With a little more than a month under our belts in Morgantown, Charlie and I were getting more than a little homesick.
The long Labor Day weekend provided the perfect opportunity to pack up the car and head south. Who doesn’t like to drive for a total of 16 hours within three days, anyway?
Charlie, of course, kept to her usual road trip routine of out-the-window watching for about an hour and then crashed out in the backseat. Luckily, my audiobook kept me busy for the Morgantown-to-Chattanooga drive.
Not so luckily, its story was all wrapped up within the first hour of the Chattanooga-to-Morgantown trip, leaving me to balance the impulse to do my own out-the-window watching with the whole driving thing.
Don’t worry—this is not the column where I explain how I wrecked or almost wrecked my car and how I will be letting Jesus take the wheel from now on.
I’m a very adept multitasker and, as such, was able to pick out a few gems on the side of the road.
The road, or roads, included I-75, I-40, I-81, I-77, U.S. 19 and I-79.
Call it the Labor Day Points of Interest Map between Chattanooga, Tenn., and Morgantown, W.Va.
—The World’s Largest Guitar in Bristol, Tenn.: This guitar is a three-story and 70-foot-long monument of sorts that used to house a musical instrument retail store but is now promoted by the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development as a one-of-a-kind photo op ... if drivers can somehow safely get there.
—"Monitored by aircraft" signs in Virginia: Instead of simply posting the speed limit and relying on radar guns, the Old Dominion State ups the ante and patrols its interstates from the AIR!
—Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville, Va.: Yes, in fact, the town once known as the Salt Capital of the Confederacy now also has this museum and the institution’s Ice Age fossils as its claims to fame.
—Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Va.: All I could think was, "Hungry Mother what?"
—Big Walker Mountain Tunnel and East River Mountain Tunnel in Virginia and West Virginia: Those tunnels that I panicked, I mean drove, through on the move up here? Still there. The first, at 4,229 feet long, leads into Jefferson National Forest; and the second, at 5,412 feet long, welcomes travelers in wild and wonderful West Virginia.
—Southern Xposure in Princeton, W.Va.: And roughly 10 miles up the interstate, those same travelers are briefed on West Virginia’s laws regarding strip clubs, thanks to the striking billboards for the Southern Xposure chain.
—"Afterlife is Hell without Him. Now you know.": I read this quote on a billboard somewhere between Princeton and Beckley just before 8 p.m. as the sun was setting, and I did not feel particularly more aware, Mr. Billboard Writer, of where I stood and all, thank you very much.
—Appalachian Bible College in Mt. Hope, W.Va.: At this point in the drive, it’s safe to safe I was thinking someone in West Virginia had a formula worked out here with the strip club, billboard and Bible college setup. Stimulation, damnation and salvation all in a 50-mile stretch?
—New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, W.Va.: The bridge that appears on the West Virginia state quarter is not only 3,030 feet from end to end but also the longest, single-span steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Five qualifiers in one title never hurt anyone.
—Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park in Roanoke, W.Va.: Though not a state within the Confederacy, the Mountain State honored its native son in 1990 with the opening of this state park, which of course, is now also the site of a massive golf course restore.
—The WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.: This was less of a find on the trip—though the stadium’s architecture does resemble the structure of a cupcake—and more of a glorious sign that I was finally done driving.
Because Charlie Barley Behringer could not simply disappear from Nooga.com, Mountain to Mountain will follow her and her mother's adventures, dispatch-style, in Morgantown as they tackle graduate school, first-year teaching and living in West by-God Virginia.