We wake up at the lovely Microtel in Beckley, WV. The best that can be said is that this was a cheap room—clean and convenient for our rafting excursion—but we decide to check out today and find a more logical place for tonight after we decide whether we head home or add on to our adventure. We’re discussing the Tree Tops zip line adventure here at the New River Gorge, or a detour to Pittsburgh to see the Cubs vs. Pirates. Both have downsides—CA’s back is still an issue re the zip lines, and we’ve discovered that the Tuesday game is a night game and we’re not convinced we want to wait until Wednesday to head home.
We’ve decided to have breakfast at Tamarck, which is just a couple of miles—we can actually see it from here—down the road. I go the a la carte route and choose a succulent biscuit, cheesy grits, and cinnamon apples to go with my perfect Greenbrier coffee. CA orders one of the breakfast combinations--fried green tomatoes, cheesy grits, eggs, bacon, and a biscuit. I don’t know how he can do it; I can’t even finish my biscuit or grits. The funny thing about the cheesy grits is the cheesy part. The server unwraps a Kraft Singles and lays it in the bottom of the bowl before ladling on the hot grits! This is The Greenbrier!
After a few more photos at Tamarack and a visit to the ATM, we’re off again. It’s a bit over a 20 mile drive to the New River Gorge. This time we’re rafting the Lower New River with the Rivermen, while in the past it’s been Class VI. They’re both run out of this same location. This business has only gotten better and more professional over the years. Their buildings are immaculate log structures, well-thought out and organized.
We meet with Larry, our raft leader for today and get the run-down. He’s a 10+year veteran of this organization and knows how to entertain and charm while driving home the rules of behavior and safety. 40+ of us board the bus and head south on Rt. 19—the New River flows north! We get just a couple of miles and are overtaken by a jeep that’s been sent to ask us to return to the home base as a party of four has turned up late—having been directed to the wrong location for Rivermen). This all takes a bit of time, but everyone is in good humor. It’s about a 30 minute bus ride to the launch site, during which Larry entertains us with some West Virginia humor. When warning us to never let go of the top of the paddle “T” he warns the ladies we might end up with summer teeth, “Summer here, summer there.” He tells the darlin’ women that if that happens, they have to stay in West Virginia. And, he draws our attention to a home on the right—a brick covered trailer. Someone near the back of the bus says, “Ya cain’t hide money!” And Larry agrees “Ya cain’t hide money.”
And Houston, we have rain! Lots of rain. Doesn’t matter much as we’re gonna get wet anyhow… We’ve got some great white water going today—sometimes you hit a Class V or even VI, depending on water levels and times of year, but today we’re told we have at best some very strong IVs.
We’re going 15+ miles today from Thurmond on up the river—Rudy’s, Jump Rock, Cartwheel, Surprise, Big Baloney, Cunard, Pin Ball, Upper Railroad, Lower Railroad, Swimmers, Lost Lunch, Ender Waves, Piece of Cake, Hip Kick, Upper-Middle-Lower Keeneys, Double Z, Dudley’s Dip, Hook 99, Greyhound Upper & Lower Kaymoor, Miller’s Folly, Thread the Needle, Fayette Station, Flea Flicker, Jump Rock II, Ol’ Nasty… Who names these rapids?
We have a few periods of blazing sunlight, but the rain is relentless at lunchtime, and after going up river to just about the last logical takeout we’re served our deli lunch in the middle of a deluge. The meats, cheeses, and all the accoutrement are laid out in the sand in the rain (There's no place to hide from the rain. Even under the tree canopy the raindrops keep falling' on my head!) And even so, everything seems fresh and inviting. It doesn’t matter that the tortilla chips are getting wet. We're hungry! When I’m done eating, I pour the water off my plate before indulging in a bit of strawberry shortcake.
We're soon back on the river for the last thrilling bits. We pull in to the take out at Teay’s Landing just about 5:30pm, deflate the rafts, gather the helmets and paddles, and climb onto the school bus for a short five minute ride back to base and hot showers. We’ve packed right for this trip—those beach towels that were superfluous at Ocean Beach Club come in more than handy tonight. Clean bodies, clothes, and hair are a real treat.
While we’re not as tired or sore as we’d thought, we know it will hit soon but we drive on toward Charleston before stopping at a Texas Roadhouse for dinner. The dinner rolls are yeasty and warm. They give us six, and we eat six. We’ve burned some calories today! We both choose a chicken club sandwich—fried chicken strips with bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle may. Mine comes with some oven fried baked potato cubes, but CA opts for the seasoned French fries. Would you like some grease with that? Yep! We opt for dinner rolls and fried food—no veggies in sight.
We drive the rest of the way to Huntington, WV where we spend the night at the same Ramada Inn as Day 1. It’s a welcome respite, and I don’t open my magazine or book before falling into a well-deserved sleep. I don’t set my cell phone alarm. I don’t even consider setting it.