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As I was packing last night to head to my 11th Gauley Fest this weekend I had quite a nostalgic moment looking back at all the T-shirts I had accumulated from over the years of the event. I also thought about all the many things I’ve learned along the way while making the pilgrimage to West Virginia for Gauley Fest each year. We all know that half the adventure of any great river trip is the journey to and from the river! So here’s some travel tips and traditions I’ve picked up along the way over the years to make getting to the Gauley River a better experience:

#1 – Obey the posted speed limits in VA and WV (Especially in Oak Hill, Fayetteville and Summersville on Highway 19)!!! Local and regional police are very aware of the festival happenings and enforce the speed limit laws within 5 MPH of the posted speed limit. It is not uncommon to get pulled over for going 7 MPH over the speed limit! You can almost be guaranteed that there will be a VA State Trooper shooting radar near Exit 67 on I-81 and coming out of the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel on I-77.

#2 – Speaking of the I-77 Tunnels, don’t forget the great Gauley tradition to try to hold your breath all the way through both the Big Walker Mountain and East River Mountain Tunnels. The Legend behind this tradition is that could be the length of time you need to hold your breath if you were to swim Pillow Rock Rapid on the Upper Gauley. It’s not an easy task, so see if you can do it!

#3 – Have some loose change and small bills on hand for toll booths on and off I-77.

#4 – If you’ve never been, Check out the New River Gorge Bridge Visitor Center after you cross the bridge on Highway 19. It really is an impressive structure!

#5 – Fill the gas tank back-up when you get into town and be prepared for un-paved roads. The Gauley shuttles are long and you can burn through a quarter tank of gas easily during these epic shuttles. There is only one gas station along the shuttle route and it’s only on the Lower Gauley Shuttle Route. You will also be on un-paved roads overhanging steep banks at some point in your shuttle journey no matter where you put-in or take-out on the Gauley, so be careful on these roads and watch out for raft buses! There are many stories from years past of cars going over embankments…

Hope to see you at the Gauley!