West Virginia means more to me than poverty and coal mining. I was actually born in West Virginia. I usually follow that up by saying "but I didn't live there long." Either way, it's my birthplace. And as I drove up 77 through NC and VA into WV yesterday, I was flooded with memories. I am so glad they changed the welcome sign back to "wild & wonderful" as opposed to the recent "open for business" tag line. Clearly West Virginia is wild & wonderful...and it's the most beautiful drive!
As I jammed out to Indigo Girls and Rosie Thomas with the windows down and felt the mountain breeze I was reminded of times long ago when my family would make the trip from SC to WV annually. I loved coming to WV to visit my family. And I actually enjoyed the road trip...even if it was filled with "if you cross this line I'll hit you," "If you hit me, I'll pinch you" and so on. The joys of siblings! But what I remember most are the sights and smells. In the fall, the drive up 77 is breathtaking! Rainbows of oranges, reds, yellows and greens. Even at a young age I was in awe of the glory of God's creation. As we entered VA to begin climbing the mountains I remember looking over the edge and seeing the stars. I was scared to get to close to the window for fear of falling out. Then there was the smell of cigars. I loved sitting in the far back seat of our old gray station wagon with my dad and the window down as he puffed on his cigar. Being a part of a large family meant eating on the road...literally. We'd stop at these gorgeous overlooks and eat lunch out of a cooler. I loved that...it was frugal, not cheap. right? But the best treat was DQ! They weren't around the south when I was a kid, so when we hit Charleston, WV we would beg and plead for a Peanut Buster Parfait.
Those memories came flooding back to me as I zipped around curves, hit the West Virginia Turnpike and paid my tolls in change, and caught glimpses of the same mountains I saw as a child. They are still BIG. And this time of year they are mostly green. It's a beautiful sight. But, the best part of the trip was arriving. Usually we went straight to Wheeling at the very tip of the state to visit my dad's big Italian family. I loved it. The smell of my grandparents' house, the endless supply of food, and the noise. Now it's a lot quieter up here. I don't make the trip as often as I'd like. But, I am so thankful for the memories that play like a movie in my mind.
If you ever get a chance, take a drive up 77. You can always stop at the Tamarack (exit 45) for food & crafts!! www.tamarackwv.com