This report’s been a long time in coming, existing only as a rough outline of the shenanigans, tomfoolery and hijinx experienced on a trip down to The Homestead in Virginia for the unforgettable wedding of our two friends, Courtney and Andy.
The When: June 7-11, 2007
The Where: The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA
The What: The Wedding of Andy & Courtney
The Who: Steve & Lindsey, Seaners, Dannyboy, Jenna & Justin, Jamie, Ross & Kelley, Yours Truly
The long trek down to Virginia from Buffalo was pretty uneventful until I reached the rugged back country of West Virginia, greeted with some breathtaking views whilst navigating the 168 hairpin curves up and down the Allegheny Mountains. Had I the misfortune of plummeting over the sheer cliff faces alongside the road, at least I would’ve had a fantastic, panoramic view of the countryside!
Adding to the fun were the numerous logging trucks struggling up the mountain road at a leisurely 7 miles per hour, ensuring traffic would be piled up behind it for miles. Two hours of this? HOORAAAAAAAAY!!! Again, though, the countryside was beautiful and aided in lowering my road rage to non-heart-attack levels. I’d recommend a trip to the Monongahela National Forest anytime.
I arrived in Hot Springs, my final destination, around 5:30 pm. Legendary golfer Sam Snead lived in or around Hot Springs all his life, Wikipedia tells me, and signs of his presence were all over the place. I drove in on the Sam Snead Memorial Highway, alongside one of his golf courses, and past Sam Snead’s Tavern, named for–you guessed it–legendary golfer Sam Snead! Even the crews doing construction on the roads bore the influence of Snead. His favorite band, ZZ Top, had apparently decided to don hard hats and orange vests to direct traffic into town.
(I make no claims as to the accuracy of the previous statement.)
As I got to the center of town (or what I deemed to be the center, what with my limited knowledge of the place), I came to the sudden realization I had no idea where our lodging for the weekend was. We rented a cottage but, really, all I knew was it was somewhere in Hot Springs. Instead of stopping to ask directions, I chose to drive around for 10 miles on every road in town and halfway up the mountain to the place’s ski lodge while trying to find the cottage.
With no cell phone reception and fears of organized hillbilly car jackings on my mind, I had to drive back out of town and stop at the Kings Victorian Inn. The place is managed by the folks who rent out the cottages in town. Situated right on the Sam Snead Highway, I had no trouble finding it.
I talked to one of the friendly proprietors there, Richard, who gave me some great directions, as well as the realization I’d driven by the cottage approximately eight times.
I pulled into the cottage’s driveway about ten minutes later expecting a grand welcome, instead finding a drifter passed out on the front lawn. Oh wait, it was Sean…passed out on the front lawn.
After saying hey to Sean and heading inside while he woke up, I found Steve passed out on the couch. What the frick had these guys been doing before I got there? My guesses involved liquor and shenanigans. Or they might’ve just been tired after the long drives. I prefer the shenanigans explanation. Regardless, I started yelling unintelligibly in an effort to get Steve awake, and thought I had succeeded until he got up, went outside and passed out in the spot Sean had previously occupied on the lawn.
Jenna and a few others arrived shortly thereafter, and we made a trip to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies for the weekend. Nothing notable to report from inside the store, but as we came out we saw a large pickup truck with giant off-road tires parked in the lot, surrounded by a few locals. Locals of the redneck variety. And before you accuse me of stereotyping, just know that their mud-spattered truck had a Confederate flag in the rear window, and I’m pretty sure I saw a gun rack in there. We quickly got into our car and peeled out when they started giving us the stink-eye and spit some chaw on the ground. I still should’ve taken a picture of their truck. Dammit.
Shortly after we got back, more of our party began arriving, including the bride and groom that evening, along with half their wedding party. Introduce some fine adult beverages into the mix, and the rest of the night became a blur. What I do know, judging by the pictures in my camera the next morning, is I took about 10 pictures per minute. It was hilarious to see the increasingly-annoyed looks on everyone’s flash-blinded faces as the pictures progressed. Well, maybe hilarious to just me. This frivolity had to be documented, people! I have no control over the role I’ve taken on these trips!
Here’s a good sequence to give you an idea of how things progressed:
What would you have done without me? We’d (I’d) never have remembered any of this!
I have no idea at what time we all woke up the next morning. All I know is I could still taste the Patron from last night. Someone made some pancakes and thank jebus for those. Fueled up for the morning, we decided to take a walk over to The Homestead, the site of the wedding and reception. You can read more about the place and its history over on Wikipedia. It’s an “old money” luxury resort built in the 1800’s, and the place is amazing. The sprawling grounds, featuring three championship golf courses, a ski lodge and resort, a spa, pool area, tennis, bocce ball (etc., etc., etc.), surround the hotel–a mammoth brick and steel building that seems to compete with the surrounding mountains reaching for the sky.
The “Old South” in all its glory.
After some quality time at the pool, our first scheduled activity of the day was some skeet shooting at the nearby range. Still a bit hungover, the crack of a shotgun may not have seemed like the best idea, but I think we were all up for it. The girls, in particular, appeared to mean business:
I remember doing pretty well with the ole’ double-gauge when I was in Boy Scouts, so consider me sufficiently humbled when I got up to shoot and went about 2-for-50. I’m going to blame my poor performance on the Patron from last night.
A shuttle returned us to the Homestead a couple hours later, and we walked around the hotel a bit more, our awe increasing as we walked through one opulent room after another.
Returning to the cottage, it was dinner-time, and we snacked on some delicious snacks! Woo! There were some beers in the mix as well, as our livers had to be primed prior to the night’s expected hijinx and hilarity.
Just after snacks/dinner, we were hit with a brief, torrential downpour, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. Ross Tamblan, Channel 4 weatherman with a drinking problem, kept us informed:
The poor weather also gave us a chance to just relax for a bit and, well, drink. Which of course led to the aforementioned hijinx. I’m gonna see how many times I can use “hijinx” in this report.
Speaking of hijinx, as I alluded to in my Sullivan’s Island Trip Report, the ever-elusive but deadly Tiny Cat reappeared out of the dark abyss from whence it originated. We somehow set aside our horror and put all available effort into destroying the beast vis a vis ceiling fan.
That activity probably went on for a few hours, climaxing with our invention of an indoor snowmachine as a last-ditch effort to destroy the monster. However, Tiny Cat’s insidious influence caused each of us to turn on one another.
(Either that, or someone threw baby powder into the air after seventeen Miller Lites. I’ll leave final judgment to you.)
I do not remember going to sleep that night.
I did somehow make it to bed however, as that’s where I woke up, still fully-clothed. Some were still asleep, so Ross, Kelley and I broke off to head into town and catch some breakfast. We ended up at a small diner called, “Lindsay’s Roost,” full of down-home Southern charm. And by that I mean it had a giant picture of Toby Keith (yes, Toby Keith) hanging from the ceiling, and a giant portrait of Fat Elvis above the door to the bathroom. To this day, I curse myself for not having taken a picture of the two. I apologize, dear readers.
I did get a picture of Kelley buying some lemonade from a local kid outside, though. That’s somethin’, I guess. We got back to the cottage to pick up some of our crew before taking a quick trip back to the pool for an hour or two, stopping to see the wedding setup on the way. Judging by what we saw, this wedding was gonna be one for the history books. The ceremony area was smack dab in the middle of the resort, and from what the locals and staff told us, there hadn’t been a wedding like this for a looooong time. It was an event in every sense of the word.
We got some lunch before checking our watches and realizing there were scant hours left before wedding-time. Back to the cottage to clean ourselves up. Having donned our best Rico Suave apparel, we walked right back down to The Homestead in the 85-degree heat. I was overjoyed to have been wearing my Buffalo Sabres playoff beard about this time. Another miserable facet of being a Buffalo sports fan. Curse you, Larry Quinn!
Anyway, let’s get to the reason we were all there: the nuptials of Andy and Courtney. As you can imagine from the shots you’ve seen of The Homestead so far, the ceremony was just awesome, both in terms of the setting, and the emotions inherent in seeing your friends on the happiest day of their lives. Tears all around.
We also got a kick out of a horribly-sunburned and hungover Sean struggling to walk up the aisle in his tux. Well done, Seaners. It was also cool to see pretty much everything stop across the grounds during the ceremony. People were watching from every area: high atop the balconies of the hotel; from the nearby restaurant; from the pool area, etc. Everyone watched the ceremony with rapt attention.
With the beautiful ceremony concluded, it was time to party, Old South-style. I’m not sure what that means, as it was essentially well-dressed people getting drunk and dancing. Maybe there’d be some hijinx. Yeehaw!
The reception itself was chockful of the traditions you’ve come to know and love at your weddings: the speeches, the first dance, the cutting of the cake; all great. But other, less desirable traditions were stricken at the behest of the bride and groom, and I salute them for it. NO chicken dance! NO hokey pokey! Thank you! The band was great and we were all dancing, working ourselves into joyous delirium. The gradually-increasing fever pitch of terrible dancing culminated with the one song we’d been all waiting for, from the finest band of all time, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Everyone sang at the top of their lungs as we flailed about as only white people can when they’ve had too much to drink on the dance floor. Quite possibly the highlight of the weekend (aside from the wedding itself).
A kind of joyful exhaustion set in after we gave it our all in ensuring no one would stop believing, but there were a few more highlights that night. Someone must’ve kept sabotaging Sean’s drink glasses, to the point he dropped 6 or 7 of them on the dance floor, shattering into a hundred pieces. The staff would come out to clean it up, and return into the kitchen for about 10 minutes, when another glass was broken and the routine repeated. I think Sean was just given the broom himself after the 4th or 5th “incident.” The investigation into the saboteur’s identity is ongoing.
The other “highlight” was some drunk invitee who apparently had some issues with alcohol and took offense to someone complimenting his tie. I believe his response was, “don’t patronize me!” before downing another scotch. The next morning we saw him at the front desk, asking the concierge if anyone had found his suit jacket the previous evening. Nice.
After the reception, we adjourned upstairs to the father of the groom’s (and our high school English teacher) room for a nightcap and some loud yelling and general reverie. As you can see below: reverie.
I think we were all pretty beat by this point, so some of us headed back to the cottage, while the others headed off to the nightclub in the lower levels of the hotel. I got into bed back at the cottage and was out within about 30 seconds. Cut to ten minutes later when my door crashes open, the lights are flipped on and people come in and start dancing in my room. I have no idea who they were, but the Dance Party USA train had me bolt upright in bed. That got me up and at ’em for another fifteen minutes or so, having to ward off Dance Party USA’s urgings to head back to the nightclub. I outlasted them and made it back to bed and passed out. I’m not sure if any of this actually happened; I’m 83% sure it did. Oh, and I’m pretty sure this painting was watching me the whole time I was in bed:
I still have nightmares.
Sundays were made for sleeping in. Everyone took their time getting up, likely as much because we were exhausted as it was because it was time for just about everybody to say good-bye. After some breakfast and cleanup, we headed over to The Homestead to do just that, bidding adieu to the EA gang, save Jenna, Justin and myself, who were intent on staying another day.
We saw them off at various points and headed back to the cottage to gameplan our day, eventually deciding on a simple drive through the countryside to see Lake Moomaw. I’ve said this enough already, but the entire area is beautiful, as clearly shown in the following award-winning photograph:
We eventually ended up back at the cottage and just chilled out for a while, then had a great dinner with Andy and Courtney at The Grist Mill, an old mill converted to a restaurant. The food was great, the beer even better. I am now addicted to Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde. I was buzzed after half a beer. We hung out with Andy and Courtney back at the cottage for a bit after dinner, where I think we came up with approximately thirteen verses to the official Tiny Cat theme song, none of which will be reprinted here. (Lest they somehow become an incantation to resurrect the unholy demon cat!) Bidding a fond farewell to the newly-wedded couple, we turned in.
Up at the crack o’ dawn, the three of us cleaned up the cottage and packed up our stuff. We weren’t quite done with Virginia yet, though, so after leaving the cottage and Hot Springs behind, we drove down the Sam Snead Highway to the town of Warm Springs to, um, go to the hot springs there. Having never been to a hot spring before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But, now that I’ve gone, here’s what you folks can expect to experience: listless towel attendants, noodles, and Jeff acting like an idiot while pretending to be attacked by the hot spring high-velocity overflow massage beneath the deck surrounding the hot spring! Right.
Above you’ll see the spring, clear as can be. With the high salt content, you could float without much effort, but it was still nice to have those noodles, both for their flotation properties and to ward off random sea otter attacks. (I hear they gravitate to hot springs like hillbillies to a barbecue!) Seriously though (sure), it was pretty cool. I recommend adding the activity to your bucket list.
After that, it was time to pin a bow on the whole affair and say good-bye to Jenna and Justin. The three of us were the last ones standing after an extended weekend of drinking, tomfoolery and weddings. Scientists should probably be dispatched to study the high constitution of our livers. I say this at the end of all my trip reports with the EA gang, and it bears repeating: a guy could not ask for a better group of friends, and I cannot wait until the next outing with all of us (which, as it turns out, took place BEFORE the writing of this report on December 6, 2008). We’ve got quite a group, guys.
That night, after arriving home, unpacking and decompressing on the couch in an altogether depressed state, I was watching the series finale of The Sopranos my DVR had recorded the night before. A good episode, to be sure, but it was the final scene that had me all pumped up. The Soprano family assembles at a restaurant for dinner, and Tony fires up the jukebox to play a certain song that hit me like a punch in the face. A certain song that served as the climax of the weekend and shall remain the rallying call to the East Aurora crew of compadres, sending the signal to unite from sea to shining sea: Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I don’t think I’m going too far in saying it’s the crowning achievement of the human species. Steve Perry owns you!
Check out the image gallery here: Virginia 2007 Gallery.