I left on a cold, wet and gloomy Sunday to drive 10 hours (671 miles) from northern Virginia to Indiana. On I-66 West, passing cars kicked up cloudbursts of water while the rhythm of my wipers echoed the monotony of the brown and gray landscape. As I approached Middleburg, VA, past The Plains, Old Tavern and Happy Creek Coffee & Tea, the rain slowed and khaki stubbled fields spun past my windows. I swept past Gentle Harvest, Cobbler Mountain Cider, Big Dog Pots Pottery, and the Miracle Valley Vineyard. The Ohio Players sang “I want to be free,” but steel guard rails kept me in line.
The exit for Sky Meadows State Park reminded me of picnics and hikes with my kids when they were young. Passing Markham, I remembered our apple-picking outings to Stribling Orchards. The surrounding landscape was waterlogged after having survived one of the rainiest years on record in 2018. The rain hadn’t let up so far this year.
For four hours, I drove west then south then west through Virginia. My southerly route on I-81 took me down the Shenandoah Valley, bordered to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to the west by the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. In the north, the Valley is flatter, home to wineries, apple and peach orchards, and some livestock. The land to the south is used mainly for pasture; many farmers raise beef cattle, horses, dairy cows, and sheep. I flew past Naked Mountain Winery and candelabra-shaped vines sprinkled with snow. Fog hung like shredded fleece over black skeletal trees in the folds of the mountains.
At last, I saw a sliver of blue sky to the west. Neil Diamond serenaded me with “Kentucky Woman,” but I wouldn’t hit Kentucky until 3:15. I flew past the Sly Fox Golf Course, and the chain eateries Cracker Barrel and Dunkin’ Donuts. Dirt-smudged snow encroached on the edges of trees and crops. At the Strasburg McDonald’s, I competed for the bathroom with a busload of Pakistanis.
I passed triplets of crosses along the highway, tall crosses “fashioned from telephone poles,” with a yellow one in the middle. I would pass many of these on my trip and wondered about their origins and meaning. I found this article from Appalachian Magazine when I returned home: The Story of Crosses Across America.
Bare tree branches tangled themselves over endless lines of wooden and wire fences and red weathered barns. Copses of trees dotted rolling brown/gold pastures. The highway rose and dipped. A flock of tiny birds scattered like coal dust across the sky. The names of towns painted on water towers shouted a welcome: Discover Woodstock: 1752. The Mt. Jackson water tower offered red and green apples on a colorful mural. Andros Industrial Plant, a French-owned fruit-processing factory, employed folks in Mt. Jackson. Virginia Safari Park offered a drive-thru safari, Shenandoah Caverns promised Elevators!, a Merillat Factory manufactured cabinets. Sunlight spilled over silos and a yellow tractor, and trees waited like barren bouquet stems awaiting an offering of blossoms. Kendall Law Firm asked in a billboard: “Injured? Call Me Today.”
The Valley is home to universities and colleges: Eastern Mennonite University, James Madison University, Blue Ridge Community College. Commerce enticed in the form of Massanutten Ski Area, Greens & Grains Cafe, Italy Marble & Granite, Volvo car and Kenworth truck dealerships. Trucks lined up outside a Walmart distribution center. A farm boasted a red barn and green chicken coops. Black cows with yellow tags on their ears noshed placidly on hay.
The unproductively named Barren Ridge Vineyard offered what? After all, it was called “barren.” The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum and the Frontier Culture Museum promised some history. Flocks of birds rose and fell over a red weathered barn with a tin roof in Mint Spring. By 10:30, the promises of blue sky had vanished and gloom eclipsed the road again. How my mood changed with the weather! On one rusty tin roof of a barn was painted in sloppy letters: Vote Trump 2020. The Trump cult is still strong in America, disgustingly. Elvis Presley sang “Kentucky rain keeps pouring down,” and I didn’t doubt I’d encounter that truth later today.
By 11:00, I merged onto I-64 west, and I’d stay on it the rest of the day. I went over Churning Creek, the Cowpasture River, and the Jackson River. Low Moor, Lake Moomaw, and Savage sat in one hollow, but the upscale Omni Homestead Resort claimed Hot Springs, VA. Earl Scruggs plucked some bluegrass music on his banjo, while Welcome to West Virginia: Wild and Wonderful carried me on roller-coaster roads through mountains and hollows. Then another high class resort, taking advantage of the area’s abundant hot springs: The Greenbrier in White Suphur Springs, WV. I passed crossing signs for a horseback rider and a tractor. A Beef Jerky Outlet, The Ruby Rooster Antique Mall, Tudor’s Biscuit World had that hillbilly sound to them. For lunch I stopped at the drive-thru at Arby’s for a Beef & Cheddar sandwich in what would turn out to be a trip of unhealthy eating and extra pounds gained.
Cows huddled around a lemon yellow cottage in Sam Black Church, and winter trees perched atop mountains, making them look like porcupines. Runaway truck ramps offered escape to trucks on a 7% grade, while super strong cross winds made my car wobble. Waterfalls rushed down cliffs bordering the highway and a pungent odor from a factory permeated my car. Crazy winds blew leaves into tornado-swirls. Auto loans were available at easycredit123 dot com. I easily bypassed Dodson Pest Control, Bojangles, the Exhibition Coal Mine, and Appalachian Bible College. I passed a flat-bed truck near Summersville towing a royal blue Impala, taking me back to the olden days. Paint Creek rushed and churned beside the road near Mahan. A sign identified the 38th Parallel North in honor of Korean War Veterans. Kanawha City offered Sam’s Hot Dog Stand, but I’d already had Arby’s. Too bad; it was always hard for me to pass up a hot dog.
Before long, I was driving past Charleston, West Virginia, and its gold capitol dome. I crossed a blue bridge and a green bridge near Hurricane, WV, held my nose past a belching factory, and rolled my eyes at the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore. Beams of sunlight shone through a hole in the clouds, what my sister would later call a “God cloud.” America is nothing if not a land of contrasts because along with Adult stores, it has signs such as “Jesus can wash away your sins.”
Amazon has set up some kind of operation in Huntington, WV and near Louisa the whole hollow on both sides of the highway was a congregation of smokestacks polluting the environment. West Virginia is truly gritty, so different from my home state of Virginia. People often get them confused because of the names, but the states are as different as country clubs and slums.
At 3:15, I crossed into KENTUCKY: Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, home to Kentucky Christian University and the Daniel Boone National Forest. Places here seemed to be named after people: Vanceburg, Morehead, Flemingsburg, Frenchburg. At the Speedway Gas Station, people stood in line to buy lottery tickets, hoping their luck might change.
I drove through the neat, gently rolling pastures of horse country around Lexington, Kentucky. Cows gathered around a table of square hay bales as if enjoying a family dinner. The water tower in Lexington spelled “Welcome to the Horse Capital of the World” against a mural of horses. I was driving along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail – Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, & Four Roses distilleries – accompanied now by wild scribbles of winter trees against a sudden blue sky.
I was tempted by Equus Run Vineyard and Winery, but I still had further to drive, passing The Goose & Gander, Midway, Versailles, and, before long, Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky. Another hour, and I skirted the edge of Louisville, seeing the unique shape of the Muhammad Ali Museum on the edge of the highway.
As I made my way across Kentucky, the sun was floating toward the earth, and fireballs of light bounced off the passing cars. I had to put my hand up to shield my eyes from the sun.
By 6:25 I finally crossed into New Albany, Indiana: The Crossroads of America, passing Palmyra, Squire Boone Caverns, Santa Claus, Ferdinand and Jasper.
After dark, I arrived at my destination, the Baymont by Wyndham in Dale. When I drove up to the hotel, a young woman bolted out of a stopped car and ran frantically across the parking lot. At the front entrance, she did a flip and tumble on the sidewalk, and picked herself up quickly. In the lobby, she was panting and crying, and disappeared into the restroom. The receptionist seemed baffled and perturbed by this woman and we commiserated about what was going on, but we were clueless. I disappeared into my room and double-locked my door.
*Sunday, February 24, 2019*
“ON JOURNEY” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about the journey itself for a recently visited specific destination. You could write about the journey you hope to take in the year ahead. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.
My intentions on this trip included picking a random theme for each day of my trip. I had written in my journal, before leaving home, a theme for each day that would focus my attention. This day’s theme was “Economics.” I tried to focus on the economic activity that I noticed along the drive. Another of my intentions was to draw a sketch in my journal. I used a pen (a mistake!), but I tried my best to draw some of the things I noticed along the way. My drawings are still so elementary! My sister called the light streaming from clouds “God clouds” and my husband wondered what a bunch of cigars were doing in the fields. 🙂
Include the link in the comments below by Tuesday, April 16 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Wednesday, April 17, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation, once on the third Wednesday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!
- Anabel, of The Glasgow Gallivanter, wrote about a journey to Dundee in November, and titled it after a Scottish folk song.
- Jude, of Travel Words, shared a story she remembers clearly from 40 years ago – a surprise encounter on a bus from Casablanca to Tangiers.
- Meg, of wordsandimages, wrote in fabulous detail about a road trip she took over two and a half days in New South Wales, from Liston to her home in Potato Point.
Many thanks to all of you who wrote posts about the journey. I’m inspired by all of you! 🙂