Day 5:WV/VA Vacation – Beckley Coal Mine and New River Gorge Bridge

For our last full day of vacation we had just a couple of things left to see. We headed out for the Beckley Coal Mine first.

It was an old coal mine that had been bought by the city many years earlier and upgraded for tours. For the ripe old cost of $20/head you could ride in a little coal car and tour the mine and also walk through several old coal mine houses, schoolhouse, and church that had been relocated to their grounds. Our tour was set to leave about 10 minutes from when we arrived, and they told us it would last about 30-40 minutes which was perfect as far as Lilli’s needs for a nap/bottle would run.

Our tour was completely full of older people, which really wasn’t surprising since it was a Monday, but everywhere else we had been at least had a couple of other non-school age children. From the get-go I could tell this group was going to be “lively”. They were all comedians, and had something funny to say in response to EVERYTHING our tour guide Melvin said. Melvin was your quintessential elderly, retired West Virginia coal miner. He had the accent and the jokes and he was LOVING this crowd.
We headed into the mine and it really was pretty claustrophobic. The opening really wasn’t much taller or wider than it needed to be for passengers to be seated on the coal cart.

We didn’t go too far into the mine before Melvin stopped at a slightly wider/taller opening and started his “speech”. He started giving us some basics on the life and times of early miners. They really had it rough, crawling in there and basically working like that all day for very little money. He showed us how dark it was without light, what it looked like with just their little candle-lit helmets, and showed us lots of tools of the trade. At each stop he’d open up for questions from the crowd, and our crowd was FULL of questions. When people were asking where the miners went to the bathroom at the very first stop I knew there was NO WAY our tour would be over in half an hour!
The tour itself inside the mine really wasn’t all that long, there were only a few stops but each one lasted a while because of all the info and QUESTIONS. A 30 min tour would’ve been perfect. Around 50 minutes into the tour Lilli started getting restless for a nap and a bottle. I seriously thought people would never quit asking questions – the lunch box the miners used (see below) prompted at least a half a dozen questions alone. Then Melvin asked if we all wanted to take the long way out or the short way – and of course the crowd yelled “long way”! It was fine though, it really wasn’t that long out and Lilli really only got bored if we were stopped for a long time.After the tour we walked around the various coal miners houses and businesses. The guy I had sat next to on the tour came up to us in one house and said, in a massive accent “When I saw you sit down next to me with a baby I thought “oh no, here’s a baby” but she was so good I didn’t even know she was here!” That was a nice compliment! We had a few other people say similar things, which is always nice to hear. And with such a sweet face, what would you expect???
Coal Mining Lilli

On the tour with Dad

After we walked around Brent sat down in the really nice lobby area and gave Lilli a bottle while I shopped. She fell sound asleep!!!
The fam taking a snooze:
Look at that sweet little face!
From there we headed north to the New River Gorge Bridge. For a long time it was the longest bridge of its type in the world, but a few years ago a longer one was built in Europe. And it’s on the West Virginia quarter.
It’s actually a National Park Landmark. So while we were there we visited the gift shop and bought Lilli a passport book and had it stamped for this bridge. I really, really wish Brent and I had bought one years ago when we started traveling since we’ve visited SO many national parks , monuments and landmarks out west – especially all the weird ones we may never visit again!
Lilli was asleep when we first got there, so I stayed at the top overlook while Brent went to the bottom. Several groups came through while I was hanging out and this group cracked me up. I CAN NOT BELIEVE the one woman would not get off her cell phone for their group shot. She is what I hate about cell phones.

The New River
All the buzz woke Lilli up , so when Brent got back up we had some people take our picture. Except she didn’t get the bridge in the photo AT ALL.Lilli & I

Inside the Visitor Center:
The view when you drive over the Bridge
Lilli was still really sleepy so we decided to drive until she woke up before we stopped to eat a late lunch/early dinner. We drove through Charleston, the state capital of West Virginia.

We ate an early dinner just before leaving West Virginia, and then ended the day at a really nice Four Seasons in Lexington, KY.

It was a LONG night. It literally took us 2.5 hours to get Lilli to sleep. I think she was at that point in vacation (like we were) where you just want to get in your own routine again. She wasn’t crying, she just was NOT going to sleep and was standing and playing in her crib. Brent eventually took her on a stroller ride up and down the hall until she FINALLY fell asleep. And we were just a few minutes behind us!

The next morning we got up and toured Lexington a little before heading home. Stay tuned for one final vacation post!

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