WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (BY: JOHN MCCLAIN, THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE) – Consider this a postcard from the edge of a mountain. They’re everywhere. That’s why they call it the Mountain State.
This is the first time I’ve been to West Virginia. It’s gorgeous. The people are so nice and can’t seem to say enough good things about having so many visitors from Houston.
And the weather? My goodness. It’s terrific. I’m a native Texan who covered the Oilers’ moving training camp all over the state to the Texans’ having camp at their practice facility.
One night last week, the low was 48, and the high was 62. Another night, it was 51 and 64. We’ve been getting a high of 80 recently, but the Texans were finished with practice at 12:30, so it was in the 70s.
My wife and many of my friends are tired of my telling them about the weather when they’re roasting in Houston. Sorry, but I just can’t help it.
The Texans’ players and coaches are soaking up the atmosphere and loving every minute of it. Only time will tell if we think moving camp to West Virginia has an effect on their record.
Brett Coomer, the Chronicle’s photographer/videographer extraordinaire, and I flew into Charleston last week. It’s the state capital and largest city, with a 2016 estimated census of 50,400. The state has 1.8 million, less than half of the greater Houston area.
Brett and I made the one-hour, 55-minute drive to Lewisburg, where we’re staying at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, the media hotel. Lewisburg is tremendous, and I’ll explain why in a minute.
We’re about 12 minutes from The Greenbrier, where the Texans are staying. Their practice facility, The Greenbrier Sports and Performance Center, cost $30 million to build for the New Orleans Saints, who elected not to return after three years of having training camp here.
The practice facility, including the Houston Methodist fields, is across the road from The Greenbrier. Players are shuttled back and forth.
The Greenbrier, one of the nation’s oldest and most exclusive resorts, is amazing. There are incredible houses on the golf courses behind guarded gates. You can do just about anything if you’re a guest of The Greenbrier, which was established in the late 1700s.
A lot of the people here for Texans training camp are taking advantage of what the area has to offer: golfing, fishing, hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain bike riding – all the things I love to do.
In my dreams.
Now, let me introduce you to Lewisburg, population 3,600. The sign on the interstate says it was voted the coolest small town in America in 2011. And I believe it. What a spectacular place.
Hills and mountains. Not many streets. The historic part of downtown Lewisburg is lined with neat restaurants and shops, including lots of outdoor seating to take advantage of the cool weather.
At the top of a hill – make a right across the street from the Walmart – is a theater with six screens. It’s got all the latest films, but I haven’t been able to make it yet.
I must tell you about two Baylor buddies, Richard and Tina Butler. They’re native Texans who reside in Austin. They attended a Baylor-West Virginia football game in 2014 in Morgantown, about 3½ hours north, and fell in love with the state.
Richard and Tina visited The Greenbrier and decided to buy a home here. They took a year to redo a mountaintop home on 40 acres. They invited Brett, my friend Mark Waltz and me to dinner Monday night. It was fantastic. When we got to the top of the mountain, we were above the clouds. Deer were grazing in their yard. What a spectacular sunset. I can’t wait to return and take advantage of their hospitality.
If you’re thinking about coming to the Texans’ training camp or you’re just looking for a cool place to visit, I’d highly recommend this charming part of West Virginia. It’s beautiful. The food is great, and the people are friendly.
And oh, there’s some football close by until Aug. 18.
Come see us!