Our Mini-Moon in the West Virginia Mountains

“There’s a man — in his underwear — staring at us,” I told Andy while trying not to make eye contact at the stranger looming in his cotton-white briefs with a definitive glare cast our way.

“I know,” I heard Andy whisper. From my peripheral vision, I could see Andy also staring straight ahead. Neither of us moved. Maybe if we didn’t move, the almost-bare man would lose interest and go back inside.

That idea though did not work.

Minute after minute passed.

The underwear man did not give in.

“I don’t know what he wants us to do?” I asked, starting to feel frustrated. It was past midnight. We were hungry, and we were tired after driving over two hours to our mini-honeymoon location following our wedding. That location was tucked away in the West Virginia mountains — which were enveloped in absolute darkness.

“The email says,” Andy announced (again and again) while looking at his phone once more, “‘The cottage building is located at the back of the property — the last building on the left’ — That’s where we are now. I don’t understand.”

Truth be told, I didn’t understand either.

Due to COVID, we were not able to take part in our planned and plotted honeymoon in Italy and so we settled on comfort. This mean a so-called ‘mini-moon’ at the Hillbrook Inn where a private cottage awaited Andy and me for a long get-away weekend. We chose this because it was relatively close to Shenandoah’s Franklin Cliffs where we eloped and also because it opened up the ability to hike trails that were too far away for a day trip. Overall, our West Virginia plans should have been a cinch. However, because of the time we arrived, there was no open reception office, there was no one to talk to, and there was no to direct us. All we had were emailed directions about going to the end of a gravel road and arriving at our secluded cottage — or not-so-secluded because there was a looming man in his tighty-whities who marched outside when we pulled up.

“You’re right — This is supposed to be our cottage, according to the directions, which means there is a nearly-naked man standing on our supposed cottage’s front porch. If anyone were to glare, I think it should be us.” Then an idea occurred to me: “Maybe I should tell the man this?”

Dear reader, you should know I get incredibly irritable when I am exhausted.

“L — no,” Andy said but his warning came a bit too late as I punched our car’s interior lights on. A bright white flooded blackness as I bent forward — in my wedding dress, hair curled, make-up on — and so a glaring competition began. Intimidating look matched with intimidating look. The fully clothed versus the un-clothed.

“I think Brief Man just stomped his foot at me!” I huffed casting a more furious glare. Underwear Man proceeded by punching his fists onto his hips to maintain threat.

“How dare he!” I yelled after imploring Andy to put his window down, without luck. This left me to shout . . . in the car . . . at the nearly-naked man . . . who brooded a mere yard away on Andy’s side. But I knew I was heard. “Clearly we are not choosing to be annoying! WE JUST GOT MARRIED!” I hollered. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?! WE ARE TRYING TO FIND OUR COTTAGE! WHY ARE YOU STARING AT US IN YOUR UNDER — “

“L!” Now Andy was furious and jabbed at the car’s light to turn it off. Darkness surrounded us again and I admit, this is not how I envisioned our first night of mini-moon bliss. “L! Let’s just calm — “

“THERE!” I announced! “He is gone! HA!” and it was true — I had witnessed Underwear Man snap ’round and return back inside his — or ours or whoever’s — cottage, no doubt slamming the door as he left. “I truly hope this is our cottage and we have to go up and knock on his door and tell him to vacate!”

Turns out . . . I can admit when I am wrong, and I — or we — were wrong. Underwear Man’s cottage proved to be not our cottage. This, we came to realize when Andy slipped outside alone to investigate the property behind and around Tighty-Whitie’s abode.

“Our cottage,” Andy sighed heavily upon return, “is behind his.” I believe it was in that very moment I first felt guilt and saddness. Not because I had incorrectly yelled at a stranger modeling his underwear but because, for some reason, Andy had just realized he married a crazy person.

“I’m sorry — ” I started.

“L,” Andy sighed again. “Let’s just get inside.”

And so we did where our beautiful little home-away-from-home awaited us . . .

Removing our charcuterie tray from the fridge, we nibbled on the food to our hearts’ delight before climbing into bed for our first night as husband and wife . . .

* * * * *

The next morning, we decided to pamper our newly married selves by calling in a delicious breakfast . . .

Afterwards, we roamed the grounds under tall, old trees to better take in where we were. Reportedly, the inn sits over thirty acres of President George Washington’s first land purchase back in 1750 . . .

With attractions around the area — wineries, hiking trails, more — the inn itself is known to offer a simple, quiet get-away . . .

which gave Andy and me a chance to do something we rarely do — We relaxed.

Sometimes we swung under large tree limbs on a hammock. Sometimes we read books on our cottage’s patio. Sometimes (okay, many times) we found ourselves in massive chess match after massive chess match . . . which is where (whether Andrew wants to admit it or not) he was slaughtered in several battles — one, after a few turns. (Maybe I’ll be fair and say the Brit did have drinks in his system at the time of that particular embarrassment.)

Other days we drove a quick ten minutes to the local town . . .

where we roamed the cute Charles Town, which was founded by and named after President George Washington’s youngest brother, Charles Washington . . .

Here, we happily and aimlessly munched local juicy peaches and plump blackberries . . .

After, we picked up the state’s famous Mama Jo’s Pepperoni Rolls. This distinctly West Virginia food is like a calzone but more simple — It is solely a gigantic country roll filled with pepperoni. Story has it that the rolls originated in the early twentieth century when coal mines and railroads brought over Italian immigrants. In one of these small southern West Virginia coal towns, a woman by the nickname of Mama Jo wanted to make her miner husband a hardy, classic lunch. Using her skills as a bread maker and cook at the local school, the Italian woman followed her family’s old bread recipe to create the special pepperoni rolls. Today these rolls are still made and are considered such a popular snack that people are able to pick them up in area grocery stores, markets, and more.

In the end, this long weekend surprised both of us. No doubt we will properly celebrate our wedding and journey somewhere new for a true honeymoon whenever this pandemic does subside . . . but until then, these mountains of West Virginia welcomed us and gifted us tranquility. And while we had grand hikes picked and directions printed off to embrace every moment of local beauty . . . we ended up never lacing our boots for trails and — for the first time in my entire life — well, I didn’t mind.

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

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