Last Vacation of the Summer

My recent trip to West Virginia and Virginia started out as a reprise of a trip several years ago with a stop at the Visitor Center of the New River Gorge National Park. It has a spectacular view of the river and the bridge that is one of the longest single span suspension bridges in the world. The next day we moved on to Lewisburg that is a charming little town that has reinvented itself for the tourist trade. The Victorian storefronts downtown have been restored and painted, and flower boxes and hanging baskets add to beauty of the place. We toured the historic North House that is adjacent to the Greenbrier Community College that was formerly a women’s academy. The visitor’s center is housed in the large space of a former department store.
We treated ourselves to lunch in the Draper Room of the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs. While it reminds me of the golf community in Pinehurst North Carolina, it is much newer and dates from the 1940’s. The dining room and lobbies were decorated by the society interior decorator Dorothy Draper and seem like a set from a Hollywood movie with splashes of white, green, and pink and lots of crystal chandeliers. It seems a bit gaudy for our tastes, but apparently the interior décor is as famous as is the hotel.
The next stop was Thomas Jefferson’s summer plantation home Poplar Forest that is still in the process of restoration. In fact, the primary changes that we could note from a prior visit 12 years ago was that the walls of half of the rooms had been plastered, while the rest still displayed the bare brick. It still lacks moldings for the doors and windows and furniture from the period. The house is built in an octagon shape and so are the interior rooms. The narrow interior stairs were added on the sides as a seemingly after thought.
The last stop on our short journey was the lodge at the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The lodge appears to have been built in the 1960’s with only safety and decorative modifications since. I was amused by the blue tile in the bathroom with a slot in the wall for the disposal of razor blades and the fact that the rooms lacked either a television or a telephone. The quiet beauty of the view of the lake and the mountain provided plenty of charm, and the restaurant had excellent food at a moderate price so we were happy with our choice as an alternate to the Greenbrier.
With the exception of I-64 and WV 19, the mountainous roads in both West Virginia and Virginia were narrow, winding and tortuous and very tiring to drive even though Hwy 43 is designated as a scenic byway. It was scenic only if you didn’t have to drive.
We were fortunate to have bright sunny days, but it seemed warm for the mountains (in the 80’s) so we still needed air-conditioning both in the motels and in the car. Of course, we were greeted with the heat and humidity (in the 90’s) upon our return at the start of the Labor Day Weekend. Fortunately we got home before most folks left on the last holiday of the summer.


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