I've been too busy to properly report my trips but felt compelled because I wanted to mention some excellent places and some not so good ones I encountered on our trip.
We left New Jersey around eight pm. The intention was to drive 4-5 hours and sleep then get up very early and finish the trip. The itinerary was to zip line on the Friday. Hike on the Saturday and Raft the New River on Sunday finishing with dinner at Smokeys.
I wanted to stop part of the way through Virginia. It was such a busy weekend we couldn't find a hotel so I kept driving but pulled over a lot to rest. Because of the frequent naps we arrived about 9 AM.
Last year we stayed at the Holiday Inn Beckley which was great but this year decided on the Fairfield in despite a few mediocre comments. The major reason I am writing this report was to describe how terrific the hotel especially the service. I usually stay at Marriotts and have never stayed at a Fairfield Inn. I stay at higher end hotels to avoid suprises and have found of late most to be inadequate and have left both a Marriott and a Sheraton lately due to unresolved problems. Well, this hotel was great, and cost substantially less than its higher end counterparts. I am making it a point now to investigate lower end hotels because I cannot really afford the higher end and there is no longer a guarantee of nice surroundings or service. The Fairfield is slightly older but with updated interiors and large hallways and general spaces. The rooms are nicely appointed and layed out with a nice bathroom. Upon request they supplied me with a refrigerator which saved us a few dollars for lunch. The morning breakfast was excellent the only minor point was they had one of those terrific belgium waffle machines and the batter had a slightly nutmeg flavor which isn't my favorite.
We did all of our activities through class VI who we've used before and found unparalleled. The zip lining while a lot of fun, wasn't as thrilling as rafting because you have to sit there and there is little you can do to change your experience. it is not an active pursuit like rafting. I am glad I tried it though. We wanted so badly to raft after that that we decided to do a half day trip the next day instead of hiking. For some reason Class VI had us take this trip with Rivermen which they had recently purchased. Rivermen while very capable was not my cup of tea. Its very youth oriented and not as serious as class Vi although some may prefer the more casual atmosphere.. It must have been a fluke but I hated the trip. The water was very still and it was quite frankly very boring. I vowed after that I wouldn't come back unless I had assurances of more action either early season or higher water levels. Then I went the next day. This time I went out with Class VI. I can't say enough about these guys. As far as I was concerned everything was perfect. One of the things I appreciate with them is that they are more cautious than other outfits and take everything really seriously. The funny thing though was the trip was thrilling and exciting. I couldn't believe we were on the same river.
We came back tired and hungry really looking forward to Smokeys. We had to leave that night as we had an appointment the next day so we wanted to eat and then leave as reasonably soon as posable. It was a bit of a disaster. They seemed to have over booked the restaurant (350 people) and to make matters worse were not physically set up to handle the throng of people who started to resemble an unruly crowd. To inflame matters, the owners had rented out part of the restaurant to a boy scout troop. I think the entire mess was unprofessional and unfair to the patrons.
It was crazy and it didn't help that every minute someone would storm the front of the line and explain some urgent issue that demanded they receive an immediate table. The staff did not handle this properly since they then would not only allow these people to go in front, but it seemed to prevent them from the normal task of seating anyone. There were many open tables and the entire evening was mismanaged. When we finally got seated the lines for food were out the door and many dishes ran out. As for the food it is above average but not amazing. It is quite a good deal for the price, but nothing is a standout.
All in all we loved the trip as we always do when we visit West Virginia. The state on a whole seems beautiful and clean where ever you go. More importantly the people are what makes it. Everywhere you go people greet you and ask you how your are doing and mean it. The Fairfield in was terrific, Class VI amazing as well, Rivermen good and probably better for the younger crowd and Smokeys just so so and terribly run.
I strongly reccommend visiting and especially rafting in West Virginia.