In a twist of generosity, you’ve given back more than you’ve received, compiling a 150-piece bucket list of attractions and adventures for visitors to your parts. Just what I’ve always wanted for your birthday: travel ideas for West Virginia. In a fairytale land of no clocks and rain clouds of cash, I would have tackled all 150 items in one mighty Appalachian Trail-style outing. I might have had to fake a few of the suggestions, though, such as shooting a whitetail deer or flinging my rag doll body off the bridge in Fayetteville. To stay within a realistic frame, I circled 15 attractions (10 percent, math geniuses) and set aside five days to explore the Mountain State. Remember, this is humpy, lumpy territory, and the truckin’ is mighty slow.
Details: 150th birthday tour of West Virginia
In making my selections from the master list available on the tourism office’s Web site, I avoided any repeats, such as revisiting the waterfall at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis or sipping another cup of tea at the Greenbrier, both of which I’d done before. I sought a mix of classic standards (a mining museum, for instance) and unexpected wonders (a top-caliber rose garden in Huntington). Then I threw on my party shoes for West Virginia’s birthday bash.
Hills alive with music
My route of more than 1,000 miles followed a peripatetic compass, the needle quivering from east to southwest to northeast to east again. On occasion, I would slip out of the state and into a borderland. One night, while bumbling around Mingo County in the dark, I ended up in Kentucky. Driving from Point Pleasant to Wheeling, I purposely detoured to Ohio, to take advantage of the state’s faster and flatter interstates and sturdier cellphone service. I shamelessly used Pennsylvania for the same reasons.
For the most part, though, I belly-crawled along mountainous one-lane roads, often trapped behind a giant tortoise of a truck. I stopped believing in signage. As one local told me, don’t base your ETA on miles. Thirty miles in West Virginia is akin to 60 miles in Kansas.
To its credit, the driving in West Virginia can be soothing and almost hallucinatory. On my way from Summersville to Madison in the southern region, I imagined that I was driving through a bountiful kale salad. It then switched to broccoli, and then to mounds of caviar as I entered coal-mining territory. When I arrived in semi-populated centers, I felt as if I were returning to civilization after a long absence. I almost high-fived the McDonald’s arches in Elkins.