Hinton, and then on to the New River Gorge and Hawks Nest State Park.
The John Henry statue and Hawks Nest were neat, and I’ll share those experiences with you next week, but this week I want to focus on the Chestnut.
We stopped by the Chestnut on a whim during one of our trips two years ago and enjoyed it so much, we decided to stop back on this trip.
Nestled on the lower street of a riverside town, the Chestnut Revival is a coffee shop and former B & B. While a muted lilac teacup sign beckons outside, inside the atmosphere is surprisingly vivid. This is entirely due to the personality of owner/manager Verona.
Everything in the Chestnut has clearly been touched and influenced by Verona – from the mis-matched tables and chairs to the unique combinations of flavors in the food.
It is an eclectic shop to say the least. The walls are covered in local artists’ work, family photos, masks, Mardi Gras beads, and an entire wall of signatures from pleased customers. I’m completely convinced that you could spend an hour there and still not take everything in.
Verona greeted us like old friends (spend 20 minutes there and you’ll quickly become old friends), and she remembered us from our last visit. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – our visit with Verona or the food and drink! Her tea selection was quite impressive, and she made me her custom spin on a London Fog.
The reason we decided to stop back in the first place though was the food, and we were not disappointed! I had a turkey bacon on ciabatta, Mama had a BLT on sourdough bread, and Daddy had a French Dip. I stole some of his dip for my own sandwich, and it was divine. She also gave us a sample of her mushroom soup which was yuuuumy! Did I mention that she makes her own mayonnaise?
We sat and chatted and sipped our lavender rose iced tea and then finished our meal off by splitting a house specialty – a giant salted caramel chocolate chip M&M cookie.
Mama said we almost need to make a yearly pilgrimage to the Chestnut, and I most definitely agree!
The Fellow, some friends, and I all took Friday and Monday off from work to relax in Twin Falls State Park Resort in Mullens, WV over a long weekend last week.
My parents and I stayed at the lodge at Twin Falls on one of our WV road trips the other year, and it was nice, but for this trip I really just wanted to be in nature and not around a ton of people, so we booked one of the cabins, loaded up the old Jeep, and headed down.
We made one stop in nearby Beckley before we settled into the cabin for the weekend. A friend from work had mentioned that there was an artisan glass blower at the Tamarack who offered mini glass blowing sessions where you can blow your own cup, vase, or Christmas ornament, so we headed there first.
I have loved glass blowing since I read a book about it when I was a kid. I’ve gotten to watch glass blowing a few times, but the opportunity to get my hands on a blowing wand myself was amazing!
The artist is John Desmeules, and he was wonderful! He made you feel so at ease (especially considering you are working with 2000-degree liquid glass) and was fun! He handles most of the more sensitive parts of the process, but you really do have your hands on most of the project. I loved it!
We also saw the work of John Garton at the Tamarack which was nice. I camped with his sons in 4-H, and he made our amazing Totem Poles for State Council Circle. Check his stuff out!
From there we went on to the park, ready to get in the cottage for the weekend. It was just what I needed! The cabin was small and rustic; it had two bedrooms – one with a full bed and the other with two twins. The couch and the loveseat both pulled out into beds, so the cabin could sleep 6 or 7 depending on how you bunk people.
We packed a cooler of food as there was a full kitchen, and the resort provided firewood and starter. It was amazing. We had hot dogs and s’mores, and we stayed up late hanging out and playing board games. During the day, we went hiking and explored the park.
We stopped to look at the Pioneer Farm before we headed out to hike to the falls. It was such a neat spot. A family lives on the farm and works it. The chickens and ducks are all hand raised by the daughter in the family who gave us a history lesson of the farm. The farm has been there since the early 1900s, and the barns and outbuilding were built from lumber salvaged from other homesteads which were once on the park.
Between the cabin, history, hiking and friends, this weekend was everything I needed!
Hey, kids! I just realized that I didn’t share my hiking adventure from a few weeks ago with you.
I’m really trying to get myself in shape. I’ve had a rough few months what with winter and some minor health issues, but I’m putting an emphasis on nutrition and vitamins, and I am starting to get back on track.
When I was in college, everybody went to Harper’s Ferry on the weekends, and practically everyone had the same picture of them up on Maryland Heights. I’ve been saying I want to go to Harper’s Ferry for probably two years now, but I just never made the time to go.
Two weekends ago, the Fellow and I managed to have a day off together, and we went. I finally got my picture.
The Fellow’s rolls through everything like a tank pace is much brisker than mine, so I could’ve used more of a leisurely pace rather than full speed ahead, but we made it.
The whole thing is one uphill climb, and at one point it’s very rocky. Being an incredibly clumsy sort, I consider myself lucky that I only tripped once or twice and didn’t roll my ankle or roll off the mountain.
We packed a backpack and had a PB&J picnic at the top overlook. I sent my poor mother the last picture and all she said back was, “let me know when you’re safely back on the ground.”
So much fun and I can’t wait for our next adventure! We’ve got plans for the end of March which I can’t wait to share with you.