“Country Roads, Take Me Home” from the Brewstel Rooftop

It was a beautiful ride through the George Washington and Monongahala National Forests, with corners both windy and tight. I rode about 120 miles and made it to Elkins, West Virginia in about 3 1/2 hours. Though I’d made a reservation on AirBnB, there was no one at the hostel when I arrived.

I called the phone number on the door, left a message, and went to get a cup of coffee, which I got for free because the barista walked in on me sitting on the toilet shortly after I asked her where the bathroom was. We both had a good laugh about it, and she made me a really good Americano with lavender, my new favorite way to drink a coffee.

I had chosen to stay at the hostel because it was only $25 a night and what I read about it said that it included a brewery with 21 different beers. They call it the Brewstel. Someone called me back and texted me on my way to the coffee house, and I texted that I would be back in 20 minutes or so. He texted that he left a key in the mailbox and made a bed for me in the Caboose Room.

I found the key in the mailbox and let myself in, the clomp of my new steel-toed boots echoing up the wooden stairs. It’s a quaint little hostel with 12 bunk beds, a community kitchen, common space, and two outdoor decks, one of them on the roof. Sure enough, my room is painted red and includes a large RAILROAD CROSSING sign.

I produced a video tour and started uploading it to YouTube when the guy who lives upstairs and watches over the place got back and made me feel welcome. He’s a musician who has worked a lot with a looper and had a lot of challenges with drug abuse which resulted in an overdose that made him reconsider the trajectory of his life. He told me that the brewery had been struggling before the pandemic, and that they hadn’t made beer in over a year.

So I took some time to finally learn how to play “Country Roads, Take Me Home” by heart. I figured it would be fun to shoot a video from the rooftop to catch those mountains in the background, but it was pretty hot on that rooftop when the sun was still high in the sky, and I decided to wait for the sunset. The caretaker recommended a place called Gino’s that makes pizza and other Italian dishes so I treated myself to a baked lasagna and half a dozen wings since it was Monday and they were half off.

I left my phone at the hostel to recharge and just sat alone in the restaurant waiting for my food while families and friends enjoyed their meals together. I don’t imagine there are many people who go out to eat alone without their phones these days, but it was a calming moment to just sit there and be instead of having to entertain myself constantly. I even sat with my back to the television.

Although I don’t eat at restaurants often, even when I’m on the road, when I do, I try to eat at places we don’t have in my hometown. I also generally try to steer clear of chains, but Gino’s is a West Virginia original, and there weren’t a lot of other options that were still open. The lasagna was good enough that I wanted to save some for later, and the Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce on the wings had a nice tangy spice to them.

With only one waitress, my food took a while and I soaked in the atmosphere, checking out the photos of pioneers in the area and a collection of black and white portraits of young men with sideburns and bow ties that I guessed we’re from the 1970s, each of them askew. By the time I finished half my meal and put the rest in a box for breakfast, the sun had reached the horizon, and I hurried up the stairs with my guitar to record my newly learned song on the roof with the West Virginia sunset in the background. There aren’t a lot of people out on the streets in Elkins, but I hope that whoever did hear my rendition thought that I did their anthem justice, even though I did make a few mistakes.

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