Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Holler" at Your Boy: The Country Roads of West Virginia

Is it weird to bid farewell to my West Virginia adventures by saying, "Hello?"  This final installment of the series is meant to recognize the bounteous beauty found along all of West Virginia's country roads.

My first thoughts upon seeing West Virginia from the vantage of the airplane's window seat strayed to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  Yes, I know West Virginia and Mark Twain's Missouri are hundreds of miles apart (geographically and culturally), but film contrivances and my imagination are all I have to go on and that's where I went.  Just look at that river!

Before my travels, it never occurred to me that Southern California was such an arid clime.  I live in a neighborhood full of lawns and trees and growing things but, to pose it West Virginia parlance, we ain't got nothin' on Appalachia.  The depth and variety of green made me feel like I could see color for the very first time.  The air hangs heavy with a humidity for which I have never held a great affinity but somehow felt oddly comforting.  Honestly, the humidity explains both the verdant landscape and the slower pace at which West Virginians tend to operate because every motion is met with resistance; walking down the street is like wading through a pool.

New River Gorge National River Lookout

Everywhere we went we saw rivers, lakes, streams, hills, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife.  It all felt so strange and inviting that we were tempted to dive headlong into serious exploration.  Seeing our enthusiasm, locals felt obligated to give us one piece of advice, "Stay out of them hollers!"

Hollows (pronounced "hollers"): n. the sloping valley areas between hills that can be dangerous
 as they are often home to an unsavory populous pursuing less-than-lawful activities.  

Deliverance is probably more cautionary tale than anyone could possibly need, but the best delivery of this counsel was spoken thusly, "Y'all don't wanna end up like in one o' them wrong turn movies."

This naturally-occurring, roadside waterfall sits right alongside the two-lane highway.
The hose/spout contraption allows local residents to exploit the falls as a fresh water resource.

Not wanting to end up like the victims of a "Wrong turn" movie, we stuck mostly to paved roads and the numerous national and state parks that abound throughout West Virginia's countryside.  Speaking of country, this city slicker had, of course, heard the term "Country mile" before, but it took flying a few thousand miles to understand exactly what that term meant.

West Virginia's state flower is the Rhododendron.  Is it any wonder?

The New River Gorge National River Bridge

Mr. Tiny at Cathedral Falls

These dolls have very little to do with nature and country roads but I
saw them in almost every second-hand/thrift/antique store that I entered.
Their primitive, soft-bodied forms and plastic faces (I already have a few 
in the stash) make them the perfect wacky tacky craft project; stay tuned!

The caboose of a coal train as it cuts around hills

Anybody with a camera could have captured the beauty here.  Nevertheless, I was pretty proud of this shot.
Normally, I get pretty excited over taxidermy but this was a real, live deer!

Often times I silently refuse to step out of my comfort zone.  Going to West Virginia (a huge leap outside of California comfort) emboldened me.  Embracing small town mentality didn't always feel comfortable but it felt necessary and exciting.

What better way to celebrate small-town living
than by going to the VFW for a hot dog sale?

The hot dog sale is more than a West Virginia-style fundraiser, it is a way of
life.  It seemed that every day on every corner some organization was selling
 hot dogs (WV's favorite domestic product).  By far, we were the youngest
people at the VFW - always a good sign in my book!

Forget the hot dog sale, I could just eat this kid up!

Milligan Creek Covered Bridge

My sister thought it was weird that I was kind of hoping our drive through this historic,
 covered bridge would culminate in a full-blown Beetlejuice extravaganza.  Maybe I just
wanted to read the Handbook for the Recently Deceased.

The aerial tram at Pipestem National Park

Mr. Tiny goes back to nature

Rowing at Plum Orchard State Park

It wouldn't be West Virginia unless somebody was burning trash on the lawn.
This is something that the southwestern United States, a veritable tinder box, could never fathom.

I found the mouse in the swiss cheese at West Virginia's famed folk art/primitives showcase, Tamarack.

The Tamarack's iconic roofline
Glade Creek Grist Mill

Dusk at Lake Stephens
Watch out for them skeeters!!!

The best part about traversing the country roads of West Virginia was the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong fantasy.  Normally, I am extremely grateful that Southern California is lacking so many of the insect species that make their homes in more humid climes.  On this occasion, I was beyond excited to encounter BUGS!

More specifically, Lightning Bugs
We caught fireflies and it was a dream come true!

Lightning Bugs, Fireflies - call them what you will, there is something so
quintessentially American about capturing these incredible bugs and
putting them in a jar...or a plastic juice bottle...whatever you've got handy.

Not to worry; we operated on the catch-and-release system.
No bugs were harmed in the making of this blog.

I must regularly rebuke myself for speaking too often in sweeping generalities and broad pronouncements.  That being said, I can almost guarantee with near 100% surety that I will NEVER again employ a John Denver song to underscore a wacky tacky post.  However, there simply isn't another song that so clearly demonstrates the feeling of those winding Appalachian roads.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver

I will freely admit that I sang the refrain to this song at least three times a day while I was within state lines.

I will also freely admit that I think I am becoming one of them....
I need help!

A HUGE thank you to my sister, brother-in-law, and the cutest nephew in the entire world for hosting me so graciously and making it an unforgettable trip.  I miss you guys!!

I can't tell you how much I love, love, love traveling and finding the beauty and the wacky tacky that the world has to offer.  I'm already itching to go on the next adventure and so I'll pose the question to you.  Where should I go next?  Do you have any recommendations for a "wild and wonderful" adventure to satiate my wacky tacky wanderlust?

Until next time, West Virginia!


Mr. Tiny


  1. West Virginia is a magical place and it lives up to its motto of Wild, Wonderful. It is a place that I would have never thought to visit. It was not on my list or my radar. And, now our family calls it home. We are residents. We enjoy exploring our new state and feel that it is definitely an under appreciated state. It has a lot to offer. The people are friendly and kind, there is an abundance of things to see, adventures to take, and you never get sick of singing Take Me Home, Country Roads. It is Almost Heaven. All it is missing is an ocean and the rest of my family and friends. :)

    1. Well, thank you for an incredible trip. If it was not for your big move, I never would have made it out that way. Now all I have to do is the lose the accent I developed while I was there (and the taste for Mountain Dew)!!! Thanks Sis!!

  2. Sounds like you had an awesome time Mr. T! Let us know when you come east again and Mod B and Retro Roadhusband can show you the highlights of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts or Delaware, our 3 main haunts!

    1. You can't imagine how great that sounds to me! I always want to be there with you guys when you're at real, live, dining-car diners (we don't have that out here). Somehow, like you, I'm hoping just to hit the road full time and explore all of the cool stuff that is out there!

  3. How beautiful! I really want to go to West Virginia after reading all your passionate posts. I too am fond of humidity. It makes my skin feel nice & it's detoxifying too (like Bikram yoga). I think you would enjoy Kentucky and Tennessee a whole lot if you haven't been out thata way.

    p.s. Your nephew is a total cutie!
    p.s.s: I want a hot dog!

    1. I know that you would love it. Beauty and nature abounds. You might run out of film for all of the great photo-ops and fascinating people! I need to get back to Kentucky; my grandparents lived there for a short time when I was 4-5 and that was the last time I was there. I'm desperate to got to Rock City and Cave City!! Isn't he wonderful?! Since I can't take any credit for his genetic make-up, I think I am free to talk about how cute he is too!!! Thanks!

  4. you really got some beautiful photos! the rowing one especially!
    i love love LOVE it when the lightening bugs come out here. in knoxville apparently there are a few areas where they all sync up! that is something i would love to see!
    also, the idea of going somewhere without the terrible humidity is making me so excited for our trip to southern california next month! i'm goign to start making real plans soon and i'm going to email you!

    1. They are such a wonder to me. We stood out in a meadow for quite a long time just watching them light up. INCREDIBLE! Yes, let me know your plans so that we can party!!

  5. I love it when someone who hasn't grown up in the Southeast brings to my attention things that we take totally for granted. Like the lush green of the mountains and lightning bugs! I mean, I look out the window every evening and see both rising up, but they're such a common thing that I rarely notice them REALLY. They are lovely.
    I've never heard of a hot dog sale. That must be a purely West Virginia thing. Here in East Tennessee, all summer long, we have 'BBQ suppers' or 'fish fries'. Both of which are always accompanied by homemade ice cream. Peach is always the popular favourite!
    Your nephew is adorable! I think I'd have sneaked him home in my luggage if I were you! Too cute!

    1. Peach anything is my favorite flavor! BBQ suppers sound like a dream; it makes me want to hop on a plane right now! I would do it except that adorable nephew is going to be coming to see me in a few weeks. I can't wait! Thanks!

  6. Funny, just this week i was sitting outside and I saw what I thought was a falling star...it was a "lightning bug". (We call them "fireflies") Bugs that light up are just so amazing! *shakes head*.

    I guess you were warned off wandering about the "hollers' because there are not-so-nice people resembling "extras' from "Deliverance" making illicit "likker" in said "hollers" and would likely take extreme exception to strangers stumbling upon their 'still", right?

    1. I think that is the general idea. Although, sometimes, aside from the elevation, it's difficult to distinguish a hilltop from a holler!