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Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh the Beauty that is Ohio (and West Virginia)

The vision....a perfect fall long-weekend get away in scenic, historic Marietta, Ohio on the Ohio river. A relaxing first vacation with just our little family of three. A time to bond and enjoy each other's company.
Artist's Rendering of Imagined Vacation

The reality? Not so much. My first hint? When I tried to make reservations for accommodations(a bit belatedly) I quickly found out it was both Ohio University AND Marietta College's homecoming the same weekend Lee and I had selected (we'd already scheduled time off work for our five-day visit to the "Gateway to the West" as Marietta was known in the early 1800s). No vacancies at the first 10 hotels and B & Bs I called. Several however offered us a room for every night except Saturday, as if not having a room for one night in the middle of the vacation wouldn't be a big deal. Then,the jackpot! Availability at the historic "grand steamboat era" Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta, right in the middle of the town's best restaurants and antique shops. What luck!
Then, events began to conspire against us. The weather forecast was not very pleasant. Instead of the beautiful Indian summer I had hoped for (this was early October after all!) the weather was scheduled to take a turn towards rain and 45 degree highs. I don't put much stock in weather forecasts, especially Ohio weather forecasts, so when Lee gently suggested that we postpone our trip, I will admit I kinda blew him off. Oh my.
Well, Thursday night, we arrived around 11 pm-ish on to check-in. Corbin slept very nicely in the car during the trip. Our room was charming in a steamboat era kind of way, although shaped like a galley kitchen, narrow and long, and with a vintage bath/shower sans bathtub. No problem though. Corbin isn't a big fan of showers but he's taken them before. At this point the "vacation" felt fun and slightly European. But the weather forecast was correct - it was cold, cold, cold. And Corbin didn't want to be alone in his pack-n-play. Or in bed with us. And since it was so cold, the hotel turned on its steamboat era boiler (for the first time during the season) and the radiator began to ping. It was like random shotgun blasts ALL NIGHT LONG, punctuated alternately by a) Corbin's screams b) drunk college alum meandering from one restaurant/bar location to another until the wee hours. Did I mention the radiator was right by our bed? The bed with the monster screaming headboard?

Monster Screaming Headboard

Corbin had a great time the next morning hiding his spoons in the grand steamboat era furniture though. And we had a great continental breakfast in the main dining room. I recommend it if you are ever in Marietta - it is modeled after the entertainment stage of a 19th century steamboat.


So, by Day Two we still had hope. Despite a rainy day spent tromping through the streets of Marietta. Then came Night Two. Night Two because it was the second night in Marietta and because we each got no more than two hours of sleep. See Night One. We were sleep-deprived and quickly losing patience with Marietta and each other. Corbin, although he didn't articulate this, I'm sure felt the same. But I stuck to my plan - perhaps if we fed the geese outside the hotel on the tranquil river, our vacation plans would be ok after all. Tip 1: Don't bring Cheerios to feed waterfowl. Cheerios are not very aerodynamic. Tip 2: Do not throw Cheerios harder in an attempt to compensate for their poor aerodynamics. I fell into the river, courtesy of moss and Canadian geese leave-behinds. My delicates were compromised. That was it - goodbye Marietta!

Charming, Yes?

Well, almost - we did wander around for a few more hours after checking out of the Layette two nights early.

Random Paddlewheel

Doll & Toy Museum

So, we had a decision to make. Head home or try to eek out something close to our paddlewheel riding, fall nature hiking, learn something new about the history of the region, sleep in luxury vacation. We Parkers are stubborn so you know we weren't going home. Not yet anyway.

Plus, the Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, West Virginia had a single-night opening. And, I'd stayed there before for work so I knew it was posh. Two nights at the Lafayette = one night at the Blennerhassett price-wise so we decided to go for it.

Upon check-in, I sent Lee to the bar for an hour (which we both needed) while I settled Corbin down (bathtub!). He still didn't want to go to sleep without crying though which was going to be a no-go in the Blennerhassett's poshness, so here we were at 11 pm! all of us stuffing our selves with Cheerios and watching the Columbus Crew soccer team gettin' wupped on. Those of you who know us well know we don't let Corbin watch tv but at this point, whatever. We would have given anything for peace. We are weak. Stubborn but weak. Corbin kept commanding the players to "Fall Down" once he realized that was half the fun of soccer.


Patting Pump-kins Outside the Hotel

The next day we headed to Blennerhassett Island, the fifth largest island in the Ohio River (doesn't that make you wonder about the four biggest?). Blennerhassett Island, despite being named after a slave-owning landed gentleman who escaped from Ireland to Ohio with his underage niece as his wife, fulfilled all our vacation dreams. While still nippy, we had blue skies for our paddleboat trip to the island and the captain let Corbin steer.

On the Top Deck

Captain Corbin

Frolicking on the Island

Exact Replica of Original Blennerhassett Home

We Took a Horse-Drawn Island Tour

Into the Sunset

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Well, maybe - how's this: if you'd like to go on vacation to Ohio, go to West Virginia instead. On second thought, that doesn't sound quite right. How about this: If you end your ill-fated vacation a day early drop the baby off with family and spend a night with your spouse and a morning sleeping in. Thanks Gramma!
Interesting random side note - West Virginia was once part of Virginia. Virginia was named in honor of of Elizabeth I the Virgin Queen of England. Marietta was named in honor of Marie Antoinette. Think about that. I mean if you lined up Elizabeth's accomplishments next to Marie's. I'm just sayin'.

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