Roadtrip: (West) Virginia

I somewhat underestimated the drive time from Wilmington into West Virginia.  Traffic was actually not terrible, but I did not know that my GPS would route me nearly into DC (Outer Loop: ugh) before swinging west.  I had an initial target of the New River Gorge National Park, but by lunch I knew I wasn’t going to make it before the park closed.  And I needed a break to stretch my legs somewhere.

Panorama of Shenandoah Valley, Shenandoah Sky Drive

Panorama of Shenandoah Valley, Shenandoah Sky Drive

So I took a detour along the Shenandoah Skyline Drive: a scenic drive in a different national park that winds over the tops of the Appalachians, with every other bend giving you a pretty view into the valley below (overheard from a group of bikers sharing an overlook with me: “See, everyone gets so stuck on the idea of camping but this is beautiful”).  Also, a good ten degrees cooler up there than in the valley, a good thing when it seems like August and May have switched places.

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Lunch was at a kooky, definitely playing up the redneck place called The Apple House right inside Exit 13 on I-66.  Pork barbecue had a nice vinegary sauce but was on the dry and stringy side.

I finally made it into West Virginia nearing dusk, so I pulled over in Dawson and stayed at their one inn.  There was a stuffed bear in the lobby.  Okay.  It was clean and comfortable, anyway.

Less than a half an hour away from Dawson is the New River Gorge National Park, with one of the biggest, highest steel arch bridges in the world.  There’s a pretty gorgeous, if somewhat dodgy (since it’s one-way for most of the way, with very, very tight hairpin turns), scenic drive around the bridge–you cross the bridge, then wind down crumbling ochre sandstone cliffs to the river and cross a tiny, much lower bridge, then wind back up the other side.  Another route lets you park and hike along the rim of a canyon, which features a postcard-perfect meandering river at the bottom and flattish mountains all around.  I saw a fox and a deer (not photographed as were moving too quickly), tons of birds, some woodchuck thing (again, too quick), chipmunks and these lime green caterpillars.

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Last stop in West Virginia was Point Pleasant, site of a terrible bridge failure in the 1960s, following alleged sightings of a strange Mothman creature (no, I have not see the Richard Gere film).  Point Pleasant is pretty dead, but it does have a surprisingly well-stocked mini-museum about the Mothman sightings, the bridge disaster and the movie, with a lot of original clippings of contemporary news articles and eyewitness statements.  Good pitstop, especially as the next 40 or so miles of US 35 were devoid of anything.

Roadtrip realization one: If you’re trying to take it easy and be spontaneous, the GPS is sort of your enemy.  Or at least, the feature that updates the clock to show how much time your whimsical detours is adding is.

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Roadtrip: Wilmington, DE

I’ve been through Delaware a lot.  Amtrak, despite the constant delays and recent safety issues, is much preferred over the headache that is I-95, and so I can’t remember the number of times I’ve watched Delaware whizz by my window.

So I’m driving into it this time.  I am also trying out Airbnb, which provided me with a stopover point in Wilmington.  The house is a hundred thirty years old, currently owned by a veteran house-flipper (who was an encyclopedia of recs for not just Wilmington, but other Airbnb spots further down my route).  It’s Victorian, and it’s across the street from a Quaker Meeting House and graveyard that dates back to the 1730s. Several famous people from Ye Olde Colonial and American Revolution days are apparently in there somewhere.  The South Market Street Bridge is also a famous Underground Railroad landmark.  The current bridge isn’t actually the one that was used back then, but it hasn’t gotten much wider–barely three car lanes.

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Large swathes of Wilmington are like that, eras jumbled up with each other as if Dr. Caligari had been into architecture instead of insanity, and on top of that, houses frequently have cheerfully fluorescent paint jobs that make those old-fashioned accents pop.  The older architecture looks like New England, the color scheme looks like the South.  A bit weird but I kind of like it.

Wilmington, as have many other cities, has made its river frontage the center of a downtown revival effort.  However, I do appreciate that this revival forewent the tourist gimmicks like fountains and light-shows, and instead is going a more post-industrial route by incorporating the rusting hulks of old shipyards into the scenery.  Particularly cool was an urban nature reserve at the very, very end of the riverwalk–a long hike from the center of town, but worth it.  I couldn’t stay long enough to see anything but birds, but apparently there are beavers sometimes.  Beavers!  In a city!

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Some good eating in the downtown, though the revitalization is clearly still WIP.  La Fia, a little French-style bistro on Market and Fifth Streets, had some solid eats, although they were a little fussy with the garnish.  Tender smoky-charred octopus with these ridiculously tasty little potato nuggets (crispy outside, melt in mouth inside), a well-seasoned beef tartare, and a fresh little vanilla cake with strawberry sorbet and rhubarb syrup (the beet salad was okay, nothing to write about).  And one delicious American Pie milkshake at Scrumptious in Trolley Square: amaretto syrup, pulverized graham crackers for texture, and vanilla ice cream.

Weekend in the City: Tribeca 2

Sorry this is a little late…just to cover off, Justtwomorethings came down for the last weekend of Tribeca–unfortunately, weather wasn’t quite as nice as previous weekend, but it wasn’t snowing so I’ll take it.

We went to this little Thai place by our hotel for dinner. Neither of us had actually been before, but it turned out to be pretty good–I had the softshell crab with papaya salad, and Justtwomorethings had the noodles. The Crab wasn’t quite as good as the one in Hong Kong–It was a little dry, but not greasy, and the papaya salad was the right amount of light sweetness to counterbalance.

The movie–Mojave–was all the way over in Battery Park. Again, I’ll leave the full review to my sister, but it was…weird. And this is the second time I’ve seen Oscar Isaacs abandon an animal, and the third time he’s played a deviant, so…

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The next day we returned to NJ to meet Justtwomorethings’s friend for lunch. We ate at the Committed Pig in Morristown–I actually pass by this place everyday on the way to work, so was intrigued and meaning to stop by. it does do pig products well–my bacon was yummy and so was justtwomorethings’s croque madame (though the latter was too heavy to finish)