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On Sunny Lane: Driving in West Virginia

Sweetheart and I decided to go to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. That is our happy place.

Well, we are happy wherever we are when we are together. But Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the entertainment capital of the United States. It is my opinion that it's better than Disney. This would be our third trip to that part of Tennessee.

We decided to drive through West Virginia this time, even though we usually start out through Ohio, because Sweetheart wanted to see the town where his dad was born.

When Sweetheart and I go traveling, we have an arrangement. He drives and I navigate. The common term for this is, "riding shotgun." He refers to me as the "nagrivator" .I read the maps and help him find directional signs. Two heads are better than one, as long as one of them isn't "bull" headed.

Yes, I know, we could use the GPS, but that would be too easy. Well, not really, because GPS doesn't always work in the hills and valleys of West Virginia.

Speaking of driving in West Virginia, it sure is an adventure. As long as you are on the interstate you are fine. When you are on the back roads, you are in for the ride of your life.

There are no straight roads in West Virginia. In fact, some are so twisty and turny that you almost expect to see the back end of your vehicle coming around the bend. And, if you look out of your side window, you can see where you will be driving next.

There are no flat roads in West Virginia either--at least, we didn't drive on any . Almost all of them go up and down--or down and up. Some of them go down (or up) for miles. It makes you wish you had got the car and brakes inspected before the trip, instead of waiting until you get back.

Along the back roads, we could see many small towns--miles apart--that are in a state of decline. There are lots of vacant houses and businesses, attributed to the closing of the coal mines. Many towns had houses only on one side of the road or the other, with no side streets.

We finally reached the town we were looking for. This small burg had narrow dirt streets jutting out from the main street. There were abandoned houses, but there were also some that were well kept. We saw lots of cats darting into and out of the streets in front of us.

Sweetheart and I really didn't know what we would do in the town, as there were no stores or attractions--and the post office had closed at 11:00 a.m. However, we came upon a man who was mowing his grass and his wife was spraying down the driveway.

We stopped and talked, although we knew no one would remember Sweetheart's dad. After all, he was born 115 years ago and only lived there for 10 years.

The couple was friendly, though. They immediately offered us a glass of ice water, which we turned down, since we had water with us. Then, later in the conversation, they offered us some tomatoes from their garden, but we had some of those with us, too.

Then they asked if we would like some peppers from their garden. We could no longer continue to refuse their Southern hospitality, so we accepted two. We asked for directions to a place where we could get a motel room for the night and they obliged. I was almost expecting them to offer a bed in their house.

Speaking of Southern hospitality, we were beginning to hear bits of Southern accent and Southern phrases. I wondered where the line of demarcation is between "Yankee" expression and Southern drawl. Does it start at the Pennsylvania border?

I guess it really doesn't matter. What matters is the friendliness and hospitality. And that knows no boundaries.


Dorothy is the author of two books—“Miles and Miracles” and “Getting It All Together “. You can purchase a book or make a comment by emailing her at

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