Friday, October 14, 2005

A Geography Lesson ~ West Virginia

Because of our mountains, we have rivers. The oldest river in the Western Hemisphere, the New River (quite appropriately named, don't you think?) ends in West Virginia. We have the Gauley River, which confluences with the New River in a magnificent cascade to form the Kanawha River, which in turn flows through the center of the State, and directly through the capital city of Charleston, the largest city in West Virginia. These rivers in addition to the Cheat, Blackwater, Tygart, Monongahela, Ohio and countless others offer tremendous recreational opportunities. The tallest building in Charleston is barely 25 floors tall , which, if you think about it, is a plus; how could you possibly build a skyscraper more beautiful than a mountain? The capital city stretches throughout the long river valley encompassing both hill and dale. The Charleston airport, the largest in the State, sits on top of a mountain. The crime rate in Charleston, including the entire population of the Kanawha Valley (around 200,000), reflects that of the entire State, the lowest in America. No more than a handful of murders are committed each year. Charleston has no subway systems, but, truth be known, you can get from one end of town to the other, even in rush hour traffic, in less than twenty minutes. There are three major interstate systems going through Charleston, the smallest city in America to make such a claim. The entire State has six different interstate systems, meaning, from Charleston, you can reach Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville or Charlotte in four hours or less....Ah, but once you leave the interstates, the drive becomes a thing of wonder. Two lane roads, winding up and down the mountains, offer amazing views and historic places, small towns, poor in wealth but rich in history. West Virginia is the birthplace of Mother's Day, in Grafton; and Father's Day, in Fairmont. We have the oldest covered bridge still in use. We have walnut festivals, strawberry festivals, harvest festivals, apple festivals and pumpkin festivals and buckwheat festivals, and arts and crafts fairs and stern wheel regattas and ramp dinners. We have Bridge Day, on the New River Gorge Bridge over 800 feet above the New River; the only standing structure in the United States that, one day a year, allows parachuting and bungee jumping. We have college basketball, and minor league baseball and hockey, and, just like all of America, Friday night high school football. We have white water rafting, and skiing, and hiking, and caves, and waterfalls, and camping in every direction. We have Sundays where a leisurely drive in the car can take eight hours, and only cover 100 miles. We have bed and breakfasts, and resorts, and golf courses, and museums, and the Greenbrier Hotel. West Virginia has more natural beauty and wonder than any person could ever imagine. We have all of this, and yet .... our greatest asset is our people. West Virginians are good people. We care about each other. We talk to our neighbors over the backyard fence. We grow tomatoes for the entire neighborhood. We turn around in each other's driveways, and yell Hi! when we do. We sit on the porch on warm summer evenings, listening to crickets, and watching kids catch fireflies. We loan a hammer, or a cup of sugar. We don't take two-hour lunches, but we do spend a few minutes each day with a cup of coffee, and our feet up on our desk, shooting the breeze. We rarely get in a hurry. We have relatives just down the street. We don't just loan someone a socket wrench, we help them fix their car. We share recipes, and gardening tips, and our last cup of coffee. We baby-sit each other's kids, we housesit each other's dogs while we're on vacation, and we loan each other our cars if we have to get to the drugstore. We ask each other if we need anything as we're going to the market. We celebrate each others accomplishments, and we cry over each other's disappointments. We are a friendly folk. We are West Virginians. Mountaineers are always free! Free to take the time to enjoy life, and hold each moment in our hearts, forever. If you are proud to be a West Virginian, then pass this on. And that is exactly what I have just done! If you are proud of your native state - or the one in which you now live - give us a mini-geography lesson of your own.

20 comments:

Chatty said...

I used to go to West Virginia a lot as a kid. One of my most favorite places in the entire world is Harper's Ferry. Especially at Christmas. I am a Civil War buff and this place is oozing with history!

Thanks for stopping by via Michele.

Last Girl On Earth said...

A part of me will always be from West Virginia. I actually jsut got a lump in my throat reading this. I guess living there for over 10 years makes me an honorary W.Virginian! I'm happy to be a New Yorker now, but there will always be a part of me that can relate to being a Mountaineer!

It was fun seeing all those river names and hearing about my old home town. Thanks! xox Have a great weekend. By the way, Michele sent me this time, but I was coming over anyway!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Here from Michele's.

My mother moved to NC when I graduated high school, she lives in a nice mountain town. Here's the mini-geography lesson for her area: It's the typical small town, everyone is friendly, the guy at the gas station will talk to you for 20 minutes about the best fishing spots even if you're not going fishing, gas is about $10 a gallon more expensive than in the city because they have to get the gas through the mountains, in winter, they get an inch of snow and everything shuts down, and they drive fast around the turns and slow on the straightaways.

That was actually pretty fun.

Morah Mommy said...

Hey Judy. I'm back after entirely too many days. Michele sent me this time, and it's a good thing she did because I would have otherwise still been stuck in my work. Ick.

I love this trip you've taken us on. If I had any creative capacity at the moment, I'd write an entry about my hometown, Montreal. But I'd botch it if I tried it tonight, because I'm still toast from too much writing this week.

Still, I've added it to my "must post" list, and it'll be showing up on my blog soon. Thanks, again, for the inspiration.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Oops, that's 10 cents a gallon for the gas.

Sallie said...

Hi - Sallie ((Child of The Depression) here - I'm checking my blogs for the first time in ages and found your post about the teacher from SU whom you know. No, his name is not familiar to me.

Incidentally - most of your comments seem genuine - I just found several on 'Child' - by one of the pictures - that were nothing more than disguised ads! Deleted same - I'm scorched!

Peter said...

Hi Judy, wow for a while there I thought you had written this, a career as a travel writer beckoned.
Sounds like heaven, John Denver.
Must do something on Gympie and Queensland sometime.

Hale McKay said...

Very nice job. For a few minutes I was driving on one of those winding roads, like the one from Clay and that steep hairpin curve that for five miles you see the section of road before you made the turn. It eventually climbs the mountain snaking its way toward Spencer.
Thanks for the geography tour as it awakened some old memories.

Trinity13 said...

I've been to WV before since you're only a few hours away from my hometown, Columbus. I agree, you have a very beautiful state! I hope to visit again very soon.

Btw, Michele sent me!

Weary Hag said...

Judy, it's early yet, and I'm trying hard to remember - but I believe I stayed at a town called Charlotteville in WV back in 1980. It was lovely - seemed so 'back in time' compared to the city-world I grew up in. I still remember small, rustic houses along the sides of mountains - smoke pouring from little chimneys here and there ... it was lovely!

You had me completely fooled here, I thought you wrote this - till the end. It's lovely!

Kim said...

Oh man, between you and Rick Lee, I am ready to move on out there! Sounds beautiful.......

Yaeli said...

Wow! West Virginia sounds like a lovely place to live! I'll definitely have to put it on my "places to visit" list.

Michele sent me today. :o)

Carolyn said...

Hi there! I am here via reading Mike's reference of your post on Last Girl on Earth's blog. I live in WV and just yesterday I posted a little "geography" myself, although it's in a humorous nature within a "tag" I was asked to do. Maybe if you get time you can come by.

I so enjoyed your write up! My husband and I are actually looking for a home in Charleston now. (We currently live in Southern WV but he works in Charleston). I keep an ongoing bit of WV facts in my sidebar at all times, and recently posted photos of the mill at Babcock for anyone to sketch or paint from. Well, thanks for letting me ramble. It's nice to meet you and Happy Bridge Day :)

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Just dropping by. And oh how true it is about getting off the interstate highways. I used to work for a local oil company in PA and WV was my territory. Oh the places I've seen when I went out with my outside sales rep.

poopie said...

The New and the Gauley are whitewater rafting meccas, aren't they?

Gerbera Daisy said...

I have stayed overnight in Charleston, WV while traveling from NJ where I currently live to Southern Indiana where I grew up and my parents still live. I love going home through WV (the southern route) rather than take the PA turnpike. The scenery is positively awesome.

brendalove@gmail.com said...

I've never been to West Virginia...other than the Surf Report, of course! :-) Your geography lesson makes me feel like visiting!

vicki said...

Mountain Mama! That's some post, Judy! Thank you! I love West Virginia and have my best ever bear story from a time I was camping there.

Now- pay attention: It's a mitten, see? The right hand one. And then there's this odd piece stuck on top with a little widget that sticks into the middle of Lake Superior. Where every one says, "Ya, sure. You betcha!"
And Vernors, Wonder Bread, Lays Potato Chips and lots and lots of cars. Done.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Well, that's a paean and a half.

Tabor said...

So, you live in paradise. I already knew that! I like the state I live in...ignorance.