I was surprised to find the parking lot dry when I glanced out our hotel window that morning. Apparently the storms hadn’t struck in Lexington, although there was plenty of havoc back home. (Mom posted on Facebook, though, that everything was okay.) However, as we were gathering things up to take down to the van, a storm watch was issued for the entire part of Kentucky and West Virginia where we would be traveling all day.
Diamondqueen and the Hooligans had taken some bags down to the van while I was in the bathroom. I ran to the window in time to see them in the parking lot below. I started dancing in the window, trying to attract their attention, but no one looked my way. (I may, however, have been a spectacle to drivers racing by on New Circle Road.) Finally, one of the Hooligans glanced up and pointed me out to the others. The look of incredulous disgust on their faces as I bumped and ground in full view was worth whatever anonymous humiliation I may have suffered.
It was very humid out, and the sky was darkening as we pulled into the same Bob Evans of our first day’s breakfast. It was just south of the I64 interchange. Apparently even the Hooligans were capable of tiring of bacon; S.Hooligan refused an extra side and J. seemed to fill up quicker than he had previously.
We had gotten up to leave when we looked out the restaurant windows and saw an impenetrable curtain of rain. The storm had gathered while we were eating, and now all hell had cut loose. There was some wind and lightning, but mostly it was the sheer volume of rain that was impressive. We waited it out for about ten minutes until it had subsided enough for us to make it to the van without getting soaked.
The drive across Kentucky was dreary. J.Hooligan fell asleep immediately, and once I was sure Diamondqueen was certain of her route, I leaned the seat back and dosed off myself. When I awoke it was still ugly and gray out.
S.Hooligan started a word game as we drove the last miles east toward the Kentucky-West Virginia border. Even J. roused himself to participate. The game consisted of one person announcing the first letter of a word. Everyone would take a wide-ranging guess, then the person would reveal the second letter and so on until someone guessed the word.
I soon understood how the game was going to run when the Hooligans and even Diamondqueen chose a series of suggestive, even raunchy words as well as prime examples of profanity. I was horrified that S.Hooligan not only knew all the words but was able to define them in clinical terms. Just to be obstinate, the first word I offered was “baby.” The first two letters provided opportunities for the players to spout inappropriate guesses; when they gave up and found out what my word was, they were ready to cast me onto the gritty shoulder of I64.
Our plan that day was to stop at an old-fashioned amusement park near Huntington, WV, before completing our journey to Point Pleasant. Camden Park was modest by contemporary theme park standards, which was the point, with a quaint, vintage vibe. However, even before we crossed over into West Virginia, I wondered if we were going to be able to ride anything at Camden Park since the weather was still gray and wet.
It took some winding through Huntington to find the site since Diamondqueen had been so distracted by our word game that she overshot the specific exit. At last we spotted a big clown sign that announced “Camden Park.”
We eyed the park warily. Maybe it was just the weather, but the place simply didn’t look appealing. Or safe. Or clean, although that may have been an effect of the recent heavy rains.
No one was taking money for parking, so Diamondqueen pulled the van into the lot. We sat there looking for awhile. The few rides we could see appeared to be about the level of so-so carnival rides. The wooden roller coaster looked frail, as if it was constructed of toothpicks. It may not have been the park’s fault, but the overall impression was dismal.
Diamondqueen and I exchanged a glance that said “Not if we can help it.” She looked in the rear-view mirror and asked the Hooligans, “Would you guys care if we just skipped this?” I turned to watch them. They both seemed flattened against the back of their seats, their eyes wide and dark as they shook their heads no. Diamondqueen pulled around and exited before anyone could hit us up for a parking fee.
We found our way back to I64 and drove on. The final leg of the drive was south through countryside we’d traveled before. I remembered lush green hills and little houses with tended vegetable gardens, but it was one of those days when nothing really looked good. Tired and dispirited, we arrived at last in Point Pleasant.
Diamondqueen parked in front of The Mothman Museum. I’d been through the museum once before, which was enough for me. There was a small antique/craft mall across the street, so I hurried over there instead.
We met up again awhile later and headed a few doors down to check into the Lowe Hotel. On our first overnight to Point Pleasant, we had stayed at this old hotel and found it intriguing. It reminded us of the movie Paper Moon and had old furnishings and transom windows, which utterly charmed Diamondqueen. She was the one who really anticipated another visit to the “historical” establishment. (It’s also supposed to be haunted, but we never experienced anything unusual in that department.)
For some reason, this time I felt uncomfortable from the moment we entered the majestic lobby. I thought maybe it was the effect of the weather and the adrenaline drain that happens toward the end of a vacation trip.
We got off the rickety elevator on the third floor and crept down the shadowy, still hallway. There was a window and rocking chairs at the end of the hall, and some blankets or quilts had been piled there. I thought they looked like bodies left there accidentally (or maybe deliberately). It just increased my sense of discomfort.
Diamondqueen had booked a “suite.” She unlocked the door to reveal a central room with a bedroom on either side. I recoiled immediately from the ’80s-looking velour sofas, the battered Goodwill furniture, the stale air of the central room. Diamondqueen and the Hooligans took the room to the right, which we entered through a bathroom. It was pleasant enough and a bit more “together” with the old furnishings and wall art.
I took the room to the left. I found two wooden beds, a few nightstands and small tables from a variety of eras, and some truly ugly, dingy prints of Williamsburg with a ’50s “modern” style of painting. Over against the wall was a solitary sink with towel, washrag, and soap. I soon realized each room, including the middle sitting room, had one of these sinks and later learned that a single faucet worked in each. My sink offered only hot water.
There was no central air conditioning in the hotel. Each room had its own window air conditioner. I went over to the window and examined mine. It appeared to be duct-taped into the window opening. I fiddled with the controls and got some cool air blowing, but it was fighting a losing battle against the heat that had accumulated during the 90-degree weather earlier that week.
I lifted a blade of the venetian blinds. My room overlooked the antique mall I’d visited shortly before. As I let the blade drop, I saw something on the room side of the blinds just above my eye level. It looked like pigeon poop. Seriously? I stared at it, then noticed some tiny dribbles down the blades above it. From that moment on, I worried that knowledge like a puzzle all day and night. How in the hell had pigeon poop gotten on the inside of my blinds? For the time being, I pulled the heavy gold drape over that part of the blind, then went to turn down my bed so I could nap.
It was so warm I had trouble sleeping. I kept waking up to stare at the ugly Williamsburg paintings or I’d puzzle some more about the pigeon poop. I must have drowsed a bit now and then. Finally I got up, went into the sitting room, and turned on the incongruous large screen television.
J.Hooligan joined me then, lounging on the gray velour sofa across from me. The seat cushions parted, and I spotted a smattering of cheese curls and potato chip crumbs. I stared at the carpet under the sofa and saw more leavings. Had no one cleaned our rooms?
J. returned to his room, and I sat morosely watching the evening news, feeling more and more as if I were stranded in the middle of nowhere in a pit of a bus station waiting room. When six o’clock arrived, I ventured into Diamondqueen’s room. She and the kids were relaxing and watching their television, which just made me feel lonelier.
Diamondqueen took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “Nothing,” even though my face felt crumpled into itself. This visit to the old hotel had been important to Diamondqueen; I so did not want to ruin it with any negativity. The Hooligans threatened to do that on their own. Already S.Hooligan had asked, “Do we have to stay here tonight?” Secretly, I was on her side.
We dressed and drove over to Gallipolis to the Pizza Hut. Unbelievably, the weather had cleared; there was blue sky showing and even sunshine made an appearance. After our pizzas, Diamondqueen wanted to try to visit one of the buildings on the abandoned TNT factory grounds, site of Mothman doings, just as we had on our first visit. I warned that there had been a lot of rain and it might be hard to get back there. Diamondqueen gave me another appraising look. I kept quiet lest I let slip any more clues of my misery.
S.Hooligan had devised a plan: We would stay out doing stuff until midnight so we’d have to spend as little time as possible in the hotel. For S. the problem was the potential for ghosts. When Diamondqueen first switched on her “ghost meter,” S. had burst into tears of terror.
The abandoned TNT site had been converted into a wildlife sanctuary. With the late day sunshine making everything glow, it was a pleasant drive along wooded roads and past reedy ponds and pastures. We found the spot where we thought one of the “silos” could be accessed. Diamondqueen glanced at the knee-high weeds and thought better of exploring. (Our first visit years before had been in late March when there hadn’t been much vegetation.) She stepped out to try to take a few photos but immediately discovered the ground was deeply puddled with standing water. She happily gave up, and we drove on.
We took a long, long drive, and it was the nicest time we’d had all day. We saw lots of deer, fisherman around various ponds (although we wondered how toxic the area was and how anyone could even consider eating the fish), and small farms, some trashy and unkempt, some charming.
The sun was going down when we arrived back in Point Pleasant. Diamondqueen urged the Hooligans to pose before the bug-eyed Mothman statue (no pun intended), then I suggested we take a walk along the river. I’d forgotten how lovely the riverfront is in Point Pleasant, beautifully developed with terraced seats along the water and a dramatic, colorful historical mural on the river side of the flood wall. Some people were fishing, others were just sitting on the steps enjoying the river and the sunset. It would have been idyllic if J.Hooligan hadn’t been chasing after S., swinging his socks over his head and wailing like a tribal hunter possessed by the spirit of Jerry Lewis. (Diamondqueen had discovered the night before that J. brought a single pair of socks with him for the entire trip. She made him wash them out, and they’d been spread out in the van all day since they hadn’t dried overnight. J.Hooligan had found them and brought them with him on our walk.)
Finally we entered the hotel. No one was at the desk, which I found curious. Up in the room, I stated outright I was lonely and couldn’t somebody come watch television with me in the sitting room. Diamondqueen brought in her knitting, and soon the Hooligans had joined us as well. We watched several repeat episodes of “Big Bang Theory,” one of J.Hooligan’s current favorites. I pointed out the food around the other sofa to Diamondqueen; J. said he could see crumbs and stuff in our sofa as well.
I had to make myself go to bed. Diamondqueen and the Hooligans had already retired. (I learned the next day both kids slept all night with their blankets pulled up over their heads.) My room had cooled off considerably although I was still uncomfortable. I couldn’t get to sleep. Images kept floating across my brain: The pigeon poop on the blinds; the food between the sofa cushions; the ancient-looking outlet in the sitting room loaded with plugs for the big screen television, refrigerator, maybe the air conditioner as well. Was the wiring really up to all that, I wondered. I began to fret how we would get out of the hotel if there was a fire. There were no sprinklers, of course. Was there even anyone on the premises who could help us if there was a problem? (We later learned the hotel doors were locked at midnight with no staff on site.)
I mused, as I had on our previous visit, about the Silver Bridge Collapse, something that had haunted me since the disaster one December Friday evening in 1967. It still amazed me that I would wind up a tourist in a hotel a block down from where the bridge had tumbled into the Ohio. I was thirteen then, and I’d watched news shows and read newspaper accounts and fretted about those forty-six people who had died. I still think of it whenever I have to cross a crowded bridge.
I warned myself Point Pleasant would be known for another tragedy someday. Either one of those duct-taped air conditioners was going to fall out of the hotel window and kill a reveler at the Mothman festival, or the hotel itself was going to have an electrical fire due to overloaded wiring and burn to the ground. When I’d exhausted my imagination of morbid things, I started glancing at the transom window over the outside door to my room. It was cracked open a bit so I could see a thin slice of the shadowy hall ceiling. I wondered which would startle me more—to see a pair of human eyes peering in at me or the ghostly stare of one of the hotel’s phantoms. I opted for the phantom; what in the world would I be able to do if someone real was peeping at me?
Morning came at last, and all of us rose earlier than we had the entire week. While we were gathering our things up, I got the first hint that Diamondqueen hadn’t been thrilled with our accommodations, either. She brought in a small paper airplane from the bedroom and asked J.Hooligan if it was his.
“No,” he replied. “I found it accidentally.” It had been in the bedspread. Diamondqueen’s nose wrinkled, she tossed the airplane in the wastebasket, and washed her hands.
As we were leaving Point Pleasant, I commented with forced cheerfulness that at least Diamondqueen had gotten a second overnight in the old hotel. She replied, “And that’s enough!” Diamondqueen spilled the truth: She’d been put off by the rooms as well, citing many of the same problems I’d mulled over when I was trying to get to sleep. “I found crumbs in the refrigerator,” she added as we compared notes. She’d deliberately made our evening drive as long as possible to stay away from the hotel. Diamondqueen admitted she’d wondered about hanging out at the Gallipolis WalMart until midnight so we could go right to bed when we got back.
It was only appropriate that we stopped for breakfast at the restaurant on the actual Bob Evans Farm, which was on our way home. J.Hooligan refused a side order of bacon; S. annoyed her mother until battle royal erupted. Outside, I gazed at the pretty landscape and thought I wouldn’t have minded looking around at the various attractions. But it was over. We were all exhausted, we were on our way home. Our energy and interest in adventures were depleted. We climbed into the van and arrived in Loveland around lunchtime.