Clueless on Vacation

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Last week, with two kids shipped off to sleep-away camp in West Virginia, I realized that we could slip away for a few days… if only we pawned off the remaining kid.

Martin and I did just that, and Wednesday, we hit the road for four days and nights. Our first stop: a resort in southern Virginia, a dozen miles shy of the North Carolina line.

We drove for hours down I-81, then plunged into the remote farmland and wilderness of Carroll and Patrick Counties. Our cell phone signal quickly evaporated and GPS struggled to emit directions. Near our destination, we stopped at a country store which offered local fare: homegrown produce, pickled eggs, salted pork, and Confederate emblazoned lawn ornaments.

We were torn between the Confederate flying pig and the racist rooster. Decisions, decisions.

 

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From there, it was just 5 miles to the resort. Or rather, the resort’s security gate — a sturdy, locked gate manned by a guard. A gate keeping out…who? The locals?

No need for a gate. It was another 7 winding miles to the main lodge. The resort, called Primland, sits atop 12,000 pristine acres. Its challenging and picturesque golf course attracts avid fans of the sport. But we were there for the hiking, the view, and the peace and quiet.

And it was peaceful, Alarmingly so. Rarely did we spot more than a few guests at a time, and all the while, the resort staff circled, magically appearing before we asked. They were so attentive, practically sensing what we needed. I soon wondered if this gated and immaculately maintained property was inhabited by zombies — while we and the reclusive guests were the only humans trapped inside. (Lately, I’ve been binging on episodes of the show, “Wayward Pines,” which fueled these thoughts.)

But enough about the creepy quiet and the friendly, overly attentive staff.

The place was fabulous.

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Here’s our room — located not in the lodge, but in one of the many cottages:

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A room with a view:

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After two days of hiking, eating and relaxing, we loaded up the car on Friday and made our way back up I-81. Next stop, the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. When we left Primland, the staff mentioned “some flooding” at Greenbrier, but that was it. In a cellular silent area, no flash-flood warnings chimed from our phones, and the radio station focused on the recent death of bluegrass legend, Ralph Stanley.

Only when we neared White Sulphur Springs, was the devastation apparent. We spotted fences flattened or uprooted, then mountain slides, and homes surrounded by murky, watery moats. In several places, the road was nibbled away and as we drew closer, we encountered big bites from the asphalt, with rushing water filling the gaps. I skirted around a “road closed” sign and navigated the flooded route  —  which was really quite stupid. But we were oblivious to the extent of the damage.

What was we found was a town of 2,400 torn apart by flooding. Most of the water had receded but the restaurants and shops were clogged with mud and mountainside run-off. Houses were splintered and unmoored from their foundations, and cars hung from trees. The town was darkened without power and telephone poles were sheared off and dangling from their lines. People walked along the road, dazed and in shock.

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When we arrived at the Greenbrier, the security guard chirped, “Checking in?” as if nothing was amiss. But he admitted that the flooding was bad: the area received 9 1/2 inches of rain, sometimes falling at a rate of 2 inches an hour. We pulled up to the dark, hallowed shell of the resort and confirmed that we weren’t checking in. The receptionist was relieved; they were staying open for a night for those unable to travel, but the hotel rooms had no power, the restaurants provided no food, and the casino and golf course were water-logged. We pressed on to Lexington, Virginia and stayed a night there before arriving home.

Here’s the Greenbrier golf course a day before we arrived:

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On that Friday afternoon when we arrived in White Sulphur Springs and took it all in, we were hit with a feeling of alarm. Hadley and Cayden’s camp was just 60 miles away. With cell phone service restored, Martin quickly called the camp. All was well, the staff told us. They received lots of rain, but dodged the storm’s epicenter. And the sun was back out. The kids were unaware of the damage and destruction just one county away.

Blissfully unaware. As kids at camp should be.

 

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