This section is devoted to some of the sweetest surprises our car has carried us. Day trips can be affordable while managing to get you out of the pit of mediocrity, enough to revitalize and send you back home with hopefully a refreshed spirit.
Our recent day trip was to the New River Gorge, near Fayetteville, WV. It was Labor Day weekend and I could not settle at home knowing every other person was off somewhere. We decided for Sunday and wanted to make it back to the house by eight in the evening to watch “Big Brother”.
The rain clouds were formidable but I wanted to stand up to them and tread on, well drive that is. The 1.5 hour drive was peaceful, none of the kids were carsick, Nikos looked over his shoulder when passing (usually a bickering session ensues if he doesn’t), and Nikolas only needed a bathroom break twice, which means pulling off to the side of the road. I know, we are fancy.
As usual, we couldn’t find the other end of the fishing pole so Nikos stopped in at the Fayetteville Walmart to purchase our 500th pole. Elizabeth accompanied him which was fine because she was beginning to aggravate me, falling into whine mode. Coincidentally, they ran into a a mother of one of Elizabeth’s friends. This must have been the reason it took thirty minutes to buy a cheapo pole.
It began to pour the rain. We stopped by the New River Gorge visitor center. Katerina was way too excited to be out of the car and was bellowing happiness. The Stoufis clan gathered uncomfortable stares as a result. This one lady in particular held such an impenetrable stare that I felt like reverting to seven years old and making my ugly face at her.
My kids have numerous Junior Ranger badges in which they have righteously earned from the national parks we’ve visited. Katerina takes it very seriously. She even shushes us if we talk during the park films. I found it strange that the one badge they have never earned happens to be one of our favorite day trip destinations. I waited in the short line at the ranger station and asked the gentleman behind the desk if he could please hand over three Jr. Ranger booklets. He proceeded to ask the ages, and then nearly reprimanded me that Katerina would be too young for the program, since she was only two. He droned on without pause, therefore I had to hold onto my patience until I finally had the opportunity to explain that the other parks allowed me to help her with it. He handed over a coloring book and talked too much yet again, saying she could not possibly understand the tasks. I am not the “my kid is a genius” type, but I do not believe in never underestimating the capacity of learning at any age. The guy was a volunteer, and I suppose was trying to inflict his unearned authority over me, however, I remained polite and gathered the two books plus a coloring book and simply said, “Thanks”.
Nikos had overheard the conversation and was enjoying the quiet scene. Does he ever come to my aid? Uh, nope. That’s okay. When it’s four a.m. and the kids think it’s a fine time to open the presents from under the Christmas tree, I won’t stop them, even if Nikos was up until two assembling ridiculously intricate toys. Nikos just shook his head, chuckled and said I was a Jr. Ranger psycho instead. I harshly whispered that he would get another booklet or we would not be leaving the visitor center.
We watched the wonderful film, beautifully created. I love visitor center films. Nikos does as well, he gets a solid nap during every single one we’ve ever sat through.
Nikolas begged for a bird call, then a book on fungi, then a gem, all of which I wouldn’t allow. I’d just bought him a book on fungi, he just needs to remember where he left it. Meanwhile, Nikos obnoxiously waved the third Jr. Ranger booklet and I nearly ran out the door. We can mail the booklets in for the kids’ badges.
It was still raining but we drove down the very steep descent to Fayette Station. If you ever make it to this area, be very careful at “Stupid’s Corner”. It will tear up your car if you fail to take the turn carefully.
While assembling a florescent yellow fake worm on our new fishing pole, Nikos ran into the a fellow engineer he used to work with. The guy is second under the commissioner. The drizzle curled up Elizabeth’s and Katerina’s hair which looked very pretty.
Nikolas took off running to be the first to cast, over near the huge boulder. Katerina tripped four times on the rocks and dunked her feet immediately into the river. Elizabeth stepped in dog poop, and proceeded to dunk her shoes in as well, while squeamishly grimacing at her misforutune. Katerina delighted in throwing the heaviest rocks her bay arms could lift in the rushing river. There’s a reason why we never catch any fish. The rafters were banking, and I envied their adventurous rush a little.
The misty clouds rose into the hilltops, providing perfect scenery. The fishing line was caught and broken early on and our fishing for the day was over. The river whispers its ancient secrets and I am always aware, every single visit, that this is truly a special place, forever in my heart.
We headed back up the hill to our favorite restaurant in WV, Smokies on the Gorge. The food is amazing, the view equals the culinary fare, and it is a must for the “Good Eats” section. I gorged at the Gorge (oh that’s some serious cheese!)
Going home with our happy bellies, satiated by our day trip. Katerina fell asleep just before we made it home.