On January 1, 2017 I sat on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland to watch a spectacular sunrise and pondered to myself about the opportunities I would have to travel throughout the year. Little did I really know the extent that I would actually travel over the year and I’m grateful that I’ve had a wonderful year of seeing more of this beautiful country.
Beginning with that glorious morning in Maryland, over the course of the year I have driven nearly 15,000 miles on road trips, many to visit family or be with family, but all of the trips have been wonderful. Some have been close by doing what I refer to as “staycation“ trips in Kentucky. But, throughout the course of the year I have been to 19 different states and have seen a plethora of places and things. Many of the trips included time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. That makes things so much better and enjoyable!
In July we had a family reunion. It was the first in five years and all of my 10 grandchildren and all my five children were here at one time or another and even my sister and her husband and daughter came up to visit. During that time we also visited my extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. So, travel was not the only joyful thing. Family is the best.
The following photos tell just a small story of the past year. I have already posted some of the things in more detail and have five or six others in the works about specific places. But here are just some of the places and things form this past year. ENJOY THE RIDE!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.
There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.
One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as
part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.
One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.
I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.
But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture. And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!
I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.
The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river. An amazing feat of engineering.
I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.
Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.
Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.
Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars. They look futuristic and are cool to drive over. I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.
Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.
Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular. But they are not the only religious buildings.
The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.
I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.
And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.
Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.