This entry is late because we are T-Mobile customers and there is no free T-Mobile data in West Virginia. I had to save the roaming data for maps and I thought this could wait – build some suspense about where we are.
Louisville, KY to Charleston, WV is about 270 miles. The day started along a river and then we got to the bluegrass/horse/tobacco part of Kentucky. Frankfort is the capital of KY and it is a small town(27,000) –we just zoomed by. There were many grand homes and pasture with white fences on either side of Lexington. There is a possibility we will travel back through eastern Kentucky after we leave Ohio on our return to Santa Fe. Daniel Boone National Forest is east and south of Lexington and there are some natural geologic features I want to see and maybe we will catch Kentucky colors…
Back to the present – Kentucky is very hilly in the eastern end and that continues right into West Virginia. The constant up and down was tough on Rio the cat and kept Tom busy shifting. But these are hills – not mountains. The Kanawha River runs through Charleston and while it is not the Ohio it is still impressive to us New Mexicans. I waited a long time to make a reservation for our 3 nights in West Virginia and I finally chose one that was in the woods near Elkview – 9 miles NE of Charleston. You have heard the phrase “off the beaten path”? Poor Tom had barely a mountain trail to get us to the RV park. There is no office /check-in kiosk and I did not know what spot we were assigned so when we got to the really narrow part I called the number I had. We had gone too far and there was no turning around. Tom had to back down the road about ¼ mile and then it was easy to get into #9. The woods were quiet and pretty. We had no TV reception so we listened to the Dodgers and read.
On Thursday we had a plan to see Charleston and some of the smaller communities nearby. But we did not feel well (me with my throat and Tom’s back) so we took the morning off. We did get down to the state capitol building with its beautiful dome and walked along the river a bit. Charleston is the capital but it is built in a rather narrow valley so there is not much room for street widening. They solved their problem by making streets one way - alternating directions. I was using a paper map and I would tell Tom to turn right and there would be the one way left sign. Understanding the street layout let us travel around the down a bit. A stop a a grocery store and back to our house for dinner and an early night.
Friday we planned to go to Beckley, WV to tour an old coalmine and museum. The trip was about an hour on the interstate, which became a turnpike and we were stuck with a toll – without the trailer it was only $4 to Beckley. The town of Beckley bought a closed coal mine in order to create a museum to educate folks on the history of the coal mines and the coal miners. They actually purchased some building from other mining towns so they were able to provide a family home, a bachelor’s “room, a superintendent’s house, a church and a school. The museum displayed mining tools and other related items. I was appalled to see a “pay-stub” that showed a deduction for blasting powder and other explosive related items. The workers had to pay for anything they needed to extract the coal. The quota was 10 tons/day at 20 cents a ton. There were numerous references to owing their souls to the company store.
The tour was of an old coalmine was on our list of things to do and there are few opportunities. Cities like Beckley don’t take on such projects for a lot of reasons but with the purchase of the mine by the city and subsequent transfer to a “foundation” they have been able to provide a great educational. The tour was by a small “trolley” and the driver/guide, Cliff, was a retired miner. He had a great presentation and we learned a lot about the job requirements/working conditions of the 20th century miner. Cliff showed us the coal seam and clearly illustrated the fact that it was only 28” high so miners worked on their backs and sides. Coal companies did not build tunnels to walk upright in until many years later. We were glad to have found this place and learn about this part of history. Cliff also showed us how the technology changed until the miner was no longer needed in the thousands of miners. Mines used to produce for 20-30 years but technology gets the job done in 2-4 years. Cliff also said that there are still opportunities to mine coal and the pay is good – only for a short time and then unemployment.
In order to get back to our home we traveled on the other side of the river which is basically a 2 lane road. The towns/villages are built right along the river and a flood would do a lot of damage to a large percentage of the structures. There were a lot of these towns in a 30 mile stretch – again built in the valleys so long but not wide. The New River Gorge National River is part of the National Park system. It is an old river so it has carved out a deep gorge. Rafting is one of the activities – claims to be comparable to the Colorado River. The ride was very enjoyable but considerably longer than taking he turnpike – a toll can be a good thing.
We are off to Pennsylvania for a week.