Day 1 - West Virginia
|Saturday, March 31, 2018: We had a long way to go, so we were out the door and in Castleton to get some White Castle for breakfast before 5 AM.
|A couple of hours later, we were driving through Dayton. We had a full moon to light our way, ...
|... and dawn breaking in the distance.
|Tom's originally from Dayton, and he spent much of his early career taking this exit to work.
|Fog rolled in as the sun was coming up, ...
|... and it left tiny bits of water on the spiderwebs at this rest area.
|It was shortly after 9 AM when we crossed into West Virginia, ...
|... and after 10 AM when we arrived at our first point of interest: the Shoney's Big Boy Museum in Charleston, West Virginia.
|It's an adorable outdoor museum with three glass displays.
|Behold! Big Boy history!
|This plaque gives the history of Alex Schoenbaum and the Shoney's Big Boy chain. It also touches a bit on why some Big Boy restaurants are identified as being Frisch's and Bob's instead of Shoney's, but we had to go to Wikipedia for the full story. Tom remembers Frisch's Big Boy from his youth, so he was surprised by the reference to Shoney's Big Boy.
|Here's the last display.
|"Hey Mom! Don't bother and fuss ... eat at Shoney's tonite and leave the cooking to us." Dad, you'll need to bring your wallet.
|Just across the street, we stopped in a Drug Emporium, a magical pharmacy/shopping experience that sells pretty much everything. We don't have these in Indiana but Debbie remembers them fondly from her years in Texas. They had a large selection of West Virginia Mountaineers gear and craft beer, but we settled for a pecan egg and Reese's peanut butter egg.
|Here's the river view in lovely Charleston.
|The local Captain D's opened at 10:30 and we were ready to eat then, ...
|... so we feasted on all things deep-fried and it was delicious. The fried okra was absolute perfection.
|Did you know that West Virginia's capitol building is absolutely gorgeous?
|It is. So shiny.
|We had another hour or two of driving to do through the lovely hills of West Virginia. This was an entrance to a tunnel in the hill that may or may not still be in use.
|Tiny waterfalls were still frozen on the side of the road.
|We brought our I-Pass with us, having only recently learned that it could be used for any EZ-Pass tollroad. Here's the first of many places we used it on this trip.
|This rest area featured this large building, titled Tamarack. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we now know that it's a tourist-oriented arts and crafts center, but at the time, we had no idea what it was or why it was significant. We'll file that away for a future visit.
|At this point, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," was pretty much stuck in Debbie's head. Misty patches of fog hung above the valleys.
|We're filing this one away too - New River Gorge National River seems to be worth a visit someday.
|More pretty scenery and a glimpse of river in the distance.
|It turns out that there is more than one Sulphur Springs and this one is Green.
|Scenic farm and a hint of creek.
|Here's the Greenbrier River, which tells us that we're getting closer to our destination.
|This Sulphur Springs is White. Collect 'em all!
|Here we are!
|White Sulphur Springs is home to the Greenbrier Resort, a place so large that portions of it spill out into other areas of the town. On the hill is the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center, which is obviously a place for people much wealthier than us. Up front is a series of many, many horse stables. Not shown: directly across the road, hidden in the trees, is the (formerly) top secret back entrance to the Greenbrier bunker.
|We attempted to enter the Greenbrier grounds, ...
|... but the nice man at the gate directed us back across the street when he learned that we were there for a bunker tour.
|Parking for Greenbrier day visitors is at the White Sulphur Springs Amtrak Station.
|Shuttle service from the station to the resort is provided, and a shuttle was just leaving as we parked, so it waited for us.
|Moments after our arrival, we were on the grounds and could see the main building in the distance.
|But first, we did a loop around the grounds, past a playground and park for resort guests, ...
|... and a church, ...
|... and the Presidents' Cottage Museum, ...
|... and some of the Legacy Cottages, which are over 200 years old.
|We were dropped off at the front door, ...
|... and got a photo of the huge garden in front of the entrance.
|We entered and went downstairs, ...
|... where we found the 2018 Chocolate Easter Display, consisting of 700 pounds of chocolate. Every piece in the display is edible.
|There are numerous lobbies at the Greenbrier so we had to ask for help to find where we were going. We were here to tour the bunker which served as an emergency location for housing the United States Congress in case of a nuclear attack. Hidden under the resort, it was a secret for decades until its existence was revealed in 1992.
|There were many distractions along the way.
|We found the check in desk for the bunker tours on the second floor, ...
|... in the same room where wealthy children were posing for photos with the Easter Bunny.
|With plenty of time before our tour started, we wandered around to see the place ...
|... and to visit the rest rooms. This complex is the women's rest room.
|Each toilet was in its own little suite, complete with vanity seat and sink.
|Here's one of several unused large gathering rooms. After this, we had to check our phones and cameras with the tour guide, so the next series of photos were taken after the tour ended.
|Our Greenbrier Bunker tour started at 1:30 in the Spring Room.
|This room used to be used to serve water from the local spring, but worries about ground contamination has eliminated that practice.
|We walked through the facility down many hallways, and we passed a large ballroom where an Easter party was getting started. It was in full swing by the time we returned and got this photo.
|We inexplicably took an elevator up one floor here, and discovered upon our return that we could have taken these lovely stairs instead. But being jammed into a tiny elevator is fun too.
|Then we came down this hallway, ...
|... and got to see the amazing doors that were able to hide the bunker away from the world. In this photo, the large door in the center closes to the right, then the folding wall next to it gets moved into place, and then the whole thing just looks like a dead end.
|The wallpaper used in this hallway was designed to be hard on the eyes, thus discouraging people from spending time here. The goal was to hide the bunker in plain sight.
|On the other side of the doors is a huge room that can be configured for various business meetings. Adjacent to this room are two rooms we couldn't get photos of: one large conference room with a capacity of 474, and a small one with a capacity of 124. In other words, two rooms just large enough to hold the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. We got chills when we realized what we were seeing.
|We peeked into the larger conference room and it was set up exactly as it would have if Congress arrived. This photo is from the tour brochure.
|Much of the bunker is now used to house data facilities for a company that rents the space, which is why we couldn't bring cameras and why much of what we saw isn't shown here.
|This photo from a postcard shows construction of the exhibition hall portion of the bunker in 1960.
|We saw some housing, bunk beds, medical facilities, food storage, lounge areas, and many other interesting things. This photo from the brochure shows the original bunkbeds in one of eighteen dormitories.
|Again, our ability to photograph things was limited to the outer areas after the tour was over. These huge doors led to ...
|... one of the large bunker entrances which would be used by members of Congress and their staff.
|Check out the thickness on this door. It's hard to convey the immensity of this.
|Here's a photo of one of the decontamination showers that would be used when entering the bunker if needed. We were able to see the showers during the tour.
|Here's a small view of the cafeteria area. With potentially hundreds of people to feed, the flooring was specifically selected to make it an uncomfortable place to linger, so it would be easier to seat multiple seatings of diners. After leaving this room, we were reunited with our electronics and given time to photograph the outer rooms before leaving. Most people left immediately, so we were able to get photos without anyone in our way.
|Outside, the pre-Easter party was still raging, with bubbles and balloon animals and well-dressed children everywhere.
|Looking back toward the bunker, you can see the building that was built on top of it as a cover story. The bunker itself is built into the hill.
|Pretty fountain. It was still too cold to have water in it yet.
|It's a huge place, so there are many hallways to walk through.
|Here, we stopped to get a photo looking toward the terrace where we'd be in a minute.
|More unused dining/gathering rooms and chandeliers.
|This chandelier in the Lobby Bar is supposedly one of two in the resort from the movie "Gone With the Wind." Our tour guide told us it was from the scene in the library at Twelve Oaks where Scarlett throws a glass and meets Rhett, but there's no chandelier visible in that scene.
|The documentation nearby helpfully includes a photo from the main floor at Twelve Oaks but the chandelier clearly isn't the same one. Hmmm.
|Here's another pretty gathering room, ...
|... and another pretty chandelier.
|We stepped out onto a patio for a look back at the bunker (on the right) and Easter party on the plaza.
|Wealthy children were being led on horseback around a small track, which partly answers the question of why the Greenbrier has so many horse stables.
|It was great to take a brief peek into the world of very rich people, but our time was up and it was time to leave. We opted to walk back through the grounds to our car.
|The Greenbrier is owned by Jim Justice, who also happens to be the governor of West Virginia. At least one of his parking spots was filled, so we presume that he was currently onsite.
|We had been watching the Washington DC cherry blossom bloom forecast, so we checked out the peduncles on this tree. They were just starting to elongate. Yeah, peduncle is a new word for us, too, so don't feel bad.
|Here's a little path to take. It turned out to not be the most direct route to the parking lot, ...
|... but it was very pleasant.
|We had to backtrack through an onsite parking lot, presumably for the resort's overnight guests. Every state of our current road trip was represented by the assortment of license plates.
|Check out this "Friends of Coal" Kentucky plate.
|Soon enough, we were outside the gates, ...
|... and across the street again. We peeked in this year-round Christmas shop just for a second, ...
|... then hopped back in our van in front of the Amtrak sign.
|Here's the town of White Sulphur Springs, ...
|... and here's the ice cream/cupcake shop where we waited in line in vain before moving on.
|We stopped by the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery.
|It was the off-season so the visitor center was closed, but there was a great fish pool right outside.
|Fresh water, presumably from the nearby river, cascaded into the pool.
|The fish inside were huge and beautiful. They were more than happy to snack on fish food from the little girl who was visiting at the same time.
|By 4:00, we were in Virginia. It's for lovers, and we decided that we qualified.
|We passed a train with empty coal cars heading back toward West Virginia to be refilled.
|We stopped in Clifton Forge, Virginia, ...
|... to have dinner at Jack Mason's Tavern.
|We share our entrees: a Philly cheesesteak and a German sausage platter, washed down with a couple of Jack Mason brews.
|We happened upon the C&O Railway Heritage Center as we were leaving town.
|Look how charming this is!
|We spotted a real mountain in the distance. We had probably been driving in mountains all along but they were pretty small. This one was legit though.
|More scenic driving.
|Less scenic driving. When we saw Confederate flags, they tended to be extremely large.
|We reached our hotel in Waynesboro: the very comfortable Super 8, ...
... where we settled in to watch a favorite Easter classic: "The Ten Commandments." We never noticed before in this scene that Moses has a tool belt. For real! Look!
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy