My twelve readers will be happy or somewhat dismayed to learn that I am back.
For a period of five years when I was younger, I made it my mission to take an annual trip to West Virginia to go whitewater rafting. Each year I would round up as many of my friends as I could to accompany me. We did the New River in springtime and if the trip happened to come in the fall, we did the world class Upper Gauley River.
One year I was only able to get one friend to go with me. It was October and the weather was great for tent camping. Our plan was to spend the night at one of the nearby state parks and then take a trip down the Upper Gauley and its five class V rapids.
Due to what I’m sure was poor planning on my part, our trip unknowingly fell on Bridge Day weekend. Bridge Day is the one day a year when people who may be described as “adventurous” by some, or “crazy” by others, or “people who probably work in the HVAC field and have nothing left to lose” by me, are allowed to BASE jump, rappel, and bungee jump from the 876 foot high New River Gorge Bridge. It’s a big deal. The first one was held in 1980 and attracted around forty thousand people. Now, the nearly forty year-old festival brings in about one hundred thousand people. When my friend and I arrived in the area, we discovered that half of those hundred thousand people were camping, and the other half were making sure that every hotel we passed had a no vacancy sign lit up. For two hours we tried in vain to find somewhere to stay. Eventually we ended up at a gas station somewhere in the city of Beckley. Tired and out of options, we decided to ask the gas station attendant if there was a reasonably priced, reasonably clean motel in the area. He gave us the name of a place nearby.
A mile later we pulled in to the _____ __ ___ ____ Motel. I will withhold the name and savage them anonymously on Yelp later. It was one of those places where you get your key and park right in front of your room. You know, like the place in Psycho. We entered the room and immediately discovered that some people’s definitions of reasonably clean were way different than ours. There was a double bed, a dresser, on top of which sat an ancient TV, and a bathroom that was cleaner than a gas station bathroom, but still dirty enough to make you consider going outside to pee in the woods. To get from the front door to the bathroom, you had to turn sideways and shimmy between the bed and the dresser. The bedspread was dark enough and the lighting dim enough to hide all sorts of stains. Reminiscing on this, I also remember sleeping in a barn one night when I was in high school. That barn was probably cleaner, and much less likely to have been a murder scene. All of this was pretty funny to us at the time. Not wanting to touch the bed, we spread our sleeping bags on top of the bedspread and spent the next three hours wondering if the guys sitting in their car two doors down were eventually going to break in to our room, rough us up, steal the TV, and maybe clean the bathroom. Eventually we fell asleep. Just two guys in sleeping bags on a Korean War era double bed, dreaming about bed bugs.
The rafting was epic. It always is. Luckily, adrenaline makes up for energy lost to a bad night’s sleep. This is the part of the post where I recommend whitewater rafting in West Virginia. Bridge Day is a sight to behold. If you want to do Bridge Day right, sign up for a trip on the Lower New River that ends beneath the bridge. That way you can watch all the HVAC technicians leap out into thin air and what could be, but probably won’t be, certain death.