After a long drive and a late night, we thought we would be ready to sleep in on Monday morning; but the excitement of finally being in West Virginia woke us all up around 8:00am. Soon, the phone was ringing and we were invited to have breakfast with Ruth Marie at McDonalds.
The hotel clerk that had checked us in the night before had suggested we visit the New River Gorge bridge if we had a chance to sightsee, So after some googling, we decided to head that way. Luckily, Ruth Marie had the day off work and was able to join us on our little day trip. It was an hour and a half away but the pictures looked beautiful and we were anxious to see some of the landscape of West Virginia. It was dark when we got into town the night before so there hadn’t been much to see of the gorgeous mountains.
Driving the turn pike in West Virginia is like no other driving you’ve done before. Even as an admittedly terribly impatient passenger, the beauty and severity of the scenery really captures you and long drives don’t seem so tedious as usual. The curves of the road leave you in suspense at what you might see on the other side of each peak and the steep climbs and descent leave your ears popping and your heart racing.
There are looming walls of rock and stone where men had to cut into the giants to pave roads that we could travel. Even with all the twists and turns to work around as much of the mountains as possible, there are still many areas where blasting away some of the land is the only way to make a safe passageway. If you watch closely, you will see small springs of water dripping from some of the rock walls. It’s almost as if the mountain is crying for its loss.
Once we made it to the welcome center and observation area, the view was simply breathtaking. You don’t realize how high up into the mountains you are until you happen upon a clearing where you can see all the way down to the valley. We walked into the small museum and gift shop and were stunned by the floor to ceiling windows with the beautiful view of the valley below us. You could see the river snaking around between the mountains and the massive bridge and little hints of Fall colors popping through the tops of trees. It’s one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia and it’s easy to understand why.
The New River Gorge bridge is a breathtaking feat of engineering and nature.
We chose to take the scenic driving tour which was guided by a CD with music and history on it.
I may have given Michael, Ruth Marie, and Papa small heart attacks when I hiked down off the trail to this incredible rock cliff and sat on the edge of it. The view from that ledge and the feeling of freedom and awe as you swung your legs over the side of that drop were just unforgettable.
After we finished the tour, we headed to the next town over to find some lunch. In Florida, you really can’t go anywhere and not find 45 fast food restaurants. In West Virginia, you have to put a little effort into finding places to eat unless you want to knock on someone’s door and hope you are related so that they will feed you. Out in the area we were in, there wasn’t a recognizable restaurant in sight. So we drove over to a little nearby neighborhood and noticed a sign for the “Secret Sandwich Society”. Intrigued (and very hungry), I looked it up on Yelp and found that it had excellent reviews and an adorable location.
Come to find out, it is a one of a kind place that has been featured on Food Network and a few national magazines. It’s located in a historic house with a very rustic feel on a pretty piece of land. The idea behind the name is that every president has been, allegedly, a member of some sort of secret society or club. So each sandwich on the menu was named for a president and each salad was named for a first lady. Everything single thing on the menu was made from scratch, even the ketchup!!
The kids enjoyed running and rolling up and down the hill while we waited on our food. It ended up being the perfect spot for them to get out and stretch and run off energy after the long car ride to the gorge and then the scenic drive while we were there. Lunch was wonderful and we were so happy to share the day with Ruth Marie. The kids took to her sweet spirit like ducks to water.
As we drove the hour and a half back towards Elkview, we passed by this amazing view of the Kanawha River and its small waterfall. Michael spotted a public pull off spot where locals could fish so we pulled off and enjoyed the sounds of the falls and let the kids explore the edge of the water before heading back to the van. This is the perk of being “on country time” as Papa said, you took your time and stopped whenever you wanted to explore little jewels like this.
Back in Elkview, we made our way over to Uncle Marvin and Aunt Shirley’s house for a nice long visit and coffee with lemon cake. It felt very odd to drive by Uncle Tom’s old house and not stop to see him. While I’m so happy to know that he knew Jesus and is in Heaven, we all still miss his gruff voice and big heart.
We so enjoyed visiting with Marvin and Shirley and the conversation came easily and the night grew late faster than felt fair. After hugs goodnight and plans to have dinner the next day, we left to head back to the hotel and crash for the night.