A July 2003 trip
to Morgantown by drhough
Quote: I thought I knew Morgantown and was surprised to discover the recreational community it has been hiding along its riverbank. Major city riverfront rejuvenations, though more visible and massive, are being reproduced in grassroots versions that will lead America back to the waterfront, our original highway.
The riverfront revitalization program has brought out the community and visitors, not just
the transient, partying WVU students. In fact, brew pubs aren’t drowning so many
goldfish in beer bowls, and the fish are now safe and happy in the "Mon" River!
Playboy isn’t commenting on the "party school" anymore, but city planners
everywhere in the country are taking note of the direction Morgantown is defining for
American small cities (under 30,000). Students actually outnumber locals, unless
Westover, municipality on the opposite bank, is factored in. The summer amphitheater
on the lawn, the bikes with training wheels for rent/sale at Whitetail Bikes, and
grandparents strolling along the Caperton Trail announce to 30,000 WVU students that
they must be absorbed into the community, not ravage it !
Sitting on the patio at the bike shop, I smiled at the three-year-old whose father held him
on the seat of his shiny new machine. What a beaming face! Students shopping there for
spandex circled round him and helped the family make the appropriate adjustments to
handlebars and seat. The shiny-faced little boy was smiling ear-to-ear as he enjoyed being
the center of attention. A grandpa decided against the fold-up style, and I finally had my
turn with one of the many busy salesmen. So many customers filled the store, the
clientele spilled out on Saturday onto the patio, where we all had lunch while we were
waiting. Arlo Guthrie would have called it a "movement"!
It’s a self-sufficient community with restaurants of every flavor, hotels right along the
trail (including a beautiful new Radisson that opened just last week), scheduled stage and
impromptu musicians, stores for supplies, boat and kayak rentals and tours, festivals,
park, vendors’ carts, a WVU forest right in the city limits, glass works tours, an "antiques
walk" (large shop) at Seneca Center, and a trailhead in the restored train depot. Two
paved trails, Caperton and Deckers Creek, link up with the greater rail/trail system. All
this is in addition to the authentic, colorful High Street downtown with creative local
merchants and more a block away. The riverfront is a community where I’ve enjoyed
forgetting about the rest of the world and the present time, a place where time slips away
and carefree yesteryear is not just make-believe.
Interstates 79 and 68 intersect at Morgantown. Parking for those carrying their bikes can be found on Clay Street, off Deckers Creek bridge. For flights, US Airways is the only carrier, and Radisson has a courtesy van. (I checked.)
Since I moved to another WV city not far away, I hadn’t visited Wings in years, but the
Arts and the River Festival lured me back with my bike to try the city’s new trails.
Actually located at a higher level on University Avenue at the foot of the Westover
Bridge, the restaurant has a deck, now with steps down to the riverfront park and
Caperton Trail. After a long ride, I was eager for a reunion. Inside the front door, I
stopped to look at murals: "This is new!" On closer examination, I noticed the artist’s
signature. A friend of mine, David Merrill is as "wild and wonderful" as West Virginia’s
slogan. A painter of coal miners and mountain men, these cowboy scenes were a
diversion for him.
I couldn’t find any change in the menu. Prices even looked about the same. Stepping up
to the counter, I ordered a beef chimi-burrito and Mexirice, and my partner wanted a
chicken fajita, Mexirice, and salad with guacamole--"best salad in town," she insists. The
girl at the counter gave us a number, and we found a table. I don’t consider Wings "fast
food," but one orders at the counter, and then waitresses deliver meals to tables. Service
is fast and impeccable, as the student population supplies fairly alert wait staff, and food
is simply too good and too healthy to think of as "fast." Besides, what fast-food
establishment has O’Douls beer on tap? The only factor relevant to that plebian genre
would be price--under $10 for two people.
At the table, we debated pros and cons of all the restaurants in this town, as we were both
former residents, and decided Wings should be figured among the most unique. Pleasant
decor with plenty of plants and baskets on a high shelf all around the room is rather
"homey." Next time, we’ll try the deck.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 11, 2003
Wings Ole Specialty Restaurants
University Avenue at Westover Bridge
Morgantown, West Virginia
Attraction | "Seneca Center"
Riverfront Museums, Inc. is open only Saturdays and Sundays, but other Center attractions are open weekdays, too, and include boutique and specialty shops, the "Antiques Walk,"
Glasshouse Grille, Wamsley Cycle, and Morgantown Visitor Information. There is also a
hallway with tables covered with upholstery fabric on sale, drastically reduced, next to
The Furniture Stop (new furniture and decor items). This upscale, multi-purpose,
two-story mall with plenty of parking in front makes good use of the former Seneca Glass
Company’s building (on the National Register of Historic Places) and preserves this bit of regional industrial history for the community to enjoy. I have
spent entire afternoons browsing through rooms of antiques while women
shopped boutiques for "special" clothing, like tapestry jackets that didn’t seem too
I noticed that Glasshouse Grille, Morgantown’s best restaurant (local
concensus), is now open for lunch. The Grille is so popular, reservations are necessary for
weekend nights, but it’s worth the trouble for Italian and Cajun selections and West Virginia trout. They also have a seafood market and deli, and
they have their own website. Awards from Wine Spectator the last three years, the terraced herb garden, the brick
patio, and all fresh ingredients commend them to my taste and liking. They make
complete the experience of this historic spot with their West Virginia wines.
Driving down Beechurst or riding on the trail, one can’t miss "Seneca Glass" on the red
water tower or the original stack towering over the building complex. Visitors shouldn’t be
misled by unattractive metal parts of the building--other parts are 19th-Century brick, and the
inside is nice with wooden floors and brick walls.
Links to most of the specialty shops can be found at Seneca Center’s website.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 12, 2003
Seneca Center Finery the:
709 Beechurst Avenue
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
Wamsley Cycles is a step off the trail. We pulled our old bikes up onto the deck and entered the hallway in the lower level of Seneca Center. This is the place to try Treks. We had ridden them years ago at Bike Chicago on Navy Pier and had fallen in love with the Navigator, Trek’s "mountain comfort" model. This style is exactly what one needs for long, upright rides on West Virginia’s trails. Without trying it, we eliminated the Navigator 100, the $299 model, because it didn’t have front suspension, only seat suspension. The #200 model has both and is $40 more. Out on Caperton Trail, it rode
well, and I couldn’t find any complaint but the seat--it wasn’t gel! The salesman said gel isn’t used much anymore, because it isn’t durable. "Durable" is secondary to comfort for
this mid-life guy, so I would need to buy a different seat, which would make the Trek more than I want to spend. In short, I didn’t buy here, but I will remember the laidback, friendly attention, return to Wamsley for supplies, and recommend them to my friends for rentals ($10/2 hrs., $25/day, $50/weekend).
Besides Trek, their other featured brand is Specialized, a little less expensive, and in addition to bikes, they have fitness equipment, treadmills, steppers, and exercise cycles. The owner, Chip Wamsley, is an expert framebuilder who learned his trade from Jack Taylor in England, one of the world’s best, so this shop caters to expert riders with
personal specifications for parts and frames. It’s the place to "talk shop," to get repairs, and to get special needs addressed. They also have shoes, gloves, racks, and much more jam-packed into the store. The salesman’s stats were wasted on us, since we cared only about comfort, but peak performance proponents must stop at Wamsley.
Everyone visiting Morgantown must stop at Seneca Center, the historic glassworks
building that houses the bike shop, so Wamsley Cycle can be combined with an afternoon
of antiques and boutique shopping, Visitor Info gathering, and lunch, all in the same
building. Wamsley has a website.
709 Beechurst Avenue
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
The pony-tailed baby-boomer and I were practically friends by now--he had adjusted my
handlebars three times; seat, four. Straddling the front wheel, he had held the bike upright while inspecting my position and posture and lecturing me on "butt comfort,"
shoulder and wrist torque, fatique, and leg position. Finally, everything felt so good, I
couldn’t hold back, but as I took off, Mac ran alongside me explaining, "I forgot to tell
you about these new brakes . . . " The giant mountain comfort bike ($309) is a fantastic
choice with incredible "sportscar" handling and exactly what I needed, but I hesitated, feeling guilty--I already had a decent mountain bike I bought secondhand
and ride only a little. Mac asked, "What’s your comfort worth?" He has helped people get what they need for a long time, and I started to realize what a good sales staff is worth--I’d ride more with these guys to fit me perfectly with exactlly what I need. Mac got me thinking straight, and I saw the younger
salesmen busily involved, too, with customers age 6 to 65.
Whitetail handles other bike brands--Diamond Back, GT, Kona, and Serrotta--in racing,
mountain, and touring styles, and they are the largest Schwinn dealer in the state. They
have Heritage and Wilderness Systems kayaks and canoes for sale and rent, as well as
in-line skates for adults and children. There is a good inventory of shoes by New
Balance, Saucony, and Brooks. Swimwear and biking apparel were on sale racks on
the patio by the trail, and accessories for various outdoor sports are arranged according to departments around the perimeter of the warehouse-type room. Bikes of every size and
frame are available for rent, including bicycles-built-for-two and side-by-side surrey with canopy top. Child or pet carriers and trailers are also offered.
So much to choose from, we were more exhausted from sampling the inventory than from
the earlier 10-mile ride on our old "clunkers," as we now labeled them. The bar with stools looked like a good place to sit with health drinks and think over the possibilities. Here, we learned more about the specialty cafe menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, made fresh daily, all healthy selections for athletic types. There is also a freezer where we helped ourselves and meals made for the trail.
Whitetail Cycle and Fitness
54 Clay Street
Morgantown, West Virginia 26501
West Virginia, United States