15 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 4: End Blogfest, begin WV-09

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 Roadtrip
DAY FOUR - Monday, 23 February.
Destination: Mount Nebo, West Virginia.
Miles traveled: 158.3, plus 18.5 miles round trip into Summersville for supper and groceries.
We awakened to a sweet blanket of white, about an inch overall. "Top of the rocks" looked more than amazing with a snowy dusting. I was up by 7:45, and went downstairs to fire up the laptop to check road conditions. Things here were fine, and over in Mount Nebo it looked to be maybe three inches. Nothing there to be worried about. It was just that pesky mountain range to our west that had us concerned.

As of 7:00, US-33 over Allegheny Mountain was still listed as "snow covered." As Nettie sat down to pull up the conditions in Virginia for her drive back home, I started plotting an alternate route, driving north into Maryland, and taking a more gentle traverse through the Allegheny range on I-68, then picking up I-79 south at Morgantown. While a longer trip, it would be less risky were the snow to have been trouble for our two-wheel-drive'd Rupertmobile.

Farewell, Rainbow Trout!

After breakfast and finally (!) getting our clothes dry (the dryer took no fewer than THREE 60+ minute cycles to do the job), it was now time to pack everything in. Our time at Harman's North Fork is officially spent.

Check-out time was 11:00, and the three of us had our stuff cleared out and loaded up before 10:30. We said our goodbyes to Nettie and went across the street to the office and settled up the final balance. While there, I found a nice refrigerator magnet - a wooden cutout of the state, with a West Virginia quarter embedded. I also found a "Cabins, W.V." T-shirt for Sera.

And I bought myself something I'd been looking for both this trip and last year's: a "West Virginia" sweatshirt with just the name and no WVU connections or logo. Nothing against West Virginia University - honest! - it's just that my co-worker, who is from WV (Milton - between Huntington and Charleston), is both a graduate and highly-devout fan of Marshall University. WVU and MU are in-state rivals, and hailing from a state (Alabama) which wrote the book on football rivalry (Alabama v. Auburn) I like to think I have a decent grasp of college football's delicate politics. So I knew better than to alienate friends by wearing the oppo's insignia in their presence.

Anyhoo, I found my WV sweatshirt. And it's now pushing 11:00. We gotta hit the road. A decision was made: we'd give US-33 a try. It was getting near midday, and by now certainly the highway would be mostly clear of ice and slush, and already plowed and treated by the WVDOT. Worse that can happen? We have a slightly longer day of driving and we double back northward for the 'plan-B' Maryland route. We're covered.
With a soundtrack of Chris Isaak, we enjoyed a very peaceful drive down WV 28/55 toward Seneca Rocks, rolling tape on this beautiful scenery. Above is a good view of the Rocks.

And before we knew it, we found ourselves at the heart of the town of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, and the intersection of 28/55 and 33. Taking a deep breath, we make a right and - like Don Quixote and Spouse - prepare to tilt Rupert toward the windmills of U.S. 33.

Glecks versus Allegheny

There's a pleasant section of highway just before the serious uphill climbs. It looked good so far, and when we got to the base of Allegheny Mountain, the roads - just as I'd hoped - were properly treated, and mostly just wet. I got my 'Gheny game on, and kept plugging.
Before we knew it, the top of Allegheny Mountain was upon us. The snow covered much of the sign, and with two trucks behind us and no shoulder to speak of, we couldn't stop to get some pictures of the amazing view from up here. Below is a picture of the top as taken Saturday by Nettie:

And here was the view just two days later:
As we crested the top, we encountered lots of blowing snow -- with snow-covered road, to boot -- and even a brief 'whiteout' here at the peak! Exhilirating, incredible ... and very nerve-wracking.

And downhill we went toward the community of Harman. I don't know what was more worrisome -- going uphill or down? Each presented their own challenges. The west side DID have more snow on it, though.
Scenes from US-33 between Harman and Elkins.
Middle right is what appears to be a B&B in Alpena.
Lower left: a cave along the four-lane.
Lower right: a snow plow takes a rest in 33's median.

There was one more mountain climb between Harman and Elkins, and it was here that Rupert made his only slip. It was a brief skid, just long enough to cause my heart to visit my ankles, brain and stomach in a one-second course of time. Seraphim didn't seem to notice (she was busy camcording the trip and enjoying the scenery). And luckily, I regained control in quick order. Phew!

Just past the small town of Alpena, US-33 opened up to four lanes, part of the Appalachian Corridor route that will eventually connect Elkins with Washington, DC ... perhaps just in time for my son's grandchildren to enjoy it.

The worst was over. We conquered Allegheny Mountain.

A Victory Lunch ... hmmm, where to eat ? ? ?

I don't believe Elkins, West Virginia ever looked so good to our eyes. And not just because we were starving, either! We had two options: McDonald's, where we could dine on some cheese fries - a local delicacy, apparently, or a pleasant meal at Bob Evans.

Well. You might as well have given me the choice between boiled peanuts and spinach!

Bob Evans - just as it was Saturday with the group - was Bob-tastic. My only beef would be the lack of wi-fi in their restaurants. I saw a gentleman eating lunch, just him and his laptop. I asked if he was receiving a signal ... but as it turned out he was using his own 'wireless card.'

Our meal finished, we both wanted to poke around the Goodwill store in the strip behind Bob Evans, so we did. Sera found some kitchen containers she liked, and I came across two cassette tapes I found interesting, so they were liberated from the store. Said two tapes were:

1) A "Chrysler-Infinity I Premium Sound Systems" demonstration tape. Your typical "all-over-the-road" demo cassette handed out to those carbuyers who opted for the ($400) tape deck upgrade. This circa-1988 compilation includes everything from Michael Jackson ("The Way You Make Me Feel") to Roseanne Cash ("Runaway Train") to a Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov movement ("Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden, performed by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein). Everything to make one fan swoon while at the same time making another in the car reach for a bag to barf in. (I previously blogged about similar demo tapes back in 2007 after finding a batch of 'em at a Salvation Army)

and -- Nettie and Bolivar, you're both gonna love this one:

2) The Official NATIONAL LAMPOON Car Stereo Test & Demonstration Tape. Dated 1980. That's the first I'd ever heard of it. And you know that one had to go home with Tal.
"Incredible Illusion! Amaze your friends! Astound multitudes! How is it done? Place in tape player normally and peer into player while tape is playing! Car will magically appear seem to move before your very eyes and go from left to right!"

It's a parody of the "Hi-Fi Demonstration" LP records prevalent in the '60s. It's really funny listening (as you'd expect from a National Lampoon product). I've already made a CD copy of it, so if anyone in "the circle" is interested, e-mail me and I'll see what I can do.

Four lanes, and a sigh of relief

We made our third visit to Kroger's gas pumps, and - since we'd already eaten - we thought Rupert deserved a tank full of chow. And gas was cheaper this time, by two whole pennies. (cue "ooooooooh!" effect) With the Kroger Plus card, that translated to $1.82/9. No gripes.

Downtown Elkins is a very pretty layout. The whole town is quite charming, even by West Virginia standards. And north of the city, we picked up the four-lane US-33 bound for the city of Weston, and I-79 south.

When we approached the interstate just east of the city, we saw a Sheetz store and thought it a good idea for a pit stop. Sera got her a sheetz-tastic coffee, and I a lusciously refreshing DFD.

There isn't much to say about I-79, except that it's in West Virginia and that means more mountain scenery than one can shake a John Denver 8-track at. Plenty of snow-covered hills, and best of all, the roads were all clear, so it was smooth going.

When we got to the town of Sutton, where the four-lane US-19 branches off southward toward Summersville and Beckley, we took an early exit to drive through Sutton itself and take a leisurely joyride down Old Route 19 to see if any surprises await.
Old 19 crosses the Elk River just south of downtown on this spiffy-looking pony/through truss combo span. This visual idyll flirts with Norman Rockwell, no two ways about it.

But did somebody say "surprises await"? Yup, just past the above bridge, Old 19 breaks right, and follows a path around the hill, and just around the second curve we found one very sweet surprise:
an abandoned American Motors car dealership!
Get yer Pacers and Gremlins fixed here.
And look, no roof. Just like 1967 Ambassadors!

This, friends, is why I love taking "the old highway." This is everything about why the road less traveled is much more fun.

Eventually Old 19 -- or "Old Turnpike Road" -- wound itself back to all four lanes of the present-day 19, and then we continued on our last leg toward Mount Nebo. The snow began seriously picking up just north of Summersville.

A Bob Two-fer, and more wardriving!

We arrived at Rustic Retreat Cabins in Mt. Nebo right at 4:15. Our cabin, for the second time, was #104. It looked good as ever, and the owner had since built a porch facing the little pond. He finished that last Summer, a pleasant addition to an already cozy cabin.

Visit #2 to our 'second home'

The intial plan was for us to get groceries, then eat in both tonight and tomorrow night, with lunch at our favorite Bob Evans, back north in Summersville. But Seraphim had a counter idea: we'd have supper out tonight, then hit the grocery store ... and spend all of Tuesday in the cabin, and not go anywhere. (yeah, sure)

I did like the idea of a complete breather, so we indeed had two (2) meals at Bob Evans today. But first, we needed to find a hot spot so we could get online and check e-mail. We wanted to know if Nettiemac had made it back home, plus give a Facebook update to our friends that, yes, we made it over the snowy mountain, and lived to tell about it.

Wi-fi access at restaurants has grown exponentially in the last couple of years; as such, we thought even Summersville might offer some options this year that weren't around in 2008.


Okay, so Bob Evans doesn't have wi-fi at its restaurants. Denny's does at most of their locations; thing is, there's no Denny's in Summersville. All of the motels had protected access, which ruled that out. Wendy's? Nope. Kentucky Fried Chicken? Nada. And Arby's was also blind to any internet options.

But what's this we see... McDONALD'S HAS WI-FI! YES! We parked outside, and went in. Figuring the least we could do is buy something, Sera ordered a coffee. We sat down and logged on to do our online stuff.

Ummmmm, talk about a craptastic surprise: this Mickey D's charges for internet access. What? Yet, that's not the stupidest part: you get online by providing your credit card number for the prescribed $2.99 for 10 minutes of use. How do you do that? Uhhhh, via unsecured wireless connection, the one you just connected to.

And the coffee? It was even more craptastic. F(BLEEP)k this. We wardrive some more.

Finally, we managed to tap into an unsecure connection out front of a Mexican restaurant in the strip behind Bob Evans. Whatever.

Our business complete, it was finally time for supper. And Bob Evans ... yes, it was Bob-tastic. The tea was nice and fresh. The service even better.

The next order of business was going to the nearby Supercenter to acquire our foodstuffs for the (too short) cabin stay. That done, we got ourselves back to our happy hollow at about 9:30.

Sera got into the hot tub for awhile, and I started writing the first of these travelogues.

The wife was first to bed, by 11:30, and I followed soon thereafter at 12:15. A relaxing day awaits us tomorrow. We hope. Good night.

To be continued......

Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 1
Bob Evans restaurants passed: 3
Bob Evans restaurants patronized: 2
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 5
Times our SUV slipped on the wintry roads: 1
Dollars spent at "Goodwill": 8, and change
Ghosts of various Ambassadors, Gremlins and Pacers felt: 4,734,132

1 comment:

graham said...

I would love a copy of the "The Official NATIONAL LAMPOON Car Stereo Test & Demonstration Tape".

My father and I used to listen to that back when I was a kid on road-trips and brings back the memories.
Please email me at graham@g-rock.net and let me know how I get a copy. Thank you,