When I look back at summer 2015, this is the picture that describes it best. That moment at the swimming pool when I was incapable of capturing even one more shot of my adorable baby smiling, my children progressing in their swimming lessons. It has …
The last day of a big adventure is always bittersweet. We were ready to go home in some respects, like sleeping in our own bed and stopping the unpacking, packing madness cycle. In other ways, however, like having the chance to have the whole family together 24-7, we weren’t ever ready to go home.
We awoke that morning in Ohio and, per usual, packed up the car for our journey home. After a short time on the road, we were in West Virginia. There are many ways for us to travel home but for some reason, West Virginia is always the route that draws us in with its natural beauty.
During our drive we crossed briefly into a corner of Pennsylvania, just long enough to capture this sign, then right back out again into West Virginia.
Our first stop was Morgantown, West Virginia for lunch. We hard about Mountain State Brewing Company online where it was well-reviewed. As we pulled up to the restaurant we saw numerous people walking out of the restaurant with smiles and to-go boxes and knew we were in the right spot.
First, we had to park the car in a nearby garage. In stark contrast to the sticker shock we experienced in Chicago, here garage parking was a rock-bottom $0.50 per hour!
Mountain State Brewing Company’s menus were printed on these great clipboards. It was a great organizational and stylistic choice. The clipboard makes it easy to swap out pages for specials, update prices or replace soiled pages. It also ads a little bit of edge and lets you know the restaurant doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously.
Other touches in the restaurant, like these sawhorse bar stools added to the edgy creative vibe.
The menu was full of fantastic and clever recipes. I especially liked their salad and dessert offerings. Here is a sampling:
The chef was hand-tossing pizza crusts high in the air and they were baked in a wood-fired oven that took up most of the center of the restaurant.
After a delicious lunch, we took a brief stroll outside. The restaurant overlooks the Monongahela River in a section where an old railroad bridge has been converted to a walking path.
We got back in the car and began a serpentine route through the mountains. The roads curved sharply left and right as we zig-zagged up one mountain, then down another.
From the back seat, our girls squealed with delight around every corner of this homemade roller coaster:
“Here we go again! Woooooooooooooooooooooah!”
There were numerous warnings along the road about steep grades, especially for trucks. When my husband saw this “Runaway Truck Ramp” at the bottom of a very steep grade, he commented,
“That’s not a runaway truck ramp. It looks more like a launch pad!”
Sure enough, it appeared that if you hit it with enough speed, you would become airborne.
As we wound along our route, we saw beautiful mountaintop farmland.
Our drive recalled numerous country songs about “winding mountain roads.” Yet, as we drove we saw signs of the future as well. An enormous highway bridge is being constructed that will create a direct route from mountaintop to mountaintop in a curvy area.
This development is also a bit bittersweet. While I understand that it must be a major pain to have to wind through those roads on a routine basis for truck deliveries and I would be very afraid if the ambulance taking me to the hospital had to take that route, it takes something away from the journey to flatten out the road. After you wind through all those mountains, you feel like you have been somewhere.
Alongside the highway construction, we saw more and more wind turbines in the landscape as well. As I understand, there are few, if any, wind turbines in Virginia at the moment but if West Virginia is any indication, they could be headed our way as well.
After a lot of winding, we hit the final tourist destination of our trip. We walked down some steps.
And some more steps. . .
Until we found our roaring surprise . . .
Blackwater Falls is claimed to be one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. The colored water in the falls comes from tannic acid produced by fallen spruce and hemlock needles. The wooden path leading to the falls is lovely in itself and we practically had the entire park to ourselves, sharing it with only a few fellow hikers.
After gazing at the falls and bidding farewell to our time on the road, we headed back up the 214 steps to the car.
We drove out of West Virginia, into Virginia and were very nearly home when we encountered yet another frustrating traffic backup. We sat for probably half an hour or so.
This time it was for a fallen tree on some power lines.
At last, we were home and what do you think our children were most excited about?
We heard a hilarious laudation from my 6 year old all the way to Little Caesars about how wonderful their pizza, breadsticks and sauce were. You would have thought we were buying a fine diamond.
It was an amazing journey and an incredible bonding experience for our family. I hope that everyone has the chance to make an epic voyage like this during their lifetime and that every American takes the opportunity to see our great country beyond the popular tourist destinations.
I hope you have enjoyed the ride at least as much as I have had fun sharing it with you. Thanks for reading!
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