West Virginia was not on our radar this year but, again, due to the pandemic, we rerouted ourselves to explore this wild and wonderful state. Most states have different areas to explore and W. VA was no different. There is the coal mine area in the SW part of the state, know as the Hatfield-McCoy Mountains, which we unfortunately didn't have time to dive into and just to the north is the Metro Valley and Mid-Ohio Valley region, which we spent our first few days in the state exploring.
The drive from Kentucky was a short one, but was beautiful drive along 64 and then north on 77 to Rippling Waters Church of God campground. We found this quaint place on Passport America and scored a pull thru, full hook up site for $20 a night. They are known for their chapel by the water, which was beautiful view from our rig. The people there were soo friendly and accomodating. They have a small pool, which was closed due to Covid, a laundry and fishing in the little ponds on the property. The road to the campground is not for the faint at heart, but taking it slow around the sharp corners got us there unscathed. It is a narrow country road and really only traveled by the locals to and from their homes.
We used this location as our base camp to explore Charleston, the capitol of WV and surrounding areas. We spent a day in Charleston and were fortunate enough to get into the West Virginia State Museum, which is a must do when in the area. It was free and definitely rivaled museums we have paid for. They had beautiful champion quilts displayed in the entry area and the museum chronicled the history of WV. The timeline was well done and reminded us of the Streets of Old Milwaukee in the Milwaukee Museum back home.
Unfortunately the Capitol was closed to visitors and there were working on the gold dome so the pictures aren't the best but still beautiful grounds and monuments on the campus.
We had lunch at Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille in downtown Charleston that is known for their fried feta. Of course we had to try it....AHHHMMMAAAZING!
We then went to check out the Capitol Market which is a permanent market in the restored train depot. It expands in the summer and fall to the outdoors to include a farmers market as well. Such beautiful fall flowers and produce everywhere!
We took a day to head north to Parkersburg and explore Blannerhassett Island Historical State Park and Museum. This state park is an island out in the Ohio River. We took the steamwheeler ride to the island and then were able to explore the grounds by horse drawn carriage ride and then took a guided tour of the mansion. Such an interesting backstory to the Blannerhassetts from them being second cousins, to hosting many dignitaries to the conspiracy plan with Aaron Burr that eventually had them flee their beautiful estate on the island when the scheme collapsed. The museum on the main land in Parkersburg did a good job of representing the history of the area, which is rich in the oil and gas industry.
We then relocated to the middle of the state and set up camp at Summersville Lake Retreat. This RV park is located high above Summersville Lake, which is the largest lake in WV. Is is a COE lake, with high rocky cliffs and the largest manmade rock dam in the US. Due to Covid, the park was peacefully quiet during the week and we just had one night neighbors passing through. Our site faced the woods, which provided a beautiful backdrop to our stay and behind us was the lake's lighthouse, high on the hill.
This location gave us the ability to visit some of what WV is best known for...it's rivers and the largest man made steel bridge in the western hemisphere. We spent a day exploring the New River Gorge area, marveling at the majesty of the bridge and the beauty of the river. The National Park Service did a great job with the overlook viewing platform near the bridge, with its 178 steps. The bridge views and those up river were soo beautiful! The bridge is a major road that now connects the two sides of the gorge that, prior to the bridge being built in 1977, travelers had to wind down through the gorge to get to the other side over a narrow bridge that took 45 minutes. We took that route and it was very narrow and at times a bit nerve wracking in a big dually truck! There was even a point where we needed to stop and back up a bit to get around a corner. Once at the bottom of the gorge, we spent some time standing on the old bridge, watching kayakers go over some of the world famous rapids.
Our time here wrapped up quickly and we were on to our next stop to visit the now famous secret bunker under the west annex of the beautiful Greenbrier hotel. We stayed across the border at Glen Maury City Park for the weekend and we can honestly say this was one of our least favorite stays. It was party central for the locals, a true hootenanny with banjos going all night in the site next to us and a large birthday party across the street trying to drown them out with their own blaring music. There are really no rules at this park and we ended up having the AC fan on all night long to try and get some sleep. The set up there was just a large field with a power box that could accommodate 6 30amp hookups and a water bib that was used by numerous people who just added splitter after splitter. There were no sites per say, but just where you could find room and could reach electric. Thank goodness we used our Passport America and got half off the site at $17 a night. Regardless, we would never stay here again on a weekend and maybe during the week for one night if needed. We actually were able to get into a larger spot, if you can believe that by the picture. What you can't see is that there is a Class C to our left, just out of the picture frame.
The park was located in a cute little patriotic town, Buena Vista, VA, who proudly displayed their flags and honored their veterans.
Our visit to The Greenbrier hotel was an interesting one, to see the 112,544 sq ft bunker that was built for Congress in the 50's, and remained a closely held secret for over 30 years. The bunker was carved deep into the mountainside as a Cold War emergency shelter and the west wing of the hotel was built atop it to "hide" what they were really building at the time. Due to some of the bunker area still being used by a data storage company for some of the Top Fortune 500 companies, we were unable to take pictures anywhere and you could not take anything with you into the bunker area, including any electronics or purses. So, in lieu of pictures of the hotel or bunker, here are pictures of postcards they gave us after the tour and a stock picture of the hotel.
Well that wraps up our tour of West Virginia...most of it. Did you ever realize how oddly shaped WV really is? We are now off to the tiny little piece in the waaaayyyy upper east that really looks like it should be a piece of VA or MD.
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Upon leaving Cincinnati, we had a short drive south on I-75 to Lexington, KY. We were excited to explore this area of KY since we had never been east of Louisville. Being the Labor Day holiday weekend, we were happy to score one of the last sites at the Kentucky Horse Park campground. Several people we know have stayed here and had good things to say about it. It is a huge park, 4 half circles, with 260 sites. They also have a seperate area for tents and yet another area for electric only in a field.
We arrived just after noon on Friday and were surprised to see that most of the sites were already full with weekend warriors. Our site was on one of the outer loops and we wiggled our way into the site. The sites are spacious but the asphalt rv pads are narrow without aprons so unfortunately we had to drive over the soft grass a bit to get into the site. Each site has electric and water and the park has wifi, but with 260 sites occupied, it was pretty slow. The pool was closed but the park did have activities all through the weekend, including a decorated golf cart parade and families were out and about walking and biking. The campground is well kept with lots to do, 2 laundry rooms, 2 dump stations and a great store that has alot of groceries, sundries you night have forgotten and souvenirs. We stayed through the weekend until Wednesday and it was fun to watch just about everyone leave Monday. The dump station lines were long but orderly and soon it was just us and a handful of other campers enjoying the peace and quiet. I will say, even though it was a holiday weekend and the park was full, everything quieted down around 10pm. It could have been that the park is patrolled by the mounted police from the horse park.
We took advantage of a special the KY Horse Park was having that Friday and bought our tickets for the park at the campground, which allowed us to visit and park for two days for only $6 each! It is usually $20 per person plus parking. Albeit, we weren't able to go into some of the barns but we did have a chance to see some dressage competition, a movie about the park and the surrounding horse farms, the museum and a chance to meet some of the past Kentucky Derby winners who are now retired and living a life of leisure at the park.
We even got to see a horse show that introduced some of the horses that live at the park.
Throughout the park there were memorials for other championship horses including Staff Sergeant Reckless, Man O War and several of his descendants.
We also went for a drive in the countryside to see some of the horse farms in the area. It truly is the rolling hills of Kentucky and they treasure their horses.
Since we were in the area, we had to go check out the Ark Encounter. We were amazed by the sheer size of it and enjoyed taking the day to explore the Ark and the beautiful grounds and small zoo.
This stop was another one that we quickly cobbled together after having to change our original plans due to the pandemic. We were pleasantly surprised with the area and are excited to explore a new state next.
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