13 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 2: Partying with Swiss Precision

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 Roadtrip
DAY TWO - Saturday, 21 February.
Destination: Helvetia, West Virginia and back

It was VERY COLD this morning outside our Potomac-side cabin. We have a fun-filled day ahead of us, and it began with coffee and breakfast (and, for me, a DMD). We ‘hung out' until noon or so, and then we started on the roughly 80-mile journey to Helvetia.

There were six of us, meaning we had to take two vehicles over there. Melissa drove the Old Dominion Delegation, while the Confederate Collective (Nettie, Sera, myself) rode in The Rupert King Family SUV'ster. We got into Elkins, stopping first at Auto Zone to make sure Rupert had enough washer fluid. It wasn't working ... either that, or else that stuff was frozen solid, even after nearly an hour of what I thought would be warming up, it being in the engine compartment and all.

It was nearly full, and fortunately the addition of some warm fluid to the reservoir helped motivate the rest of the liquid to finally spray onto the windshield. Okay, good – because I didn't want to have to deal with problems in that area; Winter mountain driving in West Virginia means salt, dirt and gawd knows what else caking up your windows and rendering everyones' vehicles the same dirty brown color.

That matter resolved, we went to Bob Evans for a most pleasant, Bob-tastic lunch.


Melissa got this pic of us walking into the restaurant.
At least my wife was walking
... me, it looks as if I'm dancing the Bobaloo Boogie.

While there, we had to have a sequel group photo to last year's get-together in Savannah.
By the way, I'm calling this year's convention "Blogfest" -- the previous name, Gleckfest, fit because it was held at our house. Hardly fair, right? If anyone has objections, speak up and lay something better on me and I'll change it. :-)

Well, take a look at what can happen in a year's time (click on the image for a better view)...

LEFT: Carey Hilliards in Pooler, Ga., 03/02/2008
RIGHT: Bob Evans in Elkins, WV, 02/21/2009
The difference? 200+ pounds!

Nettiemac spotted this amusing poster in the ladies' room at Bob Evans:

"Ol' Bob Evans had a farm .. E-I-E-I-O ... and on that farm he had a restaurant ... E-I-E-I-O ...
an interstate here, and exit there, here Bob, there Bob, everywhere a Bob Evans ...
EXCEPT IN OUR FREAKIN' PART OF THE COUNTRY, @#$% IT!!!"


But anyway...


All fed and stuffed, we continued southward on 219 destined for the Swiss village of Helvetia. At the community of Mill Creek we turned right onto County Road 46, stopping at a Marathon station – what (correctly) appeared to be the last stop before Helvetia, which has nothing except for a small general store. And I didn't know whether they'd have any Diet Mountain Dew. Plus, I thought it prudent that we all empty our chambers. Ya know?

That Marathon was staffed by an older gentleman behind the counter, who asked if we were headed for the Fasnacht festival in Helvetia. He was very enthusiastic about it, and said we'd have a great time. As we left, he wished us a careful drive over and back home. Really nice guy, typical West Virginian.

County Road 46 on this side of Helvetia wasn't nearly as well-maintained as the stretch leading out to the west toward Buckhannon. Oh well, at least it wasn't a one-lane road without guard rails, eh?

TOP: Seraphim & Talmage ... Kate/Susan & The General.
BOTTOM: Nettiemac ... Melissa.

Second Swiss Sojourn (for us ... for the others it was a maiden voyage)

Today is The Big Day. Fasnacht. Party on, dude.

So where is everybody?? Yeah, there are some, enough to make parking a bit of a challenge. After coming into town (and wondering what happened to our friends in the Blue Vue™ ... oh yeah, that neat welcome sign, they must be taking a picture of it!), we parked our buggies in a couple of spaces we found between the Cheese Haus and Healing Honey store.
How can one overstate the serenity and heart-fluttering beauty of Helvetia??

For what amounts to this city's biggest day, we found it a bit surprising that most of the businesses in town would be closed. Sure, a lot of folks are there for the partying later in the evening at the Helvetia Star Band Hall. That's a given. Ahhh, but what to do in the meanwhile? The Hutte Restaurant doesn't open its doors for the buffet until 5:00. Wouldn't that be a prime opportunity for the merchants to sell their special treats and wares to those in town?

The Cheese Haus and Healing Honey stores were both closed. So was the town library. And, as already stated, The Hutte was a couple hours from being open (we got there about 3:00). While Mike copped himself a power nap in Melissa's car, the five of us set about to walk around, take pictures, and hopefully find a bidness with its doors unlocked.

Lucky for us, two places were open. First we visited Blue House, an antique/knick-knack store across from The Hutte. There, a few of us talked with the shop owner, a lady who truly epitomizes the stripe of humanity in West Virginia: gracious, genuine, salt-of-the-earth. Real people with real hearts. That's what I love most about up there. This is our fourth visit to The Mountain State, and it has yet to disappoint.

This lady (I wish I could remember her name) came "back home" to West Virginia to settle in the Helvetia area, and she and I had a discussion about the whole "West Virginia aura." In last year's travelogue, I lamented how a state with such wonderful people and beautiful surroundings could be downright impoverished in so many places. I like how she put it: "For a poor state, its people are rich in spirit." She went on to comment about a man who visited up there, and also fell in love with the state. He literally cried when he had to leave.

If this is so, I can say with all brute honesty that I understand. Boy, do I understand.

From the shop, I walked up the road past The Hutte, where I noticed Kate/Susan taking pictures of a goat who made its home in a pasture behind the restaurant. This little fellow was almost dog-like in his docile nature and overt friendliness. Matter of fact, I too gave some love and attention to this animal. And he ate it all up.

The goat is all too pleased to strike a pose for Susan.

We noticed the General Store and Post Office -- truly, it's like something out of Sam Drucker's Store of Hooterville (Green Acres, Petticoat Junction) fame. THEY are open. There are still antique P.O. boxes in there, some of which are still in service. In there, I bought myself a Helvetia t-shirt. Then I almost felt like doing cartwheels all over that store: you see, the largest size in most souvenir places is XXL. And now, having lost nearly 60 pounds (as of this writing), I can now fit into that size. For the first time in many years, I can actually buy T-shirts as momentos, and not stick to just the fridge magnets!!

The dinner bell is fixin' to ring
(Or: Whaddaya MEAN 'reservations'??!!
)

It's now pushing 5:00. We wanted to be close to The Hutte so we could go ahead and hit the buffet without a whole lot of waiting. The general consensus of the group was that we wouldn't stay for the evening parties. The whole idea was visiting the town -- sharing with our friends what we discovered last year (the ultimate credit goes to Seraphim - it was she who found out about Helvetia, and wanted us to go up there and check it out while on our 2008 visit). We'd start back home after eating, giving us a head start back to the cabin before sundown.

Kate/Susan went back to the car to wake The Mister, and we all sat around and chatted until they opened the eatery's doors.

A lady came out, wearing a Mardi Gras mask for a festive touch, and asked about our reservations. Ummmm, we don't have any. You see, there's nothing outside of the restaurant saying it was by appointment ... and last year when we were in Helvetia, it was a regular walk-in kind of affair. Talk about a craptastic surprise.

Well, she somewhat gruffly asked us how many were in our group. The woman replied that she had a table to seat all of us, but it was reserved for a party at 6:00. "We can serve you, but you have to finished by 6."

Yes, ma'am.


Then no sooner than we all sat down, the "friendly" hostess escorted an older couple to the one other table in our small room, which seated two. "You can eat with these other people who don't have reservations either!"

I blame my wife for this. Seraphim was supposed to have packed the crystal ball! (Seriously, it's their fault for not having any signs to that effect. Oh well, I couldn't stay mad at 'em!)

LEFT: The handwritten menu out front is typical of the whole feel of the place.
RIGHT: I hoped the Taylor family would enjoy their meal as much as we did.


From there, the service was just as friendly, kind and attentive as it was for us last year. And the food was fantastic. I had the "Hutte Chicken" (a kind of baked chicken breast which I cannot describe, except to say I hope they have it on the menu next year!), with the parsley potatoes and green beans (simmered in gobs of big-ass ham chunks), and their homemade bread (mmmmmm!). The tea was good and fresh. Hutte-tastic, even. Best of all, the converstaion was great; the other couple was from nearby Buckhannon -- it was as if we all came in together as a party of eight. Truly a fun meal, the way a good sit-down dinner should be.


"That's IT!!!"

Last year I said The Hutte is the most intimate and cozy dining atmosphere I have ever experienced. Look at the picture above for a good example of what I mean.

We finished our supper with plenty of time to spare. It was 5:45 when we all got up from our tables. Hah.
Damn, we're good!

Cabinward bound.....

County Road 46 (Helvetia-Adolph Road) offers a stunningly pretty view as it winds down a mountain.
But wait - this is WEST VIRGINIA we're talking about. That's stating the glaringly obvious.

We had just enough daylight remaining to get us through the hairpin-laden County Road 46 and onto the more 'civilized' and tamed blacktop of US-219 and 250. At the bottom of one drop there's a railroad grade crossing with the rail line terminating at a coal operation in this hollow. It was certainly worth a picture:
Mine, you understand? Mine, mine, allll MINE!

We all felt the need for (in Nettie's words) "drinks and drainage", so another stop was made at that same Marathon on the return trip. A lady was working the counter this time, and they had a beautiful black dog greeting visitors. His name was "Bear", and Nettie and I both took turns giving the dog more than his share of lovin', while we both pondered the phrase "possession is 9/10ths of the law." Yeah, I wish I could've taken that doggy back home with us. Never mind the problems that would've presented (both Puddy and the Marathon shopkeepers being substantially less than happy).


Goodness, even the dogs and goats in West Virginia are sweet and outgoing.


I relieved them of one more of their plentiful stock of 20-ounce DMDs, bought Seraphim a Coke Zero, and then got back on the road. We wound our way into Mill Creek, then left on US-219/250 for the northward leg to Elkins.


Let's Go Krogering.....

We all had some groceries to get for Sunday, and what better place than the Elkins Kroger store. But first, there was the matter of topping off Rupert's tummy (at the Krog-tastic price of $1.84/9). Kate/Susan, General and Melissa finished their shopping first, and instead of having them wait on us, we gave 'em the key to the cabin and said "we'll meet you back there."

(The Kroger in Elkins is a good, well-arranged, well-stocked and well-staffed one, I must say)

Maybe 20-ish minutes later, we took off into the US-33 darkness for that 47 mile wiggly path back to Hopeville. Sera, Nettie and I got back to the cabin just in time for the rest of the crew to be changing into their swimgear for yet another stretch of time in the hot tub.

And after Sera, and the Kosiors went to bed, Melissa, Nettiemac and I stayed up and watched a couple episodes of Robot Chicken I'd brought with me. That made a good nightcap before bedtime for all of us ... I think that would've been about 1:30 or so.

Not a moment too soon, either. The ladies went to sleep, visions of fondue dancing before their eyes (and Quarter Pounders for the guys). Good night, all.

To be continued.........

BY THE NUMBERS:
Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 0
Bob Evans restaurants passed: 1
Bob Evans restaurants patronized: 1
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 4
Dogs almost kidnapped: 1
Goats almost kidnapped: 1

Number of times we both stalked Melissa in the Kroger: 3?

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