Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Greenbrier, Part II along with ruminations about Groundhog Day/Candlemas

Ha, I'm back.  I'm settling down in front of my poor ol' flatscreen iMac with a glass of Cycles Gladiator Merlot.  Today is the 2nd of February, better known as Groundhog Day and also Candlemas (not to be confused with Candlemass which is a Swedish heavy metal band).  Today, out at Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania,  Punxsutawney Phil--Mother Nature's mid-winter prognosticating spokes-varmit, failed to see his shadow.  Cynics in the audience will no doubt trot out the old chestnut about how this means we only have a month and a half of bad weather as opposed to six more weeks of winter if Phil had seen his shadow.  Say what you will.  I'm an optimist.  I see signs of the coming spring every time I go for a walk; birds are flirting, squirrels are running around, snow is melting and it's less than a month before I go down to Gulfport, Florida for the Classic Moth Boat Association's Mid-Winter Regatta.

More about Gulfport in coming posts, but for now it's time to return to our Greenbrier adventure.  When we last left our hero and heroine they were boarding a west-bound train at Union Station.  One of the things I like about train travel is that one gets to sneak a peak into the back yards of people living adjacent to the tracks.  Sadly the train windows were filthy, precluding decent photography, so you'll just have to imagine the many wondrous sights I witnessed as the Cardinal glided along.  I use the word "glided" in the loosest sense.  The rail bed between Charlottesville and White Sulphur Springs is rather lumpy.

Yes, we made it.  This is actually a cheater shot taken a day later.  It was well dark by the time the Cardinal staggered into White Sulphur Springs.  John and Alice were waiting for us at the station, and so being distracted with the business of exchanging pleasantries, photography of the grand arrival was not possible.  Did the train run on time?  In a word, no.  We lost well over an hour as we sat stationary on several occasions to allow east-bound trains to pass on those portions of the rail bed too close to permit movement by both trains at the same time.  My ever knowledgeable brother pointed out that those other trains were carrying money-making freight rather than money-losing people and thus got priority treatment.

A view of the main building at the Greenbrier resort.  My camera doesn't have a wide enough angle lens to take in the large side wings.  Our room, Nr 2195, is the first window to the left of the center portion at about porch level (the level with the little trees).  This friends, is one honkin' big building for being out in the hinterlands of WV.  Who knew?

A view of the right hand side wing.  The other side is essentially a mirror image.

Alice kept us quite busy touring nearby Lewisburg and so I didn't get to sample the bunker tour.  Perhaps next time.  I did however get out on a couple of occasions to walk around the grounds.  I wanted to see the original Sulphur Spring.

After a number of wrong turnings I discovered that the Greenbrier possess its own fire department.

Inside were two fire trucks, one of which was an impressive OREN.  Sadly no one was about and I couldn't find an unlocked door.  This photo of the OREN through the garage door windows will have to suffice.

Walking up the hill from the fire house I encountered many fine homes.  Sister-in-law Alice indicated that there has been a small real estate boom since Jim Justice took over the hotel.  I wonder what these people do for a living way  out here?  Perhaps they deal black jack at the newly opened casino in the hotel.  The casino offers "tasteful" gambling.  Tasteful gambling appears to mean that men must wear dress slacks and a sports jacket as minimum kit.  Women, on the other hand, seemingly can wear whatever they want.  I think the hotel will lend you a sports coat if yours is out at the cleaners.

Nice paper birches.
The views of the Allegheny Mountains are wonderful.
Looking out at the mountains from one of the gardens near the north entrance of the hotel.
I walked and walked but still no sign of the elusive spring or its Oracle--surely every spring worth looking for has an Oracle to consult.  I decided to head back to the hotel and consult a map.
Map in hand, I set forth again.  Still no spring but there was this nice croquet lawn.  Someone had attempted to build a snowman between the wickets. The detached houses in the background are on "Spring House Lane".  Perhaps I don't have the map upside down after all.

Thar she blows.  the elusive White Sulphur Spring.  Will the Oracle be in session?  The resort uses the shape of this cupola as its icon.

Zooming in on the hot spring.
Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera (and the Goddess of Youth), had the day off and thus was represented by statuary only.  Perhaps Ponce de Leon should have come to WV instead of wasting time in FLA.

I next went looking for the President's Cottage

Could this be it?  To hell with the hotel, next time I'm booking this!

Although this is a splendid stone pile, this is not it either.  I looked and looked for a marker or a sign (where is that Oracle when I need one?) but alas I couldn't determine which building was the President's Cottage.  The map (or perhaps the man reading it) was hopeless.

My time was running out and I needed to retrace my way back to the hotel; the train home was arriving at 11:30 am.

All good things must come to an end.  As much as I enjoyed the Greenbrier I must confess that a pair of east bound tracks looked v. inviting.  Perhaps if we return to meet John and Alice in the future I will be able to steal away and get photos of the interior of the hotel (quite interesting) and take that bunker tour.  From what I've been told the hotel has preserved only a small portion of the bunker in its Congressional state.  The rest of the space is leased out to companies seeking secure storage of electronic data.


  1. Your question,"I wonder what people do for a living way out there." We had friends who lived on a ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho. I asked the same question. Leonard's response was that if you could afford to live in Sun Valley you didn't need to work.

  2. Quite true! I'm enough of a working stiff that I tend to forget about the existence of the leisure class.