Thursday, August 18, 2016

PA should annex West Virginia: Our visit to Oglebay

I’d checked nearly all the boxes you see in the splashy West Virginia tourist ads.

I’d hiked. I’d bungeed. I’d biked. I’d rafted. I’d scaled. I’d golfed. And I’d zip lined across the leafy Appalachian tree canopies until I thought all my hair was going to fly off.

It was wild. It was wonderful.

And it was as exhausting as it was exhilarating.

So during a summer which was destined to be emotionally and physically tumultuous (moving my dementia-addled mother from Pittsburgh to Latrobe) we sought some serenity.

We found it at Oglebay Resort.

The fabled resort is a self-sustaining park, a one-of-a-kind endeavor, located in the hills above Wheeling. 

It exists through the grace of philanthropist Earl W. Oglebay who in 1926 deeded the property to the city of Wheeling for the express purpose of public recreation.

Yes, it’s near Wheeling, but if feels more like Willoughby. 

Willoughby was the namesake town in a memorable 1960 “Twilight Zone” episode called “A Stop in Willoughby.” It’s the one where a harried advertising executive dreams his evening commute allows him to stop at a place of peace and splendor.

It seems to the executive like heaven. In fact, the Rod Serling twist at the end hints it may be just that.

That’s how Oglebay felt to me for three days back in June.

It’s probably most famous for it’s annual Festival of Lights since 1985. The Christmas celebration covers 125 park acres. 

In fact, I’ve been going to Oglebay for about 40 years. My old man used to love to golf at the Robert Trent Jones course there. I have wonderful heirloom memories of golfing there and then sipping beers in the great clubhouse and rehashing the round.

And, yes, I hope to do just that with my father again if I ever make it to Willoughby.

But I’d never played the Arnold Palmer course (built about 15 years ago) until my visit. It’s wonderful. Great rolling terrain, beautiful vistas and challenging approaches.

Now, my two favorite Arnold Palmer-design courses — Oglebay at Stonewall Jackson Lake Resort — both call West Virginia home.

Happily, fretting over a 6-foot birdie putt was the only activity to elevate my blood pressure for my three days at Oglebay.

The rest was pure relaxation, the kind that still restores the soul nearly two months later.

As a southwestern Pennsylvanian, I’m now convinced I could contentedly vacation exclusively in our neighboring state for the rest of my life.

I’d golf and boat at Stonewall Resort and Lakeview, revel in bold nature at Adventures on the Gorge at the spectacular New River, and I’d immerse myself in luxury at The Greenbrier and The Homestead.

And I’d head to Oglebay when my muscles and my mind needed some supple respite.

Really, I’m thinking of petitioning the Pennsylvania state legislature to look into the commonwealth benefits of annexing the whole shebang.

Too many of us confuse motion with entertainment. We need a day crowded with activities we can post to prove to our Facebook friends we’re hyper-alive.

Then it’s off to the casino to ensure the next day we’ll wake up both broke and hungover and ready to race through it all over again.

Oglebay proves that in West Virginia wild is wonderful, but mild can be marvelous.

If you go … Oglebay Resort 

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