Monday, January 26, 2009

splish splash

We managed to complete our jaunt to east central Virginia with little problem. The drive is about 3 ½ - 4 hours without stops and once you get far enough east the scenery turns quite lovely as you skirt and then climb into the Alleghenies.

The Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, Virginia are one of those rare finds you encounter when traveling the world. As I was floating in the waters I was trying to sort out why they haven’t become one of those hateful, overrun, over managed and overpopulated venues. As I was thinking so deeply, and floating about on the floaty noodles, I ended up taking a little nap; that’s how hard I was thinking. Even though they’re owned by the Homestead resort just up the road in Hot Springs you’d never know ownership falls under that massive, and apparently highly overrated, golf and resort club. Maybe in the spring, summer, and fall it’s more crowded than on a nice, clear, cold weekend in late January but we may never know since I’d rather be there when it’s cold. After checking in at our Inn (The Inn at Grist Mill) on Saturday afternoon we popped over for an hour’s soak before they lock up that sheds at 5pm. The layout is made up of two octagonal wooden shacks that provide cover over the men’s and women’s baths – both baths are simply pools of hot springs (a perfect 98°) over and the creek bed. The sheds include dressing rooms and a platform that encircles (enoctagons?) the waters. There are no luxuries beyond the amazing waters and provided towels: no heat, no curtains, and no nice robes. You come in wearing your duds, strip down to what God gave you, pop in the water, soak, hop out, dry off (quickly), get dressed and move along – an hour seems to fly by. In January, when it’s about 25 degrees outside, the drying and dressing is the final revitalization; there’s nothing quite as shocking as drying, shivering, and trying to get the warm clothes on as quickly as possible. On Sundays from noon to 1pm they allow the guys and dolls to intermingle…with swimsuits. We learned on Sunday that the women’s bath is only 4’10” deep and the men’s is 6’8” (of course, we each knew our own shack depths from the previous day; we just didn’t know the other’s). The Eleven, as expected of tall people worldwide, chose the men’s bath and subsequently had the place to ourselves for the whole hour before driving back to the NoVa. Once you get over your initial trepidation upon entering the shacks o’er the magma for the first time, they’re unbelievably relaxing.

Our room at the Inn was perfectly designed for our needs. The queen bed was outfitted with very nice cotton sheets, the fireplace was stocked with wood, and they deliver a breakfast basket in the morning. The basket idea is ingenious: you give them a ring to let them know you’re up, choose coffee or tea, and they pop over in five minutes flat with the goods. The basket includes a thermos of coffee, scones, butter and jams, cups, cream, sugar, and orange juice. All you do is sit around watching the TLC network and nibbling at your breakfast and sipping coffee. We had dinner on Saturday night the Inn’s restaurant which was all of 50 feet from our building – makes the arrival timing for dinner pretty simple. The food was probably about a B- on my grading scale but we were limited to either trout or salmon; they seem to have a much broader selection of meat and poultry. Considering that the restaurant’s greatest attraction is proximity it fulfilled its task. Of course, if you don’t eat at the restaurant you’re limited to a choice of no other place that we came across in the small village. I’d imagine you could drive some country roads to the nearest towns and find grub but who’s really interested in that?

Our one misadventure occurred as we pulled off I-81 for a quick stop for coffee in Harrisonburg, VA. As we were pulling into a parking place and disembarking at the Starbucks (hey, we were only looking for convenience!) we noticed we were going to end up behind a group of about 15 high-schoolers who’d just piled out of a tour van of some ilk. The last think you want in your life – ever – is to be behind 15 high-schoolers in any situation that requires decision making, let alone in a Starbucks. As they stood in a sort of line nattering at each other about coffee I realized I’d need to take evasive action to keep my sanity. All I wanted was a short cappuccino and a venti misto. As I sidestepped the amoeba-like coffee horde and swooped toward an open register I heard this conversation between the barista attempting to be helpful and the first high-schooler in line:

Barista: So, what kind of flavors to you like?
Confused Kid: Uh, I don’t know.
Barista: Do you like coffee?
Confused Kid: Uh, I don’t know.

This was not going to go smoothly at all. In my defense, it seemed the kind-hearted barista had taken on the mission of handling all orders from the vanload of youths so I didn’t feel too bad. As we escaped moments later with our coffee in hand the entire situation had deteriorated to the sound of…

Barista: Well, what do you like?
Confused Kid: I like lunch.

Love to all.


No comments: