For year 4 of my annual fall foliage trip, I ventured a little off tradition but a little more on the beaten path than usual.
So far I’ve been to the Hudson Valley and Mid Atlantic Civil War battlefields with Appalachian Trail sections nearby. My Hudson Valley trip was an accidental hardcore hike, while my other trips are more of a history-hike hybrid. This year, I was settled on the history before the hike. I wanted to go to Richmond, Virginia. I was inspired by this summer’s Confederate monuments debate and discussion of removing the monuments, as Richmond has Monument Avenue, a boulevard with some of the oldest and largest Confederate statutes in the country. I’m torn on the monument debate but wanted to see this display for myself. Also in Richmond is historic Hollywood Cemetery and the Civil War Museum (or so I’d been told).
As the date neared, hiking seemed sparse right around Richmond so I investigated a side trip to the Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah Mountains. Yet, somehow in my planning, I didn’t realized until 2 days before that it would be almost 3 hours from the mountains to Richmond, on top of the 4 hours to get to the mountains. That, combined with the poor foliage reports given our warm fall, was a dealbreaker.
So I took out the paper map sent by the Virginia Tourism Board and did some searching. Low and behold, James Madison’s Montpelier is on the route I would have taken to Richmond, just almost 2 hours closer than the mountains, and there are 8 miles of trails there!
On the appointed day, I set off for the 4 hour drive past DC and through the rolling countryside of Virginia, with the wind in my hair belting 70s rock hits, frequently hoping a drone was taping me for the road trip montage of my life movie.
I enjoyed Montepelier for a few hours then, exhausted by the hike and drive, decided to head to a hotel. On these trips, I like to pick a hotel pretty last minute. On this trip, it was really last minute. I knew there weren’t really any hotels around Montepelier, so I thought I’d decide that day which direction I wanted to head. Originally I thought “I’ll spend a night in Charlottesville after driving and hiking all day then get up at dawn to see that city!”
Unsurprisingly, that no longer seemed like the best idea. So I decided to head toward the next destination of Richmond, about an hour away.
And here presented the problem with picking a destination more on the beaten path: you’re not the only one there. Hotels in Gettysburg are easy: fancy bed and breakfast or 1 of 3 Comfort Inns. Near a city, you pick a hotel downtown and deal with higher prices and parking fees. Pick a hotel not downtown, and you’re not experiencing the city and you feel guilty holing up with take out.
But I opted for the latter, which still was going to run me around $100. However, this hotel had a bar and omelets in the morning! I check in to the spacious accommodations, settle in, and go down to check out the bar.
There’s no bar.
The bartender didn’t show up.
Also the “bar” is 3 stools at a counter with a beer tap and doubles as the breakfast room.
My grumpy deal-hunting mind goes forth to get retribution. I contact priceline in a chat and after a few minutes the rep says they’ll compensate me with a coupon for my next stay.
I check my email. There lay my coupon. 5% off my next stay.
So approximately $3.
Hell hath no fury like a woman who gets 5% off for her troubles.
Barely enough for the tip for the drink I’d have to pay for elsewhere since the bar wasn’t open.
I spent the next 2 hours talking with Priceline and the hotel staff. No one would budge. I became more and more enraged and probably seemed more and more insane fussing over the need to have a drink in my hotel versus the Applebee’s across the street. The hotel said they’re not responsible because the rate was non refundable. Priceline claimed to be off the hook because it’s up to the hotel, despite it being their incorrect information. Through all of this really I was technically wrong because I got the info from figuring out which hotel the express deal was for…technically I wouldn’t have known these details.
Finally I gave up for the night.
I never give up on a refund.
Trip tainted. Sigh.
I rallied the next day though and continued my tour of Southern non-hospitality in the cold rain, visiting the Confederate White House and Museum, both weird and fascinating and deserving of more attention in a future post. Then The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a treasure trove of amazing art! Who knew!
Then on to biscuits, and monuments, and Tj Maxx! All this in one day, when usually all I can manage on a Sunday is 4-7 episodes of SVU and a nap!
I also got yelled at by an angry driver who told me to go fuck myself while I look a picture of a Confederate monument. There’s that Southern hospitality again!
The final day was the food tour. Especially since the main tour I planned consisted of a battlefield that didn’t exist. Whoops. Why have your headquarters at Chimborazo Medical Hospital if there’s no hospital, National Park Service?!?
It was ok because it left more time for croissants at Whisk, where I actually did experience hospitality in addition to deliciousness.
Then Hollywood Cemetery and more monuments and more food.
And back to Philadelphia in a magical drive up 95 on a Monday afternoon hitting no traffic. All of my suffering healed in one drive, a reminder to think positive and embrace spontaneity.