No Denying the Mothman

Starting Mileage: 2403.6

It was downright cold when I woke up the next morning.  Rather, it was cold outside; inside it was so warm under the blankets that it took me a while to get out of bed.  But the need to get on the road, and a boxer nose that kept making those exasperated snorts in my face, made me drag my butt out from the warmth.  I took the dogs for a walk around the grassy area but after they had quickly done their business, they were pulling me back towards the hotel.  I got the hint.

After I poured out their breakfast, I made my way to the lobby for mine.  I found the offerings to be consistent if nothing else.  I guess I can’t expect much for free and in short order I was back in my room with a waffle and some yogurt.  I was eager to get going and wolfed the food down before we were back on the highway.  I had been debating whether to take my time or push to get back home that night and figured I would let the road decide: if there was something fun worth exploring then we would explore and we would get home when we got home.

Knowing that we were entering Jefferson National Park, I had my eyes peeled for any sign indicating where we would have to go for a hike.  After I emerged from a tunnel that ran through a mountain, I finally saw a sign.  The sign told me that we were leaving Jefferson National Park.  Huh.  I thought about turning around to try and find our way back in there but I was soon gratefully that we were not in the trails when a sudden snow storm descended on us.  It cleared quickly and I decided to stop for a coffee and made my way towards Bluefield West Virginia.  Some parts of the drive were beautiful and had lovely views that I was able to sneak a peak at as we wound through narrow hilly roads.

When I stopped at the Corner Coffee Espresso Bar and Bistro, I saw some of the biggest cinnamon buns being frosted by the woman at the counter.  I debated getting one as I asked her where some good places to hike were.  She told me about Pinnacle Rock then suggested going to Pipestem Resort State Park.  I ordered a latte and passed on the cinnamon bun (I know! I’m shocked too!) and began to backtrack to the highway.  The latte was nice and warming on such a chilly day and I had planned to stop at a scenic overlook that we had driven past.  Unfortunately it wasn’t so scenic because the snow had began to fall thick and heavy in the swirling hypnotic mess that blows through hill country.

By the time we made it to Pipestem Resort State Park, the snow had stopped and the wind had died down a bit.  I drove through the gate and was surprised to see that there was no one working.  I guess it was an off-season and admission was free.  Wahoo.  I drove all the way though the park until finally stopping near the visitor centre on the way back out.  Seeing as how there was no one around us I had briefly toyed with the idea of letting them run off-leash, especially since there was a trail that headed into the trees near the lot.  But as soon as the dogs got into the forest, both Piper and Jack were on their toes.  They obviously knew that there was something out there and they were determined to find it.  For all his mismatched and unathletic-looking build, Jack is surprisingly good at tracking and has that single-minded puggy stubbornness that will keep him with his nose to the ground as he tries to pull my arm out of the socket.  Piper is also a very good tracker but where Jack is like a fish on the end of the line, she just wants to go.   Leo on the other hand was oblivious.   He just wanted to pee on everything.

I was really glad that I had kept them on leash when not one but two deer went bounding through the forest.  Thankfully it didn’t take long for their attention to be drawn back to the trail we were hiking as it was covered with slippery leaf cover and some steep climbs.  By the time we got back t the car, I think they were ready to take a break.  I never did find out where the name Pipestem Resort came from.

Now when we left the park and were back on our route, I noticed that we were going to drive by Beckley.  I was tempted to stop for a mothman but no.  I just had a coffee-based drink.  I don’t need to stop so soon.  Why would I go back to Beckley?  Hey how the heck did I end up in Backley?  At the Chocolate Moose of all places.  Well since I was there it would be a waste not to support a local business.  I had remembered the owner telling me about the New River Gorge National River when I passed through the last time and I had just finished my mothman (which was as good as I remembered it) when we arrived at one of the trailheads.

I hadn’t done any research (of course), so I just drove around until I started to see signs for trails and randomly picked one.  This time the dogs gave no indication of there being any wildlife nearby which was great because the footing was a bit slick from the recent snow.  The trail is an easy one to follow and I soon realized why they call it Long Point Trail: at a small off-shoot you can look over the gorge and see the bridge that spans it.  A fog had started to roll in and partially obstructed the view, which I think made it look even more dramatic.  And then the snow started to fall again and I decided to go back to the car instead of finishing the trail.  I wasn’t sure if the weather would get better or worse and I didn’t want to risk navigating tricky trails when I’m not familiar with the area.  And we would have to get back on the road unless I wanted to spend another night in a hotel.  Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the snow had stopped and the sun was actually shining.  Oh well.  The dogs jumped into the car and were curled up before we got too far down the road so obviously they weren’t upset that their hike had been cut short.

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Leo stretching his legs.

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Checking out the scents.

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Do we have to pose again?

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Piper surveying her domain.

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Always up for a hike.

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Jack has no problem with heights.

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A first look across the Gorge.

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New River Gorge Bridge.

I was driving along the bridge when I looked to my right and saw the very point that we had been standing on.  I had known that it was high but I had no idea just how high and for some reason that short glimpse of this jutting outcrop of rock that stood in stark contrast to the dark green trees that framed it, well it just got to me.  I would have pulled over if there had been a safe place to do so for a picture.  I can’t quite explain why it had such an impact on me; it just did.

The rest of the drive north was incredibly uneventful.  We stopped at some rest stops, I finished the leftover pizza, and we drove some more.

And then we got to the border.  You know there’s a story with me crossing the border.  First I picked the slowest line.  Of course.  When I pull up to the booth, there’s a woman sitting there and she starts with the “Where were you?”  South Carolina.  “How long were you gone?”  I left on Monday.  “Where did you stay?”  Red Roof Inn.  “Is that a condo?”  I’ll admit that one threw me for a bit of a loop when I replied that it was a hotel…er motel. “Did you meet anyone down there?”  Now this is the second time I’ve heard that question although the stunning guy from the crossing south was a lot more fun to answer.  No I didn’t.  “Do you have any firearms or weapons?”  No I don’t.  “Did the dogs go down with you?”  Yes I answer and offer their paperwork which she takes and shuffles through.  When she hands them back she again asks if I had any firearms and weapons.  I tried not to laugh and I probably sounded like I was choking because all I thought to myself was do you think that asking me the same question twice will trip me up?  Like I’d go yes…Oh wait ya got me.  If it sounds like I’m harping on her I’m not.  I have a lot of respect for the the border personnel and it’s not a job that I’d want to do.

So once that was all squared away, back on the road we went.  I was going to stop at duty free but I was just so tired and it was so close to home that I didn’t want to delay being in my own bed.  I stopped just once to fill up the gas tank and with it being well after rush hour, I made good time across the top of Toronto.

And at 1:41 am, I turned off the car and brought my weary pack inside.  I was so tired that I left most of my things in the car and barely pulled on my pajamas before falling into bed with three dogs and two cats curled up around me.

Finishing Mileage: 3585.7 km

Southward Bound

Starting Mileage: 994.0 km

I had a very good sleep.  When I woke up I had Jack on the pillow next to me, Leo had slipped under the blankets and was tucked up against my legs, and Piper’s head was laying on my chest.  Somehow we almost always end up snuggling and when I try to get up, Piper pushes me down with her head and sometimes puts her leg across me as well.  I try to oblige the cuddles for as along as I can but eventually the road, and a rumbling tummy, forces us up.

As the Travelodge had a free breakfast, I did not have to go looking for food but I know from experience that hotel coffee is usually horrendous.  So I collected the dogs for our morning walk which somehow took us down the road to the Chocolate Moose.  As we walked past the embankment from last night, I had to shake my head.  It looked so much worse in the day light.  And then we were past the slippery slope and soon found ourselves at the Chocolate Moose.  Not only is it a coffee shop, but there’s also a climbing gym and mini golf.  Awesome.cm

I stood and stared at the menu for a while making small talk with the gentleman that I can only assume is the owner.  Finally I decided on The Mothman.  One sip and I knew I was hooked.  For life.  Coffee and chocolate and cinnamon and cayenne and whipped cream and OH MY!  I greedily gulped it down as the dogs sniffed this way and that on the way back to the hotel.

Oh and the back door that I had mentioned the night before?  Still unlocked.  The latch was embedded inside the lock so it could not be secured even when I hauled on it (which I had done last night as well).

I poured food out for the dogs then went to the breakfast area.  It was actually slightly better than I had expected but still your standard breakfast set-up: a waffle station, cereals, muffins, bagels, oatmeal, spreads, and juices, coffee, and tea.  I was disappointed that the only fruit offered were apples so I had to forgo my standard peanut butter and banana waffle-wich.  Oh well.  I made up a waffle, grabbed some grape jelly and an apple, then went back to the room.

On a side note: I love the waffle machines that hotels have.  You dispense a measured quantity of batter into a cup, then spray non-stick spray onto the waffle iron.  Pour out the batter, flip the iron and wait for the beep.  That beep tells you that your waffle is golden brown and waiting for whatever toppings you have.  For some reason, the flip makes it fun.

As I ate, I charted our route.  I’ve never been to Charleston, South Carolina so I figured that this trip, I would change that.  When I left home, I hadn’t decided if it was our end point but it would definitely be a stop that we would make.  I had heard of an app called BringFido, and for some reason, this trip was the first time I actually remembered it.  It lists dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions, parks; all kinds of things to do with dogs.  So when I looked up Charleston, I noticed that there were plenty of things for a girl and her dogs to do.  One item in particular called to me and I booked my spot for that evening.  I also booked a hotel for not just one night but two.  We were going to stay put for more than one night!  And in a city!  How out of character.

With food in our bellies, I packed the dogs into the car then went to check out.  Remember that bit about the door?  OK here’s where it gets important.  I’m checking out with the assistant manager and first mention that when I booked the room, there was both a pet fee and pet deposit listed.  She told me that it was a fee.  I suggested that someone should fix that and she seemed confused until I explained that it’s conflicting information.  And then I mention the door being left unlocked.  Well she insists that it’s always locked.  Noooooooo and then I tell her that it’s open right now.  Well she calls the maintenance man to tell me that it’s locked.  I’m thinking to myself (thank goodness for the inside voice although I guess typing it now is kind of an outside voice) that it’s unlocked now and she can go and check if she wants.  No she insists that it’s always locked.

Well the maintenance man comes around and says that it’s unlocked until he locks it with a key.  This goes back and forth for a while because I think we’re all trying to explain something different.  Then finally he says that it’s unlocked until around midnight but he wasn’t working last night so he can’t say for sure but the person working last night would have locked it.  Then assistant manager makes it sound like that was what she was trying to say all along and I just shrugged my shoulders and left.  Was it a horrible place to stay?  No.  Would I stay there again?  After the song and dance routine I had to go through I would rather avoid it.  Granted if someone really wanted into the hotel, they will find a way but let’s not make it so easy.

Fighting the urge for another Mothman, I jumped back onto the interstate and headed south.  I had business in Charlotte you see.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I LOVE Alton Brown and his series “Feasting on Asphalt”.  If you haven’t watched it, you have to watch it.  Long story short, there are two seasons to the show: the first where he and his cohorts drive across the United States to see if authentic road food still exists.  The second season, they follow the Mississippi River.  So in the first season, one place they stopped at was the South 21 Drive-In in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Well we were going through Charlotte so I figured it as a no-brainer.

After taking a quick peek at BringFido, I found a dog park in Charlotte so the dogs could have a romp and we ended up at Frazier Park.  There are two spacious, and fenced, areas.  In fact, one area was huuuuuuuge.  There were a few other dogs in there and I brought then dogs into the space between two gates and let them sniff through the fence to see if there was going to be any tension.  Piper can be a bit…let’s say…difficult sometimes when meeting new dogs.  With lots of tail (and stump) wagging and excited licks through the fence, I let them loose.

If you’ve never watched dogs run loose in a new area, it is something that will make you smile.  They ran and jumped and chased around.  OK Jack didn’t really do that.  He waddled but it was still fun to watch him explore this new area.

I walked back and forth a few times until the dogs stayed close to me.  Jack pretty much went to where the gate was and waited for us to get close.  There were lots of balls left in there and I threw them for Leo and once he picked one up, I would grab another to throw and he’d chase after that one.  It’s a game that gets him tired quickly.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a new dog came into entry area.  She was a little pitbull with the most stunning colour pattern I have ever seen: like a tan harlequin but different.  Anyway, when the owner opened up the inner gate a bunch of dogs rushed in, Piper being one of them.  The poor new dog ended up getting squished between the gate and fence and she protested, and rightfully so.  Well Piper decided to yell back at her and when Piper barks and kind of pounces, well she looks vicious.  When I saw the crush of dogs, I started moving to the gate but I wasn’t fast enough to call Piper back before the tiff started.  I was worried that with so many dogs in such a small space it would escalate into a full-on dog fight.  Fortunately it did not.  I tried to chat with the owner of the other dog but she wasn’t having any of it.  I get it and I don’t blame her.  On another side note: I love pitbulls.  They are wonderful dogs that unfortunately have gotten a bad name because of some bad owners.  Yes they can be aggressive and yes there are a certain kind of person that will bring out all of the negative aspects of the breed  And yes part of what makes them awesome is also what makes then (potentially) dangerous.  But I have never met a pitbull that was aggressive to humans or dogs.  I’ve been bitten by lots of other breeds from tiny chihuahuas to German Shepards.  In fact, my brother has a massive scar on his face when he was bitten by a Doberman/German Shepard cross.  I have one from a St. Bernard cross right underneath my eye.

So once everyone calmed down and had one more lap around the park, I took the dogs back to the car.  It was hot.  It was so hot.  I was glad that I had worn my convertible pants as I unzipped the lower legs and changed from my Blundstone boots to short socks and running shoes.  So this is what summer feels like.  I had forgotten what summer felt like.  Hello summer my old friend.

With clothing all sorted out, we drove to the South 21 Drive-in which was less than 15 minutes away.  I’ll admit that I had never been to a drive-in diner before but it was just like I had seen on TV: car stalls with little speakers and a tray table. Some of the stalls had picnic tables in them.  Perfect.

I hurriedly studied the menu that was posted and then pressed the button to place my order.  I thought that a Super Boy (double patty with no tomato or onion and yes I would like cheese please), an order of onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake, oh and a big cup of ice water, would be a good way to experience this establishment.  I brought the dogs out of the car and was just getting their bowl when the food appeared.  I dumped out some of the ice water into their bowl before I tucked into my burger.  It was good in an old-school diner kind of way.  And what I mean is that it is like the giant fast food chains but it actually has flavour to it.  Now I have quite the appetite so I hardly felt that it was “A meal in itself” as the menu had promised but it was good.  I will say, that while the milkshake was thick and chocolately, the best part were the onion rings.  I was a little disappointed that there were only, like, six to an order, but they were a very good six onion rings.  I’m sure they were fried but there was none of the greasiness that usually comes with fried food.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were baked.  And of course the dogs had tiny pieces of the patty just to see if they liked it.  They did.  Then back in the car.

Because we didn’t have to be in Charleston until later in the evening, I decided to take the back roads between Charlotte and Charleston and it was almost 8:00 pm before I checked into the Red Roof Inn in North Charleston.  The dogs had some water and were offered food, which they ignored, and we took a quick stroll.  Some places have designated pet areas with poop bag dispensers and garbage cans.  Some just have a sign on a grassy place for pets.  This had neither.  Narrow strips of grass surrounded the property and in some parts, you could barely see the grass through the poop.  It’s not the hotel’s fault but it is unpleasant and makes me mad that people can’t clean up after their pets because it looks bad on the rest of us.

Back in the car for the drive downtown.  I plugged the address into my phone and let it tell me where to go.  The directions were simple but for some reason, what the phone calls streets and what the signs on the streets say are sometimes different.  And I missed a turn somewhere.  I wasn’t sure about it until I noticed that I was driving through a somewhat sketchy area.  Hmmmmmm dark parking lot and several high-end cars parked in an industrial area…It took me a little bit to figure out where to go but soon, we were in downtown Charleston.

My first impression?  Gorgeous.  Historic buildings, clean streets, just lovely.  I parked the car and since we had an hour to burn, we walked around a little.  I was a bit peckish and was looking for somewhere to grab a snack.  Then I got distracted looking at the scenery and forgot I was hungry until it was time to go back to Washington Park for our Ghost Tour.  That’s right.  We went on a Ghost Tour.

Our walk was through Old Charleston Tours and was 90 minutes of walking around downtown Charleston with our guide, Mike Brown, who also has a podcast series.  It was highly entertaining and he is a very engaging speaker.  For $20.00 USD, it was a great way to spend time with the dogs.  And they were so well behaved, sitting or laying down at our stops, when they weren’t getting attention from others on the tour or passersby.  We didn’t see any ghosts but we did have a wonderful time.

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Jack is not possessed. I hope.

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Did anyone tell the ghosts that?

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I love iron fences.

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No filter needed.

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Yup iron and trees.

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A theatre we passed.

After the tour, I walked around for a few more minutes to take some photos.  I was surprised at how empty the streets were even for a Tuesday night.  I think we were the only ones left out.  I drove back to the hotel (without taking the scenic route) and realized that I was STARVING.  I set out trying to find something within walking distance that was not a chain restaurant but to no avail.  Turns out, there was a diner back down the road that we had passed on the way to the hotel.

So back in the car we went to Nick’s Gyros and Philly’s.  I decided to go through the drive thru and when I got to the speaker, I ordered the chicken gyro.  Anything else?  My brain said a salad but my mouth said “shrimp po boy” before I really even knew what a shrimp po boy was.  Well it’s a sandwich roll with provolone cheese, lettuce, and sauce.  Oh yes.  When I pulled up to the window, the man working there saw Leo looking out the window and started talking to him: “hey buddy this isn’t for you” with a big smile.  OK anyone who talks to my dogs like they’re people gets big respect from me.

I tried eating the gyro in the car but it was a bit soupier than I normally like.  It was still almost gone by the time I got us back to the room.  I wasn’t sure if the po boy was a good idea but after the gyro, I was still hungry so I was glad that I got it after all because I was stuffed by the time I finished.

With the dogs sprawled out around me, I slid and twisted my way under the blankets after a very long and fun day.