Road Trip USA-Cooper’s Rock and New River Gorge, West Virginia

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.  The first post of many on our road trip across the good ol’ U S of A.

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I know I promised a “live” blog to many of you, but doing this “live” isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  While driving across this great land of ours, I have a lot of time to think about what I’m going to write, but rarely much time to put it all together in blog form.  Even when I’m the passenger I’ve got many responsibilities including handing Paul his coffee and researching the fine food establishments at our next destination, all while being a proper navigator.  I’ve become a professional at juggling the good old-fashioned road map and the modern-day GPS.  In addition to all of the above, many times we are camping and while our tent has all of the best things L.L. Bean has to offer, Internet capabilities isn’t one of them.  That’s a good thing though.  It feels good to “disconnect” once in a while.

We began our trip on Saturday and headed towards Morgantown, West Virginia with Cooper’s Rock in mind as our first camping extravaganza.  We’ve been asked many times why we picked West Virginia as our first stop and all we can say is: we wanted to head west and we listened to a WVU graduate.  Those WVU graduates seem to have a lot of pride in the place.

You should know our Jeep is packed to capacity.  We are traveling without a backseat and before we left, we packed, unpacked, and repacked the thing at least five times.  We’ve got camping gear and hotel gear, plus a cooler and other miscellaneous items all jam-packed into a two-door Wrangler.  By the time we reach home again, we will be experts on packing a Jeep Wrangler efficiently for a road trip.  As I write this, we have already reconfigured our packing arrangement several times and dropped a few bags and a camp stove in the trash along the way. At the rate we are going, we expect we’ll arrive home with a tent and a toothbrush.

Our drive to West Virginia took us through Baltimore and through the beautiful hills and mountains of Western Maryland.

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It was hard to resist the temptation to spend a few hours in my favorite city of B-more, but I kept driving and pretended I didn’t see it as we passed.  I have a profound love for my little city and it was so hard to just pass through.

We reached a deserted Morgantown, West Virginia around 3 in the afternoon.  Perhaps because it is a college town and school is not in session, we did not get a real feel for the place.  We were extremely hungry at this point in the trip and decided to grab a bite to eat before heading into the wilderness.

Morgantown Food Find-Black Bear Burrito

I plan to do a food find for the tastiest places we find along the way.  While Morgantown may have seem deserted on the outside, Black Bear Burrito was still serving up late lunches and cold beverages late into the afternoon.  Paul picked the Sergeant Peppers burrito, while I chose the WV Hot Rod Wrap with tofu and fakin’.   Both were extremely delicious and satisfying.  Paul’s burrito was overflowing with rice, beans, peppers, and cheese and topped with kiwi salsa, while my wrap was filled with fresh lettuce, tomato, tofu, tempeh, cheese, and Dijon sauce.  Both came with a side of tortilla chips.  If I was a student at WVU, I’d probably be tempted to hit up this place every single day and I would recommend it to anyone who visits the area.  You can check them out online at www.blackbearburritos.com.

After filling up our tummies, we headed to Cooper’s Rock State Park to find a campsite for the evening.  Upon arrival to the park we were intrigued with how beautiful it was.  The drive in is amazing with tall trees lining both sides of the road.

We were able to get a campsite easily, but cut it close since there were only two remaining sites available for the evening.  The people who worked in the office were extremely polite and helpful and very welcoming.  Of course, as soon as we pulled into our site and started setting up camp, it started to drizzle.  This did not help our spirits any as we were still a little inexperienced setting up our new tent.  However, we got it up and spent some time sitting in our screened in front porch room listening to the rain hit the canvas of our tent.

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L.L. Bean’s King Pine Dome Tent=best tent ever!

Luckily, it didn’t rain long and we were able to go for a walk around the park.  When we returned from our stroll, we sat in our front porch area and listened to the owl lecture being conducted just outside our tent.  We learned a lot of useless knowledge about owls and I was highly disappointed the owl master did not bring any real owls to play with.  I totally expected someone with a Master’s Degree in wildlife to show up with an owl or two to complement the lecture, but unfortunately, the owls didn’t show.  Then he took a group of people on a nighttime owl hike.  We declined on the invitation which turned out to be a wise choice.  While walking to the dumpster to dispose of our garbage, we noticed the group was getting up close and personal with owls on the tour guide’s cell phone.  I don’t have a degree in this kind of stuff, but this guy needs to seriously get himself some real owls.  It would totally take his whole presentation up a notch.

We skipped dinner due to our late lunch and retired early since we were a little exhausted from driving.  We’ve got an extremely comfortable setup inside our tent with a queen size air mattress and comfortable pillows and blankets.  We were looking forward to a peaceful sleep until we realized we had the worst campsite neighbors in the history of campsite neighbors.  The couple behind us stayed up talking, singing, and squirting lighter fluid on their fire until 4:30 a.m.  I’m not kidding.  The girl was literally belting out Alison Krauss “When You Say Nothing At All” all through the night and even did a Stevie Nick’s rendition at one point.  Her singing was just awful and she kept us awake all night long.  Each and every time she put more lighter fluid on the fire, our tent lit up like the 4th of July and we feared our tent was going to go up in flames at any minute.

Despite our lack of sleep, we broke down our camp early and took a short hike out to Cooper’s Rock to check out the view.  The view here is amazing and it feels like you can see the entire state of West Virginia from this viewpoint.

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Afterwards we headed towards our next destination-New River Gorge.  New River Gorge is also another beautiful area of West Virginia known for this breathtaking bridge!  We stopped to capture some photos and then headed towards our overnight destination Asheville, North Carolina.

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Interesting Observation:

Have you ever seen these signs on a highway?

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They are rather disconcerting, especially while driving up and down mountains in a small Jeep alongside many large trucks.  A runaway truck ramp is a ramp off to the side of a highway consisting of a long lane of dirt or sand to slow the runaway truck down as it’s coming down a steep grade.  Luckily, we didn’t see any trucks running away.

Next post: Asheville, North Carolina…stay tuned!

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