Back at the Blogging – Lots of Catching Up to Do

Big Mike’s Mystery House in Cave City, KY

It has been a while since I’ve written in the blog. The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity beginning in July with a family reunion and continuing on with the new job at comicbook.com.

In the midst of all of that I have spent the last couple of months using most of my “writing time“ to complete my first book which was referred to in my previous post a couple of days ago. Now that that book is published and on Amazon.com. I’m going to try to knock out a few of the blog posts that have been piling up on me.

Over the next couple of weeks you’ll see blog posts about the new murals in Lexington, KY; Mammoth Cave National Park and the Wigwam Motel in Cave City, KY; Watkins Glen State Park in New York; Letchworth State Park also in New York; Fayetteville and New River Gorge in West Virginia; places in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Ohio, as well as Cairo, IL and Paducah KY. Indeed, I have been to numerous places over the last few months. I neglected to mention the Montour Trail in Pennsylvania, a lovely bike trail. And also the Virginia Creeper Trail that we took again this year (near Damascus, VA) but with a different twist. So there will be plenty of travel opportunities to read about in the upcoming days.

Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY
Letchworth State Park, New York
Pittsburgh, PA
Watkins Glen State Park, New York
Forest Fire Department, Forest, MS
Big Cabin, OK
Red River Gorge near Slade, KY
At Duck Commander, Duck Dynasty Headquarters in West Monroe, LA
Chief Wacinton, Paducah, KY
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Wigwam Village, Cave City, KY

For those of you that visit my blog frequently, you may recall that many of my blog posts were lengthy and covered a lot of territory and are more like a travel log. I have decided that going forward each area or each place will get it’s own separate blog post and will be shorter and more concise. I think that is a learning experience from doing my recent book. Hopefully you will find the blog posts to be more enjoyable and easier and quicker to read. Enjoy the ride!

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West Virginia’s Midland Trail – US Route 60 – Charleston, WV

Charleston Capitol Building

This is part two of my Midland Trail series and this post will focus on West Virginia’s Capital Charleston.  During most of May I spent a great deal of time in this lovely river town while visiting a friend of mine who was ill and eventually passed away.  That is another story.

During my time in Charleston, I took the opportunity to drive around the town and get photos of the unique Capitol Building, a few other buildings, murals and other things.  The town certainly does have its own unique personality.

Welcome to Charleston

Charleston is the capital and largest city  West Virginia. It is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County.  The city apparently got its start in the late 1700s and historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. George Clendenin’s father, Charles. Col. Clendenin acquired the deed to the area in 1786. Charles Town was later shortened to Charleston to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in eastern West Virginia, which was named after George Washington’s brother Charles.  Daniel Boone was a resident for a time and served on the Virginia House of Delegates.

Portion of a mural in Charleston

A short drive around the area near the Capitol Building provides the opportunity to see a few murals, one of my favorite things to look for.  Here are a few murals in the area…but I don’t think I found them all yet!!

Charleston West Side Mural titled “West Side Wonder” by Charly Jupiter Hamilton.
Detail of Charly Jupiter Hamilton mural in Charleston’s West Side
Another detail of Charly Jupiter Hamilton’s mural

Another mural I came across was on the back side of a convenience store in an alley.

All Together Now by Jeff Pierson – Mural in an Alley on the East End
Detail All Together Now

Murals aren’t the only public art in Charleston.  As noted in their website Public Art in Charleston, the town has promoted art works including murals and sculptures for over 13 years.  While driving around town I came across one sculpture that looked oddly familiar.  Titled “Hallelujah,”, the piece below is by artist Albert Paley, who made four massive sculptures entitled “Odyssey” in Council Bluffs, IA (see my post here).

Hallelujah by Albert Paley, located in downtown Charleston
Another shot of Albert Paley’s Hallelujah

Another interesting sculpture, very close by is the “Festival Delle Arti” by artist Harry Marinsky. This whimsical work of art is likely appealing to children (and adults with the hearts of children!).

Festival delle Arti by Harry Marinsky
A detail shot of the work by Marinsky

More scenes from downtown Charleston include some buildings and signs.  Really a fun place to visit.

Charleston’s First Presbyterian Church
The BB&T Building in downtown Charleston
Cabriole by Jimilu Mason on Summers Street in Charleston
Frutcake Sign in West End Charleston
Old Neon sign for New China restaurant in Charleston
Detail of “Out and About” by Rob Cleland in Charleston’s East End
Another Detail of the Rob Cleland Mural
The BB&T Building (Laidley Tower) with the St. George Orthodox Cathedral in the foreground

I found Charleston to be a wonderful town…lovely bridges, a nice river, beautiful buildings and artwork.

 

 

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West Virginia’s Midland Trail – US Route 60 from Virginia to Charleston

During the month of May I made several trips to West Virginia to assist a friend in need.  Also, during Easter Weekend (2017) I had occasion to take my wife to northern Virginia near Shenandoah National Park and on my return started my treks along US Route 60 in West Virginia, what they refer to as the Midland Trail.   On subsequent visits, I tried to hit US 60 in the western part of the state as well.

 

A scene from along US 60 in WV
The WV State Capitol Building in Charleston

The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain of the Mountain State and extends for approximately 100 miles from White Sulphur Springs in the east to Charleston in the west. The trail is believed to have been originally carved into the mountains by buffalo and native peoples. In 1790, George Washington ordered the trail cleared. The trail came to be traveled by stage coaches and soldiers in the Civil War.

A scene from the drive on US 60 near Lewisburg, WV
A bridge near Lewisburg, WV

Along the route there are a number of scenic stops, some of which I had time to stop for, and others which I didn’t.  But the rugged hills of West Virginia along this route made for a scenic drive, even if I didn’t stop.

My first venture on the Midland Trail came on Easter morning as I headed home from Shenandoah National Park.   It was then that I actually decided to hop off of Interstate 64 and onto US 60.  There wasn’t much in White Sulphur Springs, so I continued on to Lewisburg.  Like White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg is known for its sulfur springs and their curative powers.  It is also home to the immaculate and world famous Greenbrier Resort.

Lewisburg – America’s Coolest Small Town
Huge snowman in Lewisburg

To prove they are the “coolest” town, they even have a huge fiberglass snowman at one of the businesses.

I found this guy at Brabble & Shores Insulation.  It is a classic Roadside America type of thing…perfect for the silly selfie!  That alone makes this town a pretty cool place in my opinion.

Old Stone Presbyterian Church was built in 1830 in Lewisburg

Always on a quest to document old covered bridges, I came across the Herns Mill Covered Bridge, which was begun in 1879 and completed in 1884. The bridge is approximately 54 feet long and 10.6 feet wide and is open to travel.  Many renovations were made in 2000 — concrete abutments and steel I-beams, guard walls, portal timbers, a new metal roof and siding — to ensure the cover bridge’s longevity.

Sam Black Church historical Marker

From Lewisburg heading west there are a number of small towns to pass through.  My next stop on the trail was at Sam Black Church. It is one of the few towns I have encountered that actually is named after a church building.

The building was built in a classic Gothic style in 1902 and was named named in honor of Rev. Samuel Black, a circuit-riding Southern Methodist preacher. It is a small one story building with a gable roof. It features a square, open bell tower with a hipped roof.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV
Front doors to Sam Black Church

Continuing west I came to the uniquely named town of Charmco, WV.  At 2,408′ in elevation, it is a mountain town.  It remains today as a coal mining town.  I liked the “charm” part of the name (reminded me of the Amish town of Charm, OH).  However, it turns out there is really no charm intended. The community was named for the Charleston Milling Company in 1933.

Charmco, WV Post Office

I traveled through Rainelle (and, ironically was deluged by a rainstorm so kept going).  I eventually made my way to Lookout, WV, which was supposedly named because the Native American tribes used the elevated location as a lookout point.

Lookout, WV Post Office
Fun flag in Lookout, WV

I added another unique flag to my collection of “non-flag” flags that I come across when traveling.  This one was made of stones and sat next to the Post Office parking lot.

I am always on the lookout for flags represented in other media and have found a couple of dozen in the past few years.

Then of course, there are the old retro Mom and Pop motels that can be found along an old US Highways. The Midland Trail Motel is one of these. (Route 60 is actually longer than Route 66 and has many similar features.)  A little trivia from Wikipedia: traveling 2,670 mi from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with the major US 66. In fact, US 66 was almost given the US 60 number.

Midland Trail Motel on Route 60 in Ansted, WV

One of the most “touristy” places along the Midland Trail is found near Fayetteville, WV.  This is home to the New River Gorge and the massive New River Gorge Bridge.  This is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge.  I visited the bridge a couple of times in the past and so didn’t want to stop on this trip due to time constraints.

Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge and New River Gorge National River in Fayetteville, WV in August 1995
A view of the New River Gorge in West Virginia taken in  August 1995
The Mystery Hole in Fayetteville, WV

Of course, where there are National Parks or National Bridges, etc., there are always the Tourist Traps.  The “Unbelievable Mystery Hole” is one of these.  We stopped there in 1995 on our drive through (but it was closed).  When I drove by this time it was also closed.  But it has all of the quirkiness.

Bottom line, the place claims to be a gravity defying hole and draws tourists who want to have a “can’t believe your eyes” experience.  It is just funny to me that it so happens to be close to a National Park site (as many of these great experience places are.”

A quick shot of the Mystery Hole from the car on this trip
My daughter Marissa taking a photo in 1995
Welcome to Gauley Bridge, WV

After passing by the Hawk’s Nest State Park, which offers some spectacular views (we actually stayed there in 1995), I continued on my trek into Gauley Bridge, where the Kanawha River is formed at the confluence of the New River (which formed the gorge) and the Gauley River.

This is actually another scenic location with a beautiful view of the beginnings of the Kanahwa River and a very nice waterfall – Cathedral Falls. At a drop of 60 feet, the falls are considered to be one of the highest and most scenic waterfalls in West Virginia. What’s better, they are literally located right alongside US 60. Definitely worth a visit.

Visiting Cathedral Falls near Gauley Bridge, WV
Another shot of Cathedral Falls
A panorama of the confluence forming the Kanahwa River at Gauley Bridge, WV

I didn’t see many murals on this trip, but there was a nice one on the side of a building in Gauley Bridge.  The only actual mural I saw on the Midland Trail until I was in Charleston.

Train Mural in Gauley Bridge painted by Nancy Lane to commemorate the rich rail heritage of the town.
The C&O Railroad Bridge across the Gauley River.

From Gauley Bridge, US 60 follows the route of the Kanawha River.  Another nice set of waterfalls can be seen at Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV.  The drop of these falls is only about 15 feet, but it is a wide and loud waterfall.

Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV
Another shot of Kanawha Falls

After my brief stop at Kanawha Falls, I continued into Charleston on the winding highway.  It really was a beautiful drive.  And it is always a treat to see the golden dome of the state capitol building.

West Virginia State Capitol Bulding

Part 2 will be posted soon and is all about the Charleston area. Part 3 will then be posted about the portion of Route 60 from Charleston to the Kentucky border.

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