Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pittsburgh, PA & Wellsburg, WV Vacation July 2006

This was a trip photographed threw the eyes of our children, Alyssa and Daniel.

Here is the first big vacation Chris, Alyssa, Daniel and I ever took. We decided we wanted to go back east and show the kids Pittsburgh and where Chris's family is from in the Wellsburg, WV area. We left on a Saturday and planned on coming home on the following Wednesday. We flew into Columbus, OH and rented a car and drove to Whelling, WV.

We first visited with Aunt Carol and Uncle Gil at their beautiful home in Wheeling. Then we drove to Wellsburg to Beverly Kemps house (Bev is Chris's dads cousin) where we would be staying for a few days. Beverly's house was absolutely inviting. Before we could get up the front steps of her home, someone behind us said "Chud", and I said no that is Chris and he said "No that is Chud if I didn't know better". Well that was Chris's dad's cousin David Ragan and with him was Beverly's brother. Went inside and visited with everyone and got accounted with a side of Chris's family we never had met before. Below is a picture of Beverly's house and a picture of Chambers Mortuary that is right across the street from her home.

We wanted to take the kids into downtown Pittsburgh to show them the Pit Tunnel, PNC Park and the new Heintz Field. So we hit the road and headed out.

Heading towards the Pitt Tunnel.

In and out of the Pitt Tunnel.

PNC Park from across the river and then over to Heinz Field.

Then we were invited to visit David Ragan out at his house which is about 6 country miles from Beverly's house, now I know what country mile is being a girl that grew up in a big city.

They live one Sangria-La but there is no sign because some kids took it or who knows what they did with it. Therefore we drove past the street about 4 times before we just picked a road and drove down it and low an behold it was the correct road. Then we saw a familiar name on a mailbox "Ragan". Anyways, we found Hollyhock Farms, I guess out in the country in order for it to be a true farm it has to have a name. Well it is a farm for sure but Dave and his wife Joyce breed and raise racing horses on there 100 + acre farm. Below is a picture of Chris with David on our visit.

This was definitely the highlight of the trip for Daniel, as well as Alyssa. When David told the kids they could ride around the farm on quads, I thought I would never get them off the quads and the pictures below confess. (Okay we liked riding them too!)

We road these quads all over David's farm including down in the "Holler". Dave warned us not to go down in the Holler because that is where Swipper lives (that is according to his grand daughter). Well we went down there looking for Swipper but we did not find him he must of been out swippping!

These are pictures down in the Holler!

The picture below is up on top of a hill on Dave's property looking down on his house behind us.

After an afternoon of "Quad Running", as David puts it, we found the trampoline. Yes that is me doing a flip and I paid for it the rest of the day, I am way to old for that anymore.

It even wore the kids out........a little!

And it wore me out for sure and I found a perfect place to relax in a swing in David's back yard while we all visited with David.

After our visit at the Ragan's and practically ran the quads out of gas, the next day we visited more Ragan's. We went to visit George and Maxine Ragan, George is Chris's dad's cousin, they live in Louise, WV. While we visited with them we told them we that we were extending our vacation for a couple of days and were going to drive down to the New River Gorge and if they could help us with directions. They gave us directions and what a hoot that was to get directions from them. They just said "to be careful driving down there and that them Hoopies are crazy"! (Hoopies as Beverly explained to us are the people down there that make the hoops that go around whisky barrels and that they sit on there porches and make these, can you say Deliverance?)
Oh yeah before we left Louise we also visited Brooke Cemetery, Chris has family buried here and we like to visit old cemeteries.

We also had one more stop before we left the pan handle, we did a lot of driving around looking at the old Steel Mills and looking for rail know....trains. We really did not find anything super exciting in the way of trains but we did stumble upon the Benwood Fire Department. We stopped in front of this fire station because Daniel just about jumped out of the car before we stopped. While we were in front of it a volunteer fire fighter saw us taking a picture and he was more than eager to show us the fire trucks, in a small town with nothing to do people are always willing to share. So out we go and out come the fire trucks. While we took a ton of pictures the fire fighter asked if we would like to go for a ride, well of course, who would turn down a ride in a fire truck. Here are the silly tourist. We have also learned over the years don't tell the fire fighters that we have road in fire truck or seen lots of them, we act like it is our first time.

While on our ride in the fire truck we saw this building and on the side of it there was an old advertisement for Chewing Tobacco, but the uniqueness that caught or eyes was that at the top of the building it said "Slovak Home". That is what Chris's Uncle Augie always says that they are......Slovak!

And then we saw this fire truck that Daniel was trying to convince me that we needed to buy and bring back to Arizona.....Not!

Now our vacation is ready to go on the wild side. While flying to Columbus I was reading the inflight magazine and there was an articale about how beautiful West Virgina is and the whitewater rafting excurtions. So I had told Chris we should extend our vacation and drive down to the New River Gorge and find a rafting company. I have always wanted to whitewater raft and so had he. Therefore, we got directions from George and Maxine and they gave us a map so we headed down to Fayetteville. We drove down there via the scenic route and it was unbelievably scenic.
Here is a little information on the New River Gorge and bridge.
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel-arch bridge, near Fayetteville, WV; with a length of 3030 feet (924 m), it was for many years the longest in the world of that type. Its arch extends 1700 feet . Part of U.S. Highway 19, it is crossed by an average of 17,000 motor vehicles per day. The New River Gorge Bridge carries U.S. Highway 19 over the New River and the CSX railroad at a height of 876 feet, making it the highest vehicular bridge in the Americas, and the second-highest in the world. (Before the 2004 opening of the Millau Viaduct in France, it was the highest in the world.)

Construction was begun on the bridge in June of 1974, and completed on October 22, 1977. It was designed by the Michael Baker Company, under the direction of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen, and executed by U.S. Steel's American bridge Division. Final cost of construction was $37 million (approximately $4 million over bid). It is made from Cor-ten steel. The use of Cor-ten in construction presented several challenges; notable among them was ensuring that the weld-points weathered at the same rate as the rest of the steel.

In the picture below we are standing on the old bridge, over 800 feet below the canyon rim. Many locals say, with little exaggeration, that completion of the bridge cut the travel time from one side of the gorge to another from 45 minutes to 45 seconds. The bridge is the centerpiece of Fayette County's "Bridge Day," during which the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic. Until recently, the bridge was half-open, with two way traffic. Security concerns have prompted the closing of the entire span to vehicles during the festival. This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending & BASE jumping, and is held every October on the third Saturday. Bungee jumping has been banned from Bridge Day since an accident in 1993. The bridge is within the New River GorgeNational River and the National Park Service operates a visitor center at the northern end of the bridge with scenic overlooks and a staircase that partially descends into the gorge.

The picture below is of us with the old bridge in the back ground and we are scoping out tomorrow's adventure.

In the picture below we found out later that the rapid behind us in the picture is a Class II.

Along the bottom of the gorge the CSX railroad runs paralle with the river and crosses over the river at one point. As we drove out we were lucky enough to see a passing CSX freight train.

Then there was all kinds of amazing water falls along the drive out.

After we drove down to the bottom of the gorge to check out the river we deicded we had to take a whitewater rafting trip. The next day we went to Riverman Whitewater Rafting Company and because they were not really busy and it was on a Thursday we were able to raft with just the four of us and our Mountaineer guide, Doug!

This was a ride of a life time although Chris and I got flipped out of the raft in a Class II rapid. We got stuck in a Hydroulic, in rafting terms means a hole where water flowing over a rock or other obstacle flows down, then back onto itself in an eruption of whitewater. We both went in seperate directions and the guide and the kids had to quickly get us back into the raft because we were approaching another rapid. We got flipped out because the guide said to get down and that ment get down in the raft. Well Chris and I did not get down fast enough and so we were flipped out of the raft. The next time this happened we were down faster than anyone else.

Ater a wonderful day of whitewater rafting we went and ate at Dirty Ernie's Rib Pit!

And here is one of West Virginia's finest rafting buses.

The following day we drove back to Columbus, OH via Charleston, WV. We stopped along the way at the Hawk's Nest and several road side waterfalls. Say what you want about Hawaii, even though I have never been there and only seen pictures, West Virginia has some of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen.

These following pictures are of the Hawk's Nest on our drive home.

This was another great vacation that we were able to see trains, fire trucks, airplanes, steel mills, whitewater raft and a lot of other really cool and interesting stuff but most of all met some very wonderful family memebers. Thank you for all your hospitality and we all can not wait to see you soon. The Ragan Train!