Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Escaping Chaos: To Heaven (Almost), a Feud, and the Barndominium

Monday we were on the road early to beat the departure crowd to the dump station. The terrain became more mountainous as we went, ending up looking like our mountains in Tennessee…steep. Before we left Ohio, we started seeing signs with “Appalachian” this or that. Funny, but I never would have associated Ohio with the Appalachians, which run from Georgia to Maine. We were definitely entering the foothills before we crossed the state line, though.

People have asked where in our travels have we seen the prettiest mountains, and I don’t have an answer for that. The Appalachians are beautiful…heavily forested and very hilly, although much shorter than other mountains. The Blue Ridge section, especially around Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, has its own magic, too. (Do you know what causes the Blue Ridge mountains to look blue? Folks used to say it was the humidity in the south and a bunch of other things. However, the reality is that the trees release a hydrocarbon called isoprene to protect themselves from the heat. Its interaction with other molecules in the air creates a haze that makes the mountains look blue on the horizon. Science, baby!) But wherever we go, the mountains always give me a peaceful feeling. The Black Hills in South Dakota, with their jagged, rocky spikes, are beautiful. The Cascades in Washington are full of lush vegetation and dense, tall forests full of giant trees. Then there is Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Rainier, that you can see standing on the horizon for miles. The Rocky Mountains…the first time I saw them at 20 or so, I was in love. The Alaska Range and Denali, truly part of the last frontier…OMGosh! I could go on and on, but suffice to say that no matter where I go in any mountains, I am in my happy place.

Our route took us east to Bainbridge, then southeast following parts of the scenic routes. Near Piketon, we saw some numbered signs along the road edge. My first thought was snow, but MW figured they were for water. There must be some serious flooding along that stretch of road, because it went up to five feet! At Portsmouth, Ohio we took a break to check out the murals on the flood wall along the Ohio River. The town commissioned artist Robert Dafford of Lafayette, Louisiana, who worked on them from 1993 to 2002. They tell the history of the city and surrounding area, and are just beautiful. The wall is 20′ high and almost half a mile long. I’ve included my favorite pics below. In addition to this terrific artwork, Portsmouth also has a beautiful downtown with some amazing old architecture. It’s definitely worth a visit.

At South Point on US-52 we ran into a little construction. Now I just have to say, if there is actual grass growing up in the pavement, you are taking TOO LONG! Unfortunately, to get across the river, we had to go into, akkkkkk, the “urng”!! Luckily, we crossed the Ohio and just skirted the south edge of Huntington, West Virginia and not right through town. I have a confession to make: I used to be a HUGE John Denver fan. Okay, that is a lie. I’m still a HUGE John Denver fan. The Boogers can sing along to some of his songs. Seriously! So you know when we hit the middle of the Ohio and passed under the “Wild and Wonderful” sign, I was ready to belt it out. MW didn’t think it was required, but what does he know?! It was time for lunch, so we found a Fazoli’s a couple of exits up with plenty of parking, at least on the satellite view. When we got there, though, it was filled with cars and large trucks. The Penn Station East Coast Subs next door worked though. We’d never tried them before, and I was really impressed. I had the Italian hot, and MW had the Chicken Teriyaki Wrap. We both had small fries, which reminded me of Five Guys fries. Yum!

For the last leg of our day’s journey, we followed WV-10 south to Mitchell Heights and Chief Logan State Park. As we drove in, we came upon the scene below. (Again, forgive the terrible pic. I was trying to catch it fast through the truck window.) The doe just stood there and watched us drive up. The fawn was actually sniffing the man’s hand in the background. Amazing! The campground was not very crowded, and the loop up the hill that we were on just had one other person on it. Big rain was supposed to be on its way, so we hurried to get set up. Then we watched a movie, and I did a little work. (Thankfully, my Mifi works at this campground!) Later it was blissful to lay down in the quiet and hear the nightlife…bugs, owls, and crickets. It really is almost heaven!

It wasn’t until we rolled into West Virginia and started seeing some references that I remembered a VERY COOL tidbit that I forgot to pass along. In the last post, I talked about meeting a woman named Sharon Hughes at Bob Evans. Well, what I didn’t tell you is that she is actually Sharon Hatfield Hughes…of those Hatfields! For 28 years in the latter half of the 1800s, the Hatfield-McCoy feud raged along the river at the state line between West Virginia and Kentucky. First blood was spilled with the murder of the only McCoy who fought for the north in the Civil War as he was returning home from duty in 1865, presumably by Devil Anse Hatfield’s uncle, Jim Vance. (The rest of the McCoys and the Hatfields fought for the south.) The next noted instance of violence didn’t happen until 1878 (13 years!) in a dispute over a hog. The Hatfields won the legal battle, but the witness that made that happen was later murdered by two McCoy brothers. Seriously! After that all-out war ensued leading to the 1888 New Year’s Night Massacre, when a group of Hatfields surrounded the McCoy cabin and opened fire on the family while they slept, then set the place on fire. Their foe, Ole Ran’l McCoy managed to escape, but two of his children were shot and his wife was beaten almost to death. The feud continued until 1891 when the last of the feud trials was held. There was a pretty good miniseries about this war starring Kevin Costner. Check it out, and don’t mess with your neighbor’s pig!

Tuesday I slept until almost 8 AM! However, when I did get up, my digestive system was not happy. That required us to hang close for most of the morning. At one point, on my way back from the bathhouse, I ran into a doe and fawn lunching on some shrubs. They both looked my way, then just went back to the task at hand. I walked towards them across the grass taking some pics, and then sat down at the picnic table right beside them. The doe just ignored me, but the little one wanted to check me out. She kept inching my way, then came all the way up to smell my hand. She was so pretty!

By 11 AM I finally had my act together, and we headed into town. Our first stop was in West Logan at Giovanni’s. I tried a Grilled Chicken Ranch Flatbread and MW had the Super Sub. The sandwiches were good, but my side salad was sad-looking iceberg lettuce past its prime, a few tiny carrot strips, and a couple of mealy tomato slices. I wouldn’t order that again. After lunch, we went into Logan to scope out the laundromat for tomorrow and pop in at Kroger for groceries. Chores complete, we headed over to the back side of the park to check out the lodge and restaurant area. MW went in to find out about the restaurant operations. There were a handful of folks having lunch, and the guy up front looked bored and then let down when MW just asked for information. He promised the guy we would come back for dinner. Then we took the park road over the mountain to get back to the campground. (MW thought we would take that when we leave instead of going out and around the long way. Then we saw the sign below. Nope!) As we came down past the pool, we saw several deer checking out some folks picnicking at the shelter. We think people have been feeding them so much that they have lost their fear, and maybe their ability to forage for themselves. Several of the does look pretty skinny. Back at Petunia I did some work and wrote a bit. As evening approached, we headed back over the mountain for dinner (after all, MW did promise). We were the only folks in the place for the entire time we were there. It is quite a nice facility with a restaurant, conference rooms, and a hotel. I’ll admit to being a little skeptical about the food in a place that no one is going to, but I was wrong. MW had the meatloaf, and I had the trout. We spoke to the waitress who said, since they are a government facility, they can’t advertise the restaurant. That kind of stinks. After a nice dinner, we headed back to Petunia. On the way we passed by the same picnic pavilion and there was an entire herd of deer grazing there. There was even a little fawn laying down in the grass while people were close by at the pavilion and cars were driving by. Wow! Back at Petunia, we settled in for the evening.

Wednesday I woke up with a headache. What is up for the last couple of days?! It took me a while to get my act together, but I finally headed out about 10:30 AM to get the laundry done. I popped into Tudor’s Biscuit World for takeout on the way in the hopes that a little food and caffeine would help my still aching head. Then it was on to the veteran-owned Logan Laundromat to do the deed. As I parked I noticed the cool mural on the side of the building that was painted by the owner’s wife. Pretty good! The place was small (eight washers, eight dryers, one folding table) and did not offer amenities like tables and carts to move your clothes around. However, it was one of the cleanest laundromats I’ve ever used. The machines were spotless! (Except one that was marked “out of order” that looked like someone put concrete powder in.) I was alone for the entire time, and finished by 12:30 PM or so. After a quick stop at Walgreens for a couple of things, I headed back to camp.

Like little towns all over Appalachia, Logan is about 3 blocks wide and several miles long. These towns spread fingers like Octopus tentacles up and down the hollers between all of these beautiful, steep mountains. (As we travel through the Appalachian mountains, we often think about the first people to come here. It would be a struggle to ride a horse up these hills, and going around isn’t an option in a lot of places. The going must have been rough indeed.) Since real estate is at a premium, a lot of the downtown streets are one way and narrow. Houses sit on lots that are just slightly larger than their foundations or cling to the surrounding hillsides. It is definitely a town that grew up around coal mining and hard work. The few people I met were very nice, and as in all of the small towns we travel through, there is a strong sense of community. Churches are abundant, reaching out with a variety of resources to their neighbors. I spoke with a Preacher when we were at lunch one day. He said that, although they have taken precautions during the Covid crisis, his church has not closed their doors. His community needs the peaceful sanctuary and help that it offers, and he continues to be there for them. In an area where illegal hooch was once (and may still be to a degree) the way to make extra money (and learn to drive a racecar), the telltale signs now exist of a much larger problem. Sadly, meth has infiltrated small towns and poorer communities in all parts of this beautiful country. We were in North Dakota a couple of years ago talking with a deputy sheriff. He said out there, in the middle of nowhere, their biggest issues were meth, other drugs brought in from Mexico, and domestic abuse. The latter was significantly affected by the first two. Don’t get me wrong…larger cities are dealing with this plague, too, but there it tends to blend in with a host of other issues. Look at any small-town paper’s crime report (yes, they still have those), and you will see that meth-related issues top the list. It’s true in our little town as well. What I’d imagine starts as an answer to or escape from a desperate situation, turns into a weight no different than concrete boots, dragging the wearer to the bottom.

When I arrived back at Petunia, I found that MW had already put dinner in the Crockpot. Nice! I laid back and closed my eyes for a bit while MW did a little more exploring at Chief Logan State Park. He returned a bit later to tell me that they have a live animal exhibit. (I LOVE all things animal.) We went back over so I could check it out. The animals are all rescues that cannot be released back into the wild for one reason or another, so they take care of them there. They have a wild boar, a bobcat, a redtail hawk, a barred owl, several snakes (although we could not see the copperhead or the timber rattler), and two black bears. I thought it was interesting that the boars were actually brought in from Europe to provide better hunting opportunities. (Like kudzu, that seems to be a decision that was not thought through completely.) It was a nice little setup, back at the end of a holler with lots of shade, and they only charge $2 for entry.

In addition to the campground, lodge, restaurant, pool, and animal exhibit already mentioned, Chief Logan State Park has a few other enticements including: a museum on the property that focusses on the area and coal mining; quite a few hiking trails, some quite strenuous; putt-putt golf, tennis courts, a large fishing pond; several picnic pavilions; lots of picnic areas and playgrounds; a Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive; a homesteaders cabin; and beautiful creek and mountain views. Oh yeah, did I mention the abundance of deer? The campground is on the smaller side, and although the park entrance is right in town, it is very quiet and peaceful. Two thumbs up, it’s definitely on our list of favorites. Anyone could find stuff to do here.

Back at Petunia, we enjoyed some Honey Teriyaki Chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner, and ended the day with a little TV.

Thursday we were up and out fairly early for the trip to Tennessee. We headed southwest on US-119 to the state line, then down to Williamson to cross into Kentucky. We planned to check out the Hatfield-McCoy sites in Pikeville, but when we headed into the downtown area, we couldn’t figure out where things were, and I didn’t have cell service. (Boo Hiss, as my Uncle Roy used to say!) We did notice several bear statues scattered around as we worked our way back to the road representing the University of Pikeville Bears. As we continued mostly south-southwest, we marveled at the amount of blasting it took to put these roads through. We also noticed that, almost as soon as we crossed into Kentucky, they started to spread out just a little bit. Then by the time we got to Virginia, some hillside fields and farmland started mixing in. Once in Virginia, we traveled on US-23 until we cut cross-country at Clinchport. In Norton, Virginia, we stopped for lunch at FishTales. The main menu was mostly fried seafood, but they did have some broiled options and sandwiches, too. All was good, and I had enough for another meal to take with me. Once we hit the back roads along the Clinch, it wasn’t too far to our little valley. We got everything set up, checked up on the Barndominium, and relaxed.

This trip was about 6 weeks. It’ll be a short stay in Tennessee (8 days), but I’m looking forward to catching up with a few people, going to church, and finishing up some tax work. MW had also made a list of chores to complete, and we will meet with our guy about doing some pond work for us.

Next up…the Barndominium and Greensboro! Yay!!! See you on the road!

TJ

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2 Comments

  1. Lori

    Danvers did our flood wall paintings here! Also the warm Italian is Jimmy’s fav at Penn Station! Love y’all.

    • TJP2018

      You know Jimmy and I are like twins!!! LOL. I thought the artwork looked similar. He did a great job.

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