The Greenbrier has been around since the 19th Century. Hidden in the high hills of West Virginia, it’s one of America’s first resort destinations. The site was selected for the healing powers of the natural warm springs. Those springs continue to flow and bring thousands of guests in every year. Now, with our short attention spans and high need for activity, there’s far more to do than wallow in a spring-fed farm pond.
In a bit of a departure, my entire family chose to take a vacation together this summer. Why not the “Old White” as it was once known? So, we all piled into cars for a brief three-day family reunion. We enjoyed a few of the activities and suffered through others. You’ll see in a few moments how unpleasant the massage was for me. In the end, the trip was an adventure for all, and I’m sure our visit benefited Mr. Justice, the owner of the Greenbrier, along with his two or three thousand employees.
The Greenbrier is known for its tremendous list of activities. When I saw that a demonstration of the Sport of Kings was among the possibilities, I jumped at the chance. We piled into a bus, which carried us across the street to a barn that smelled like bird excrement. This, by the way, was a slightly sweeter smell than Cletus, the horse that hauled us around the golf course in a carriage.
In any event, our host was Ron and he delivered his memorized speech about the history of Falconry with the measured skill of a well-practiced second-grade science project presentation. We were invited to ask questions, which prompted a bevy of queries about a range of topics including the “helmets” (actually hoods) the birds wear. It turns out, they wear them in order to prevent them from eating each other. We also learned the birds only weigh 2.5 pounds…feathers and bone are lightweight.
Once we stepped outside the barn (and began breathing through our noses again), we saw just how amazing these animals truly are. Ron showed us how skilled the birds are by having one weave through our tightly packed group. I had the good fortune of savoring the experience of being slapped across the face with a wing. Apparently, the bird is mostly concerned with getting its body through narrow passages between trees. This is why there are so many falcon rehabilitation centers working on healing wings.
This was a really great activity that I’d love to do again. Perhaps I’ll even consider a pet Falcon of my own?
Deep Tissue Massage
It would be a shame to visit the Greenbrier without stopping at their spa. I chose therefore to avoid the shame.
Malcolm the masseuse weighs in at a solid 260. When he came to “pick me up” in the waiting room, I had no idea he would literally pick me up during the massage. Indeed, I was airborne for at least a few of the 80 minutes I spent with him.
For those of you unfamiliar with a deep tissue massage, it’s not quite what you might expect. I’m no expert about the art and science of body rubbing, but I’d always thought it was a relaxing indulgence that combined oil and Enya. Turns out that was something else. Deep Tissue essentially means you’re on the losing end of a schoolyard fight. In an effort to distract myself from the pain and suffering, I chose to strike up a conversation.
“How’d you get — hmph — into — ouch — this business?” I asked.
“I’ve just always enjoyed making people feel better. Now, just relax,” he instructed.
“Just breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing,” he said.
“Son of a. Is it supposed to?” I grumbled.
“Okay now we’ll turn it up a notch.”
You get the point, I think. But imagine 80 minutes of that. 80.
The good news was that it was a classic lesson in the old concept of “The Ends Justify the Means.” I felt incredible afterward.
The Greenbrier takes its complicated dress code quite seriously. I learned this on the last day when I attempted to enter the Main Dining Room in a pair of jeans.
“Sir, I’m afraid you can’t enter the Main Dining Room in a pair of jeans,” said the hostess.
She turned to the man behind me, “Won’t you follow me, sir?” He was wearing a classy pair of cutoff camouflaged shorts.
In short, the Greenbrier is a great spot that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a week(end) away. There’s plenty to do, the people are nice, and the setting is beautiful. Just carefully review the dress code.