A West Virginia adventure – Spring Break in the New River Gorge, 2018
Saturday, 26-May, through Saturday, 02-June, 2018
“Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. Country roads, take me home… to the place, I belong! West Virginia, Mountain momma… take me home, country roads.”
I’m pretty sure that the first real spring break I ever had was with Daniel, years ago, when we drove down to the New River Gorge to climb, and attend the New River Rendezvous. Since that year, we’ve done our best to always link up and go on some glorious climbing trip on or around Memorial Day. This year was a tough one, with Sarah breaking her leg, but she insisted that I go anyways, and let her live vicariously through me as she convalesed at home. I’d already cleared the week as vacation with my boss, even before I was hired for the project, so I was free and clear for a throwback adventure…
Saturday dawned way too early.
I mean, I’ve been getting up early for work for the last few weeks, so I guess I can’t complain too much. But hey, it was still pretty early for a night-owl like me. But it’s for an adventure, and flights wait for nobody, so up I was, and in the Lyft by 6:00.
Thankfully, PDX is a fast airport. I was a bit surprised by a complete TSA search of my carry-on… but I can’t really say I should have been surprised, since it was literally full of climbing gear. I’d chosen to check my clothes bag and carry on my gear bag this time… you know, since the clothes bag is replacable, and worth maybe 10% of what the climbing gear costs. And the whole “climbing gear is safety critical” thing.
Once I get to the gate, it’s a short order before we start boarding. Just enough to get a breakfast hamburger and a cup of coffee, which I’m super thankful for. More fuel for the week of climbing ahead!
The flight passed impressively quickly, for once. I ended up being seated in the middle – normally a horrible sentence, but in this case I ended up chatting with the gentleman seated next to me for literally the entire flight. No exageration – 5 and a half hours straight, discussing everything under the sun. See, he’s a nurse who works for the VA in Providence, and he’s debating moving out to Portland after not one, but two psychics told him that his soul is calling him West, to Portland specifically.
From that starting point, we talked about everything. Coastal cultures, jobs, growing up, life events, dating, and the world as a whole. It was glorious – I don’t have occasion to talk to and bond with people this in-depth very often anymore, after leaving NUHOC, and this was a beautiful breath of fresh air for me, and an amazing start to the week ahead.
Once we’re on the ground though, we head our separate ways – him running to catch a connecting flight, and me zipping off to get a rental car so I could get on the road as quickly as possible. I still had nearly six hours of driving ahead, and darkness would be falling soon…
Thankfully, getting the car was pretty simple – with the exception of my bag being re-classified as “oversized”, which meant I had to pick it up from an unexpected area, and the first car having a broken heads-up screen, everything went smoothly. Soon enough the miles were grinding away under my wheels, with the West Virginia mountains looming ahead.
Sarah kept me sane during the drive. I think that, over the five and a half hour drive, I spent nearly two and a half on the phone with her. With the exception of when I stopped for a quick burger and coffee, and when I started into the cell-reception-blocking mountains, we talked and she kept me awake and focused on the driving as night fell.
Navigating the mountain passes in the dark was… an experience. I was taking a route Daniel and I had actually taken before – Route 60, through the mountains and past a ton of quaint little towns. Or at least, I think this was the route we’d taken before. You’d have to ask Daniel, he honestly has a much better memory for this kind of thing than I do. But point being – it was small, tight, winding roads. In the rain, with only google maps to keep me company.
I did make it though; sometime around 10:00 I pulled up to the cabin that we’d rented through AirBnB, and saw the warm glow seeping out the windows and inviting me in. I saw Daniel’s new BMW sitting in the driveway, and knew that wine and bed were finally mine.