Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beckley West Virginia - Babcock State Park and Exhibition Coal Mine

I was awake at 5:45. Early to bed and all that. I worked at my on-line chores and caught up on the news before going to the breakfast area for more biscuits and gravy. They had some plumbing problems overnight, with three separate leaking pipes in the lobby. My legs hurt yesterday and I was wondering whether the Crestor prescription was the issue, but then I remembered walking up from the lower observation platform at the Bridge two days ago. OK, that was the more probable reason.

The weather forecast was iffy, but another look at the radar suggested we might get a short ride in and stay dry. The road to Babcock State Park, suggested yesterday by the Florida Harley trike rider, looked like a good place. Once everyone was up, we decided to go for it.

The ladies are ready

Plumber in the lobby

There is sun up there somewhere

We fueled at a BP station and then left town on Highway 41 north. This road was great. I had told Dianne it wasn't as tight as yesterday. Then I saw a 15 MPH sign and thought maybe I had lied. But this was a West Virginia 15 MPH which is different from a Virginia 15. West Virginia is much more cautious and we never did find a corner that required slowing down very much.

After stopping at a construction zone and then crossing the Glade River river, we went through Prince, which consisted of a couple of houses and an Amtrac station. I have concluded that Amtrac is set up for the convenience of the trains, not the passengers.

Construction zone and bridge on WV 41

We stopped at Layland and viewed a historical marker describing the Layland Mine Disaster of 1915. I subsequently found a report from back in the day detailing how the survivors barricaded themselves more than a mile into the mine against the gas and how they walked out themselves after four days. Coal mining was hard and dangerous work a century ago.

Baptist Church - Layland, West Virginia

Layland Mine Disaster marker

From Layland, we continued up Highway 41 to Babcock State Park and its grist mill, which is reputedly one of the most photographed spots in West Virginia. We had a pleasant talk with the nice lady working in the gift shop and I bought Sandy a 2015 calendar of West Virginia scenes.

The Glade Creek Grist Mill is an operating reconstruction made from the components of three separate mills. It was constructed mostly of hemlock to resist deterioration, along with some poplar.

Babcock State Park

The Glade Creek Grist Mill

The miller

Copper water wheel

Beautiful natural landscaping

Glade Creek


We left the park and followed 41 up to US 60, then we headed west to US 19 and went south over the New River Gorge Bridge to Fayetteville (billed as the "coolest small town" on a welcome sign). During this stretch the cruise control finally started working, although I had to push the brake lever out after every use before it would stay engaged. We stopped for lunch at Bob Evans (1/2 mile from Wrong Turn's former house as the crow flies), where Sandy and I each had half a turkey bacon melt and what was supposedly a cup of chicken noodle soup. I say supposedly because it looked like a bowl to me.

WV 41 near US 60

Lunch in Fayetteville

After lunch, I looked at the sky and saw some hints on the horizon. I suggested that we return to the hotel and load the bikes before going to visit the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley. Gary concurred, so we rode back to town. I detoured the stop and go by following I-77/I-64 around to the south end.

As we approached the hotel, we were briefly held up by a wreck. A full size van had attempted to occupy the same space as a small car and both suffered for it.

Wreck within sight of the hotel

We were in the hotel lot by 2:00 PM and the bikes were loaded and tied down by 2:30. Soon after, the formerly clear blue skies became black and ominous. Gary made some comment about my crystal ball.

The skies darken

The four of us jumped in Gary's truck and I guided us, via GPS, to the Exhibition Coal Mine operated by the City of Beckley. This was very similar to the Big Nickel Mine back home (except, of course, being about coal). Just after the loaded us in a tram in a covered building, the rain started pouring down. No big deal since we were going underground.

Our guide Curt was a retired coal miner. He described the various exhibits each time the tram stopped. The mining was very different from our hard rock mining back home. Our miners didn't have the same issues of gas and explosive dust. The old style work places were very low and the mining was very physically demanding. We got a feel for what it meant back then to be a coal miner.

At the Exhibition Coal Mine

Nice signage

Touching monument

The rain has started pelting down

Happy, dry folks in a tram

Eight of these and you have a Tennessee Ernie Ford song

Damn, I look old

There were examples of various new-fangled machine

Our guide Curt

Newer equipment again

Kettle tops (aka widowmakers) - petrified trees in coal

This caught my eye in the museum

It was still raining when the tour ended but it let up soon after. As we left, we could see a small lake had formed in the roadway in front of the parking lot. As we left, we saw portions of the town were flooding. Gary's truck made it through and back to the hotel OK.

Sunny again

Do we need an ark?

This driver didn't try - but we went through it

A manhole cover geyser

A main street

What, no fishing rods?

We made it back to the hotel without mishap. There was a new VW beetle sitting in the lot. It looked like a diesel engine and a six speed manual transmission. I could have fun with one of these.

I liked this

When it was time for supper, I had been talking about Five Guys since we got to town. We were at one in Williamsburg back in 2012 and I really liked it. The gang gave in and we went over. I had a double bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms (don't tell my cardiologist) while Sandy had grilled cheese. We split a "small" order of fries. It was still good.

Ready to eat


Back at the hotel, Gary hooked his trailer up to the truck in anticipation of our morning departure. He has an interesting way of lining the truck up using two magnetic based expandable rods with optional lights on top. It looked slick and worked perfectly.

Preparing to hook up

Setting up the guides

Loaded and connected, we went back to the rooms where the other three watched Youtube videos while I made maps, sorted photos and transcribed notes. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam before the blog for the day was complete. I was in bed before 11:00 PM.

Today's Route (83 motorcycle miles):

1 comment:

Sherm said...

Looks like a lot of fun, except for the rain. Sure could use some around here. Haven't seen any since last September...