www.wvgazette.com Travel http://www.wvgazette.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WV Travel Team: Blue Ridge spa tour reaches Pa. http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ05/140809995 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ05/140809995 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For more than a century, fashionable society were at their leisure while they "took the waters" for their health, making summer-long pilgrimages to a string of resorts that lined the edge of the Blue Ridge. The southernmost spas included Sweet Springs and The Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs.

Farther north, it was Warm Springs and Berkeley Springs. The northernmost spa was Bedford Springs.

Whether it was Antebellum and the spas were all in Virginia, or post-Civil War when the circuit was divided into Virginia and West Virginia, Bedford Springs remained the odd man out - it was in Pennsylvania.

Today, the venerable Bedford Springs Resort is still in southern Pennsylvania, nestled on 2,200 acres, less than an hour's drive from the northern boundary of West Virginia.

It offers 21st-century travelers the same healing waters their ancestors found, now packaged with contemporary luxury.

The narrow entry road was once a stagecoach toll road from the town. It tracks Shober's Run, a prized spring-fed trout stream. Around the final bend, the vista of a many-windowed low-rising white hotel unfurls. Even the most sophisticated traveler can barely suppress a gasp of pleasure.

Once the Summer White House of Pennsylvanian James Buchanan, Bedford Springs Resort even has a charming small town a couple miles down the curving road.

The attractive streets of Bedford are lined with prosperous shops, trendy restaurants and businesses ranging from plumbers, chocolates and quilts to an art deco gas station and a 200-yea-old inn. Bells ring regularly. A coverlet museum is on the walking edge of town and a 1925 giant coffeepot at the entrance of meticulous fairgrounds.

Within a few miles, visitors can explore everything from the living history of Old Bedford Village to caverns to the Flight 93 9/11 Memorial to nine covered bridges.

Development of Bedford Springs Resort followed the familiar pattern for the historic Blue Ridge spas. Indian tribes used the waters, and colonists soon followed.

Seeing the need to lodge those who came for health cures, Dr. John Anderson established the resort in 1796. By 1804, there was a cluster of warm- and cold-water bathhouses, and the first lodging house was built.

The railroad arrived in 1872, launching a major expansion and building boom. Pavilions and colonnades ideal for the matchmaking of that resort era proliferated. A golf course was added in 1895 and continues to provide a major attraction.

As the 20th century closed, so did the resort - achieving the dubious status of "endangered landmark" in the process.

A group of investors stepped in, spending $120 million to renovate the resort to original plans, and it became the Omni Bedford Springs Resort. Part of that investment included balancing the historic facade with a new spa wing.

The bonus? They discovered the Eternal Spring, bringing the resort's total to eight.

Water remains a hallmark of Bedford Springs. Where once there was a "serpentine circuit" of the seven original springs, marked in the 19th century by fanciful pavilions and spring houses, now it's a rustic hiking trail.

The footbridge to the centerpiece Magnesia Springs is transformed to an engineered bridge. Walking sticks were traditionally kept at spring houses for use in navigating the springs circuit. Now a pair of walking sticks is placed in every guest room.

Negotiations with regulating authorities are underway to revive the 19th-century bottling of still and sparkling water from the springs.

An elaborate outdoor water course including an outdoor swimming pool was part of the recent renovation and there's a secluded spring-fed lake for fishing. Indoors, the Edwardian elegance of the 1905 pool was described as a "magnificent labrum, scrubbed clean and freshly filled daily from Caledonia Springs."

Today's regulations add a chlorinated aroma to the restored splendor.

The Bedford Bath Ritual that comes with every treatment in the 30,000-square-foot Eternal Spa evolved over the centuries from the original system developed by Dr. Anderson and the Bedford Cure of the 1930s. It uses water from all eight springs, a rare experience in spadom. A deluge shower, aromatic steam and alternating hot and cool soaks are all part of the ritual, which concludes with a botanical mist.

The extensive menu of spa treatments has facials, pedicures and massage. Flavors for treatments span more than two dozen botanicals, gems and caviar.

I encountered a quartet of women at the resort for a spa getaway. They were enthusiastically pleased with their stay at Bedford which included a complimentary upgrade to one of the two-bedroom suites.

Discovering I was from West Virginia, they wanted to know how Bedford Springs compared to The Greenbrier. I was prepared. I'd been making that comparison myself.

"The Greenbrier is grander and much bigger," I explained. "Bedford Springs is elegant but homier."

The intimate feel comes from endless nooks, crannies and sitting rooms tucked into curving hallways. Walls are hung with photos like family albums - except that they are images of 19th- and 20th-century guests, shown at hay rides and surrey outings, card games and cake parties.

"Miss Hiles' Willow Party" is captured in sepia tone next to a tally-ho party at the Colonnade. For someone not steeped in 19th-century hotel lore, a tally-ho was a type of stagecoach often used to transport guests from railroad to hotel.

Museum-quality display cases are filled with artifacts ranging from original 19th-century guest registers to a collection of hats.

The path from the dining rooms and central lobby to our rooms in the spa wing passed through my favorite public space. A library is often found in historic hotels. This one was not only lined with books and boasted a chiming grandfather clock, but had two standing-height tables devoted to jigsaw puzzles - and they were always occupied. Since I never saw a completed one, I assume people whiled away a period of time before moving on. For the puzzle-addicted, the official shop has two sizes - mini and full - of hand-cut wood puzzles of the resort.

There are also touches of grandeur. One of the most striking features is original to 1842 - the grand staircase, a Chinese puzzle of levels and flights crafted for dramatic entrances. A three-floor span and giant skylight illuminate the entire lobby.

Both sleeping rooms and dining areas benefit from 21st-century upgrades. The Frontier Tavern is now part of the circa 1806 Stone Inn, first on the property.

High-backed overstuffed leather chairs huddled around tables create privacy. Its two levels are strewn with sturdy glass dividers that double as showcases for antique implements and tools. Dark wood gives it all a tone of wealth that is old and comfortable. Walls of windows look out on the manicured grounds and a nightly fire pit.

We enjoyed a memorable dinner in the 1796 Room, adding a few dishes to the tasting menu. Tastes and textures were complex, portions substantial, and the pace leisurely as we lounged on a side-by-side couch served by solicitous black-clad staff.

The giant seared scallops served with corn puree and decorated with pea shoots and bacon lardons were perfect. My husband's spinach salad was filled with giant raspberries.

He decided on truffle dressing, then asked me as soon as the server left, "What are truffles?" I had no idea how they would taste but responded with confidence, "They're like mushrooms, only rare."

My wild mushroom dish was exceptional - a rich, full-bodied soup with slightly woody flavor. I muttered about the pan-roasted quail on smoked cheddar grits and the time wasted eating a bird of such minute scale, but even the teeny wings were tender.

The robust side dish of Cajun crayfish macaroni and cheese stretched our imagination and was virtually a meal in itself. Be warned: executive chef Dave Noto makes this a restaurant for eaters, not those who choose to admire three droplets of food artfully arranged on a plate.

During our dinner in 1796, I watched our young waiter ponder for a second whether to continue clearing the next table or respond immediately to my request for more water. When he chose correctly to serve the present guest, I wanted to tell him, "Good boy; you made the right choice. Your supervisor would be proud."

I felt validated in my almost immediate impression that the most notable feature of Omni Bedford Springs Resort is not the elaborate hotel, the spa or even the food. It's the impeccably trained staff from attentive front desk and concierge to restaurant workers and valets. The 19th century could not have done it better.

Learn more about the Mountain State's oddities and wonders in Jeanne Mozier's popular book "Way Out in West Virginia," now in an expanded and updated fourth edition. The second printing of "West Virginia Beauty: Familiar and Rare," by Jeanne Mozier and photographer Steve Shaluta, is scheduled for release later soon. Both books are available from the West Virginia Book Co.

WV Travel Team: A summer weekend in Chicago http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140727/GZ05/140729661 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140727/GZ05/140729661 Sun, 27 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As the summer months begin to come to a close, many of us across the area are looking for a final opportunity to get away for a long weekend. If you're looking for a destination that provides family-friendly activities, great shopping and a metropolitan feel, look no farther than Chicago.

With a driving distance of just under 500 miles and a driving time of roughly 7½ hours, Chicago has plenty to do to keep your family busy as they celebrate the end of summer.

Known for its diverse architecture and collection of museums and attractions, Chicago has plenty of sights guaranteed to keep your family busy.

One of the major draws in Chicago is the Shedd Aquarium, on Chicago's Museum Campus.

Open daily, the Shedd Aquarium hosts over 32,500 different species of animals and fish, from whales to snails and tarantulas to turtles. Guests to the Shedd Aquarium are greeted by the Caribbean Reef exhibit, where you can get eye-to-eye with several species of saltwater fish and watch divers feed them.

Be sure to check out the award-winning Abbott Oceanarium, where you can encounter beluga whales, sea lions and sea otters.

The Polar Play Zone has great activities for kids, in addition to underwater viewing areas for the beluga whales and penguins.

If you make it to the Shedd Aquarium this summer or early fall, be sure to take advantage of Stingray Touch, where guests can pet stingrays as they glide through the water.

AAA tip: Be sure to arrive at the Shedd Aquarium early, as the line to enter the facility can occasionally exceed 30 minutes. Saturdays are especially busy.

Staying on the Chicago Museum Campus, the Field Museum provides the opportunity to travel through time to view 4.5 billion years worth of history. With more than 26 million artifacts, the Field Museum is home to exhibits such as Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, as well as a collection of 23 Egyptian mummies.

Also on the Museum Campus is the Adler Planetarium, America's first planetarium. Home to NASA's Gemini 12 space capsule, the planetarium is a great destination for families.

The Planet Explorers exhibit provides hands-on fun for kids, and there are plenty of shows and theaters sure to keep a family of all ages busy.

Destination Solar System is the Adler's premier show, but many guests also enjoy being able to experience the night sky over Chicago as it appeared in 1913 in the historic Atwood Sphere.

A bit farther south of downtown Chicago and accessible by bus, car or taxi is the Museum of Science and Industry. The largest science center in the Western Hemisphere and open daily, the Museum of Science and Industry boasts a large transportation collection, including the submarine U-505 - the only German World War II submarine in the United States.

Other exhibits include a coal mine, where guests descend into a mine and ride the rails to learn the technology behind coal mining, and Toymaker 3000, an area where guests can watch 12 robots assemble toys from start to finish.

AAA tip: Visit the Motion Simulator and Omnimax when first arriving to the Museum of Science and Industry to secure reservations.

Navy Pier, nestled along Lake Michigan, is home to the Chicago Children's Museum and features great dining and shopping options.

While at Navy Pier, be sure to take a ride on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel, which lifts riders 150 feet into the air while they witness stunning views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan shoreline.

AAA tip: Don't miss out on the Wednesday and Saturday night fireworks displays at Navy Pier if visiting during the summer months.

While in downtown Chicago, be sure to check out either 360 Chicago in the John Hancock Center, or Skydeck Chicago in the Willis (Sears) Tower. Both attractions offer exceptional views of the Chicago skyline and either attraction has fuel to feed your inner daredevil.

360 Chicago's Tilt attraction tilts guests downward toward the Magnificent Mile from the 94th story of the John Hancock Center, while Skydeck Chicago features The Ledge - glass-floored balconies that project out of the 103rd story of the Willis Tower.

Chicago also boasts an excellent arts scene. Home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute of Chicago, many visitors will enjoy taking in one of the many shows that are a part of the Broadway in Chicago series.

One of the best ways to view Chicago's architectural marvels is to take a cruise along the Chicago River.

Cruise lines such as Shoreline Sightseeing offer fantastic architecture and history cruises that provide riders with an insider's glimpse into the buildings, architecture and engineering that made Chicago famous. Cruises leave from a variety of locations, but the easiest place to catch a cruise is from Navy Pier.

Of course, no trip to Chicago would be complete without visiting the Magnificent Mile, a prestigious portion of Michigan Avenue devoted to shopping and dining.

The shops along the Magnificent Mile are as diverse as the goods they sell, featuring designer studios and trendy favorites.

There are plenty of lodging options in Chicago at a variety of price points. Many opt to stay in downtown Chicago along the Magnificent Mile, close to transportation, shopping and dining. There is a variety of hotels in this area, and the benefit to staying along Michigan Avenue is its proximity to all the major Chicago attractions.

AAA tip: Be prepared to spend at least $40 per night to park a vehicle at a hotel in downtown Chicago - very few hotels in this area offer complimentary parking.

Another area to consider staying is near O'Hare International Airport. Just under 20 miles from downtown Chicago, the Rosemont area offers many hotels at lower price points than properties in downtown Chicago.

Many hotels, such as the Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites, are just steps away from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line, making the trip into downtown Chicago simple without having to ever set foot in the car after arriving to the hotel.

Deep-dish pizza and hot dogs are two food staples Chicago is famous for, and there are plenty of opportunities within the city to try both.

What makes a Chicago-style hot dog unique? It's an all-beef hot dog on a poppyseed bun, garnished with mustard, relish, chopped onion, tomato slices, pickle spears, "sport peppers" (hot green peppers) and celery salt. One of the best places to try a Chicago-style hot dog is at Portillo's Hot Dogs, near the Magnificent Mile at 100 W. Ontario St.

If Chicago-style hot dogs aren't your thing, Portillo's has a variety of other hot dogs and sandwiches guaranteed to satisfy any appetite.

An exceptional place to have dinner and experience Chicago deep-dish pizza is at Giordano's, a block off the Magnificent Mile at 730 N. Rush St. Locals recommend Giordano's because they offer stuffed deep-dish pizzas. Giordano's also offers exceptional thin-crust pizzas and pasta dishes.

AAA tip: Expect to spend at least an hour at Giordano's for a deep-dish pizza, as preparation takes a minimum of 30 minutes, and pizza orders are typically placed prior to being seated.

Looking to try some trendy spots in the Windy City? Head out to the Wicker Park neighborhood, where a short trip on the CTA Blue Line northwest of the city will provide several dining options, including quick service meals and vegan options.

An outstanding breakfast option is Stan's Donuts and Coffee, at 1560 N. Damen Ave. While offering traditional glazed doughnuts, Stan's also features specialty doughnuts, including the Chocolate Chocolate-Chip, Peanut Butter Pocket and the Buttermilk Bar.

Across the street is Big Star, a first-rate stop for Mexican cuisine. Tempt your palate with a variety of flavorful tacos (the fish tacos get rave reviews), great guacamole, strong margaritas, and a large selection of beer and bourbon.

AAA tip: Big Star is cash-only and frequently has a long wait, so plan accordingly.

While Chicago has an expansive highway system, it's not always easy to navigate as an out-of-towner.

Combine this with the high price of parking in the downtown areas, and parking the car will suddenly seem like a great idea.

AAA tip: Most of Chicago's highway system is in the form of toll roads, so bring plenty of cash and watch for periodic pull-offs to pay tolls.

The CTA system is very user-friendly and is highly recommended for tourist use around the city, regardless of where you decide to stay. The Chicago "L" - Chicago's elevated rail system - is easy to navigate with stations scattered all around downtown Chicago and in the suburbs.

With regular schedules, stops are located near major tourist attractions, making it particularly attractive for guests.

One-, three- and seven-day unlimited passes (in the form of electronic Ventra cards) are available for purchase at train stations and local retailers. What makes these passes exceptionally useful is that they also provide unlimited use on the CTA bus system, which traverses the downtown and suburban streets.

AAA tip: If you're unsure of how to navigate the train, there are transit system maps available. There is a variety of apps available for your smartphone or tablet that can also help you with schedules, maps and walking instructions. CTA staff are also always willing to help answer transit questions.

Does a long weekend in Chicago seem like the trip for your family? AAA can help make it a reality. Stop in the AAA Charleston office and talk to a AAA travel expert for assistance with lodging, purchasing a Chicago City Pass, plus planning a tailor-made trip.

They can provide up-to-date information on what's new, plus provide information about any special events, such as festivals and shows, taking place during the time you plan to visit.

For more information on Chicago and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals: Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

Mushroom fest is next weekend http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140720/GZ05/140729984 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140720/GZ05/140729984 Sun, 20 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Maria Young CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If you think mushrooms come neatly sliced in rectangular containers covered with plastic wrap at the grocery store, you have a lot of learn about mushrooms. And the West Virginia Mushroom Club (yes, there really is a club for mushroom lovers) would like to help.

The club is holding its 10th annual Fungal Fest, Feast & Foray on Friday and Saturday in the fellowship hall at Dryfork Assembly of God, along W.Va. 32 roughly four miles south of Canaan Valley Resort State Park, in Tucker County, and five miles north of Harman, Randolph County.

"This event attracts people from the D.C. area, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey - all over, really. It's become a real draw because we get some of the most well-known mycologists around, and our forays aren't that expensive," said Nancy Ward, one of the organizers.

A mycologist is someone who studies mushrooms. There will be a number of prominent experts on hand, including international mushroom expert and author Gary Lincoff, who will present colorful stories and photos from his previous trips to India; Kyle Weaner, who will present a mushroom cooking demonstration on the exotic world of Indian cuisine; Paul Goland, who will offer a lunchtime shiitake workshop; and Alissa Allen, whose "Fungal Rainbow" workshop will teach participants some of the unique and beautiful things they can create using mushrooms, lichens and other fungi to dye yarns, fabrics and other materials.

The event will also include a mushroom photography foray, a mushroom birder walk, and a number of forays of varying difficulty levels to pick from.

"We go out in the morning and everyone gathers mushrooms, and then you put them out and we'll identify and sort them," Ward said.

"A lot of people's interest comes from, What can you eat? How can you tell a good mushroom from a bad mushroom? And then there are all the different things you can do with mushrooms," she added.

The foray costs $50 per person, with additional costs for lodging. Volunteers get a 50 percent discount on registration fees, and participants under 12 or over 80 attend for free.

For more information or to register, visit http://wvmushroomclub.org/, or call Ward at 304-610-4040 or 304-342-7148 for more information.

WV Travel Team: Riverfaring in the 21st Century http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140713/GZ05/140719962 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140713/GZ05/140719962 Sun, 13 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Ted Lawson WV Travel Team Patricia Rice, of Morgantown, has traveled the dramatic gorges and lush vineyards of the Duoro Valley, explored the ancient cities of Lamego and Salamanca, and dined at an 11th Century Benedictine monastery in Portugal.

She has traced the footsteps of the militaristic Cossacks from the 15th through 18th centuries as they journeyed from Kiev to Odessa, and she has visited the Palace of the Khan in Sevastopol.

She has ventured down the Amazon River, into the jungles of Borneo and deep into the Mekong.

Rice has traveled the waterways of Slovenia and Croatia, Corsica and Sardinia, Belgium and Switzerland, France and Germany.

She has seen the tulips bloom in northern Holland. And while she is an anthropologist, all of these adventures have taken place on vacation river cruises.

Whatever your personal sensibilities may be, river cruises offer a near boundless range of possibilities; with themes such as "Mysteries of Myanmar," "Port Wine and Flamenco" and "Steamboat Historic Civil War Journey," river cruises have boomed from a burgeoning niche market into the hippest travel trend of 2014 by offering deeply intimate, personalized cruise experiences to every imaginable tourist palate.

With more than two dozen new vessels launched in 2014 alone, river cruising promises to be a growing market through 2015, with operators opening into new rivers each season.

So, if the amazing itineraries alone don't intrigue you, why else should you consider a river cruise over a traditional oceanic cruise?

Here are ten reasons to rethink riverfaring:

1. Rivers, in many cases quite tangibly, are the lifeblood of human civilization. From prehistoric sites, to ancient cities and ruins, to modern settlements that range from the most spectacular cities to the smallest villages, our history and culture lies in river valleys spanning the globe. River cruises often offer a unique chance to view the ancient alongside the modern and give a picture of regional culture not captured in city-by-city land tours.

2. Unlike their oceanic cousins, river cruises inherently move at a more leisurely pace. Boats will dock at many ports to allow passengers to explore, but even travelers relaxing on deck will catch vistas that could include castles, farms, villages, temples, fishermen, wildlife or foliage, depending on the river.

3. The ships themselves are small, and carry fewer than 200 passengers. River cruises offer a unique opportunity to meet and interact with fellow passengers, who likely share one's interests. River cruises don't offer the raucous nightclub scene and beach party atmosphere that is presented by many oceanic cruises, and the result is a more serene, leisurely experience for discerning travelers.

4. River cruises draw travelers with the promise of at least a port a day; there are no "days at sea," and every day of the trip will offer the chance to explore local culture. With an advantage over land travel, many river cruisers enjoy the ability to see multiple cities in one tour without ever having to change hotels or repack their luggage.

5. Having marketed largely to a luxury-class, river cruises have exploded with gorgeous cabin accommodations with furnishings as beautiful as the finest boutique hotels, balconies offering sweeping panoramas of the river banks and personalized touches.

6. With their smaller size, river ships have maximized interior space by multi-purposing rooms. Al fresco dining is common and offers a breezier, more casual alternative to stuffy sit-down dinners on oceanic cruises. River ships will more commonly boast an opulent library than an onboard casino, and open deck plans encourage travelers to get out and experience the landscape around them.

7. River cruises often offer an immersive cultural experience, presenting local cuisine as the ship navigates through a region. With plenty of opportunity to get out and explore cities, towns and villages, some cruises even offer the chance to go to the local markets with the ship's chef. Frequent interaction with local culture is key to the river cruise experience, and passengers are sure to leave with a rich appreciation of the regional culture of their tour.

8. River cruising, much like traditional oceanic cruises, tends to be all-inclusive. For many travelers, the ease of knowing one's meals and drinks are included takes the guesswork out of visiting various cities in one trip. River cruises will also let passengers know in advance what tipping expectations are, which helps to avoid unpleasant financial surprises that may come in self-led land-based itineraries.

9. The dress is always casual in river cruising. There are no formal nights and no need to pack that tuxedo.

10. These itineraries are designed for and marketed to a well-traveled, 55-and-older demographic. They don't draw the rowdy 20-something "spring break" crowd that flock to lower-priced cruises to Jamaica, and children are a rarity.


River cruises will continue to rise in popularity over the next year, with new rivers, ships and itineraries to choose from.

Their higher price point comes with an immeasurably greater value over ocean cruises, delivering unique, tailored, world-class adventures that lend themselves to lifelong memory.

Contact your travel agent to determine what river cruise may be right for you, and to explore the countless options offered.

Ted Lawson in the president and CEO of Charleston-based National Travel and a member of the WV Travel Team who contributes regularly to the Life & Style travel page.

Follow National Travel on Twitter at @NatlTravel and on Facebook. For questions or comments on this article, contact Ariadne Moore, executive assistant at National Travel, at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

Holiday traffic on Turnpike approaches post-Thanksgiving levels http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140707/GZ01/140709524 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140707/GZ01/140709524 Mon, 7 Jul 2014 17:17:26 -0400 By Phil Kabler It may say July on the calendar, but traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike on Sunday resembled the Sunday after Thanksgiving -- usually the heaviest travel day of the year.

"We had some delays coming into the toll plazas Sunday afternoon between 2 and 5. It was almost comparable to the Sunday after Thanksgiving," Greg Barr, general manager of the state Parkways Authority, said Monday.

The Turnpike handled about 164,000 toll transactions Sunday, almost double the daily average of 99,000, Barr said.

Overall, traffic during the Fourth of July travel period was up 2.25 percent over 2013. Barr said a combination of factors contributed to the traffic surge, including having the Fourth of July fall on a Friday, creating a three-day weekend for many, as well as additional traffic going to and from the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, which ended Sunday afternoon.

While the White Sulphur Springs resort is some 70 miles off the Turnpike, Barr noted that hotels and motels in Beckley were sold out over the weekend with people attending the golf tournament and concerts.

He said that for the most part, traffic backups did not exceed two to three miles Sunday.

Toll plazas on the Turnpike are designed so that an extra lane can be added either northbound or southbound, but Barr said traffic in both directions was equally heavy, making it impractical to "flip" a lane.

"We were doing 2,200 transactions an hour northbound, and 1,800 transaction an hour southbound," he said. "We couldn't flip a lane because it would have backed up in the other direction."

Tandem toll booths at each of the three toll plazas were opened to reduce delays, he said.

While there were brief backups at the toll plazas, there were no major traffic stoppages, as occurred after the Fourth of July last year, when a tractor-trailer jackknifed, closing all four lanes of the Turnpike near Sharon that Sunday afternoon.

"Luckily, we didn't have any serious accidents," Barr said.

Because July 4 can fall on any day of the week, Parkways uses an 11-day period to track holiday traffic, going from the previous Thursday to the Sunday after the holiday.

This year, there were 1.43 million toll transactions during the period, an increase of 31,600 transactions from 2013, and up more than 20,000 from 2012.

Barr said that next year, the Turnpike may need to post advisories encouraging drivers to avoid traveling during peak periods on the Sunday after July 4, as is done for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

"We warn people at Thanksgiving to try to plan their travel to avoid the peak traffic period between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.," he said.

Next year, July 4 falls on a Saturday, again creating a three-day weekend scenario with many workplaces designating the previous Friday, July 3, as a holiday.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

WV Travel Team: Tall monuments, taller tales http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709857 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709857 Sun, 6 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The quirky nature of some prominent West Virginia monuments is underlined by the occasional question of authenticity.

Generally, the world reserves its effort to create a symbol of a particular civilization to a person or event that actually occurred.

Touring the state brings a traveler face to face with questions - Is the subject real or not? Is the statue who it claims to be? - as well as subjects ranging from monsters to space travel.

Best of all are the monuments important enough to have their own major festival or Hollywood movie.

It's a challenge to decide whether John Henry or Mothman is the most fictitious.

Mothman may be an implausible monster, but there are numerous people still living and working in Point Pleasant who claim to have seen it.

John Henry has a famous song. Widely known through folk tunes, the steel-driving John Henry was memorialized in 1972 by a larger-than-life bronze statue - 2.5 tons and 8 feet tall, to be precise - in a small park above Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott. John Henry allegedly challenged the railroad's track-building machine a century earlier. Witnesses claim the competition was fact and that ex-slave John Henry collapsed after beating the machine, never to work again. The naysayers presume the entire tale is machines-take-men's-jobs propaganda.

The actual tunnel Henry reportedly helped carve from the mountain is 6,500 feet and carried traffic for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway; a twin tunnel was added in 1932 with no legends attached. Two years after erecting the John Henry statue, all rail traffic through Big Bend Tunnel ceased. Talcott's hometown festival in mid-July includes a parade, fireworks and music performed at the mouth of the tunnel.

Mothman is more problematic since it's not even human - but it does have a more contemporary public image, including a major Hollywood movie, and an authentic disaster. Artistically, it has a better statue.

In 2003, Point Pleasant erected a locally sculpted 7-foot stainless-steel statue of Mothman complete with wings and glowing red eyes cast by Blenko Glass. If the town established a photo fee, they could probably eliminate taxes. It's an ongoing photo opportunity in the small square as visitors come from around the world to be photographed with Mothman.

Across the street is the Mothman Museum with a copy of the Death List that includes all the strange deaths linked with Mothman and more than 100 handwritten witness accounts of the sightings. The accounts describe encounters with a giant winged creature in and around Point Pleasant from 1965-68. Witnesses generally agreed that it had red, saucer-shaped eyes. Government-built grass-covered concrete domes used to store explosives - or, later, atomic waste - were reportedly Mothman's favorite perches.

This being West Virginia, scores of folks came out to try and shoot it. Today, the domes are part of a wildlife station, eerie and overgrown with brush and trees. Organized tours, often with a Mothman witness as a guide, can be arranged.

During the midst of the sightings, on Dec. 15, 1967, the collapse of Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge and the resulting deaths of 46 people brought the town to the attention of the world.

It was the worst bridge disaster in U.S. history. Soon after the collapse, Mothman disappeared. Did Mothman cause the bridge collapse, or come to warn of it?

The annual Mothman Festival draws thousands in September. So far, no one has been able to book the monster for a return appearance to face questions about the Silver Bridge.

Located in the same town as Mothman and also linked to the Silver Bridge disaster is one of West Virginia's monuments to its American Indian roots.

Cornstalk was one of the great Shawnee chiefs and leader of the Northwestern Confederacy of Indian tribes. In October 1774, he led nearly 1,000 Shawnee and other warriors to engage an equal number of Virginia militia in a fierce, day-long battle on a thumb of land between the juncture of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. Hundreds of Indians and Virginians were slaughtered in the hand-to-hand combat. It was the biggest Indian battle to take place on West Virginia soil and turned out to be the end of the Indian wars in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley.

Cornstalk led his men away undefeated, but later was murdered by Americans when he went to warn them of an Indian alliance with the British. Legend has Cornstalk cursing Point Pleasant with his dying words. The collapse of the Silver Bridge within sight of the historic battlefield is linked to his curse.

Today, the 4-acre Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, in Point Pleasant, is dominated by an 86-foot granite obelisk honoring the fallen Virginians and dedicated in 1909. Almost as an afterthought, nearly a decade later a smaller monument was erected to Cornstalk and eventually moved to the park from the courthouse. His bones are in a metal box at the base of the monument. Later the state park placed restrooms nearby - hardly a way to relieve the curse.

Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe is another notable American Indian honored in various sectors of the state. There is a large statue of him deep in Monongahela National Forest at Mingo in Randolph County.

A little farther along the same road is another historic statue which claims to be a rare, clean-shaven, young Robert E. Lee but is most likely one of more than 30 generic Confederate soldier monuments in West Virginia. Logan trumps the supposed Lee, being both clean-shaven and bare-chested.

Of course, we'll never know if Logan was as "ripped" as the statue makes him.

Before we leave our Indian heritage, mention must be made of a monument that could be billed as John Henry meets Cornstalk. Tucked along a roadside in Calhoun County is a shrine to legendary mountain man and fighter Mike Fink. It commemorates Fink and an unknown Indian, noting: "Killed each other - 1780."

Another Confederate monument with a debatable story is the impressive one in Monroe County. Anticipating continued growth, in 1901, town fathers of Union placed the 20-foot Monroe County Confederate Monument in an empty field south of town. The Italian marble statue carved in Hinton remains on its native blue limestone base in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by grazing cows.

For more than a century, Devil Anse Hatfield starred in print media as patriarch in America's most famous feud. Then came Kevin Costner and the History Channel's award-winning miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys" that broke viewer records.

Fortunately, Devil Anse's lifesize Italian marble statue in the family cemetery near Sarah Ann is sufficiently impressive for an enduring global superstar.

Another Hatfield monument is somewhat less traditional. Down the road in Matewan, bullet holes in the brick walls of the old Matewan National Bank building are memorialized, marking the deadliest gunfight in American history.

In 1920, Sid Hatfield was chief of police in Matewan. He sided with the miners and locals in a May 19 battle against a coal company and their Baldwin-Felts detectives.

A year later, Hatfield was gunned down by retaliating detectives on the McDowell County Courthouse steps in Welch. Later in the month, miners staged a violent uprising at Blair Mountain. John Sayles captured this bloody chapter in his film "Matewan."

The Eastern Panhandle has two fascinating monuments to a pair of important early American heroes who were closely connected - George Washington and James Rumsey.

George Washington's Bathtub in Berkeley Springs State Park memorializes America's first president and its premier land developer. Washington's footsteps crisscross the state that was his favorite piece of 18th-century real estate.

He eventually acquired 30,000 acres in "West Augusta," a common colonial designation for the trans-Allegheny area now known as West Virginia.

The world's only monument to presidential bathing is appropriately located in Berkeley Springs, where Washington's journals note several occasions of his traveling there to "take the waters." Promoters acknowledge the hollow lined with stone and sand that encloses one of the noted springs is a "historic re-enactment" of conditions when Washington first came to bathe in the 1750s.

George Washington's Bathtub always puts a smile on visitors' faces and is a hugely popular photo opportunity. A mid-March Washington's Bathtub Celebration features local history events and $1 shopping.

Washington met James Rumsey, one of America's earliest and most prolific inventors on a visit to Berkeley Springs. Rumsey was part-owner of a local inn and was working on his steamboat. He later moved to Shepherdstown, where he successfully demonstrated the world's first steamboat in 1787, more than 20 years before Robert Fulton.

Devotees of Rumsey included Benjamin Franklin and a group of 20th-century Shepherdstown residents that revived Franklin's 18th-century Rumseian Society. In 1914, the Rumseians erected a sleek Ionic column of granite topped with a globe atop the cliffs along the Potomac to celebrate their hero's achievements.

Three unusual mid-20th-century monuments celebrate air and space travel, not usually attributes connected to West Virginia. America's first memorial to an aviator celebrates Weston native Louis Bennett Jr., organizer of the West Virginia Flying Corps, who was shot down during World War I.

The bronze figure on a granite base in Wheeling sports period leather helmet and goggles as well as a surprising full-size pair of wings.

Native son Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier in an airplane. His impressive monument is a white-tipped rocket, erect and ready to fire.

An authentic NASA rocket was obtained by Coalwood's most famous son, Homer Hickam, and placed in a new municipal park. Hickam's childhood memoirs became a popular book and a hit movie, "October Sky," making the coal camp and slag pile where he designed his prize-winning rocket a tourist attraction.

An October Sky Rocket Boys Festival was spawned in Coalwood and is now held in Beckley.

The most recent memorial is one of the most compelling. The Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster of 2010 killed 29 men. The disaster led to an inspired black granite monument outside Whitesville. "Faces of the Mine" has silhouettes of coal miners on the mountain ridge with the names but not faces of those who died.

Learn more about the Mountain State's oddities and wonders in Jeanne Mozier's popular book "Way Out in West Virginia," now in an expanded and updated fourth edition. The second printing of "West Virginia Beauty: Familiar and Rare," by Jeanne Mozier and photographer Steve Shaluta, is scheduled for release later in July. Both books are available from the West Virginia Book Co.

Rollin' on the river in grand elegance http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709778 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709778 Sun, 6 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By James A. Haught CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginians who live near the Ohio River - at Huntington, Point Pleasant, Ravenswood, Parkersburg, St. Marys and other towns along the meandering path - sometimes see a spectacle: a colossal sternwheeler that looks like a floating palace, making one of its Pittsburgh trips.

The American Queen is awe-inspiring.

It's 418 feet long, six stories high, with room for 436 passengers in ornate staterooms, plus 160 crew.

It has all the perks of a mammoth cruise ship in a far more intimate setting: an elegant theater, a gracious dining hall with 20-foot vaulted ceiling, a Mark Twain river lore gallery, a topside swimming pool, a spa, nightly entertainment shows, daily history lectures, antique furnishings, champagne receptions and various other luxuries.

It's a genuine steamboat, burning diesel fuel to boil the steam that drives two monster pistons. They in turn move the enormous sternwheel that churns the ship upstream or down.

The ship is so tall that its twin smokestacks lie flat for passage under bridges, and its pilothouse can be lowered 9 feet, like an elevator.

Advertising brochures call it "the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world." That's believable to me.

Taking a waterborne vacation on this behemoth is an adventure.

My wife and I boarded at Cincinnati for a four-day jaunt to Louisville, Kentucky, and back, and it was marvelous.

We didn't join bus tours of riverside cities, because it was joyful simply to stay aboard and relish life on the wide Ohio River.

Dining is sumptuous, with five-course dinners nightly. Overeating is a temptation.

The boat's wisecracking pianist said people "arrive as passengers and leave as cargo."

I assume that cruise-takers tend to be older, like us. On our trip, the boat was full of retirees, many using wheelchairs, walkers or canes. Some were accompanied by grown children or grandchildren.

I also assume that cruise-takers generally are affluent, because prices are steep. As a couple, we paid $2,000 for the smallest stateroom - while many others cost twice or three times as much.

Floating resorts are expensive. After years of plying the Mississippi and Ohio, the Queen went bankrupt in 2008. It was purchased for $15.5 million by new owners, who spent $6 million more on refurbishments.

Although gambling boats have sprouted around America, the Queen has no casino.

We felt one minor aggravation: The Queen's cruises are arranged so that guests spend the first night in a luxury hotel, boarding the boat next day. The stay at Cincinnati's Hilton Netherland Plaza had some difficulties, with oldsters on walkers required to stand in long registration lines. Maybe the Queen's owners can simplify and quicken the sign-in process - or just let passengers drive directly to the boat.

Once we became waterborne, the trip was magical. Watching the passing shoreline, going through locks, and other river experiences were charming. It was an adventure to remember.

Reach Charleston Gazette editor Jim Haught at 304-348-5199 or haught@wvgazette.com.

W.Va. Public Radio debuts 'Travel with Rick Steves' http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709720 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140706/GZ05/140709720 Sun, 6 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Got the travel bug? Tune in to West Virginia Public Radio for "Travel with Rick Steves," part of a new stepped-up weekend schedule. The show will air on Sundays at 4 p.m., beginning July 6.

For decades, Rick Steves has been the go-to guy for travel through Europe, offering the detailed advice on attractions, tours, guides and more. As the story goes, Steves took his first trip to Europe in 1969, visiting piano factories with his father, a piano importer.

He began traveling on his own, saving money for his travels by teaching piano lessons, and opened Rick Steves' Europe in 1976.

Today he's a guidebook author and travel TV host with a staff of 80, has a weekly syndicated column, and produces more than 50 guidebooks on European travel.

Now Steves is extending his interest to include more global topics. "Travel with Rick Steves" is billed as a weekly one-hour conversation about travel, cultures, people and the things around the world that give life its extra sparkle.

WV Travel Team: Smoky Mountains are a hot spot http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140629/GZ05/140629514 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140629/GZ05/140629514 Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge destination is like no other, and one that truly offers something special to people of all ages.

It's the ideal choice for those who are looking to satisfy a diverse group of travelers with unique interests.

The mountain's earliest inhabitants, the Cherokee Indians, called the area "the place of blue smoke."

The gray-blue haze that often cloaks the top peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains creates a mysterious allure to this magical place.

Nestled snuggly in the Smokies are the Tennessee towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and both offer an amazing variety of things to do amid a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.

First things first, and the first thing that beckons visitors to the area is the Great Smoky Mountains, among the oldest mountains in the world.

The United States has 58 national parks, and fewer than 25 percent are located east of the Mississippi River. Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans two states (Tennessee and North Carolina) and includes more than 800 miles of hiking trails spread among the 521,895-acre park.

The mountains are home to an estimated 100,000 species of plant and animal life, and some varieties, like Jordan's red-cheeked salamander, call no other place on Earth their home.

The mountains are renowned for the abundance of plants and are home to more than 1,600 species.

From mid-June to mid-July, extravagant displays of mountain laurel, rhododendron and azalea flower en masse, especially at higher elevations.

Another natural wonder of the park is the many waterfalls. Possessing the two essential ingredients for waterfalls, ample rainfall - an average of 85 inches in the high country every year - and an elevation gradient, waterfalls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park. At 120 feet, Mingo Falls is one of the tallest.

There are many ways to enjoy the park, including some that offer access for those with limited physical abilities. Visitors can hike, bike, go by horse or by car.

For the best view, head to Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest elevation in Smokies. Overlooks along U.S. Highway 441 provide excellent spots to enjoy sunrises and sunsets.

Regardless of your mode of transportation, keep your eyes peeled for one of the 1,500 black bears that live in the park, and also for elk - the park's largest inhabitants. It goes without saying these animals are dangerous and are best enjoyed at a safe distance.

Of the park's neighboring towns, it's hard to choose a favorite, so most people don't - they visit both. Each town offers a wide-ranging variety of things to do, see and eat.

Although Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are neighbors, bordering one another, each town offers some special things that are uniquely their own.

Dolly Parton, a beloved east Tennessee native, is someone well known for supporting and promoting the area where she was raised.

Two iconic Pigeon Forge attractions boasting Dolly's name are Dollywood (of course) and the Dixie Stampede. If this is your first visit to Pigeon Forge, Dollywood and Dixie Stampede are on the "must-do" list.

Dollywood's theme park offers rides, entertainment, dining, crafts and shopping. Firechaser Express, Dollywood's answer to thrill-seeking families, opened in March and is the nation's first dual-launch family coaster, blasting riders forward and backward.

If coasters aren't the go-to ride for your family, Dollywood has time-honored favorites like the Scrambler and Demolition Derby bumper cars.

If you're visiting Dollywood on a hot summer day, you may want to consider spending at least some of your time at water park, which has more than 23 slides and thrill rides. The theme park and the water park offer rides and things to do for all ages. Visit www.dollywood.com to find out more about the park and learn about age and size restrictions.

When tummies get rumbly, the park offers fair-style favorites like funnel cakes and Dippin Dots, but if a more substantial meal is called for, Aunt Granny's All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet is the place to satisfy appetites of all sizes.

This buffet is full of delicious country delights that include fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn bread and biscuits. You probably want to save this treat for when you're finished riding the amusement park rides.

Dixie Stampede is not your run-of-the-mill dinner theater. It's Appalachia's version of dinner and a show. The food and the show are "country-style" and will be thoroughly enjoyed by those of any age.

Sometimes audience members' enthusiasm is nearly as entertaining as the show itself. A 3-year-old boy standing with a chicken leg in one hand and waving a flag with the other hand, cheering on his "side" can be a real show-stealer.

If you plan to attend the show with a group of friends and family members, you'll need to choose which side to root for, the North or the South. Be sure you go in with the knowledge that things may become a little competitive.

The Dixie Stampede can accommodate groups of all sizes, and the show offers bluegrass and country music, 32 horses and a cast of top-notch riders and thundering hooves giving the heart-pounding feel of a real stampede.

Two important tips: Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time (especially for the 6 p.m. show), and, if eating with silverware is important to you, consider bringing your own - utensils are not provided with dinner. Don't worry though. The food is prepared and served in a manner where utensils aren't required to enjoy the fabulous feast.

Gatlinburg has so much to offer that they have a cable television channel dedicated to sharing all the adventures you can have while visiting. Once you settle in to your accommodations, tune in to cable channel 69 for ideas on what to do next.

Gatlinburg, also known as the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, was established in 1937 and is the perfect place to learn about Appalachian culture and history. The community consists of more than 100 quaint shops and restaurants, boasting the largest group of independent artisans in North America.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is an unexpected gem, where visitors can get up-close views of 12-foot sharks, giant sea turtles, playful penguins and thousands of sea creatures. The clear underwater tunnels allow visitors a chummy, get-to-know-you view of many of the creatures.

Gatlinburg has plenty of accommodations for those seeking quiet, relaxing getaways, including secluded cabins, chalets, spas, tranquil hiking trails, quiet dining spots and stunning views.

Quiet Reflections Spa generated 58 "excellent" TripAdvisor reviews from the 61 people who reviewed it. A frequent Gatlinburg visitor and AAA travel expert said dinner at The Peddler Steakhouse restaurant is a must for every visit. "The steaks are incredible and the glass wall at the back offers stunning views of the woods" - ask for a riverside table.

Those who want to put a little more oomph into their Gatlinburg visit can choose ziplining, whitewater rafting, lazy river tubing, the Earthquake Subway Ride and arcade game fun.

Gatlinburg's Aerial Tramway provides stunning views of the Smokies. The 120-passenger tram transports visitors from downtown Gatlinburg to an elevation of 2,700 feet to a mountain resort that provides a full day's worth of exciting things to do.

And there's more - Gatlinburg has five miniature golf courses and two full-size golf courses, a haunted house and ghost walks, a mirror maze and a store with a 25-foot indoor climbing wall and swinging rope bridge.

There is also an impressive number of breweries, distilleries and wineries in the area, including Smoky Mountain Winery - east Tennessee's oldest producer of premium wines.

For many years, mountain moonshine makers were secretive about their special craft - but today, some producers have "gone legal," and visitors can take home bottles of Tennessee's finest beverage.

n The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster puts you in control your own personal coaster. With more than a mile of track, it's the longest downhill ride in the U.S.

n There are Ferris wheels, but none like the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. Standing tall at 200 feet, this is the world's largest Ferris wheel. Due to the height and slow movement, the Skywheel is considered to be more of an observation wheel than Ferris wheel. The gondola walls are made out of glass providing stunning views of the Smoky Mountains from every seat during the eight- to 10-minute ride.

n Fans of "family-style" dining will appreciate the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. If you're not familiar, family-style dining is all-you-can-eat, but it's not a buffet. Large bowls of food are served up and gladly refilled upon request, allowing you get your fill of your favorites. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a Sunday-best menu too. All menus are available online along with a few recipes so you can take a stab at re-creating your favorite dishes at home. Visit the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant website: www.applewoodfarmhouserestaurant.com.

Accommodations abound, and the limitless choices run the gamut from primitive campsites to high-end luxurious condominiums and chalets that boast amazing mountain views, granite counter tops and over-the-top ensuite bedrooms.

People visit the region for many different reasons such as weddings, reunions, annual group getaways and family vacations, and there are properties available to accommodate most any need, including intimate, romantic spaces and cabins with 12 bedrooms or more, large enough to accommodate groups of considerable size.

AAA Auto Travel Service representatives can provide all the important details and help travelers find the perfect place for their Smoky Mountains visit. Before you go, visit the AAA office in Charleston to:

n Purchase discounted Dollywood and Ripley's Aquarium tickets (discount available to AAA members).

n Pick up a complete guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

n Get visitor guides for the entire Smoky Mountains region.

n Get help from AAA Auto Travel Service representatives with help planning a tailor-made trip - if this isn't your first visit to the area, the AAA travel experts can bring you up to date on what's new since your last visit and tell you about any special events, such as festivals and shows, taking place during the time you plan to visit.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

For more information on Gatlinburg and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals: Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

WV Travel Team: Wine and dine at W.Va. B&Bs http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140621/GZ05/140629979 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140621/GZ05/140629979 Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Toni Mathias-Harvey WV Travel Team Ignore the milk and cereal or cold plastic-wrapped pastries.

At West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association inns and properties across the state, breakfasts may range from goat cheese and spinach omelets or roasted vegetable frittatas to Belgian waffles topped with West Virginia maple syrup, fresh raspberries, strawberries and blackberries or homemade biscuits and ramp butter.

What most people don't realize, though, is that when staying at a WVBBA property, it's not all just about the breakfast.

From the Eastern Panhandle to the New River/Greenbrier Valley, bed and breakfast inns across the Mountain State offer culinary venues from fine dining to picnic lunches, from wine pairings or casual dinners on the porch to romantic dinners for two.

It's arguably one of the best-kept secrets in the state, but many WVBBA owners are also chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, pastry chefs, Master Sommeliers or Certified Wine Specialists.

Their culinary backgrounds and education are as diverse and expansive as their properties, from training at the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (chef Justin Meyer, Hillbrook Inn), Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy, France (Ed Fischer, North Fork Mountain Inn), or attending classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to establishing and contributing to the development of the culinary curriculum at Pierpont Culinary Academy in Fairmont (chef Tim Urbanic, Café Cimino Country Inn).

If you were to do a culinary B&B tour of the state, you might start in the Eastern Panhandle at The Hillbrook Inn & Spa, situated on 30 sprawling acres in Jefferson County.

As part of the Select Registry network, Hillbrook Inn's guests are able to choose from 18 suites and cottages tastefully decorated in a European style.

Under Justin Meyer's direction, the inn's culinary team artfully prepares five-course candlelight dinners every night from the chef's selection of prix-fixe menus.

Additional three-course dinners are served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. "Mindful Menus" are also available to accommodate specific dietary needs.

In addition to extraordinary culinary offerings, join one of Hillbrook Inn's three expert chefs for a hands-on professional cooking class in their beautiful and newly renovated Hawthorn Estate kitchen.

Recipes are provided and, of course, each prepared dish is tasted and evaluated by the chef and class participants. Choose from foundation skills classes, such as basic knife skills or sauces, or skill building classes to create pastas or pastries.

Discover a weekend of culinary immersion in historic Charles Town. From there, travel southwest to North Fork Mountain Inn in Grant County, also on the Select Registry, and surround yourself in the Monongahela National Forest.

You will find expansive wraparound porches with majestic views of the Smoke Hole Canyon and an education in pairing wine with culinary delights.

Before starting your day, place your order for one of the North Fork Mountain Inn's popular gourmet picnic lunches. With your basket in hand, get ready to indulge at nearby Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.

Casual dining is presented Sunday through Friday evenings, with a variety of salads and entrées to choose from.

On Saturday evenings, fine dining is a very special event at the inn.

The evening begins with a complimentary and guided wine tasting of five to six wines from around the world. There are approximately 140 professionals who hold the title Master Sommelier in North America, and owner Ed Fischer is one of them.

"Wine tasting and appreciation is very much a subjective experience," Fischer says. "I would invite each person to start their journey of wines around the world discovering why they enjoy the wines they do. What is most important is to enjoy wines that you like and not necessarily those that the experts say are the best."

Travel southwest to the next stop on your tour - Café Cimino Country Inn in Braxton County.

Specializing in southern Italian cuisine and Euro/Mediterranean dishes, world-renowned chef Tim Urbanic's reverence for food, the land and the quality of the dining experience demands that each guest's dinner is thoughtfully prepared especially for them.

Executive sous chef Eli Urbanic is upholding and expanding the family tradition.

Pastas with heritage Italian sauces, handcrafted gnocchi with morels and ramps, or homemade lasagna are followed by desserts that are prepared daily.

On Tuesdays, Café Cimino Country Inn offers a "Cimino Little Dish" menu in the bistro on the banks of the Elk River.

The Italian-style tapas menu offers guests the opportunity to sample enticing appetizers, breads, olives or cheese plates with fine wines, their favorite cocktail or artisan beers.

As Melody Urbanic explains, "Café Cimino Country Inn offers upscale dining in a relaxed country-inn atmosphere, where guests can enjoy a great breakfast and also wonderful dinners, a river view bar and great wines from all over the world.

"Chef Tim and I are celebrating our 15th year in hospitality, and love the opportunity to offer an elevated dining experience in the relaxed atmosphere of a quaint little West Virginia town."

There are many WVBBA properties throughout the state that offer culinary delights with dinners, lunches and special meals for guests and travelers. Visit the West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association website at www.wvbedandbreakfasts.com for information to plan your culinary travels at WVBBA properties.

Toni Mathias-Harvey is a West Virginia innkeeper and president of the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association. Comments and questions can be sent to stay@wvbedandbreakfasts.com.

Travel Notes: June 22, 2014 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140621/GZ05/140629993 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140621/GZ05/140629993 Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 Bluegrass festival

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. - The 34th annual Music in the Mountains Bluegrass Festival at the Summersville Music Park, on Webster Road, runs June 25-28.

The outdoor music event is dedicated to the memory of co-owner Edgar Kitchen who, along with his wife, Eunice, 96, has often been recognized for contributions to the state's musical heritage. This year, however, Eunice Kitchen will be recognized for her undying commitment to bluegrass music in a unique way.

She will be crowned Queen of the Festival.

"I never thought anything like this, being crowned queen of this festival, would ever happen to me," Eunice said.

The 2014 musical lineup includes bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley, whose career has spanned more than 60 years and is known for popularizing the song "Man of Constant Sorrow" in 1951; five-time Grammy nominee singer-songwriter Rhonda Vincent; International Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson and other bluegrass greats.

Cast members Corby Patton and Rufus Keeney of the History Channel series "Appalachian Outlaws" will also make appearances.

For more information, contact Betty Dotson-Lewis at 704-929-3118.

July Fourth in Ripley

RIPLEY, W.Va. - "The USA's Largest Small Town 4th of July Celebration," Ripley's 2014 festivities include a concert by West Virginian Adam D. Tucker, who headlines a full day of entertainment on the Jackson County Courthouse square.

Morning activities will start with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at Calvary United Methodist Church, followed by the 10 a.m. opening ceremonies on the courthouse lawn. This year marks the 16th running of the Firecracker 2 Miler race at 11:30 a.m. in front of the thousands of spectators who will be lined up for the parade at noon.

Dreama Denver, widow of TV celebrity Bob Denver, of "Gilligan's Island" fame, will serve as grand marshal.

Other highlights will include a carnival by Gambill Amusements (July 1-5), a 7 p.m. pig roast at Country Rhodes Bed & Breakfast, and a 10 p.m. fireworks display.

Visit www.Ripley4thofJuly.us for a complete schedule of events. Call the Ripley Convention & Visitors Bureau at 304-514-2609 or 844-772-8850 for information.

Sternwheel Regatta

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - The annual Point Pleasant Sternwheel Regatta takes place along Main Street and Riverfront Park, Point Pleasant, June 26-28. Admission is free, and events include entertainment, food, dinner cruise and a pageant. For more information, visit www.pointpleasantregatta.org/, email hill86@suddenlink.net or call 304-593-2404.

Road bowling finals

IRELAND, W.Va. - The top male and female bowlers from each of two open qualifiers will compete in the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association's state finals next weekend in Ireland, Lewis County. Semifinals will take place all day Saturday, and the finals will be Sunday afternoon.

For more information, visit www.wvirishroadbowling.com or call David Powell at 202-387-1680 or 202-905-1959.

Ethical travel and the case for Costa Rica http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140614/GZ05/140619813 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140614/GZ05/140619813 Sat, 14 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Ted Lawson WV Travel Team The Costa Rican tourism boom began in the late 1980s, as the first wave of philosophically neoliberal Generation Xers reached adulthood.

With a focus on globalization and economic development, a new breed of tourist began to flood Central America and the Caribbean, often enamored with the turbulent sociopolitical climate of the region, yet burdened with the question "Is this vacation ethical?"

Nestled between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, Costa Rica has eluded the familiar war, poverty and repression associated with Central America.

Much of the country's success is credited to former President Jose Figueres Ferrer, who, upon his death was famously eulogized by Newsday: "Once there was a very tiny country, surrounded by war and killing, blessed with a good leader who decided his best legacy, after winning a civil war, would be to abolish the army, and - breaking the mold created by despots in the other small countries around him - let his people vote."

Costa Rica's breathtaking landscape of beaches, jungles and volcanoes, as well as its incredible biodiversity and progressive politics, made it a natural destination for the burgeoning ecotourism and adventure tourism trade of the 1990s.

From approximately 300,000 foreign visitors annually in 1988 to over 2.5 million in 2014, tourism has become one of Costa Rica's largest economic sectors and accounts for nearly 15 percent of all employment.

Its tourism trade has helped to fund national parks and wildlife reserves, grow local industry and develop much-needed infrastructure for the native population.

Its success, beyond political stability and low crime rates, is largely due to a different model of tourism than developed by its neighboring Central American and Caribbean counterparts.

Most other countries in the region have followed the enclave-tourism model, the "all-inclusive" self-contained resort.

This type of tourism is characterized by high-level economic leakage - most of the money spent by foreign visitors leaves the destination country, paying out multinational firms. Tourists and locals rarely have any cultural exchange, as tourists are encouraged to stay within the resort confines, and there is little to no opportunity for the local population to develop secondary or tertiary entrepreneurial pursuits based upon the tourism influx.

More nefariously, enclave tourism is often responsible for depriving local communities of their own natural resources, particularly water, as these resources are diverted to the resorts to create water gardens and golf courses that appeal to a mostly Western sensibility.

Enclave tourism, because of its isolation of the foreign tourist from local populations, is also associated with the commoditization of tradition, culture and ritual of local populations as tourists take small, guided excursions to "see the locals."

Costa Rica, while it does have world-class all-inclusive resorts, has embraced a model of tourism which encourages tourists to explore the country with local guides.

And, with its stable political climate and low crime rate, it is a popular destination for the backpacker crowd, often drawn by the surf culture of the country's Pacific Coast (Nosara is currently noted as one of the top 20 surf towns in the world by National Geographic).

So is it ethical? In sum, yes.

Costa Rica has been included in the annual list of the developing world's 10 best ethical destinations since 2011, when the country made serious strides to address human trafficking. (Previously, the country had been one of the most notorious destinations for sexual predators.) The benchmark categories for inclusion on the list include environmental protection, social welfare, human rights and animal welfare.

(More of the list, and more on ethical travel can be found at www.ethicaltraveler.org.)

Environmentally, Costa Rica's policy is heralded as a global example. The country has generated countless initiatives supported by the population that focus on sustainable economic development and use of resources. Costa Rica has signed more than 45 international environmental treaties and has a staggering 23 percent of its landmass preserved within national parks and reserves.

It ranks first in all of the Americas for the Environmental Performance Index as presented annually by Yale University (epi.yale.edu).

Costa Rica's entrenched ecotourism model is a predictor of future success in its tourism trade.

Other regional destinations, particularly in the Caribbean, that follow the enclave-tourism model have marketed themselves into an undifferentiated product.

"Sun, sand and surf" is the common product pitched by these destinations, and without the inclusion of local culture as a tourism draw, the next cheaper, safer or more easily accessed enclave overtakes the trade.

In fact, the Costa Rican tourism model is so well-respected and globally recognized that The Washington Post used it as analogy for West Virginia's up-and-coming ecotourism trade (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/25/AR2005082500706.html).

Tourism in Costa Rica draws a diverse group of travelers, from college students backpacking on a few dollars a day, to luxury resorts that cater to medical tourists seeking cosmetic surgeries (at lower rates than in the U.S.), to family tour packages operated by Disney.

Trafalgar is operating a tour in 2014 that promises, presumably, by its moniker, "Monkeys, Jungles and Volcanoes."

With Costa Rica's surfeit of natural beauty, the traveler's imagination is the limit of possibilities - beaches, wildlife watching, volcano visits, birding, canopy tours, bungee jumping, trekking, surfing, snorkeling and rafting only begin the list of available adventures.

For a Central American destination that offers astounding value for the tourist, as well as ethical peace of mind, Costa Rica is easily accessible.

Flights from Charleston to San Jose, Costa Rica, are available on Delta Airlines for as little as $690 round-trip, with one stop and a travel time of approximately 6.5 hours.

A number of cruise lines also operate cruises that run through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica, including Royal Caribbean.

Interested in visiting Costa Rica? Speak with your travel agent or visit the Costa Rican Tourism Board's website at www.visitcostarica.com for more information.

Ted Lawson in the president and CEO of Charleston-based National Travel and a member of the WV Travel Team who contributes regularly to the Life & Style travel page.

Follow National Travel on Twitter at @NatlTravel and on Facebook. For questions or comments on this article, contact Ariadne Moore, executive assistant at National Travel, at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

Spring wine festival set to uncork http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140614/GZ05/140619579 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140614/GZ05/140619579 Sat, 14 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 CRAB ORCHARD, W.Va. - The 16th annual West Virginia Spring Wine Festival is set to kick off Saturday, the first day of summer.

The festival, which begins at 11 a.m. June 21, will take place on the grounds of the Daniel Vineyards, near Beckley. It features arts, music craft and food vendors and some of the top wineries in the state, including:

n Daniel Vineyards, in Crab Orchard

n Forks of Cheat Winery, Morgantown

n West-Whitehill Winery, Moorefield

n Watts Roost Vineyard, Lewisburg

n Heston Farm Winery, Fairmont

Gate admission is $10 per person with valid ID, which includes all wine tastings, a commemorative glass and live entertainment. No pets or coolers, but lawn chairs and blankets are allowed.

For more information, visit www.wvwines.com, or contact Daniel Vineyards at 304-252-9750.

Kings Island: summer fun to appeal to everyone http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140613/GZ10/140619602 GZ10 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140613/GZ10/140619602 Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:05:12 -0400 By Lydia Boggess Winfield High School It's the time of year again when calendars are brought out and trips are planned. If you are coming up short on ideas but looking for an amazing summer adventure, consider Kings Island, the largest amusement and water park in the Midwest. Kings Island is located in Mason, Ohio, which is only about three hours away, making it an ideal option for an overnight stay or a simple day trip.

If you decide to stay overnight, there are many hotels in the area, including the Great Wolf Lodge. The lodge itself includes a 79,000 square-foot indoor water park, arcades, restaurants and a kids spa. Plus, its Kings Island package includes four one-day tickets to the park and a walking trail straight from the lodge to the park's front gates.

But what is there to do at Kings Island exactly? Well, it depends on what you want to do. At Kings Island, there is something for absolutely everyone.

If you are looking for some fun rides but don't want the speed and dare of intense roller coasters, the park offers many family rides such as Congo Falls, a boat ride that splashes you down a 43-foot waterfall; Viking Fury, a medieval ship that flies in an 80-foot arc; and the Eiffel Tower, which takes you up 275 feet to look over the whole park. Other family rides include the Scrambler, Grand Carousel, Dodgem cars, White Water Canyon and even two roller coasters - Backlot Stunt Coaster and Adventure Express.

There are even separate sections of the park for younger children. Planet Snoopy consists of splash zones, miniature roller coasters, trains, mini carousels and more. Dinosaurs Alive has life-size animatronic dinosaurs and a dig site.

However, for those of you who are speed junkies and live for exhilaration, there are numerous thrill rides to choose from. For starters, Kings Island is famous for its roller coasters.

This year, a new roller coaster called Banshee opened. It is the world's longest inverted roller coaster with 4,124 feet of track and seven inversions at 68 mph.

There's also the Diamondback, which is a steel roller coaster that features 5,282 feet of drops, twist and turns at 80 mph. Other coasters in the park are Firehawk, which flips riders on their backs through five inversions at 50 mph; The Beast, which is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world; Flight of Fear, which shoots riders from zero to 54 mph in four seconds; The Racer, which has twin trains competing to the finish line; Invertigo, which sits riders face-to-face while going through three inversions at 55 mph; Vortex, which has two vertical loops, a double corkscrew, boomerang turn and 360-degree helix at 55 mph; and The Bat, a suspended roller coaster with banked turns at 51 mph.

But roller coasters are not the only thrill rides at the park. Kings Island also features the Delirium, a swinging pendulum; Drop Tower, which has a 26-story (315 foot) drop; the Sling Shot, which shoots rides 275 feet at 100 mph; WindSeeker, a swinging chair ride 30 stories high; and Xtreme Skyflyer, which combines the excitement of hang gliding and skydiving.

Live entertainment shows offer a break from the rides, and Kings Island has seven: Cirque Imagine, The Boyz Are Back! (boy band songs), Flashback: Totally '80s!, Charlie Brown's Hoedown, Rock 'N' Roll Never Forgets (classic rock), Peanuts Party in the Plaza and Playlist Live! (classic rock and modern hits). There are also numerous restaurants and shops in the park.

If you're there on a hot day, you can cool off at Soak City. The water park has 30 water slides, wave pools, a splash river and more.

Other great things about Kings Island are its many events and promotions. This summer, there are events such as Dive-In movies at Soak City every Friday from June 20-July 25, the SpiritSong Christian music festival June 26-28, a Soak City luau July 12, a breakfast with Peanuts characters June 29 and the Ride and Run weekend, featuring a Glow Run 5K, half-marathon and 10K, Sept. 26-28. Promotions include free military admission July 3-6 and Kings Island Kicks Cancer, which offers a chance to win a 2015 Honda Fit, July 25-Aug. 24.

Kings Island is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to midnight weekends through Nov. 2. A single-day ticket is $43 online or $59.99 at the gate. Season passes start at $90. Also consider purchasing a fast lane pass, which lets you skip the wait on many rides, for $45.

From rides to music to dining to shopping, Kings Island has it all. For more information, go to www.visitkingsisland.com or download the free Kings Island mobile app.

Lewisburg Home and Garden Tour is an invitation to enjoy the town's way of life http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140607/GZ05/140609555 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140607/GZ05/140609555 Sat, 7 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Judy E. Hamilton If touring historical and contemporary homes, viewing long-range vistas from a mountaintop, swinging on a gazebo porch swing and walking through garden arbors sounds like a pleasant way to spend a Saturday, the small town of Lewisburg may be your destination for the 34th annual Lewisburg Home and Garden Tour.

"It's an opportunity to welcome people to Lewisburg, and hopefully they come back," said Ellen Goodwin, an organizer of this year's tour, which brings together the four garden clubs in the town of 3,830: Bluebell Garden Club, Greenbrier Gardeners, Lewisburg House and Garden Club and Savannah Garden Club.

Five of Lewisburg's finest homes and four gardens are featured at the event.

Garden Club members will open the doors and garden gates to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 14.

Tickets purchased in advance cost $25 and cost $30 on the day of the event.

"The downtown businesses, the art galleries, the unique shops and restaurants, the little boutiques, the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the Lewis Theatre, Carnegie Hall ... just walking around is nice. There should be something for everybody," Goodwin said.

Among the home and gardens featured is Cottage Belle, 419 E. Washington St., the home of Tag and Annabelle Galyean.

It contains a unique collection of "garden rooms, sculpture, gathering areas and exterior space" 20 years in the making, by the owners and landscape designer Josh Polan, said Annabelle Galyean.

"It's a Sears Roebuck house," Galyean said of the two-bedroom cottage's original portion, constructed in 1922.

"When we moved here in 1989, it was owned by Bill Campbell, the golfer, and they had used it only for the summers. We bought it in 1992," she said.

The home was redesigned and refurbished to be a simple cottage within a series of garden "rooms."

"Tag will just sit out here in the gazebo and say, 'God, this is beautiful.' We built the gazebo to replace the covered porch which we converted to our master bedroom," she said.

The Garden at Marfield, 508 E. Washington St., is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, and was designed by the owners, Gail Marshall and Bill Tilson, with handcrafted gazebos, storage buildings, swing arbors and a collection 50 types of Japanese maples trees.

"When I moved in here in 1971, it was fenced in and it was a horse pasture. It was all locust trees, greenbriers, poison ivy and barbed wire," Marshall said.

She explained that the name of the garden is a combination of the first syllable of her last name and the word "field."

The couple has been together for 12 years and they share a mutual love of designing, constructing and maintaining the garden.

"She designs the shape of the garden and takes marker paint to outline it and then we both start shoveling. We call the seven-sided gazebo we built Cielo Verde, which translates to 'green sky.' Most gazebos have eight sides, but this one lends itself to being seven-sided because we wanted two swings. We like to put on a fire and have a gin and tonic," Tilson said.

He went on to explain how together they hand-dug the larger of the two ponds on the property in seven weeks.

"We enjoy it, and Mother Nature is good to us," Marshall said.

The home of Claude and Rebecca Gaujot, Gaujot House was built in 2005 in the Greenbrier Pines subdivision.

It was selected to be part of the home and garden tour to show how the Lewisburg area is not exclusively about historic homes.

"We built this house after we got the plans off the Internet. I think it was Southern Living," Rebecca Gaujot said as she walked through her home, which features an open floor plan with many windows to provide views of nature.

A wooded area in the back of the home can be enjoyed from the deck or the stone patio on the lower level.

The traditional yet modern home also features an impressive art collection, including works by Lynn Boggess, Max Hayslette, Pamela Gatens and Jessica Roczniak-Grist.

Four additional homes and gardens are part of the tour: Harmony Hill, a 6,000-square-foot home built from yellow pine logs near the top of White Rock Mountain in the Greenbrier State Forest; The Mourges Home, a contemporary log home nestled in the Allegheny Mountains and overlooking The Greenbrier resort; The Spencer Garden, designed in raised vegetable beds with crushed pebble paths and perennial herb beds on each side of the backyard; and The Vass House, in wooded Greenbrier Pines, Lewisburg's newest residential development.

Tickets for the home and garden show may be purchased at the General Lewis Inn, 301 E. Washington St.; The Front Porch, 219 E. Washington St.; the North House museum, 301 W. Washington St.; as well as at each of the tour sites.

Information and advance tickets are available at the Greenbrier County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 200 W. Washington St., or visit greenbrierwv.com.

Complimentary tea and cookies will be served at the General Lewis Inn from 2 to 5 p.m. June 14.

Tickets include attendance at a reception at 6 p.m. June 13, featuring George W. Longenecker, executive director of the West Virginia Botanic Garden, as the guest speaker at the Carnegie Hall auditorium, 105 Church St. He will discuss the vision for the 82-acre gardening site in Monongalia County. Light hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served. Visit wvbg.com for additional information about the botanical garden.

Detailed information about the homes and gardens featured on the 2014 tour and directions may be found at lewisburghomeandgardentour.com.

Visitors are encouraged to take time during and after the tour to enjoy downtown Lewisburg.

The house and garden tour ticket entitles the holder to 10 percent off purchases at Stella's, Livery Tavern or The Front Porch.

"We still think we're a cool small town, and one should just come and experience it and enjoy the day. It's fun," Goodwin said, referring to the town's "Coolest Small Town in America" designation by Budget Travel magazine in 2011.

All proceeds from the tour are used for beautification projects and for the next year's home and garden tour, Goodwin said.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.

WV Travel Team: Rhode Island is a mini state with maxi fun http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140607/GZ05/140609614 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140607/GZ05/140609614 Sat, 7 Jun 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Earlier this spring, a Clay County couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary reported they'd visited every U.S. state but Rhode Island.

"We didn't see any reason to go there," she was quoted as saying.

I was shocked.

Who could not find a reason to explore a pocket-size state about twice the size of Kanawha County with nearly endless beaches, great food and historic mansions?

Let's start with the beaches. West Virginians love the beach. It must be compensation for having no coastline and only one teeny natural lake. We'll drive hours to feel the sand between our toes on Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. Land at Greene Airport in central Rhode Island and before you can use up that first tank of gas in your rental car, you can sample at least a dozen.

The beach buffet in Rhode Island includes more than 50 saltwater locations decorating more than 500 miles of coastline - plus a couple dozen freshwater beaches thrown in for those who don't use salt.

Every town has a beach, and the state fills in any blanks that remain. Like any good buffet, each beach has its own distinctive flavor. Tiny Narragansett has four, starting with Town Beach, popular with surfers, and continuing south through Scarborough, the largest and busiest state beach, with a stone pavilion, fine sand and good surf.

Farther down the road is another pair of South County's 20 beaches - East Matunuk with strong surf and South Kingstown with a boardwalk.

Easton's Beach, called First Beach by those in the know, is on one end of the famous Cliff Walk in Newport, introduced by gigantic stones leading to a stretch of sand beach with a long, public beach house.

A little farther into the next town is Sachuest Town Beach, or Second Beach, a nature beach complete with sand dunes.

Adjacent to Second Beach is Purgatory Chasm, a plunging gorge of a type that could easily be found in West Virginia. Rhode Island is filled with geography anomalous for a beach state barely above sea level, including abundant cliffs, rises and an incredible array of rocks. Rhode Islanders treat their beaches the way West Virginians treat their mountains: as homeplace, workplace and backyard playground.

No self-respecting Mountaineer is without a favorite hunting spot. In Rhode Island, it's fishing.

Any local car trunk or pickup bed has fishing gear ready to haul out in case the blues are running as the driver heads down some beach road or another on the way home.

All this fishing, both commercial and personal, makes for fine eating. Rhode Island scores No. 1 nationally in the local food movement, in great part because every morning lobster and fishing boats leave hundreds of docks and their catch is on countless restaurant tables by dinner.

One of the biggest sea crops in state waters is lobster. In a week, I ate lobster in forms I never imagined, including fritters and sliders, rolls and salads, croissants and traditional lobster tail with melted butter. There were claws and bisque, stuffed and pies, nachos, quesadillas, ravioli and mac and cheese.

Counting leftovers, I ate lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost daily. One of the best sources was the Red Parrot, in Newport, where at least half the odd lobster dishes could be found on the menu, including their specialty - Monsta Lobster BLT.

Like West Virginia's pepperoni rolls and hot dogs, Rhode Island has iconic foods available at bargain prices literally everywhere, but especially the three D's:

n D'Angelo's sandwich shop, a local chain, has a legendary steak sub that takes a back seat only to its lobster rolls in season.

n Dunkin' Donuts is a familiar national brand, but Rhode Island elevates it to an obsession with more stores per square mile than anywhere in the U.S. "Doughnuts are our state flour," quipped one witty native.

n Del's Lemonade rounds out the trio. The branded brown trucks are summer accessories parked against marvelous beach backdrops and making for quick breaks on beach-traffic-filled highways.

A family business started in 1948 with mid-19th-century roots, the lemony slush is now a cultural icon that just paired with local Narragansett Beer on Del's Shandy, a hard lemonade.

Released on a mid-May weekend, the initial run sold out immediately. Fortunately, more is in the tanks.

The state's culinary landscape is more than snack foods and drink. Clam shacks are so plentiful, they rate their own category in every dining list.

Calamari is a prolific appetizer, and it comes from just down the coast. Giant clam cakes are what every Southerner recognizes as hush puppies, and South County has its own style of clear chowder.

At places like Matunuck Oyster Bar, shucking goes on hour after hour, and the haul of bivalves comes from out the back door.

Italian food is the major tribute to the state's dominant ethnic group, and that does not mean pizza. Almost every town has several options from gourmet to carryout, virtually all family-owned and -operated.

The culture, food and price cannot be beat at the legendary Twin Oaks, in Cranston, with lakeside view, unsmiling male waiters and a suspiciously "Sopranos"-like clientele. The two specialties are Rhode Island favorites: veal Parmesan with a choice of side pasta that includes homemade ravioli and baked stuffed shrimp - local catch, of course.

Portion size goes far to justify the bulk of the clientele.

Rhode Island's history is among the longest in the U.S., settled in the mid-17th century by Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson in the name of religious freedom while West Virginia was still unknown territory over unexplored mountains.

It's always been a bit odd, the ethnic and freethinking outlier in rigid and colder New England. Quirks continue to dominate, and the noticeable lack of national-chain shopping is one indicator.

Coming home with Rhode Island art is easy with art fairs, shops and galleries in every town, plus the enlightened attitude that proclaims it "state of the arts" with no sales tax on original and limited-edition works of art. (Hear that West Virginia?)

The ultimate shopping score is Alix and Ani, a multimillion-dollar local brand that markets causes along with their wildly popular bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

The most famous artist in the state is Gilbert Stuart, who painted the George Washington portrait on the $1 bill - unless you count "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, who set his Emmy Award-winning animated television series in Rhode Island and populated it with local characters including recurring cameos by actor James Woods.

The Atlantic House, in charming Narragansett, is a beach lover's dream. Modestly priced with balconies overlooking Narragansett Bay and its beaches just footsteps across the front lawn and sea walk, each room has a small sitting area attached.

The balcony view also includes Narragansett Towers, a stone structure arching over the beach road, remnant of an early-20th-century casino destroyed by fire.

Today, the Towers' upstairs hall is a favorite of brides and elegant events.

Just up the main drag - in Rhode Island, that's the combo of U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 - is a piece of industrial heyday transformed into a minimalist trendy and hip hotel.

NYLO is built on the site of the former Fruit of the Loom factory. Next door still stand decaying buildings and a river perfect for mills.

I was wary at first in the ultra-modern lobby with a library that had hanging chairs. But once upstairs, I was amazed at how comfortable and efficient the room was using minimal space.

Luxury has its place, and in fabulous Newport that means the historic 1926 Viking Hotel, with its legions of cute male valets and suites overlooking the spectacular harbor.

The rooms have classic furnishings and impressively comfortable beds. I was pleased to add my name to a long list of rich and famous guests from Will Rogers to Kennedys and Vanderbilts.

There is a list of "mosts" attached to Newport that make it a must-see place while in Rhode Island - or New England, in fact.

It is the historic architecture capital of the U.S., with so many surviving colonial structures that a mid-19th-century house is considered "new." Historic homes have been transformed into lodging, allowing Newport to proudly offer more than 100 bed-and-breakfast inns, the most in any American city.

There are little squares and parks scattered everywhere. Narrow cobblestone streets lead down to a picture-perfect working harbor with nearly 20 wharfs and landings, most lined with shops and restaurants.

Tours may be the biggest industry in Newport: walking and trolley, themes and sites. Leaving the harbor are tours on yachts, sailboats, cruisers, schooners, smuggler boats, ferries and even helicopters.

No tour can match those through nearly a dozen Gilded Age mansions. Built by the "really rich" at the turn of the 20th century, the theme of most seems to be covering every square inch of visible surface with nonfunctional but gasp-inducing ornamentation.

Versailles is the model of choice, and The Breakers and Marble House its most avid copiers.

Marble House's aptly named Gold Room has an impossibly ornate carved ceiling gilded in 14-carat gold and a huge, rare black striated marble fireplace that is a small piece of the mansion's nearly half-million cubic feet of marble. A charming Chinese Tea House on the lawn serves refreshments in season.

America's most unique National Recreation Trail, the famed 3.5-mile Cliff Walk, offers ever-changing beach views on one side and equally changing views of private mansions lining the bluffs overlooking those beaches on the other. Climb the ramparts at Fort Adams for more spectacular ocean views.

A 19th-century coastal fortification, largest and most complex fortress in America, it is site of the annual Newport Jazz Festival.

If our Clay County couple needs more persuading that there is something to see in Rhode Island, I can cite the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, where they could play on grass courts surrounding the former Victorian casino.

For the literary-minded, there is Redwood Library and Athenaeum, the oldest still-functioning lending library in the U.S.

For oddities, visit Old Stone Mill, at Touro Park, described as the most controversial structure in America. Experts are undecided as to its origins. Built by Norsemen? Or Benedict Arnold, one of Rhode Island's first governors?

How about St. Mary's Catholic Church, where John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier married in 1953?

A week was not enough to enjoy all Rhode Island has to offer. The capital city Providence is cosmopolitan and urban drawing nightlife lovers, shoppers and diners.

Alluring Block Island, reachable only by ferry, has 17 miles of pristine beaches and even more miles of biking and walking trails. There are two harbors and accompanying areas of shops and restaurants plus Victorian hotels with ocean views.

West Virginians would find Jamestown Island a familiar rural landscape with farms, historic fire hall and cozy town ... familiar until they come to the working harbor and two bridges connecting it to the mainland and Newport on the next island over.

May I stop now? Can I expect Mr. and Mrs. Clay County to hop on the next plane for Rhode Island and complete their check list of mainland states to visit?

The friendly folks I encountered throughout the smallest state are waiting to hear.

For more information on Newport: www.discovernewport.org or www.visitrhodeisland.com for a free travel guide.

Jeanne Mozier's latest release is a sizzling political thriller set during a U.S. Senate campaign in Rhode Island. "Senate Magic" capped her love affair with the tiny state; the recent visit was an epilogue. The fourth edition of her award-winning "Way Out in West Virginia" is available from Quarrier Press at www.wvbookco.com.

WV Travel Team: Top picks one-tank getaways http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140531/GZ05/140539991 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140531/GZ05/140539991 Sat, 31 May 2014 23:00:00 -0400 Today we are introducing a new face for our Travel Team. Mitzi Harrison has been with AAA Travel for 34 years and now manages the Charleston area, dividing her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia. She replaces Travel Team member Christina Rollyson, who is leaving West Virginia to pursue another career opportunity in North Carolina.

Mitzi's favorite travel spot? Impossible to name just one! For food - Italy. For R&R - "A cruise to anywhere my cellphone doesn't work." For beauty - Switzerland, Lucerne in particular. "I love relaxing and taking it all in, walking around any city and mingling with the locals," she says.

In her debut article for the WV Travel Team, Mitzi highlights places to see and explore that won't cost an arm and a leg to get to!

By Mitzi Harrison

WV Travel Team

The Memorial Day holiday kicked off the start of the summer vacation season.

Although the standard one-week vacation trip has never lost its popularity, many of us also look forward to those quick three-day road trips.

I went to the AAA road warrior experts, Auto Travel Counselors, and asked for their favorite picks to get the best advice about long-weekend getaways. Here are their most-loved destinations for a girlfriend shopping getaway, a family "camping" experience and a couples-only retreat.

Destination: The Homer Laughlin China Retail Outlet, 800 Fiesta Drive, Newell; 220 miles from Charleston; approximate driving time: three hours 40 minutes. Comfortable shoes required.

If you're a fan of the colorful dishes and consider shopping a competitive sport, this might be your ultimate game. Twice a year, the Fiesta outlet, in Newell, holds a tent sale where shoppers can purchase a wide array of Fiesta Ware products for a fraction of the retail price. Many of the items are seconds and would not be suitable for the serious collector, but they are perfect for those who just want to set a pretty table.

This sale requires a serious shopping game plan and there are strict rules which are rigorously enforced.

For a complete list of rules visit: http://www.fiestafactorydirect.com/t-storelocation.aspx.

Here are some inside tips from experienced shoppers:

n The 2014 summer sale is June 12-14 - one of the best shopping days is Thursday.

n Tickets to enter the sale are given out each morning at 7. To win the best place in line with the first wave of shoppers, bring your lawn chairs and arrive no later than 3:30 a.m.

n As soon as you get your ticket (and hopefully your ticket wins you a spot with the first 50 shoppers), head back to the hotel for breakfast. Shoppers should return to the outlet by 8 a.m., where they will be placed in line, in order of their ticket numbers.

n You must bring your own dolly; the best choice is a four-wheeled cart that allows you to stack your allotment of four plastic crates, provided by the outlet to place the dishes in.

n For anyone seeking specific products or colors, team shopping is the best approach, using a cellphone to notify team members about sought-after items. If possible, start in the middle of the tent and work your way out. If you see something you like, grab it immediately - if you wait and go back, it will likely be gone.

n Bring along several pairs of socks you can slide over your hand to wipe dusty dishes to ensure there are no cracks.

Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express, 1181 Washington St., Newell; phone 304-740-2300.

Where to eat: Di Carlo's Pizza, 118 Washington St., Newell; phone 304-387-2017. For dinner, call in your pizza order and take it back to the hotel to enjoy poolside while planning your strategy for the tent sale.

Side trip: Strip District, Pittsburgh, approximately one hour from Newell.

Now that you have all those pretty new dishes, it's time to hunt for special ingredients to create Fiesta-worthy culinary delights. After the intense shopping workout, head over to the Strip District in Pittsburgh. The first stop is lunch at the famous Primanti Bros., 46 18th St., for a sandwich loaded with their award-winning fresh cut fries - guaranteed to re-energize shoppers for round two.

Pittsburgh's Strip District is a half-mile square area known for its expansive selection of ethnic food and wholesale produce shops where you can pick up everything from apples to zucchinis, as well as more exotic and hard-to-find spices and oils.

AAA Travel Favorite pick: Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. for all things Italian, including an amazing selection of imported food items. Macaroni's is at 2010-12 Penn Ave., just a short walk from Primanti Bros.

Destination: Salt Fork State Park, 14755 Cadiz Road, Lore City, Ohio; 145 miles from Charleston; approximate driving time: two hours.

If the idyllic notion of a family camping trip is appealing, but the reality of sleeping on the ground in a tent is not, we found the perfect family "camping" trip for you.

Although the words "camping" and "luxury" aren't often normally associated with each other, you can experience both in a luxurious cabin on the beautiful Salt Fork Lake, one of Ohio's largest state parks.

Salt Fork State Park offers upscale amenities that include lakeside cabins with hot tubs, full-service dining room with cocktail lounge, indoor and outdoor pools, as well as an 18-hole championship golf course rated four stars by Golf Digest magazine.

The "stuff to do" list is so impressive, we're betting parents will never hear, "I'm bored; there's nothing to do":

n 14 miles of mapped hiking trails

n Two marinas with boat rentals

n Sailing and canoeing

n Fishing

n Movie rentals and board games

n Rock climbing

n Outdoor children's playground

n Sandy beach

n Naturalist programs

n Game room including pool tables, air hockey and numerous video and interactive games

n Family/children's programs (children's recreation available most Saturdays and daily in summer)

n Geocaching, including hand-held GPS units for rent

n Paintball (two courses) - equipment rental available; paintballs sold through the lodge

Cabins include full kitchens, as well as an outdoor grill.

Families can bring along all the supplies for a cookout, complete with S'mores, or call the restaurant and order a pizza to go.

Side trip: The Wilds, 14000 International Road, Cumberland, Ohio; phone 740-638-5030; 35 miles from Salt Fork State Park; approximate driving time: 45 minutes.

Take the kids for a walk on the wild side to meet creatures of all shapes and sizes.

Park residents include amphibians, birds, invertebrates and mammals. Families can tour by climate-controlled Safari Transport vehicle with large windows, or choose something more adventurous like the Zipline Safari Tour or the Horseback Safari Tour.

The special adventure tours have age and size restrictions. Visit The Wilds' website to learn more: http://www.thewilds.org/default.aspx.

Destination: Ohio's Amish Country in Holmes County; approximately 190 miles from Charleston; driving time about three hours.

Relax and rekindle your romance in Ohio's Amish Country, where time moves at a slower, gentler pace.

Two-lane roads poised on lush, green, rolling hills provide unobstructed views of a simpler, quieter kind of life that offers freedom from the connected world.

Visitors to Holmes County learn about why and how the "Plain" people settled in central Ohio, observe a chosen lifestyle that is far different than most Americans' and enjoy simple home-style cooking at its best.

What to see:

n Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, 5798 County Road 77, Berlin, Ohio; phone 330-893-3192.

The best place to begin your journey to learn about the largest Amish settlement in the world is the Sistine Chapel of the Amish and Mennonites at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. The cyclorama portrays the history of the people from their Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525 to the present.

n Yoder's Amish Home, 6050 Ohio Route 515, Millersburg, Ohio; phone 330-893-2541.

Take a guided tour through the 116-acre Amish farm where the history and customs of the Amish faith will be explained.

Guides show visitors two houses and a barn full of farm animals. While you're in the barn, be sure to check out the unique architecture, including beams and pegs.

Take a ride around a hayfield in an authentic Amish buggy to learn what it's like to travel like the Amish. The drivers are all members of the Amish church and enjoy talking with the visitors.

Before you leave Yoder's, follow your nose to the bakery for homemade breads and cinnamon rolls made by Amish bakers.

Where to stay: Oakridge Inn, a AAA three-diamond bed and Breakfast, offers eight rooms with unique room décor that spans from Shaker to modern Victorian. The Presidential Suite is a corner room with a two-sided view of the scenic Amish countryside.

Where to eat: Berlin Farmstead, 4757 Township Road 366, Millersburg, Ohio; phone 330-893-4600.

Built in 2003, this relative newcomer has quickly become a favorite. Using time-honored recipes and farm-fresh ingredients, hungry visitors can sample Amish kitchen cooking at its finest.

The food is prepared home-style with the same care and attention that Amanda Yoder would use in her own home. This is not a restaurant where you want to skip dessert, and our AAA expert recommends the date nut pudding.

Side trip: Lehman's Hardware, 4779 Kidron Road, Dalton, Ohio; phone 888-438-5346.

Lehman's Hardware is best known for nonelectric appliances made especially for the Amish.

However, in the late 1990s, Lehman's gained the attention of those outside Holmes County during the Y2K scare and business with the non-Amish boomed.

It's fun to look around at the things not normally seen on a shopping trip, like gas-powered ice cream makers and butter churns. Stop by the candy store to pick up old-fashioned favorites like root beer barrels and Black Jack Taffy.

For more information on these and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office and pick up a copy of the 2014 Amish Country Visitors Guide, or call one of their travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

WV Travel Team: Living in the pink in Bermuda http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140524/GZ05/140529758 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140524/GZ05/140529758 Sat, 24 May 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Ted Lawson WV Travel Team

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Half past 2 is tea time at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, where homemade scones and pastries are served alongside piping-hot English tea presented in fine Belgian kettles.

Nearby shops offer English bone china, Irish linens and Scottish tweeds. Pubs with names like The Hog Penny and Frog & Onion dot idyllic streets, promising bangers and mash and steak-and-kidney pies just inside their welcoming doors.

Less than three miles away, in Saint George's Town, Saint Peter's is the oldest surviving Anglican church outside of the British Isles.

Yes, outside of the British Isles indeed, as this quintessentially British country is nearly 3,500 miles from London, in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda.

Often mistaken as being located in the Caribbean, Bermuda is actually approximately 800 miles off of the coast of North Carolina.

With all of its European charms, Bermuda is also home to spectacular pink sand beaches, cerulean waters, breathtaking coral reefs and crystal caverns - and steeped in history, with UNESCO World Heritage sites dating back to the 17th century.

Settled in 1612 as part of the Virginia Company, Saint George's Town remains the oldest continually inhabited British settlement in the New World.

Bermudan tourism began in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, visited in 1883, inspiring the name of the famed hotel.

In 1867, beloved American author Mark Twain made his first visit, and noted, "Bermuda is the right country for a jaded man to loaf in."

His infatuation with the island became an intimate part of his life, and the islands would become his second home.

His extensive writing about the seductiveness of Bermuda brought new throngs of tourists to the islands, as he touted their charms to Americans. "There is just enough of a whispering breeze, fragrance of flowers, and sense of repose to raise one's thoughts heavenward," he famously mused, and at the end of his life and his last trip to Bermuda he wrote, "You go to heaven if you want to, I'd rather stay here."

Twain's handprint remains throughout Bermuda, from a bronze statue of the writer sitting on a park bench to the fact that you cannot rent a car while visiting. Twain, it seems, lobbied heavily to prohibit all cars; now, tourists have the option of renting scooters to explore the country's many delights.

By the 1930s, the destination had caught the imagination of America's wealthy elite, with "Millionaires' Ships" carrying notable passengers such as Clark Gable, Gertrude Lawrence and T.S. Eliot to the islands.

It was at this time that Bermuda became the refuge of the great American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Following the tragic diagnosis of his wife Zelda's schizophrenia, a doctor recommended the couple go to Bermuda to calm her nerves.

"Bougainvillea cascaded down the tree trunks and long stairs passed by deep mysteries taking place behind native windows ... cats slept along the balustrade and lovely children grew ... we rode bicycles along the wind-swept causeways and stared in a dreamy daze at such phenomena as roosters scratching amidst the sweet alyssum," he wrote in his memoirs.

There, Fitzgerald wrote the final chapters and revisions of "Tender is the Night," his poignant nod to the experiences of his marriage to Zelda.

Bermuda does inspire a sense of magic and otherworldliness, the "deep mysteries" and "heavenward" thoughts of Fitzgerald and Twain.

At once anachronistic and cosmopolitan, Bermuda provides a unique opportunity to experience an Old World feel in the New World, set against spectacular natural beauty. Inherently romantic, honeymooners love the destination for the quietness and privacy afforded them.

(Fitzgerald wrote on this too, musing "The Elbow Beach Hotel was full of honeymooners, who scintillated so persistently in each other's eyes that even we were cynically moved.")

Hotels, upon request, will provide a picnic lunch and scooters to visit tucked-away volcanic beaches.

And, with a nearly nonexistent crime rate and easily accessible public transportation system, tourists are free to explore the country's many charms at their own pace.

For golf lovers, Bermuda boasts the highest concentration of golf courses in the world, with seven nestled within its 21 square miles.

Belmont Hills, located in Warwick, is currently ranked as the fifth best course in the world.

Other world-class events draw tourists year-round, including the famed Newport Bermuda Yacht Race in June of each year, and the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts in January and February.

History buffs will also find no lack of sites to visit.

Stately historic homes, churches, military forts and the Maritime Museum illustrate the long history of the country, and provide an insight into its unique culture.

Crystal cave tours take visitors through hauntingly beautiful underground mazes with stunning azure-blue pools.

The year-round pleasant climate makes the Bermuda Botanical Gardens a must-see destination, and family members of all ages enjoy the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo.

Luxury, upscale shopping opportunities are prolific in downtown Hamilton, where businessmen hurry out to lunch in suit jackets and Bermuda shorts, completing the familiar yet foreign atmosphere that is Bermuda's magic.

While hotels in Bermuda do not offer popular "all-inclusive" options commonly provided in Caribbean destinations, the vast array of restaurants beckon travelers to sample the local cuisine. British, French, Italian, Portuguese, American, Caribbean, Indian, Chinese and Thai menus blend seamlessly into Hamilton's international climate as palatable reminders of the country's colonial history.

The country offers travelers something very different from the Caribbean islands it is often mistakenly associated with.

Many travelers discount Bermuda as too expensive, fearing the lack of an all-inclusive option will incur too many unpredicted expenses. Nevertheless, the experience of a vacation in Bermuda is far worth the added expense, as the islands perfectly combine a taste of Europe with breathtaking island vistas.

From most Northeast U.S. cities, Bermuda is less than a two-hour flight; from Charleston, flights typically route through Washington, D.C., with a total flight time of only four hours.

Tickets are reasonably priced, beginning as low as $340 round-trip, and packages for five days, including air, at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess come in under $2,000 per person.

Bed and breakfasts are popular on the islands as well, providing local charm and a unique stay for as little as $100 a night.

And, while five-star restaurants abound, there are plenty of casual dining options for more budget-conscious travelers. In many ways, a shorter trip to Bermuda to accommodate budget is a more valuable trip than one to a Caribbean counterpart.

"There are no harassments; the deep peace and quiet of the country sink into one's body and bones and give his conscience a rest." - Mark Twain, "Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion"

Happy travels!

Ted Lawson in the president and CEO of Charleston-based National Travel and a member of the WV Travel Team who contributes regularly to the Life & Style travel page.

Follow National Travel on Twitter at @NatlTravel and on Facebook. For questions or comments on this article, contact Ariadne Moore, executive assistant at National Travel, at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

Cumberland Gap has some of America's oldest history http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140517/GZ05/140519384 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140517/GZ05/140519384 Sat, 17 May 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It's time to "fess" up: I sometimes confuse Davy Crockett with Daniel Boone.

I hope you'll understand, since both frontiersmen were played on TV by Fess Parker.

At 6-foot-6, Parker was the tallest by far. Boone was just 5-foot-8. (That's without a coonskin cap, since he didn't wear one.)

In 1775, Boone blazed a 120-mile trail through Cumberland Gap, a north-south break in the Appalachians at what became the Kentucky-Tennessee border, just west of where the tail of Virginia slides in.

From the 1770s to 1810, 200,000 to 300,000 people passed through - in the early years, many barefoot and some on horseback - on their way to the Ohio Valley. Abe Lincoln's parents made the trip (separately) in the 1780s, Thomas as a boy and Nancy as a babe in arms.

Kentucky became the first state west of the Appalachians in 1792. Tennessee followed in 1796, the year Boone's Wilderness Road was widened for wagons. Soon there was a good deal of traffic eastbound, moving livestock and corn whiskey.

(Speaking of whiskey, the Wilderness Road later became famous as "Thunder Road," the title of a 1958 movie starring Robert Mitchum about moonshine runners and their souped-up proto-stock cars. Licensed micro-distilleries now produce legal Tennessee "moonshine" and there is a White Lightning driving tour.)

The "Columbus of the Woods," Boone is still a folk hero nearly 200 years after his death. Boone County in West Virginia is one of six counties named for him in different states. But he didn't discover the Gap.

Bison and the American Indians who hunted them had been using the Gap for centuries, if not millennia.

In 1673, a man named Gabriel Arthur was sent by an English fur trader to make contact with the Cherokee. At the last minute, instead of being burned at the stake, he was adopted by a chief and began traveling with the tribe.

Arthur is believed to be the first European to cross the Gap (and may have been the first European to arrive in what is now West Virginia).

In the 19th century, canals and railroads took over. In the 1920s, Kentucky Route 25E - known as "Massacre Mountain" for its high accident rate - was built through the Gap. Funds to relocate 25E were authorized in 1973, but it took 23 years and $280 million to build the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. No toll, if you're wondering.

The tunnel project cleared the way for the landscape's restoration. You can now stroll in the footsteps of Boone; his predecessors, including Dr. Thomas Walker, who surveyed the area for the Loyal Land Co. in 1750; and the pioneers.

Them thar hills are chock-full of underground streams and springs. (The tunnel had to be lined with PVC.) This flowing and dripping water has sculpted out an extensive cave network, including Gap Cave, one of the main attractions in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

Two-hour cave tours leave daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Lantern flashlights are distributed to visitors, who are guided on a many-stepped path through 1½ miles of cave.

The rewards - colorful and varied formations surrounding pools of water, "rooms" of surprising dimensions, graffiti from Civil War soldiers - greatly outnumber the challenges - a few spots where the ceiling becomes very low, dripping water (see above) and, oh yes, bats.

The most common of the species that inhabit the cave is the little brown bat. The ones we saw were hanging quietly upside-down. We couldn't help feeling sorry for them after we learned of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that kills bats by waking them up when they are hibernating.

This makes them use up body fat flying around when their insect prey is absent, starving and exhausting the little fellers.

Gap Cave was known as King Solomon's Cave in the 1890s and had a long life as a tourist attraction known as Cudjo's Cave, inspired by an 1864 novel about abolitionists and Union sympathizers who hide out in a cave occupied by two escaped slaves.

Although the visitor center, with exhibits and a bookstore and shop, is on the Kentucky side, other parts of the park are in Tennessee and Virginia. (Daniel Boone: "I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.")

There is a marker where one can stand in all three states and it is an easy climb to Pinnacle Overlook, elevation 2,440 feet.

Bypassed by the new 25E, the village of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, has the feeling of a charming if forgotten frontier outpost. There are 19th- and early 20th-century homes and commercial buildings, some containing old-timey shops; two covered bridges; the remains of an iron furnace; a 3,746-foot former railroad tunnel, open to walkers; and the Little Congress Bicycle Museums (a labor of love).

The Pineapple Tea Room offers home-style meals and unforgettable banana pudding.

To see the town come to life with storytellers, crafters, family history experts and re-enactors, visit June 12-14 for the Genealogy Jamboree, which concludes with Pioneer Day, when "Daniel Boone and the 30 axe men that cut the Wilderness Road come into the Gap at noon."

From Charleston, it takes about five hours to reach the area via Interstate 64 west to Lexington and Interstate 75 south to Corbin. From Corbin, Kentucky Route 25E meanders to Middlesboro, on the Kentucky side of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

Once through the tunnel, several Tennessee points of interest - such as Lincoln Memorial University's museum of Lincolniana - are accessible from Tennessee Route 63, heading west.

Up a steep and GPS-free road on a nearby hill is the Hatfield Knob Wildlife Viewing Stand, where members of an elk herd estimated at 450 animals may be seen. (I said may - this isn't a zoo.) Elk were reintroduced in 2000 from Elk Island in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Worth a detour to the south is Norris Lake, the multi-recreational byproduct of Norris Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority's original project.

On June 28, Sequoyah Marina will host the "Fire on the Water" fireworks show.

In Caryville, one can pick up Interstate 75 North and - as even Daniel Boone (or was it Davy Crockett?) was known to do - head home.

WV Travel Team: B&B stays enhance fairs and festivals http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140517/GZ05/140519580 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140517/GZ05/140519580 Sat, 17 May 2014 23:00:00 -0400 By Michele Moure-Reeves WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A few years ago, I was staying the night at the Gillum House (www.gillumhouse.com/) in Shinnston.

In the front yard, not 100 feet from my window, the carnival for Frontier Days (development@shinnstonwv.com) had been set up to open the next day.

Quiet - so quiet - and shrouded by a soft fog that had moved in during the early-morning hours, the view, grounded in what I had seen earlier, had become an apparition. Striped and bright white tents, their peaks hovering and barely visible, protected the games of chance.

The illumination from the rides looped through the night like loosened filaments. Strings of lights, vying for a presence with the colorful and gently swaying flags, created softened pathways disappearing into the night.

West Virginia presents so many opportunities for you to experience the unforgettable, to create those unique memories that go home with you and become a part of the stories you tell about your travels.

Fairs and festivals are rich with their celebratory sounds and imagery, sense of community and fellowship, laughter and exhilaration. Parades, 4-H and FFA exhibits, crafts, cotton candy and funnel cakes, carnival rides, music, dancing and races are just a few of the many things happening at any given event.

But that's not all! There are jazz and bluegrass festivals and festivals celebrating the wonder of our rivers and mountains; the pageantry of queens and their courts; and fairs dedicated to arts and crafts, coal, gas and oil, ramps, strawberries, water, peaches, apples, black walnuts and buckwheat - the list goes on and on.

Community, county, town and state fairs are listed online (www.wvfairsandfestivals.org/) and you can begin your adventure there. After you have selected which fairs or festivals you want to attend, you need to also find a place to stay. What better way to relax after a day walking the fairgrounds than to stay at a West Virginia bed and breakfast?

Chestnut Ridge Country Inn (http://chestnutridgecountryinn.com/), in Dunmore, has four guest rooms and a small private bungalow. Larry and Paula are gracious hosts and offer several packages in addition to a "Stay Inn" dinner for their guests.

Just five miles away from the inn is the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a place worth visiting any time of the year, and host of the Space Race Rumpus (www.gb.nrao.edu/rumpus/). The three-day family cycling festival, taking place June 13-15, is complete with three nights of live music, food, science education and cycling races (mountain and road) for all ages; there are no carousels, but the radio telescopes onsite add an element of wonder.

The 48th Annual Pioneer Days Festival is held July 9-13 in Marlinton, about 20 miles from Chestnut Ridge. Parades, a carnival, an antique car show and truck and tractor pulls, horseshoe pitching and demonstrations are all part of the five days of events. Durbin Days Heritage Festival is the following week and features train rides, live entertainment and a carnival.

The Pocahontas County website is a wealth of information on events in this area (www.pocahontascountywv.com/events/), including the Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off, Sept. 27.

The Morning Glory Inn (www.morninggloryinn.com/), also about 20 miles from Marlinton, has six sunny and large guest rooms, several with more than one bed, and a magnificent 90-foot front porch.

Another B&B you might want to check out is the Mt. Airy Bed and Breakfast and Gallery (www.mtairybnb.com/), also with six guest rooms. Located in Slatyfork, this inn is the closest to Snowshoe.

The Augusta Festival, Aug. 8-10 (https://augustaheritagecenter.org/augusta-festival/#), caps off the summer's events held at the Davis & Elkins College Augusta Heritage Center, in Elkins. This series of traditional dance, music, folklore and crafts classes keeps the town active for most of the summer, then winds up activities with a festival in Elkins City Park. A concert, contra dancing and square dancing and a juried craft fair are followed up by a gospel sing Sunday morning.

The Mountain State Forest Festival (www.forestfestival.com/), also in Elkins, is considered to be the oldest festival in the state. Running nearly two full weeks, the festival spreads across Elkins City Park and onto the grounds of Davis & Elkins College.

The festivities involving the queen and her court are extensive. Included in the activities are parades, a 5K run, an arts and crafts fair, a band competition, music, dancing and storytelling. The 78th Forest Festival takes place Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

There are three places to stay in Elkins, each completely different from the other.

The Post House Bed & Breakfast (www.virtualcities.com/ons/wv/z/wvz7603.htm) has three guest rooms, one with a private bath. Open July through October, the brick house of mid-20th-century architecture has a cozy front porch. Hostess Joan serves her homemade bread with the continental breakfast.

On the edge of Elkins Park and across the road from D&E is the Warfield House Bed & Breakfast (www.warfieldhousebedandbreakfast.com/). A meticulously restored house on the National Register of Historic Places, it is quite worth visiting just to see the wallpaper! There are four guest rooms and Peggy serves a full breakfast.

Graceland Inn (www.gracelandinn.com/) is a restored Victorian mansion with a restaurant and conference center. Located on the D&E campus, the inn has 11 guest rooms with antique and reproduction Victorian furniture. The conference center has 26 rooms. D&E manages and hosts activities for both of the festivals held in Elkins, including lodging and meals for the queen and her court.

They seldom have rooms available during these events, but it is always worth calling about cancellations.

On Oct. 11 and 12, the streets of Berkeley Springs are filled with activities sponsored by the Apple Butter Festival (www.berkeleysprings.com/newtbs/apple-butter-festival). A hometown parade starts the festivities, which include games, music, arts and crafts, local country food and great copper kettles of steaming apple butter. The apple butter demonstrations are held in the town square.

Jazz, blues and old-time music is performed all day, and ghost stories are told at the Ice House in the evening. Over 200 arts, crafts, mountain foods and antiques vendors fill the park and streets. A highlight of the festival is the Apple Butter Quilt; chances are sold for the quilt, which is given to the lucky winner at the close of the festival.

The Manor Inn Bed & Breakfast (www.bathmanorinn.com/), in downtown Berkeley Springs, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has two guest rooms and a two-room suite. Ellen and Wesley serve a large breakfast featuring fresh organic foods available in their area. The fall leaves are at their peak in early October and, when weather permits, you may enjoy their colors while you eat on the porch.

A benefit of having a guest room at Manor Inn is that you are walking distance (two blocks) from the festival, and parking, which is at a premium, is available in the inn's large guest car lot. Rooms book up quickly for this festival; if the Manor Inn is not available, check for accommodations in Shepherdstown (Thomas Shepherd Inn www.thomasshepherdinn.com/ or The Inn at Moler's Crossroads (www.innatmolerscrossroads.com/); Harpers Ferry (Laurel Lodge (www.laurellodge.com/); Hedgesville (Cider Mill House www.cidermillhouse.com/) or, a little farther away, Carriage Inn Bed and Breakfast - www.carriageinn.com/ or Jacob Rohrbach Inn - www.jacob-rohrbach-inn.com/.

In Spencer, five grand marshals, all Knights of the French Legion of Honor, decorated for their service in the U.S. Army during World War II in France, will lead the Grand Parade for the West Virginia Black Walnut Festival (http://wvbwf.com/), Oct. 9-12. Featuring a high school band competition, a queen and her court, flower and car shows, arts and crafts and two carnivals, the West Virginia Black Walnut Baking Contest is at the heart of the festival.

The four guest rooms at the Cunningham House Bed and Breakfast Inn (www.cunninghamhouseinn.com/) are reserved at this time, but it's worth giving Sherry a call to see if she has any cancellations or to put your name on her waiting list.

If there is no room in Spencer, the next closest place to stay is at Gobblers Ridge Lodge Bed and Breakfast (www.gobblersridge.com/), in Linn.

Another option is to make a day trip of it and stay in Buckhannon, about 50 miles from Spencer, at the Riverside Bed and Breakfast (www.riversidewv.com/). The house, with three guest rooms, is loaded with quilts created by Linda, the innkeeper, and you will be treated to her homemade bread served in the morning with your breakfast.

You've just missed it for this year, but each May, Buckhannon hosts the West Virginia Strawberry Festival (www.wvstrawberryfestival.com/). Spread over a full week and vying with the Forest Festival as the oldest and largest festival in the state, there are four parades including Horse & Carriage Parade, Junior Royalty Parade, Fireman's Parade and the Grand Feature Parade.

There are so many fairs and festivals to choose from, you could spend nearly every weekend at one fair or another while you explore West Virginia's history, culture and traditions, industry, people, wildlife and produce.

So, get online, check out the fairs and festivals calendar and then go to the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast site (wvbba.com) to find nearby accommodations. I guarantee that no matter what your interest, there is probably a festival to celebrate it!

Michele Moure-Reeves is a West Virginia innkeeper and president of the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association. Comments and questions can be sent to stay@wvbedandbreakfasts.com.

Next week from the WV Travel Team: Why you might want to try Bermuda instead of the Bahamas.