WEST VIRGINIA: The MOST MYSTICAL places to visit on a ROAD TRIP
(enchanting music) What is the most fascinating travel destination? The one we know everything about and have seen on social media a thousand times? Or is it the one that we barely know anything about? West Virginia was the place on the East Coast I always wanted to visit the most because I knew least of it. Join a spectacular trip through remote rolling hills, abandoned mining towns, mystical amusement parks and explore an underrated state with me that is now one of my favorite on the East Coast to ride a motorcycle. Almost heaven. West Virginia. (soothing guitar music) (upbeat band music) - I am on my way from Virginia to West Virginia now and you guys must get the impression that I'm like a candle in the wind and just go with whatever people tell me because now I go to a town that I have not had on my itinerary before breakfast and that a local just recommended. And what can I say? It's true. I really go where people tell me to go these days.
So we will see. (upbeat band music) - We are very close now to the destination, the town, Bramwell and that as well means that we must have just crossed the border from the state Virginia to West Virginia without me noticing. So guys, welcome to West Virginia. I'm really, really excited.
- I have to tell you guys a secret. I had actually not a big clue about West Virginia before visiting but that's why West Virginia was the place I really wanted to go to because places I don't know anything about are just the most appealing to me. And all the little wisdom I had about West Virginia was basically from the song Country Roads. And to my big disappointment, I later found out that the writer of the song actually had never been to West Virginia at the point of time he wrote the lyrics and was on a road trip through Maryland when he came up with the song. - And this here's Bramwell now. It looks very nice if you ask me.
- I am in the town Bramwell now and Bramwell is an old historic town that has just some very historic buildings and that is famous for something very special. Tucked into the mountains in a bend of the Bluestone River, the tiny town of Bramwell has idyllic brick streets lined with historic mansions and beautiful gardens. These elaborate houses were all built during the 19th century and the early 20th century by wealthy coal owners and operators.
That's why Bramwell has a claim to fame that might surprise you. The former coal mining town once was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States which made it the richest town per capita in the United States at a turn of the century. These days are long over though but today a visit is still worth it to learn more about the past of West Virginia.
This part of the south of West Virginia right here is by the way an off-road paradise. There's a trail system that you can access from right here but I actually couldn't really find out if the trails are too hardcore for my skills and for my fully loaded bike. And you have to get some permits for I think like $50 before you ride the trails and I don't have the permit so I decided to skip those. I don't know. Maybe I have to come back one day and do them. The Hatfield-McCoy system is not only popular in West Virginia but attracts visitors from all over the country.
If you guys know anything about the trail system and if it's accessible and doable for travelers too, drop me a comment under this video and let me know so we can share these advices with the GOT2GO biker community. - I already love West Virginia. All the roads here are completely empty and so nice and curvy through forests and over rolling hills.
It's really, really nice and I'm as well getting closer to my next destination now which is an abandoned amusement park that I want to check out. Looking for and especially finding and accessing the amusement park didn't exactly turn out how I imagined. - So here on the left should be the park but there's only a fence. Let's see here at this campground if it's possible to access it from here. Yeah, I don't know.
It doesn't seem like it. Very strange. After doing a quick research online, it turned out that the abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is private property and that you have to book a tour to visit.
Nobody answered when I called the number I found on the website so I nearly gave up and turned onwards to my next destination. But when I stopped at a nearby gas station, I had a text message that told me that I could have a tour right now. And only a few minutes later, I met Chris in his car who guided me through some remote roads to approach the mystical abandoned Lake Shawnee amusement park. - This here, I think is the entrance of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. Chris is a little bit ahead of me. You know it's always a weird feeling but this abandoned place for some reason gives me some shivers.
It's just very weird if nobody is around anymore at a place like this. (haunting music) - My name is Chris White. I am the keeper of Lake Shawnee.
We purchased the property in 1985 and our intentions was to open it as an amusement park. So we opened it up and we ran it from 1985 to 1988 and then it closed down again. So we're here digging in '89 and we find some artifacts, some Native American's tools, weapons, arrowheads. So we call Marshall University, they come down, they dig just a little bit deeper and they start uncovering bodies. - We're out digging a couple days later, we find this rock and we put this rock out here because it points toward the heavens. We thought it was respect.
Over the time, it has sunk in the ground and changed into something different. Nose, eyes, headdress. - [Lea] Ohhh. - [Chris] See the Native American? - [Lea] Oh yeah. - [Chris] Isn't that crazy? - [Lea] That's crazy. - So that's the founder. Founder?
- [Chris] Yes. - [Lea] Owner, founder of the lake. - So Lake Shawnee had a few deaths over the years back from '26 to '66 before we bought the land.
And one of them that they talk about is the little girl that was riding in the swing. Another one is about the children that drowned in the lake. And there's also a cement swimming pond here that children have drowned in it also. So people come down to try to investigate and explore and see if they can see something different. You can't quite explain so it's really hard to explain it to people exactly what it was. - [Chris] This is gander pulling.
- [Lea] Gander pulling? What is that? - [Chris] Gander pulling came back from the 1800s over in England. Whenever they would do fox hunting, they would do gander pulling which means they would ride by on a horse and try to yank the goose's neck off. - [Lea] Ahhh. That's a goose. - [Chris] Isn't that weird? How cruel is that? - So now, Chris let me alone here at a lake. I hope I will not meet any ghosts or zombies all alone. - Now I walked through the swing and have spider webs everywhere in my hair and my face.
(Lea laughs) Oh man. - So it's 1966, the mother drops her son off that morning. She returns in time for the lifeguard to blow the five o'clock whistle. Her son's nowhere to be found. She thinks that he walked home.
She goes to the house, he's not there. She comes back to Lake Shawnee at 7:00PM that night. They find him at the bottom of the swimming pond with his arms stuck in a drain pipe.
- [Lea] Oh God. Do you think it's still haunted? - I think that there's things that happens here that is unusual. So I'm not a paranormal investigator. I don't really know how to do investigations but what I do know is I get to hang out with people that do investigations and some of the things that they see, it just blows me away. It's very hard to explain.
I don't want to say much more about the amusement park because it's definitely worth a visit but Chris gave me a super interesting tour through the abandoned park. And I don't know if it is the general atmosphere or if it was Chris' stories but some place in the park left me with a feeling that there might be really some things happening that are hard to explain. (upbeat band music) - Wow. I think this was a really, really a cool visit to the park and the West Virginia road trip so far started absolutely awesome. I really just love it.
The next destination I was about to visit was another historical place that these days is more or less abandoned. And my ride took me from small, curvy countryside roads over bigger highways and back to small, lovely countryside roads. - So we are going off here now and the next destination is already written here on the sign to the left and it's called Thurmond. (train whistles) - I tell you guys, no joking around with this train. This has been driving by here for I think already like three minutes or four.
It's super, super long. (rock music) - So this is again a small and lovely road and I'm actually going to another abandoned place now because lots of the history of West Virginia is very tightly connected to coal mining and actually, big wealth that completely changed with the Great Depression and left many rich and once populated places abandoned until today. - What is this here? The road is a bridge and right next to the railroad. Somehow it doesn't feel very legal to drive here but I guess it is. I hope nobody's coming from the other direction now because there's really no space for a car or any other vehicle. - This is Thurmond... and wow.
I think these buildings here actually look really, really good for being abandoned. It's nearly like a historical museum. But I think as well the state takes care of them because it's like a historical landmark. - So I'm at the moment at this town that is kind of like an old ghost town. It's very historic, of course, but it's empty now and it's very interesting to see. During the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond was a classic boom town.
With the huge amount of coal brought in from area mines, it had the largest revenue on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Having many coal barons amongst its patrons, Thurmond's banks were the richest in the state. At its peak, Thurmond had two hotels, two banks, restaurants, clothing stores, a jewelry store, movie theater, several dry good stores and many business offices.
With the onset of the Great Depression, several businesses closed including the National Bank of Thurmond. The town's economic vitality waned after two large fires wiped out several major businesses. Being more or less a ghost town today, Thurmond is one of the most visited, abandoned places in West Virginia. And it is said, that there is still living around five citizens in Thurmond so that makes it probably only half a ghost town.
- I hate riding back the same way that I came and actually you wouldn't need to do that and could continue further from Thurmond but I want to look to another famous sight. And actually, maybe that's one of the most important landmarks of West Virginia and that's back in this direction so I basically had no other choice. (upbeat music) - Yes, I think this guy here is exactly going where we are going because there will be a river involved and I wish I could go in one of those boats now. It's actually pretty hot outside. - My first attempt to reach my next destination didn't exactly go as planned because I first ended up at the wrong side of the road I wanted to take. But after some trial and error, I found the right entry.
- This would be the right road now and what I didn't know before is that this road is a one-way road. So it's a loop drive which I think is very nice. I actually only took this road because I wanted to get a close up glimpse of the famous New River Gorge Bridge that was built in 1977. - Now I'm standing right below the bridge and it's very hard to imagine the size of it. It's really, really big but I think you can't really see it on video but it's super cool. With an arch of 1,700 feet or 518 meters, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world's longest single span arch bridge for 26 years.
It is now the fifth longest. The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet or 267 meters above the New River making the bridge one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world. The final cost of construction was $37 million, equivalent to $126 million in 2020. - Now I saw the bridge up close but I can't just turn around here but I have to follow this road down to the valley and it actually looks pretty cool. I'm excited to ride down.
The road I took is called Fayette Station Road and exploring Fayette Station Road is to travel back in time before the modern New River Gorge bridge was built in 1977. This 100 year old road of hairpin turns winds down to the bottom of the Gorge across a narrow bridge and up the other side. Visible along the way are vistas of the river and bridges, a hardwood forest, and remnants of the New River Gorge communities. It turned out though that the road I was on was not only worth a visit due to the bridge.
- I think this is the bottom of this road. Oh my God. And look at the river and all the people on boats rafting there.
Oh my, I'm so envious. I wish now I could be in the water too because it's quite warm here outside. (cheerful dance music) - After the last destination is before the next destination and look at this curvy roads now. Super nice to drive but I'm not only here for the curvy roads and enjoying them but I have another destination that I want to go to now. - So this is the last place and stop I really want to visit today and I'm super curious. It's supposed to be like a magical place and I really don't know what to expect.
It seems like there is a lot of mystery and magic going on in West Virginia and like always, most of the real magic can't be recorded and taped on videos. And the Mystery Hole is one of those places because it is as well forbidden to take any videos or pictures as soon as you get over their doorstep. - This place that you can see behind me is the so-called Mystery Hole and they offer a tour but you can't take any pictures, you can't take videos and it is kind of like putting gravity out of order.
Can't show you more though. The Mystery Hole was opened for public view around the middle of the year 1973 and is probably one of the best kept secrets in West Virginia. Here, the laws of gravity seem to have gone berserk and your sense of balance is entirely upset. I can't tell you much more about the Mystery Hole without spoiling its secret but people with heart problems, seizures, balance issues or vertigo are not allowed to enter so be prepared for a very special experience.
(motorbike revving) (rock music) - So that was it. West Virginia. Really an awesome first day of riding and an awesome first impression of West Virginia's history and attractions. And now I will ride a few curvy roads more here in the evening and then try to find an accommodation. But if nothing special happens, I will see you tomorrow for another exciting ride in West Virginia, and now just enjoy. West Virginia.
Really almost heaven. At least motorcycle heaven. If you like this episode and all the mystical destinations of West Virginia, give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment. Next week, I will continue to ride through West Virginia, visit a whole town without cell phone connection and ride some of the awesome roads before getting in huge trouble due to the weather.
Tune in next Thursday when it is time to Got2Go. (motorbike revving)