Because we’re well into December and I still haven’t written anything from November’s excursion to Virginia I figured it was about time. Besides, I sort of had to before I went here:
Which I’m doing today.
Every year, except the last which was deferred by K’s school and internship and a very understanding husband and best friend, I go to Virginia with my two best friends for a relaxing weekend of freaking ourselves out by staying in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. K’s family has property near Nellysford, Virgina, which I can’t stop spelling Virignia.
During the day Gallagher Gate is just what you’d imagine from a cabin situated in the Virginian woods. Trees stretch high into the perfectly blue sky and hilly mountains lush with foliage. We always go in the autumn so the curves of the mountains are almost on fire with reds and oranges and yellows. It’s an idyllic paradise. Just perfect for slightly chilly autumn days spent reading, writing, cooking, and generally lazing with friends.
But then at night this paradise turns into the sort of nightmare of imagination that’s, well, quite frankly hard to shake. Let me use the example of using the bathroom. Gallagher Gate was built by the Gallagher family, and while it’s amazingly well done in structure and space it’s not exactly an architects dream. All the rooms are fairly spacious, except the bathroom. It’s got all the amenities, which is really all you can ask; a nice functioning shower, sink, toilet, regular bathroom stuff. However, when you first walk in the door it’s really hard to open it without slamming the doorknob into the opposing wall. Which sports a lovely hole in it, I imagine from this being done a few times too often. Then you have to sort of snake by the shower, which sticks out slightly. I imagine because this was not the original shower. The first time we tried to make it down to Gallagher Gate we were warned that the shower was all torn up and that it probably couldn’t be used. I never saw the old one, but the new one is far nicer than you’d imagine it should be. But anyway, once you make it down to the sink and toilet you have something else entirely to contend with. The window. This year when we went back to Virginia we were pleased to see that all the windows had nice new Venetian blinds on them, which makes it much easier to open and close them. They had previously sported curtains of some sort or another. The bathroom has nothing. Now, it’s not a privacy issue. There’s absolutely nothing around for as far as you can see. I could spend the entire weekend naked and no one would be none the wiser, except my traveling companions who, I’m sure, would appreciate the view of the mountains far more than they would appreciate the view of my naked ass. But when I’m in that bathroom I am just keenly aware that I can’t see a damned thing out there. There’s absolutely no light going in that direction. Anyone or anything could be out there staring at me and I would have no idea. I’ve always been slightly freaked out by the idea of someone watching me unawares, but that’s usually so easily fixed by closing some blinds. The kitchen is like this too. Pitch darkness meets you when you look out that window, and this is the room that freaks K out. But for me it’s the bathroom. And the reason for that is that it’s a room where I am usually unaccompanied. In the kitchen I’m within talking and running distance to two of my friends. In the bathroom I could be washing my face with my eyes closed and be suddenly accosted through the window by some crazed mountain man with an ax and my escape would be impeded by a narrow passage and door. And to a girl who had escape plans from her school in the event of velociraptor, I don’t think I need to tell you how terrifying that is.
We have a tradition that we watch a bunch of movies. A feat that’s both easy and surprisingly difficult to come by. For one we can never seem to remember if there is a DVD play at the cabin, which results in me always bringing mine and realizing that it’s sort of broken. Despite this, on our laptops, this year we watched a litany of quality films: Godzilla & Mothra: The Battle for Earth, Drive Thru (the review of which you should probably read here), Class Reunion Massacre, Troll, and Troll 2. They are always really sort of awful movies. I don’t think K will ever get the sour expression she sported after we watched Feast off her face. The first year we decided we needed to watch a bunch of horror films. Which makes sense. I mean, first there is the fact that we’re already in a place that’s straight terrifying, but also because it’s one of the only genres that all three of us are always on board about. It’s not like we don’t all like the same movies, but the consistent genre is always horror. So we watched House of Wax and The Descent. Maybe something else that I’ve forgotten about. The Descent was one of the those movies that I think I should like far more than I do. I like it, it’s well done, but it would never be on a favorite list. House of Wax is where the story lies. We wanted to make a fire to roast marshmallows but we wanted it to be dark. So we thought we should watch a movie beforehand. Having the active imaginations that we have we thought it would be a good idea to watch something that wouldn’t scare us, so we went with House of Wax. It’s probably one of the cheesiest horror remakes of recent times. It’s not horrible, but it’s not scary. Usually people cheer when Paris Hilton gets a pipe through the head. However, there is one part that I pointed out would freak me. It’s when a car pulls up and sits there staring at them while they’re inexplicably camping in a field. Then pulls away without doing or saying anything. It’s just creepy. So out we go to roast our marshmallows and up pulls a truck. It wasn’t like it could have been going anywhere else, we’re the last property on the road, so we totally lost our shit. Unsurprisingly it was just a church group, but when the headlights hit us I could understand, for once, why deer get caught in headlights. It’s probably being literally scared stiff. At least it didn’t impede my lips from telling J to go get his shillelagh.
The first year we made it down we were looking around when K announced to J that “they have a shillelagh here”. I had no idea what the hell a shillelagh was, but I had to go check it out. Apparently there’s some Irish wrestler who carries around a shillelagh, a sort of Irish club created with the knot of a tree, so J had been making jokes about carrying one at their wedding. I took one look and declared it would be outrageously easy to make. So I grabbed a saw and headed out to find the perfect branch knot. It didn’t take long out in the woods, and I proceeded to fashion a shillelagh in about ten minutes. It was pretty cool. It was so cool, in fact, that by the end of the trip we had two more shillelaghs, one for me and one for K. And that’s where our club was born; The Three Shillelaghs. It’s not a proper club, per se, because it’s really just the three of us, who hang out, see movies, drink, vacation, and generally live our lives in tandem that are members. Still, because we’re immature and generally awesome we had to give ourselves a name. So now every trip is named something. Our recent Key West vacation was titled The Three Shillelaghs: Hunt of the Key Master and to Gallagher Gate, The Three Shillelaghs: Voyage to the Virgin Territories.
They often say that getting there is half the journey, a statement I have always found to be true. And our voyages to Gallagher Gate are often memorable. The first year we attempted to drive down there K and I decided we were going to take turns driving. They picked me up in Columbus and we headed down towards West Virginia. It was my turn to drive as we headed through Marietta and across the Ohio River. It was raining slightly, mostly mist at this point, nothing major. I saw some traffic ahead on the bridge and to give the car a little more time to roll to a stop I started to switch lanes, easing the car from the left lane into the right. The car then took on a life of it’s own, the wheels catching on the rain slicked highway and hydroplaned us back and forth several times before we went headfirst into the retaining wall between us and the Ohio River. I was pretty sure that we were going to die. That the wall wouldn’t hold and the car would plummet into the river below. We’d drown, or die hitting the water. We didn’t. The retaining wall stopped the car, causing quite a bit of damage, and scarred me for life. No, no, not physically. I had a cut on my arm and a few black eyes, but the damage to us was minimal. But it has managed to disallow me from drive peacefully in the rain. Which is a hindrance to say the least. The next year we took a wrong turn and headed into the George Washington National Park where we crept along for about four hours surrounded by leaping deer that didn’t seem to have much care that there was a car driving there. We didn’t arrive at the property until about four or five. The third attempt was smooth, we thought we had gotten a handle on it, but alas, no. This year we followed instructions that were completely asinine and directed us through a town called Vesuvius. Vesuvius is probably completely normal during the day, but let me say during the night I was pretty sure that we were going to be murdered by either angry locals who’s sleepy town we’d disturbed by driving through, or else some sort of ancient pockmarked face vampires. As we drove across some train tracks the street turned so sharply that it looked as if we were meant to plow into the most abandoned looking building that I have ever seen. The rest of the route took us through so many twisting mountain side streets that I was ready to puke by the time we got to Gallagher Gate. But on the plus side, we did get to drive on State Route 666.
This year we did a few things differently. For one, there was a new brewery called The Devil’s Backbone that we had seen being built the last time we were there, so we only bought groceries for one night and went there for dinner. The Bonesmoker Platter was tasty, even if I did order it for very immature reasons. We also tried Thai Mex II, which we’d been giggling about for years. It just seems so random, Thai food and Mexican served at the same place. But my red curry was excellent, and J’s Mexican dish was also given a good review. I suppose when you’ve got a town as small as Nellysford you have to combine your cultures a little more than average.
We also tried a new grocery store. Let me explain, we are creatures of habit. There are a few groceries, though one is clearly bigger, and we’d only been to one. We’d only ever considered going to one, because it was where we always went. So this year I suggested we go a little crazy. My suggestion of trying a new grocery was initially met with crickets, but they had Choco Tacos so we’re considering it a success, even if they didn’t have the starter logs I was after.
I go on a lot of vacations in cities, vacations that are filled with sightseeing and activity and I really love those. I have to say that, in general, I prefer them. But every once in awhile I like to take a load off, have a weekend with no obligations except relaxing. And if I can do that with my best friends then so much the better. This is why, every year, I look forward to my trip to Gallagher Gate. And sometimes I never want to leave.