Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 31-Charleston, West Virginia-Mountain Grandeur

Dearest Readers,
Meet Trolley and Beauty–rescue greyhounds, trying to get to know Miss Etta James, who is sniffing their turf, ignoring them. We have arrived at the home of my cousin Julie and husband Jay Margolis, nestled in the hills above Charleston, West Virginia. The air is hot and muggy. Temperatures were in the 90s today. The dogs, by the way, are getting along famously. Etta darts around their long legs, and has commandeered Trolley’s green blanket as a munching station for a gift of a rawhide chew.

And meet Julie and Jay with me in the middle, clustered around a colorful dinner table setting. That’s green tomato gazpacho soup in our bowls. Chef Jay created a hearty tossed salad with apples and bounty from the garden, red bean burritos with guacamole and salsa, corn on the cob and Chardonnay from Otter Creek Vineyard in Brandon, Vermont. I am blessed to receive such loving food, and to connect with my relatives over a home-cooked meal.

Etta James and I departed our Virginia campsite earlier in the day mid-morning-ish, heading south and west. We picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway almost immediately, cruising its sharp turns and switchbacks at 35 miles per hour or less. Like the Pacific Coast Highway, this two-lane scenic parkway requires a slow ride. She paid us back in layered mountain overlooks, and distant vistas fading into misty blue. She’s an aging beauty of a highway, crumbling at the shoulders, sparsely traveled in this area.

We made our way to I-64, an engineering wonder cut through the Virginia and West Virginia Appalachians. The little red toaster Scion huffed over steep mountain ascents, and braced herself for twisting multi-mile drops at 6-7% grades. Semis roared past on the downside. We overtook them on the uptake.

West Virginia in her wildness welcomed us across the mountains.

I made a detour earlier, at the Covington Virginia exit, to take pictures for my friend Mitch Lindsey of the neighborhood where he grew up in the 70’s. He was curious about his former home, the Jackson River and the cave he cautiously explored as a kid. Here they are today. Donnie Bowker owns the place now. He was outside doing yardwork when I pulled alongside the curb, but demurred when I asked to take his picture. Thank you, Mitch for consistently calling me throughout this journey to check in, and see how I was doing, and where I was at that moment. His was a welcome voice in the deserts of the southwest, and along the northwestern wilderness roads.

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