Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Second Sunday Drive, Day Trip Three

Abandoned Home
North of Tomlinson Run State Park

Wait a minute, I hear you say.  What happened to Day Trip Two?  Well, Ron and I set out on Day Trip Two, only to be forced by time and weather to abort the mission.  The pictures from that trip will show up under Tyler County, the only county where we spent any time on the trip.

Tuesday, August 21st, dawned bright and clear, so Ron and I hit the road relatively early with the intent of getting breakfast somewhere along the way.  This trip would take us to the very northern end of West Virginia, Hancock County, the only county in the state Ron hadn’t yet visited.  Nancy the Nag directed us off the mountain, then to Wheeling, then suggested that we cross the Ohio River and drive north on Ohio Highway 7, or as she kept calling it, O-H Seven.  We had passed Perkins in Moundsville, and the next place we found open for breakfast was Bob Evans in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio.  By now it was after 10 a.m., and we were both ready to eat.

Nancy kept us on the Ohio side of the river all the way to East Liverpool.  We passed many places that looked worth exploring on future trips, but this trip is all about West Virginia, so we’ll save Ohio for another time.  I did think of my School of Fine Arts colleague Bobby Tilton as we passed Tiltonsville, and I let her know about it on her Facebook page
As we crossed the river into Chester, West Virginia, I swore as we passed the Hancock County sign.  It was on the bridge and there was no way to stop or even slow down as we flew by.  Oh well, not to worry.  West Virginia is only five miles wide at this point, so we continued on U.S. Highway 30, till we crossed into Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  Turning around I was able to pull over and capture the Hancock County sign from this side of the state.

Bypassing Chester, we took the exit for West Virginia Highway 8, and headed toward New Manchester and Tomlinson Run State Park.  Circumnavigating the lake which forms the central point of the park, we exited the park on the north side and eventually found our way back to Highway 8, which we followed to Hancock County’s seat, New Cumberland.

In New Cumberland, I tried to follow Nancy’s directions to the courthouse, but once again we went astray.  When we finally turned the car around, I learned why.  The courthouse was on top of the ridge, and we had turned right when we should have gone left.  At first I was disappointed in the building as I had expected an older, more classic design.  Instead I found a modern square box.  However, when I walked behind the box, there was the original structure, still standing in all its glory.  I also captured an outstanding Presbyterian Church, but let the Methodist Church remain unphotographed.

Now if you’ve been following my county by county descriptions of West Virginia, you’ll have noticed that I seem to post a lot of pictures of Methodist Churches and I make a note of the percentage of county population that belongs to the United Methodist Church.  There’s a reason for that.  When my father graduated from seminary at Boston University, he intended to return to West Virginia where both my parents were born and raised.  A district superintendent from Montana, recruiting young pastors, asked him “Why do you want to go back to West Virginia?  There’s a Methodist Church on every street corner.  Why don’t you come out to Montana where we have wide open spaces and need people to fill them?”  Somehow that appealed to my dad, and in 1946 he and mother said good-bye to Boston, headed back to Parkersburg to say good-bye to family, and moved west to Stevensville, Montana.  Three years later I was born.  If it weren’t for all these Methodist Churches in West Virginia, I could well have been born in the Mountain State instead of in the Land of Shining Mountains.  I learned very early in these day trips that there was no way I could photograph every Methodist Church I came across.  But I’m still drawn to them, especially the small country churches on the far ridge lines.

I had noted many places I wanted to see (and photograph) on this trip, and one was the Mahan Light.  Never found it, but in looking for it Ron and I found a small park with a viewing platform overlooking the Ohio, a large industrial complex across the river and one of the Ohio River dams, the New Cumberland Dam.  We explored a bit of the park and found, to our amusement, a series of park benches obviously set in place for people to enjoy the view.  What was amusing was that the vegetation had grown so high that all you could see from the bench was foliage directly in front of you.

Near the viewing platform, a young mother with three small boys asked if we had a cell phone she could use.  Her van had broken down and she needed to get her boys home.  Ron lent her his phone while I pondered whether we could fit all of them into the Saab.   Long story short, we drove her and her sons north to Chester and I’m glad we did.  She directed us to the “World’s Largest Teapot” and also to the Homer Laughlin Pottery—home of Fiestaware—where I purchased a coffee bowl from their “seconds” shop and photographed what I call Fiesta Hell, the discard pile for those pieces not deemed worthy of being a “second.”

"Those Dark Satanic Mills"
Abandoned Steel Mill, Weirton, West Virginia

Time was passing quickly, and we were still “On Top of West Virginia” as Hancock County refers to itself.  Stopping at Ice Dogs in New Cumberland, we enjoyed a large scoop of ice cream in waffle cones for $1.50 each, but passed on the hot dogs.  Back on West Virginia Highway 2, we headed south to Weirton, an industrial city that straddles the Hancock/Brooke County line and the place where five years earlier I had heard a voice saying “You’ve come home.”

In Brooke County’s seat, I found another Montana/West Virginia connection.  Just south of the Courthouse in Wellsburg, there is a park alongside the Ohio with a monument and historic sign honoring Patrick Gass, 1771-1870, a citizen of Brooke County for over half a century.  He was also a Sergeant with the Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The Ohio River at Wellsburg, West Virginia
Home of Patrick Gass of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

 Brooke County was also the home of Alexander Campbell who with his father, Thomas, started the movement that led to today’s Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) and the Church of Christ.  He also founded Bethany College still located in Brooke County.

From Bethany College, it’s a short drive (four miles) to West Liberty University in Ohio County, and that’s the route we followed.  Driving south on West Virginia Highway 88, we followed the same route I had driven five years earlier on my first Sunday Drive and passed an enormous house sitting on the ridgeline west of the highway.  I had wanted to photograph the house back in 2007, and this trip I stopped and did just that.

A Small West Virginia Mountain Shack
Ohio County, West Virginia

Every time I visit Wheeling, I promise myself a day trip (or several) just to photograph the buildings of that historic city.  I could easily lose myself wandering through its historic downtown as every block brings more fascinating structures that grab my attention and have me focusing my camera.  This stop was no different, and Ron and I ended up heading in opposite directions.  Possibly the least interesting building downtown is the Ohio County Courthouse, a massive modern block of a building surrounded by neo-gothic spires of various churches.  

Time was passing, and it had been a long day, so leaving Wheeling for another visit, Ron and I turned the Saab back onto Highway 2 southbound, quickly crossing into Marshall County.  Italian sounded good for dinner, and I decided to try out OnStar, a subscription feature on my new car.  The OnStar operator was very friendly, but the only Italian restaurant she could find was now behind us and I didn’t want to back track.  Ron got on the phone and called friends of his living in McMechen, the guys who have the trailer across from him at Roseland which I showcased in an earlier post.  They recommended a Mexican place in Moundsville, Azteca, and that’s where we stopped.  Despite the fact that I saw only two people in the place who could conceivably be Mexican, the food was tasty and plentiful, and we left satisfied in body and spirit.

A quick drive back up the mountain (I’m getting used to these roads), and we were home at camp, having spent twelve hours covering 241 miles, 20 miles per hour.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church
A country church on a ridge top in Marshall County WV

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