A year ago, I never intended to spend six nights in West Virginia. Heck, a week ago I did not plan to spend six nights in West Virginia.
Welcxome to West Virginia
I have made plans for the next month that keeps me in the Blue Ridge to W,DC area. After leaving Roanoke, I wanted someplace different to go, see, do. I looked at the map and there was West Virginia
. I had a week or so. I figured I might as well find out about it.So right-click on this link and let John Denver sing you along on this ride.
The first thing to do was to stop at the visitors' information center just across the state line with Virginia.
By the way, don't take the state side roads if you want to find the visitor center. It is just off I64, but if you don't access it at just the right spot you will keep going back and forth into and out of Virginia and West Virginia trying to get to the correct exit.
Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the young man who distributed information at this center. He was the most knowledgeable about his area that I have met since I rolled into Ontario, Canada months and months ago
At the same time I was there, a WV resident around my age was singing the praises of his state and its visitors' centers. He claimed that WV had the cleanest restrooms they had seen around the country and "it makes you proud of your state after what we have been seeing."
I started to ask him where he had been because I have noticed the entire country's parks and visitor centers were quite well maintained. But then, I decided maybe it was because I had recently been in Cuba
and two years ago in Azerbaija
n that I have this positive impression of US public toilets. There was no reason for me to interject into this man's enthusiasm.
An aside - the best public restrooms are in the small towns throughout France
I decided to have some lunch in Lewisburg while I planned my next few days.
Before I had lunch , I looked up the hill and saw two buildings that certainly looked historic. And, indeed, they are!
One of the buildings I saw was the North House history museum. Of course, I had to visit it.
They were having a special exhibit on funeral customs. As many museums as I visit, it is always fun to see something I have never seen before. The reusable coffins and infant baskets for displaying corpses on the intricately carved planks and "saw horses" were a first for me. These had been stored in a local church until recently. It has been so long that I was here, now I forget what else was a "first."
Hmmmm.....Maybe these items were not firsts but just things I have forgotten that I have seen. In some ways it is nice to be old and have so much appear new again!
Lewisburg History Museum
The Technical College
is in a very historical building that was once a female finishing school. Although the first two buildings burnt down over 200 years ago, the current facilities have been used as an education facility for well over a century.
Modern Tech College Historic School
I finally had lunch at Stella's
which has tasty food and is also in a restored historic building.
Stella's A Fine Restaurant
I Chose the Patio
I highly recommend spending a day or two in Lewisburg. I, on the other hand, had decided to spend my time in the state parks and look for sites I could only see in Wild West Virginia.
As I drove the byways of WV and looked at the mountains, I was struck at how round and gentle
everything looked. Even the trees in the forrest seemed to have been pruned by a giant Edward Scissorshand. Yes, the adjective the tourism department uses is Wild, the whitewater rushes, and there are gorges - but I still felt everything looked soft and round.
Somehow, I don't think I captured my feelings of roundness in any of my photos.
At one point driving up the side of a mountain (they are all less than 5,000 feet altitude, but still mountains.) I was suddenly eye level with a row of wind turbines. It was interesting to be at that level. I was not able to pull off the road until the true eye-level position was lost.
On Eye Level with the Turbines
There is only one Droop Mountain Battle Site
, It is near the Watoga State Park
, so I visited. However, Civil War sites are a dime a dozen throughout these Southern states and I have decided it should be a significant spot for me to search it out. I was the only one here one morning and I must say that it is unsettling to sit in a sunny breeze and think of the bloody battle that occurred here.
Why Do We Glory Weapons
Listen for the Ghosts of Soldiers
An aside - if you want to sit someplace and feel surrounded by ghosts of tragedy, go by yourself and sit at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre
in Colorado. After much persuasion by Native tribes, the government has finally recognized this site, so it might not be such an emotional site as it was when I searched for hours and found it without GPS and road signs 30 years ago.
Just north of Droop Mountain on WV Route 219 is the birthplace of Pearl S Buck. Who knew? If I did, I forgot. She left here when she was around six months old, so her remembrances are only from visits later in life.
Birthplace of Pearl S Buck
Homeplace of Pearl S Buck's Father
Nothing was open until after Memorial Day. A volunteer was painting the porch in preparation for the season, so he let me go in and look around.
What really caught my eye on the map was the National Radio Astronomy Center.
My eyes stopped reading at National Radio, so my mind registered National Public Radio. No, no, silly girl, you will not see Steve Inskeep broadcasting there - and definitely not Diane Rehms .
Another aside - One of the problems of traveling the country and having NPR as your main source of information and entertainment is that about 75% of the time you are listening to a public fund raiser. When I am Queen, I am going to rule that all NPR stations must have their fund raisers on the same week throughout the entire country! During fall and spring traveling, I would just move out of one station's broadcast area that had just ended the fund raiser only to discover I had driven into another broadcast area just beginning their fund raiser.
National Radio Observatory
But back to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
- it was quite interesting. Even though it was so scientific I didn't understand 1/3 of what I heard. I did manage to put together the jigsaw puzzle in the interactive lab and pulled many levers and buttons to simulate the operations.
You can take an interesting bus tour of the site. No pictures are allowed because the equipment is so sensitive it picks up the waves from digital cameras which interferes with the information being collected.
The observatory does not transmit; it only receives. For several years, they did tried to ascertain if they could pick up signals from life on other planets or outside our galaxy. Finally, they decided it was a waste of money and no longer provide the time for this. If you are interested, however, I hear there is a project that recruits home scientists for this research
. I am not sure this link will help you access the correct link, but I do know it was discussed on NPR this winter.
Unfortunately, I drove over a little lizard in the parking lot. I didn't even see it until I got out of the van. I wonder if its high-pitched screams were recorded on the radio waves.
I Didn't Mean To
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
is another "only in Wild West Virginia" site I visited. I know, I know that is a politically incorrect term. As this is a national historic site, they have decided to maintain the original name.
Historic Lunatic Asylum
The asylum was built before the Civil War and designed by a Dr. Kirkbride
. He had very progressive ideas about restoring mental health that were not well known at the time.
Former Incarceration Wing
If you are a follower of the ghost shows on TV
, you might be familiar with some of those paranormal activities
claimed to go on here. Records prove that from 1889 until 1994 when it closed that at least 50,000 people died here. I imagine there are still a few unsettled spirits floating around.
What seems stranger to me than paranormal activity exists is that a private citizen actually purchased this property with private money. Because he has received National Historic designation on the main building, it can not be demolished and any restoration must be authentic. Rebecca Jordan is the daughter of Joe Jordan who purchased it for $1.5 million in 2007. I can't find anything that says WHY he bought it.
I took the daytime tour and, I must admit, it was well done and interesting. Another visitor kept running around and excitedly asking "Isn't this the most fantastic place you have ever visited?!" I thought about asking him if he had been to the WV Visitor Center restrooms.
Perhaps the most interesting features of West Virginia are the shape and history.
Before the Civil War, this area was part of Virginia. The difference between the terrain and the economy is striking:
- eastern Virginia had plantations with hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres owned primarily by Englishmen.
- this area was settled by poorer Irish and Scots. The mountains did not allow for big plantations and the rivers did not provide the same transport.
Although this area is similar to western Virginia they are are separated by the Appalachian Mountain Range. When Virginia seceded from the Union, West Virginia formed itself. Here is a link to a very involved treatise you can read if interested. Here is one that is a bit more fun.
Have I whet your interest in West Virginia? You might not want to make it a destination, but if you are in the area or en route to the coast or Florida you might as well linger for a few days.