Painting Trip, Days 5 & 6

(Note – still posting late due to exhaustion! Trying to stay current…)

Well, I missed a couple days because I was just too tuckered to write about it. I’ll catch up now…

Friday, was our last day of the painting workshop. Again I went in two hours early to paint but I could feel myself wearing down. I had packed my lunch and I also went through McD’s for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich to take with me.

Fortune was with me as I pulled into the North Entrance parking lot and there was an available space. This would make it easier to load up everything at the end of the day.

I trekked through the lot, into the building and was halfway down the hall when I realized I left my breakfast sandwich in the car. I hesitated for a moment, but I realized I DID have my coffee. That would have to do. I didn’t have it in me to go back to the car for a sandwich. And if that’s all I lose on a trip like this, then I’m good.

Up the four flights of stairs I went, hopefully for the last time, and felt my knees about to give out. By the last flight I was literally pulling myself up by the railing and willing my legs to keep going. I was just glad it was early and no one else could see me struggling on the stairs. “Last day… last day… last day…” I told myself with each step.

When John walked in about 8:30, he grinned at me and said, “first one here and last one to leave!”

“Yep,” I replied, “I don’t want to miss anything!”

Gradually everyone else wandered in and we all settled down to painting for the rest of the morning. After lunch, we looked at numerous slides of paintings and went over all the lessons of the week. It was a lot of information and I felt like my brain was completely full.

Here’s Nancy Marshall, who owns Walls Gallery at the Greenbrier with her husband David. She and artist John Poon are discussing her work in progress.

Nancy & John 2

There was a final critique of the work we had done and I was pleased with my efforts. I don’t have anything else finished enough to show here, but soon I will.

Then, of course, it was time to pack up. I had been dreading this moment. Again I was fortunate. My classmate, Lorine, offered to go get a hotel cart for us to share. Oh joy! She went for the cart and I began scraping my palette clean. It’s a messy job and I was just finishing pulling everything together when Lorine got back. Her gear is acrylic (mine is oil) so she didn’t have as much to clean up.

It was a long journey back down as the elevators are tucked away and not very convenient. When we got outside, I made two trips to the car and back. I still wanted to stop in the Gallery and chat with Nancy – who had organized this whole class – before I left. The gallery is quite beautiful and high-end for our part of the country. Nancy has been in the gallery business for over 30 years and she works tirelessly to promote truly fine art from both the artist side and the client side. Artists generally need professional representation and buyers generally need guidance in developing their collections. Nancy and David, being artists themselves, are truly expert at the entire process.

Nancy was kind enough to let me snap some photos of some of the gallery pieces for my own enjoyment later. My favorite piece in Walls Gallery right now is a very large landscape (48×60) by John Poon. My photo does not do it justice or portray the absolute glow it has in real life. Also, David makes sure that the Gallery pieces are framed correctly. He designs the frames, has them milled from raw wood and finished by skilled craftsmen in 24 carat gold leaf. Some are finished in equally fine silver. Here is John’s exquisite landscape priced at $24,500.

Poon Landscape

And here’s a funny tidbit… just a few days ago, when John arrived to teach this class, he was looking at this painting on the gallery wall. He immediately saw an area he wasn’t completely happy with, so he snuck down to the gallery at 2am, got out his paints and touched it up. He was careful to stay out of sight of security so as not to get caught!

So that’s it for this workshop for me. I am beyond tired but I can honestly say it is the best class I’ve ever taken. I can’t wait to type up my notes and think more about it all as I plan to paint more. This workshop did exactly what a workshop should do… refresh, stimulate and enable the artist to grow. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity.

Greenbrier Red Lobby1I didn’t have a chance to see a lot of the Greenbrier, but I did decide to go to the Ladies’ before I left for the last time. I had to go up to a different floor and I walked up on this “lobby” that was too big to even capture in one photo. I took a couple shots here… I can’t imagine what other gems are in this place that I didn’t get a chance to see! (You reallly MUST click on these photos to enlarge them to see the grandeur!!!!)Greenbrier Red Lobby2

Driving back to Lewisburg I felt the tiredness wash over me so I did not go out to eat. I had enough leftovers at my room that needed to be consumed or they would go to waste. So one more chat with Lynn, a bite to eat, a hot bath and to bed. In the morning I need to pack up and move on. Lynn’s home was a delightful respite that made my stay so enjoyable.

Now here’s an unexpected twist…

I’ve been planning this trip for weeks and somehow I did not book accommodations for Saturday night. What?

Well, nothing to do but roll with it. My next stop is a motel in Knoxville TN so I called and asked them to add Saturday night to my Sunday night reservation. Turns out it wasn’t so simple. I had a special rate for Sunday because I had booked more than two weeks ahead ($84) but now there was some big ball game in town and there were no rooms available anywhere. However, Country Inn & Suites would have mercy on me and squeeze me in on Saturday night for an additional $300…

I guffawed… and guffawed again because I’m so tired I’m slaphappy.

So a last minute scramble on AirBNB found me a room for two nights in Sevierville TN for even less than the Country Inn’s special rate. I enjoyed calling them back to completely cancel.

When I woke up Saturday morning it was time to pack. I rolled out of bed and went down the 3 stairs to the main floor and my knees screamed in protest. Ohhh… I finally let down my vigilance and realized I’m gonna pay for all those stairs. I need the Tin Man’s oil can for my joints and some ibuprofen to keep going.

Lynn and I hugged goodbye and I was on the road right at 9am. I had almost 5 hours to go through the mountains and it took me 6 hours because I stopped a couple times. Which was fine with me as I’m not in a rush and I’m enjoying the drive and the view. I actually saw 3 different accidents – all on the other side of the divided highway, thank goodness. One was a jack-knifed truck with traffic at a standstill for about a mile. People were milling around outside their cars while they waited.

I couldn’t quite see the second accident – only the wrecker’s lights – and again the road was closed and traffic backed up for a good mile. Eeks. Made me be much more watchful.

The third one was a lady who had catapulted right down into the middle of the large grass median. She had left a trail of deep tracks and was just emerging from her vehicle looking pretty shaken. Must have been a wild ride but she looked ok. Yikes!

At any rate, I found my destination even after missing the turnoff twice. But that’s normal for me. Now I’m settled into someone’s Mountain home, first floor all to myself. The owner, Liz, and her adult son James are extremely welcoming. They fussed over me nonstop and made sure I was comfortable. Liz also told me to keep the outside door shut all the time because the free-roaming chickens like to come right on in. And that is true! Every time I went to the car, they would run up to investigate. They must think seeing humans means food or something.

I grabbed my camera and took some photos of the chickens. Look at this strange little silky… isn’t he a hoot?!

silky 3

I also snapped some shots of the view of the mountain…

TN mountain 5

And then… my camera went black. Time to charge the battery. Except the battery won’t charge. I fooled and fooled with it but I don’t know if the problem is the battery or the charger or both. This is AGGRAVATING!!! I’m only half way through my trip and I NEED this camera! I’ll have to deal with it tomorrow.

Later in the evening I went to sit outside and Liz and her grandson Josiah came up to chat. Josiah introduced himself and gave me a nice firm handshake – which was very impressive. He and I began to talk.

“Are you a real artist?” Josiah asked.

“Indeed I am,” I replied. “Would you like to see a couple sketchbooks?”

His eyes lit up and at that, his brother and sister and Liz and her son James (the kids’ uncle) all gathered round. James is an accomplished photographer and musician and showed me an unusual instrument he was currently working to master. I can’t even tell you what it is since I had never seen one before!

So we looked through my sketchbooks and everyone loved them. Josiah asked me, “what’s your secret? How do you draw so well?”

I told him there really isn’t a secret – it’s a lot of learning and practicing, but if you want to do it you probably can. Then I could see the wheels turning in Josiah’s head.

“How old do you think I am?” he asked.

“12,” I guessed.

Josiah laughed out loud.

“Up or down?” I asked.

“Down.”

“11.”

“Nope.”

“10”

“Nope.”

“Don’t even tell me you are 9!”

“Yep,” grinned Josiah.

Now this kid is tall, charming, articulate and handsome. The world better watch out on this one…

“OK,” I said. “Do you think you can draw something as simple as a coffee cup?”

“Of course,” he said. “If I had a pencil and paper…”

“You wait right here,” I instructed. And I went back inside and got pencil, paper and a coffee cup. I brought it back outside and sat him on the ground and the cup on the concrete in front of him. “Draw,” I told him.

beginner coffee cupJosiah did a good job but it was a typical newbie drawing where the top of the cup was way too round and the bottom very flat. It’s just a matter of not understanding the shape of a cylinder. And how would he if no one had shown him?

I said, “OK, Josiah, good job. Now I want you to go inside and bring me out one of those bar stools.” He and his 7 year old brother Brandon raced to get the stool. We set it up in front of where I was sitting and set the coffee cup on it for me to draw. “Stand right beside me, Josiah, and watch.” He jumped into place. His Uncle James scooted right in beside him.

coffe cupI began to draw with an oval for the top and explained the perspective. Then I drew a dotted line down the center and told Josiah that since the cup is exactly the same on both sides, you can match the sides up with a center line. You also draw a curved line at the bottom. Then I pointed out the shadow and put that in.

Josiah was adorable. He kept looking at his Uncle James and saying, “I can see it before she even draws it!” And I knew he could FEEL it, which is what I always do. And that’s something you can’t teach. Josiah’s got it and he doesn’t even know it yet.

At that point a few raindrops started coming down and Josiah was disappointed to stop even though James had gotten the kids a movie to watch. So we all piled back into my digs, James drug out a folding table and set it up and we continued. Brandon wanted in on the action so James found another coffee cup, I got out some more pencils and paper and we all began to draw. I told the kids they would miss their movie if they didn’t go upstairs soon, but they didn’t care. “We never get art lessons!” exclaimed Josiah.

Josiah also grew thoughtful and told me he missed his grandmother who passed away a while back. Then he commented to me… “you have the same face.”

“A grandma face?” I asked.

“Yeh,” he said, and smiled at me. It made my heart swell right up with affection for this child I don’t even know. I hope Josiah will remember this evening when an artist visitor came to stay for a couple days at his granny’s house. I know I will.

James wrote down a supply list to get the kids (and himself) for later and we had a blast. And Brandon was exceptional! I think he has natural talent that just needs guided and he’ll end up an architect or an artist or both.

Finally the kids’ parents came back to collect them and they were still in my place drawing their little hearts out. Completely missed their movie and didn’t care. I even fed them some candy that they don’t normally get, so they were happy. In fact, Brandon took a couple pieces of candy and ran them upstairs to his little sister Serenity, age 5, so she didn’t miss anything. He’s a sweet little guy.

So my trip continues to be eventful and fun and full of the unexpected. Now I need to find a camera battery or charger or both. Egads… of all times!!!

Painting Trip, Day 4

Looooonnnnnng Day!

I was so tired last night all I could do was go to bed, so that meant I could get up early this morning. The alarm went off at 6 am, I hopped up and packed my lunch and off I went. I got to the Greenbrier two hours early and had the classroom all to myself. And I got a lot done.

When the instructor, John, arrived, I was able to get a private critique and keep painting. Good stuff.

As everyone trickled in, we worked on our individual paintings until John was ready to demo. Today’s demo was on CLOUDS. And again, just as with yesterday’s lesson on TREES, I was totally captivated. I know that sounds silly to someone who doesn’t paint, but you really can’t do these things unless someone shows you how. People think artists have some sort of God-given talent that flows out the end of their arm, but that simply is not true.

clouds

Art is a science and a craft that needs to be studied to be understood. A lifetime is not enough to gain mastery, although some are ahead of others. That’s why I take classes. Any hint I can get to improve my work is fuel for my passion to do artwork. And I DO get excited by subjects like TREES and CLOUDS. Everything you do builds on something you’ve learned.

Our afternoon lecture was on DESIGN. This one was harder for me to understand but I think I started getting the hang of it toward the end. Gads! How much can one person absorb at a time? I feel like I need to take the cork out of the top of my head so old stuff can flow out and new stuff can flow in…

By 5 pm I was beat. That’s 10 hours for me today in the studio but I was glad for every moment of it. Tomorrow will be our last day of class and I will be sad when it ends. Information-wise, that is. Myself… I’m wearing down a bit. But only because I haven’t kept such a full schedule in a while. But this has been an absolute blast and the most “learning” I’ve done in ages and ages.

Food & FriendsI think I was a zombie on my drive back to Lewisburg. However, I like to go to dinner after a long day like this and tonight I went to Food & Friends. Another excellent place. For as small as Lewisburg is (>4,000 population) they have a number of restaurants and retail shops way bigger than their local community.

This place is famous for steaks and seafood. The special of the day was beer-battered grouper, some fried oysters, fried shrimp, coleslaw and wedding soup (if you got soup instead of salad.) I did. And it was scrumptious…

F & F meal 1Also, the bread comes baked in a flowerpot. It is an over-sized yeast roll and when you put real butter on it… it is heaven. You could go to this restaurant for this bread alone!

By the time I got back to my room I wondered if I could even make it in the door. My knees were aching, I was walking all gimped up and I needed to process this day and get ready for tomorrow. I really felt totally exhausted but totally exhilarated at the same time. Weird… and tiring.

So here’s my finished painting from today. I don’t think it will look any different from what I usually do to those who know me, but I have made leaps and bounds mentally in this class. And this is a nice little painting.

Farmhouse ptg2

Now off to bed so I can go in early again tomorrow and not waste any class time. Can’t wait!

Painting Trip, Day 3

Today was a really good day.

It makes me so happy to say that because there’s nothing better than a really good day that makes you just enjoy your life.

It was Day Two of the painting workshop so I set off for the Greenbrier a little after 8 AM. Lo and behold, I drove right up on a close parking spot. Hooray! What a good start!

A couple of classmates were late so I had time to sit and chat with the instructor, John Poon. He’s a very interesting man… but then I think I am rather interesting, too. So it was fun.

The first lecture of the day was on…. TREES.

This might sound a little strange, but trees are not really the easiest things to paint. I’ve never done them very well at all. I’ve studied pictures in books and been mystified as to how you achieve a believable look to a bank of trees. Well, today I found out how to do it.

John broke the process down to the basics and explained exactly how to portray the various shapes so that they end up looking like a real tree and not a splattery mess. I’ve never been so fascinated with such a mundane subject. Honestly, it was like I had a brain-shift. Or a Eureka moment. Finally, I understand how to paint a tree. I don’t know that I can actually do it yet, but I know how to approach it now.

Then John did a painting demo of a landscape of trees. I pulled up a chair as close as I could get, notebook in hand, camera at the ready and was glued to the spot. Frankly, it can be pretty slow watching someone paint – it isn’t miraculous or anything – but I wasn’t one bit bored. I could have watched him paint all day.

Poon Demo 1

We broke for lunch and I was glad I had my packed pasta. John kept touching up the demo painting off and on and I was a captive audience. When I find a good teacher like this, I just can’t get enough. I don’t want to be annoying, but I’m not going to waste any time, either.

After lunch we painted for an hour and a half and then gathered around for another lecture. This time on “color.”

Oh my!

I’ve studied color a lot. A whole lot. I’m no dummy about color. But John totally took it to another level. Really, how can I have been painting my whole life and not know some of these things? I’m totally gobsmacked by the information I am getting in this workshop. It has been worth every penny and then some. In fact, I’m so excited by what I am learning that I’m pretty much on a “high.” It is literally fueling me up from the inside out.

So I’m halfway through the workshop… two days down and two to go. I’m planning on going in early in the morning to paint by myself before everyone else gets there. I have to try out some of this new stuff I’m learning while I’m all set up and ready to paint.

After class, I enjoyed the 10 mile drive back to Lewisburg. The country roads are so pretty and it gives me a few minutes to decompress. This time, when I got back to town, I stopped at a Mexican place, Del Sol Cantina. Their little courtyard is covered in flowers and the service was quite good. And once again, I have more than half of my supper left to pack for lunch tomorrow.

Del Sol

Now all I have to do is repeat last night’s routine… a glass of wine, a hot bath and a comfy bed.

Right now it is raining softly outside and the windows are open to let in the fresh air. What a good night to snooze in a mountain hideaway!

mountain rain

Painting Class, Day Two

Note: I am still a day behind. This is yesterday’s post just getting loaded today…

So far I’m tired and the art class at the Greenbrier Resort hasn’t even started yet! I got up early to have a cup of tea, get my bearings and re-organize my art supplies. I had called the class organizer last night and asked just how we were supposed to manage getting gear into the building. She told me to drop things off at the “North Entrance,” go park the car, and someone from the gallery would help me.

Uh… yeh.

There’s just no way to easily transport a heavy, solid wood French Easel, a tackle box of paint and a huge tote of wood panels, mineral spirits, paper towels, etc. Not to mention a hat, painting apron, bug spray, sunscreen, a water bottle and assorted snacks. I was dreading this part of the whole thing.

North EntranceI got to the Greenbrier early, got my daypass and found the North Entrance. Look at this… pretty snazzy for a “side door” doncha think? I pulled up, unloaded my stuff to the porch and went to look for a parking place. Ugh. Nothing to be had. So I circled like a vulture until I found one and then walked back to where I had left my things. Really, it wasn’t that far, but since I haven’t been walking, I was a huffing, puffing mess in no time. And I still didn’t know where I was going.

Plus… I wore decent shoes instead of my tennies and I already had blisters on my heels.

It wasn’t even 9 AM.

I found my way to the gallery – two more trips of schlepping – and they weren’t open. So I parked my stuff and sat on a bench in the hallway. A tufted, padded bench in a very GRAND hallway. I got my breath and waited.

Before long someone came and opened the Gallery and asked if that was my stuff outside the door.

“Yep,” I replied.

“You need to go to the West Virginia room with all this.”

“Do you have a cart I can use?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” said the young girl, “but when the owner gets here, she’ll know what to do.”

“I’ll wait,” I said. I had no intentions of moving another inch in this enormous place without assistance.

Fortunately, the gallery owner was very accommodating. She not only produced a cart, but an able-bodied man to steer it. Off we went through a maze of over-decorated splendor from a century past. I was gawking all the way.

Once settled into the class room, others began to trickle in. Turns out they weren’t particularly dressed any nicer than me – AND they had a ton of stuff, too. The difference was they knew what to do…

Each had pulled up to the front door, valeted the car and had a bellman load their gear onto a cart. Duh.

I complained a bit about my “hike” from the car and lack of convenient parking and one lady said, “I just gave the valet $5 and he parked the car for the day.”

“But there will be a different valet when you go out later and you’ll have to pay him, too!” I observed.

“Oh, it’s worth it,” she replied.

Hmmm. I guess I can walk a few blocks each way for 10 bucks. Even if I do huff and puff.

Anyway, I was settled in and the fun was about to begin. I had read great reviews of the artist-instructor, John Poon, and I was excited to get started.

We went around the room introducing ourselves and John asked each of us what we would like to get from the workshop. Then John told us to pick out a photo from the stack he had on the table and spend 45 minutes doing a quick study painting of it. That way he could observe us. He would be able to tell a lot by seeing how each person approached the assignment.

No one produced anything great, including me. But it was nice to cover a small canvas in a short time.

Soon it was time for lunch. There are several restaurants available and I chose to just walk downstairs with several other ladies to the one called Dorothy Draper’s. Ms. Draper was an iconic decorator who outfitted the Greenbrier in its over-the-top décor. Evidently she was considered America’s most influential “tastemaker” at the height of her career and the Greenbrier has maintained her oversized floral patterns everywhere. Some look rather classic to me. Others are down-right gawdy. I can’t say I’m a huge fan.

drapers-header

The restaurant looked like a princess pink room gone mad. The back of the floral print booths are scalloped with gold finials at each point. Rather like a faux throne. Or a pepto bismol explosion.

Even though this is the “low-end” restaurant that will let you enter in casual attire, I knew it would still be pricey. I enjoyed a $20 hot dog.

Actually the hot dog was $8 and the iced tea was $4. (Wow!) I was chatting when the bill came and the receipt was quite faint. I saw the total was $15.95 and thought, hmmmm… that added up fast! But I just wrote $5 on the typical “tip” line and handed it over. Later when I looked more closely, here was the charge: hot dog, $8… iced tea, $4… Historic Preservation Fund, 78 cents… 20% service charge, $2.40. THEN the line I added the $5 tip to said “extra gratuity.”

The kicker is the bottom of the receipt says, “For your convenience, a service charge has been added to your check.” Evidently they are somehow doing me a favor by serving me an $8 hot dog and a $4 glass of iced tea. I can’t imagine what dinner in the main dining room must cost!

Two of my lunch companions did not bat an eye at this. They both own HOMES on the Greenbrier property. Neither lives there full time. It’s just one of their getaway places. No wonder valet parking is a given. Just part of the lifestyle. A lifestyle I haven’t really been exposed to. Here are some typical cottages at Greenbrier…

Greenbrier cottage

Still, I enjoyed the lunch and the hike back to our classroom. I would love to walk around the Greenbrier to see more of it while I’m here. It is absolutely endless.

Back in class, John gave a rather long lecture with slides on “values” – which is the lightness and darkness of the paint colors you use. And now I could see what a good teacher he really is. The information was quite eye-opening and not quite like anything I had heard before. It will take me a bit of practice to learn it, but it is good stuff that should help me a lot.

Then we painted again, trying to use this new information. And this is the frustrating part of any workshop… trying to do something new and just making a mess. It always happens.

When the day ended, I trekked back to my car and drove the 10 miles back to Lewisburg. As I was going through the small downtown I noticed an open parking spot right in front of the Stardust Café. Everyone had recommended this place to me, so I took the spot and went in.

Stardust cafe

The place is small, but charming, and has a very good chef. The service was great and my plate of Sicilian Pasta was huge. I boxed up more than half of it to go because it will make a perfect lunch tomorrow. I’d much rather take my lunch than try to eat at the Greenbrier. In spite of what they call their “impeccable standards” I find it all very pretentious. No more $20 hot dogs for me – although I CAN say I had one at the Greenbrier Resort!

So it was a good day and I learned a lot. Now all I need is a glass of wine and a hot bath in the lovely clawfoot tub back at my room. And tomorrow is tennis shoes only. Darn the blisters!

candle-lit-bubble-bath-300x224

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

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