Day One of the September 2015 Painting Trip

Note: this post was written yesterday but I didn’t have time to get it posted. It’s a day late and I have so much more to write!

Well, after a long hiatus, I am getting back to painting again. The urge continues to hit me every once in a while and off I go. Three years ago it was Italy… now it is the Midwestern USA.

A couple months ago I got a longing to take a really good workshop and began to search for one. It was trickier than I thought to find something within my budget. Most of the ones I really wanted were in arty hot spots that were very expensive and/or too far away. And I really don’t want to pack art gear to fly. I have enough trouble getting myself through an airport as it is.

However, I am infamous in my family for getting super-sleepy while driving. No matter how short the trip! Love of the open road? Not me…

Still, I found two workshops that I thought I could get to and inquired about them. Both were full. Drats.

But a short time later I got a notice that one class had an opening if I wanted it. Even though it was my second choice, I jumped on it. I was excited to have it booked.

Then… the other class opened up as well! Oh no! I’d already sent my deposit to the first one and there was no going back. Sooooo … I booked it, too! Turns out one is the week after the other and they ARE within driving distance of each other… for a normal person. It’s gonna be a stretch for me.

And that’s how I spent a couple weeks gathering paints and brushes and prepping several sizes of panels to paint on. Next was finding accommodations.

Have you heard of the website called AirBNB? Let me tell you, it is fabulous. You plug in your location and up comes a network of people who rent out rooms in their home in the style of a Bed and Breakfast. The descriptions are great, there are reviews and pics of everything, and you can find rooms cheaper than the local chain motel. I found charming places with private rooms and bath near where I needed to go. Voila!

Finally Labor Day arrived today and I was packed and ready to go. It was no small feat as I am an “over-packer” and can’t seem to quit it. Add art gear to that and there was almost no room for me in the car!

Today was sunny and hot but I had a small cooler beside me and a clipboard of Mapquest directions for every twist and turn I was about to drive. Now the trick would be to stay awake.

I set off from home with a cup of black coffee and no breakfast. I had to drive just over 5 hours to the far side of West Virginia, so I wanted to go an hour and a half before I stopped. Then I could get brunch.

About 40 minutes from home I felt my eyes getting heavy. I HATE this feeling in the car. And I really don’t know why it always happens but driving just seems to lull me to sleep!

I began to talk to myself and then to sing. Loudly. “Summer ti- ime! And the livin’ is eaaazzzyyy…” It helped a little. I cranked up the air and blew it toward my face. That was better. I reached in the cooler for a piece of string cheese and worked on that for a while. Finally, the sleepiness passed.

I was so proud of myself I started to think about what I was hungry for. Breakfast. Waffle House. Eggs and those crazy smothered, covered & scattered home fries. Oh yeh. Surely I would see a Waffle House soon and get my reward for driving myself through the sleepies.

But there was no Waffle House. In fact, things were getting pretty sparse in the foothills of the Appalachians. And I was getting mighty hungry. Oh if only I had some Doritos and a Diet Coke out of the trunk! The crunch would keep me going!

Eventually I saw a truck stop. Not one of the big glam fancy places. Just a worn looking local deal, but it seemed like the real thing. I swung in. Surely they would have eggs and hash browns. Otherwise it would be a pit stop and I would keep going.

Indeed they had what I wanted. “Whatcha drinking, hun?” asked the waitress, an older gal with a streaky blonde pony tail, rolled up faded jeans and slip-on scuffed tennies. “Diet cola,” I replied. And I grabbed a greasy menu to make my choice.

Later, after two eggs, bacon, home fries and a biscuit with sausage gravy, I was refreshed. I didn’t eat it all, of course. I’ve still gotta lot of driving to do!

mountainsBack on the road I soon crossed in West Virginia. A little while after that I was on the turnpike. Up and down through the mountains I went. Not a straight inch of highway anywhere. In fact, I discovered that W VA, the Mountain State, is the only state that lies completely within the Appalachian Mountain region. Nearly 80% of this state is covered in hardwood forest. No wonder John Denver dubbed it “Almost Heaven.”

wv_new_river_gorge_bridge_allNow that I was no longer sleepy I was enjoying the drive immensely. Soon I came to the New River Gorge area. I had been here once before to go white-water rafting – an adventure that scared the bejeebers out of me – and I looked over that marvelous bridge at the rapids below. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to cross that engineering marvel in one swift minute at 60 miles an hour and not worry about going overboard! I’m an artist, not an athlete!

I did make one more stop to get gas and stretch my legs and then it was on to the final hour of driving to my destination. I had booked a room in a small bungalow in Lewisburg, about 10 miles from where my art workshop will be held at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. It would have been nice (and convenient) to stay at the Greenbrier, but it was exhorbitant.

The Greenbrier offered a “special” to class participants… 3 nights for the price of 2. All yours for $951!

That’s crazy talk. No can do.

My directions took me straight to the sweet little bungalow and my hostess, Lynn was out working in the yard. I could tell immediately that I would be right at home.

Lynn gave me the “tour” while I decided what had to come in out of the car. Her house is so cozy I could move right in. Very Craftsman in style, and her touches are so eclectic and charming that I just smiled to look around. She is one of my “tribe.” That I know.

I took a break in my room and made sure I could get on the internet (I AM an internet junkie, you know.) Then it was time to check things out. I decided to drive the 10 miles over to the Greenbrier to be sure of where I would be going in the morning. And boy am I glad I did!

Lewisburg is very small – less than 4,000 population. And the 10 miles over to White Sulphur Springs on Route 60 is cut right out of the side of the mountain. You are in the heart of things here. Rock ledges rose and fell on either side and modest little homes dotted the landscape. I began to wonder how something as grand as Greenbrier got to this remote place.

Turns out it was all about “the springs.” Wealthy folks have been coming to this area to “take the waters” since 1778. The Greenbrier sits on 10,000 acres and boasts 710 rooms, 10 lobbies, 40 meeting rooms and a convention center. It is a National Historic Landmark.

When I came upon the main entrance gate, the grounds suddenly became masses and masses of flowers. But you can’t just drive right in. There is a uniformed guard in the gate house that will inquire why you are there. I explained that I was checking it out as to where to go in the morning for the art class. He gave me a pass and let me through but told me not to pull up under the front awning.

As I went back the drive the trees opened up and the first view of the immense building was spectacular! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more majestic sight. The white façade against the backdrop of the immaculate grounds in the mountain setting was simply stunning. I’m pretty sure I gasped out loud.

Greenbrier1

Then I noticed the parking. Or should I say the lack of parking. Luxury cars were lined up in a single row on both sides of the entrance but were roped off. When I began to come back around the drive I saw a parking lot off to the side but it had a sign proclaiming “valet parking only.” Evidently much of the parking on the grounds is valet only.

I stopped at the gate house and handed the guard my pass. “I’m confused,” I said. “How will I get my art supplies into this grand place?”

“Well,” he replied. “You can drop them off at the front, then go park over there,” and he pointed across the road from the entrance, “and take the shuttle back to the resort.”

“Oh great,” I thought. “I am not that organized so I’m going to have to repack everything and I’ll still look like a schlep going into this place.” Because on top of that, they have a dress code! I’m not sure how far it applies to people coming in for the day, but it’s pretty prominently displayed. For instance, people are only permitted to wear swimsuits and robes in the actual pool and spa areas. The dining areas do not allow tank tops, short shorts, sweatpants, cut-offs or baseball caps. Children over the age of 10 are expected to be dressed the same as the adults.

The more casual dining rooms allow “resort wear” – collared sport shirts, dress slacks and walking shorts. Then there’s Business Casual – but jackets are suggested for men. IF you wear denim it should be “well-kept and in a dark shade.” However no denim is allowed in the Main Dining Room or in the Casino Club after 7pm. Think James Bond…

So now I’m worried. I had planned to wear capris with decent-looking tops and tennis shoes for comfort. I’m not currently used to standing all day to paint. Now what?

At any rate I’ve got to condense my gear and spiff myself up and I’m not quite sure how to pull that off. Hopefully I’m not the only one in this predicament.

Meanwhile I am enjoying this lovely home I am staying in. Lynn has a “star curtain” of LED lights on her dining room window and she left it on for the night so I could find my way to the bath. I was so delighted with the look of it that I got out my camera and took a photo in the middle of the night. I have to find one of these star curtains for myself!

star curtain 1

So, time to get ready and see if I can get myself transported to the Greenbrier in one manageable piece. I feel like I’m off to OZ…

star curtain 2

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patti
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 21:05:57

    Waaaaaaay to cool, my friend…..That room was just made for you, wasn’t it. I KNOW you are loving every second!!….On to No,2!

    Reply

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