Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

It’s a Girl!

I have always known I was adopted. My mom used to tell me how my very wealthy grandfather whisked his pregnant daughter out of Philadelphia and hid her at the Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers in Wheeling, West Virginia, until she had me. I was told the story of how some strange woman met my parents on a street corner and handed me over to them a few days after my birth. I was also told my birth mother was very young and had to love me very much when she had to decide to give me up for adoption so I may have the chance for a better life.

Well, two of those statements were true. I will find the Philadelphia story was untrue.

Before the “invention” of the internet, it was difficult to conduct a search for a birth parent. And I just didn’t care to know anything when I was a teenager. I even participated in a debate on WKKW in high school and was on the side of “Adoption Records Should Never Be Opened.”

But, my interest piqued a bit when I came home from college one weekend and a family member came to me with an interesting story. She went to a club and happened to see a girl my age who looked exactly like me and had similar mannerisms. After watching her for a while, she approached her and asked her if she was by any chance adopted.

She was taken aback, and then replied that, yes, she WAS adopted. She proceeded to tell  her birth date. It matched, along with the city, and the hospital. My family member was sure she was my twin and we just had to have been separated at birth.

So, it was arranged for us to meet, and I soon came face to face with Joyce, my possible twin. We brought our birth certificates,  talked for a while, comparing similarities, quirks, and medical conditions, and left with the promise we would get a blood test to make sure we were twins. I left the next day to go back to college, and along the way, lost her phone number and couldn’t remember her last name. All I knew and all I still know is that her name was Joyce and she was from Steubenville, Ohio. Well, that is, I believe her name was Joyce. It is funny how time has a way of making some memories foggy. For example, I have no idea where we met. Not a clue. I think we were at a kitchen table, but it could have been in a restaurant. I do not remember at all.

My brother, David, who is also adopted, made the trip to our state capital of Charleston, West Virginia, to search for our birth certificates. Imagine my surprise when he came back with two interesting pieces of information. The first was a birth certificate, but this one was different. This had the name of my birth mother, but her name was barely marked out.

 

I couldn’t believe it. I thought since adoption records were sealed, I would never know who my birth mother was. But, here was her name, staring at me. David also found out that Nancy, my birth mother, married and had two children in 1968. Their names were Mary Alice and Melissa Anne. So, she had another set of twins twelve years later?

I’m not going to go into detail about how David found all the Nancy Freelands who were born in 1939 and how my then-husband drove six hours into Ohio to meet one of them. That funny story will be saved for when I write my book.

Fast forward to 2017. After years of typing Nancy Jane Freeland into the google search bar and hunting for “Joyce Steubenville”  and “Melissa Mitchell,” on facebook, my daughter suggested I submit some saliva in a 23andme DNA kit.  I bought her a kit for Christmas and her results were interesting, but it was hard to decifer for sure who was on her father’s side and who was on my side. And I had just turned 60 and thought it was time to find my twin once and for all. I know what many of you may be thinking:

“Why did you wait so damn long?”

I guess I still feel that it is an intrusion.

But, I ordered the kit and was disappointed when I got the results. There was not one Freeland surname in any of my matches. My daughter, Alex, felt perhaps someone just happened to write down the false name, Nancy Jane Freeland, as other falsehoods prevailed. For example, my name at birth was Deborah Lee, but the director at the Crittenton Home answered a letter I wrote to her, stating that sometimes a nurse would name a baby so something would be written down before the adoption process concluded. So, maybe they did the same on a birth certificate, to again, hide the identity of the birth mother.  In that same letter, I also found out, the agency also lied to adoptive parents about the lives of the birth mothers. So, it was disappointing for a few days, until I got an email from a woman whom I matched with as a second cousin on 23andme.

She confirmed I was indeed Nancy Jane Freeland’s daughter, as our DNA matched. I was elated to have her name back in my mind as my birth mother. But, alas, my “twin” Joyce did not submit DNA to this company. So, I ordered a kit from Ancestry, hoping Joyce used this company. I wondered if she was even alive at this point. Surely she was hunting for me, too. Eyvonn, my newly found second cousin, did some research on my birth mother and told me my one half-sister, Mary Alice, had died when she was two days old. She couldn’t find any information on the other one, Melissa.

The day I spit in a vial and sent it off, I saw where people can make a free family tree at the Ancestry.com site. So, I gave my family tree a name and typed Nancy Jane Freeland in to start the process. A green leaf immediately appeared in the upper right hand corner of her information box. Curious, I clicked on it, and saw “hints” about my birth mother that are free to see without subscribing to their site. Among documents, I found a marriage certificate for a Nancy Jane Freeland Land. Well, that had to be a misprint….Freeland Land? Plus, I googled her name so much, it surely would have come up before if she remarried. But, I shrugged, and thought I might as well try it.

And what I found surprised me. About clicking on five or six links, the next one was titled, “Obituaries for Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009.”  I wasn’t going to click on it, as I was sure it was a dead end, but I did anyway.

“……She was born July 7, 1958, in Allegheny County, PA, a daughter of the late Nancy Jane Freeland Land.”

I thought for sure this Nancy Jane was not who I was looking for. First of all, my birth mother was from Moundsville. It never dawned on me she would ever move out of the area. That was not one of my brightest thoughts. Secondly, who was Barbara Jo Arbogast?  I was born in 1956. Surely, I would have found out if I had a half sister born two years later when my brother found the twins, who were born in 1968.

But, I continued to read because I like to finish what I start (That’s such a lie).

……She is survived by ……and 2 sisters, Amy Eli and her husband David, Clarksburg, and Melissa Mikulski, Youngsville, NC……”

Wait. What?

Melissa.

I sat stunned. Could this be the twin, Melissa, that was born in 1968?

I immediately went to facebook and typed Melissa’s full name in the search bar. And up came her picture. I’ll be damned. I remember that name from a few years before. She was from Shinnston and now lived in North Carolina. I dismissed her because, remember, my people stayed put in Moundsville. I just shook my head at my lack of common sense.

So, what the hell do I do now? I had three names….Melissa, Amy, and Barbara’s daughter, Brianna, to search on facebook. So, I basically stalked them and looked at a lot of their photos. I showed my co-workers photos of Amy, who I thought looked like me.

On a Thursday morning, I sat with my fingers on the keyboard and thought how to approach them. I needed to know if their mother was the same Nancy Jane Freeland who once lived in Moundsville.

I know how I am about friend requests on Facebook, and I know they might never see a private message unless were were facebook friends. I thought I would write each of them a message and see if anyone would reply.

So, on March 23, during my lunch at school, I wrote:

“Hi Amy! I’m not sure if you will receive this message or not. I also sent one to your sister, Melissa. I may be going down the wrong road, but I am trying to connect some dots with a genealogy study and was wondering if you are related to a Nancy Jane Freeland from Moundsville? Sept. 26, 1939? Thanks in advance. Vickie”

Ok, I liked that. It wasn’t an “in your face” admission that their mother might also be my mother. Again, I was still having intrusion issues.

My daughter squashed that thought.

“Mom. Tell them the truth.”  

No answer….Thursday or Friday.

By Saturday, I thought I would add a bit more. 7:15pm.-

I guess I should add that I am adopted (born in Wheeling in 1956) and Nancy Jane Freeland, age 17, is listed as my birth mother. I recently took a DNA test from 23andme and a second cousin on Harold Freeland’s mother’s side. (Ida Mae Koon) got in touch with me. I have had the information that Nancy Jane Freeland as my birth mother for years, (her name was lightly crossed out on my birth certificate) and I knew there was a possibility of being half-sisters to Melissa Mitchell, but didn’t want to intrude. I wasn’t aware of you or your sister Barbara until Ancestry.com showed Nancy Jane was then a Land. I googled that name the other day and found your sister’s obituary. I apologize for the intrusion now, but I would finally like to connect some dots after 60 years. Plus, I’d really like to know where my son’s red hair came from…lol I apologize if I cause any hurt in this process.”

and then added, “And I may be wrong.”

I friend requested Melissa and Brianna, but I thought I should write a public note on my facebook wall so they could see it. I know when I get friend requests, I go to that person’s facebook to see who the hell they are. So I wrote right on my facebook wall:

“So, a bit of news. When I sent in my DNA to Ancestry, it also let me create a family tree. When I did that, a “hint” came up for my birth mother. So, I clicked on it, and found a marriage certificate with an additional name at the end. So, I googled her with that name, and came across an obituary of a woman, born in 1958, two years after me. It gets better. She left behind two half sisters, one whom I was aware of (had her maiden name listed in obit), and the other lives in the Shinnston area. I have sent them messages and it looks if we aren’t friends they don’t receive the messages. If they do accept and they tell me their mother did indeed live in Moundsville, I will be certain I have 3 half-sisters (one who has passed), and not counting my twin, Joyce, who is still out there somewhere.
Pretty crazy, huh?”

Some more stalking. I saw where Amy was at Buffalo Wild Wings and she was commenting on her friend’s replies. She didn’t have a friend request button, so I decided to write in the comment bar. I started getting nervous.

at 7:57, I wrote:

“Hi, Amy. You don’t know me, but I sent you a message. You don’t have a friend request button…lol”

I’m such a goober.

And then it got crazy. I will elaborate in my book, which I feel like I am writing right now (sorry this is so long), but let’s just say it was fast and furious, and yes, Nancy Jane Freeland Land lived in Moundsville.

I found my birth mother and her family and they lived only about 15 minutes from me all this time. Nancy passed away in 1976.

Facebook is great and many posts and texts on the phone have followed our initial conversation.

Amy and I met at a nearby restaurant on April 6.

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Amy is on the left. I’m 13 years older

Matching hair styles, glasses, and our black and white ensembles for the evening. We text almost daily. I just love her and can’t wait to meet Melissa sometime this summer.

Part Deux: My Birth Father

Yep. Who would have thought? So, I just got my results from ancestry.com back on Tuesday, May 2 just as I was logging off of the computer for the night. So, at 11:00pm, I found out my “twin” didn’t  submit DNA here either, but I did find I had a first cousin. It had to be on my birth father’s side. What? I never dreamed I would find anything about him.

So, I messaged her on Ancestry the very next morning:

“Hi! I have just received my results tonight and see we are first cousins. I was adopted at birth in 1956 in Wheeling, WV, and recently found my birth family on my mother’s side. Very curious to see how we may be related. I do have a twin (separated at birth), but only remember her first name is Joyce. Any information would be appreciated to help me connect some dots.”
Vickie

Erin wrote back and in communication over the past few days,  suggested her uncle, who passed away some time ago, was most likely my birth father.  But, over time this week, she noticed our “centimorgans” were very high for just being first cousins. Her father, who is still alive, told Erin he had been with my birth mother one time and was never told he was the father.

That was last night. I spent most of the night feeling like I wanted to throw up. I just felt that it served no real purpose to tell him that the DNA put him as my biological father. I felt this was extremely intrusive of me when all I wanted to do was find my twin. I am feeling a bit better this morning as my new family is so very welcoming.

So, adopted 60 years and 6 months ago and today I can say I have three half sisters and 1 half brother, and a birth father who is probably in a state of shock.

I still need to find Joyce.

To be continued…….

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Cicada Love

I am here today to defend the poor cicada. I believe I am the only one on the planet who appreciates their dogged determination to live 17 years underground, emerge to have sex, and then lay eggs for the next generation. I find them fascinating and don’t think they are “gross,” the adjective I’ve been hearing a lot to describe them. They aren’t gross at all. They are harmless. Did you know they have five eyes? That right there makes them quite special, I would think.

But, no. My facebook friends, in general, do not share my love of these winged monkeys. I don’t know why. You can pick them up and pet them. This little guy in the photo below hopped onto my leg, wanting to be picked up. You can’t have too many friends, even if they only live about 6 weeks.

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When I was young, everyone called them “locusts.” I believe they were even called locust the last time they emerged in 1999. “The year of the locust.”  But, just to be straight, cicada is a member of the cricket family, where locust is a member of the grasshopper family.  Regardless, people aren’t afraid of crickets, so why should they be afraid of cicadas?  Could it be their red eyes?  One facebook friend said they were creepy looking.

Brood V made their appearance last week and I couldn’t wait to find one. Finally, one morning, I watched their arrival. They crawled out of the little lair and climbed up the tree from whence they fell 17 years before. They then struggled to get out of their bug shell, and once they did, clung to the tree bark for a few days to get ready to test their wings.

I had to laugh at a poster who took a picture of a cicada that just emerged and wrote, “omg, an albino cicada.” You have a lot to learn, Grasshopper. Cicadas all look like the photo below after emerging from their shell.

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Today was the first day I heard their chorus. It was loud, and sounded as if there was a spaceship hovering above the ground a la the movie “Day the Earth Stood Still.” It made me smile. I like the sound. It’s like the sound of spring peepers, but not really.

So, imagine my surprise (not really) when friends began posting on my facebook page  links to sites where people are making cookies out of the little fellows to sell at local Memorial Day festivals. What the hell, bakery guy?

Cicada abuse.

 

In the end, I hope all of you will step out of your comfort zone and approach a cicada and wish him well. He is only here for 5-6 weeks. He won’t bite you . All he wants to do is fly around, sing, and have sex.

And what’s wrong with that?

West Virginia Day Tripper

I’ve started a new blog about my jaunts around the mountain state for those who enjoy armchair traveling. I thought I would keep it separate from my blogs here.  I have a lot of  photos of my travels and plan on doing more, so I thought it would be good to house them all in one place. I hope you will visit  West Virginia Day Tripper. Thanks!

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Blackwater Falls

I am ready to move to a warmer climate. I am tired of snow, spinning tires, and 2 hour school delays. But, despite this long snap of frigid weather and mounting snow drifts, I still find inspiration to get in my car and snap some photos. It would be much easier to snap pictures during the other three seasons, when I actually want to get out of my car for different angles, but right now I am basically a “shoot from the car window”  kind of pretend photographer.

When my son was in for Christmas, we decided to drive to Blackwater Falls right after a frigid couple of days. We wanted to see if the falls were frozen. What was I thinking?

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We stopped to take photos of this lovely old house.

Blackwater State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, West Virginia near the town of Davis. The park is about 1 1/2 hours away from my home.  It is named for the cascading falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge 62 feet and then tumble through the Blackwater Canyon, which is roughly an eight mile long gorge. The so-called “black” water is from tannic acid from the nearby fallen hemlock along with red spruce needles.

According to wvencyclopedia.org

“The river enters Blackwater Falls State Park at an elevation of 3,040 feet. For the next 2.2 miles it is a wild river, dropping 57 feet at the main falls and then descending another 560 feet, before leaving the park. The river, geologically young, has carved the spectacular, deep, and almost vertical walls of Blackwater Canyon, which cuts through the surrounding plateau. Blackwater Lodge opened in 1956 on the south rim of the canyon, and a 65-site campground was opened in 1961. The state park, consisting of 1,688 acres, was established in 1937.”

I have never been to the falls in the winter. Summer is a beautiful time to visit the whole area, but we wanted to see what it looked like after a few days of frigid temperatures. I was not too smart and wore tennis shoes and my gloves might as well have been made of thin cotton. But, I had my camera and it was great having my son along with me.

We arrived at the falls parking lot and were surprised to see so many cars. I thought we would be all alone, seeing that it was so cold. I noticed license plates from Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Ohio among the many from West Virginia.

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Did I mention there were 214 steps to get down to the falls? I hadn’t been there in years and hoped the slipping and sliding would be worth it.

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It was a beautiful walk and I was so happy the wind was calm. I am not a fan of cold, but I trudged on, hoping the falls would not disappoint.

They didn’t There were parts that were frozen, but a majority of the falls were plunging, business as usual. I was taken back by the surrounding beauty. This was a winter wonderland, no doubt about it.

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Trees in the canyon below showed the beauty of winter.

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My son is a great photographer. His photos look a lot better than mine.

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Blackwater Falls, one of the most photographed areas in the state.

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So, if you go down, you must go back up. In all honesty, the stairs that snaked their way down to the falls had many platforms along the wall. There were benches and different viewing areas for those who did not want to take the whole journey. It was not bad, and I am a complainer.

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My son was able to make this snowman while he waited for me at the top of the stairs..just kidding. I did fine. But, we felt we deserved a break, so we stopped at the Mountain State Brewing Co. for a beer.

 

IMG_3945All in all, I was glad we ventured into the mountains to visit Blackwater Falls. The best part, though, was spending the day with my son.

 

Driving Through Manhattan

My daughter usually takes the Megabus or Greyhound from New York City when she comes home to West Virginia for a visit. I don’t know what got into me this last visit, but I offered to drive her back to her upper East Side apartment so she wouldn’t have to take the bus back. Why did I do that?

I never wanted to drive in New York City. I have been there now about seven times to visit my daughter, and the traffic is a nightmare. I have either taken a plane or Amtrak, but knew I would never drive into Manhattan. Oh, I don’t mind sitting in traffic. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me about New York City traffic is how other drivers don’t seem to mind cutting people off.  It should be called Sideswipe City.

But, I prepared myself. I had my trusting  GPS system, which I named Maggie, and I marked the route I wanted to take to avoid most of downtown Manhattan. She lives in Yorkville, which is in the upper east side. I was ready.

It was a nice drive for the most part. I really enjoy driving on Route 68 through Maryland. I have driven that route many times. But, I then had to turn north and head on Interstate 81 and then Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania and immediately noticed the heavy volume of long haul trucks. I mean, it was like being in the middle of a truck parade, minus truckers throwing candy out of their windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind driving in the least. I love taking road trips, but I had to wonder if this interstate is a main thoroughfare for truckers. Not only where there many many trucks, but there was a huge debris field of rubber tire pieces lying in the road and off to the side. It was a tire graveyard in some respects. Oh, sure, I see tire pieces along our Interstate 79 all the time, but this was different.  And then we got to see one in the making.

A truck had blown a tire and as we passed him we could see the tire shred right before our eyes. He managed to get off to the right side of the road, but not until he left a wake of rubbery debris in the middle of the road. It’s a wonder it didn’t fly up and hit another car.

Well, as I thought about this, a car in front of us ran over another tire shred and it flew up in the air and came right at us. And there was nothing we could do. It hit my front passenger headlight and then went under my car. Thank goodness it didn’t hit the windshield. I looked in my rear view mirror to make sure nothing was punctured and we continued on our semi-merry way.

As we approached New York City, after about 7 hours on the road, my GPS told me to take the next right. I looked up at the road sign that clearly said to stay on this road, as I needed to take the George Washington Bridge, but my daughter told me to follow what Maggie is saying.

Where are you , bridge?

Well, Maggie was banned to the glove compartment after she took us down by some loading docks along the river in New Jersey. This is after she made me go through a toll. I immediately turned around  as I  knew something was very wrong.  Maggie then took me the wrong way on the toll road.

“Dammit, Maggie, I don’t want to go West.”

After paying a toll three different times, I  found myself in front of the Holland Tunnel……..the $13 entrance fee Holland Tunnel. Seriously? It costs that much money to drive through a damn tunnel?  I was mad at Maggie, who made me backtrack three times and pay a toll three times only to drive me to the $13 Holland Tunnel. This is where she went into the glove compartment.

The Holland Tunnel is considered to be one of the most high-risk terrorist target sites in the United States. Is that why I had to pay $13 to travel through it? I didn’t understand.

Did not want to go this way…sigh

This was not good. The George Washington Bridge would have taken me along New Jersey and I would have been able to drop down from north Manhattan right onto the FDR Parkway, avoiding those mean Manhattan streets. But, now, with traveling through the Holland Tunnel, I would be deposited onto South Manhattan, where the street names don’t start with a number yet…..and I had to travel all the way to 95th Street. Great.

My daughter didn’t recognize any of the streets at first, but quickly got her bearings. I began seeing NYU flags on some of the downtown buildings, so I knew she would be able to pin our location. We were on the west side of town and we needed to get over to 1st Avenue, which would take us to her apartment. We passed through Greenwich Village via my daughter’s directions. I hoped she was going to do a better job than Maggie. After all, the glove compartment was too small for my daughter. I put my trust in the fact that this was her city and she was taking me on the right roads.

The traffic wasn’t so bad on the side streets. Oh, it was congested with a mix of cars and people on bikes with no bike lane, but it was manageable. You have to understand that I did not want to do this.  I was adamant in the fact that I was never going to drive through Manhattan. If there was a bucket list for things not to do before one dies, this would be #1 on my list. But, I now had no choice. I was in Manhattan…..in a car.  I’m not Catholic, but felt like doing the sign of the cross as we approached 1st Avenue.

Once we turned left on 1st Avenue, I gripped the steering wheel and charged on.

Drivers in this city are crazy. The best advice I can give is to never hesitate. Once you hesitate, a double decker sight-seeing bus will pull into your lane, even if you are there. I had to honk my horn, which is illegal in many places in Manhattan. We were almost side-swiped  more times than I can count on my fingers. Taxi drivers must have their own laws, bikers zipped in and out of traffic, and buses think they are the only ones on the road.

I found out quickly not to drive in the far left lane as delivery trucks will just stop there to unload and then you are stuck. People won’t let you back into traffic. Motorists in New York City aren’t courteous. They have places to go and people to see. My license plate clearly stated I was from West Virginia. And I was being eaten alive. I think other drivers smelled my weakness, as they were changing lanes right on top of me. I hope that some day they had to drive through West Virginia and were stuck on the top of Mt. Storm after a heavy snowfall. Yeah, city drivers, take that.

My daughter was nervous, as she was the passenger and on the side where most of the potential side-swiping was taking place. After driving about 45 blocks, with about 50 more long blocks to go, my daughter, who was holding on to something on her side of the car, looked over at me when we stopped at a red light and said:

“You’re sitting there, smiling, you weird-o.”

I was smiling. I couldn’t help it. I was driving in New York City! I guess I was having fun with the realization that I was doing something so brave, so daring, as to actually drive 95+ blocks through Manhattan. I deserved a prize or something. I was not scared at all. In fact, I was kind of enjoying the drive. I have been a guest in a taxi numerous times on these streets, sometimes wondering if I was going to arrive alive, but this time I was in charge of my own fate in my naive West Virginia Subaru.

I arrived on her street with no new dents or scratches. I was just going to drop her off and get the hell out of the city before rush hour.  But, she talked me into staying and I found a place to park on the street just one street over. We had a nice afternoon in Central Park north and we headed to a great Thai restaurant that is a requirement each time I visit.

I left the next morning at 4:15, hoping to beat morning traffic. This city never sleeps.  I followed the FDR right over the George Washington Bridge and back the way I was supposed to travel on my way in. It was so much easier.

But, I would never have had this experience. I can honestly say I drove through New York City.

Thanks Maggie. I may let you out of the glove compartment next trip.

Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 2: Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain

I woke up early this morning as I wanted to make a full day of my short time in Vancouver.  I jumped out of bed to look out of the window to make sure it wasn’t raining. If it was raining, I was going to go to the Vancouver Aquarium.

Well, the first thing on my agenda was to eat breakfast and then hop on the trolley and hop off somewhere in Stanley Park.  I walked downstairs to figure out where I wanted to eat, and decided to waltz  in to the Sutton Place’s  restaurant,  Fleuri. I got the breakfast buffet and it was very good. I really like Sutton Place. It’s a very classy place.

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After breakfast I looked at the Vancouver Hop on Hop off  trolley tour  schedule and decided since it didn’t make its first run until 9:20, I would get an early start and I just had the doorman wave a taxi up to the door. I really am feeling the love. I didn’t even have to stand on the curb and hail one. This is high class, people.

I had him drop me off at the  First Nations totem poles. (For those of you who don’t know your canadian history, First Nations people are the same people we call Native Americans). Same thing, only different.

No trip to Stanley Park is complete without visiting its famous landmarks: Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock, the Hollow Tree, Beaver Lake and Prospect Point. I didn’t see Lost Lagoon up close and personal and I didn’t get to Beaver Lake because beavers bite and I didn’t want one sneaking up on me and taking my leg for a tree stump or something. No, actually, I just didn’t get around to it today.

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Ouch

Ouch

The nine totem poles at Brockton Point are British Columbia’s  most visited tourist attraction. I had to see these totem poles. My fourth grade class makes totem poles out of paper towel tubes every fall when we study the Pacific Northwest Indians. It would be great to have some photos of them to use in their designs.  So, I took a lot of pictures. I don’t think I will be using the photo right above, though.

After I took  totem pole pictures,  I could see the seawall and decided to take a little stroll. A little stroll in my world means walking about 50 feet and then leaving. But, today I was feeling it. The breeze from the water and the Brocton Point Lighthouse in the distance made me want to walk as much as I could on a stupid ankle partially messed up because of arthritis.  I guess the ankle wanted me to walk, too, because it wasn’t hurting  much and I just kept walking. (I sound like Forrest Gump, but at least he ran.)  I ended up walking around a majority of the park, more than 4 miles. That’s 4 miles more than I usually walk. I took a lot of great pictures, because I’m a great pretend photographer.

Brocton Point Lighthouse

Brocton Point Lighthouse

 

A closer look

A closer look

 

I just kept walking because the sights were just unbelievable.

 

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I came across a park bench with a bouquet of flowers lying on the ground. Uh oh…I imagine something didn’t go as expected, perhaps.

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The Vancouver Canadian geese seem much happier than the ones permanently visiting West Virginia. Well, that’s what I think.

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Lions Gate Bridge and what's on that rock?

Lions Gate Bridge and what’s on that rock?

Why, it’s a girl in a wet suit

Close up of the girl on a rock

Close up of the girl on a rock

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The girl on a rock represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea and the necessity to use the sea for the benefit of all.

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There was an orange hazard cone on the seawall, so I cropped the whole sea wall out of this photo and like this much better.

 

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I was excited to take this picture of a great blue heron until I realized they were all over the place…which was still exciting for me.

 

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It wasn’t until I was under the Lions Gate Bridge and there was no way out but to continue walking did I realize I was not very smart because I didn’t bring any water. I’m not the brightest star in the sky, that’s for sure. But, I decided I had to see one more landmark: Siwash Rock. When I came around the fifteenth bend or so, there it was, smiling at me. (Well, you know.)

 

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Yay…there it is!

 

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Such a relaxing place, this seawall

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and now with a kayaker. He was all over the place.

 

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After I took a gazillion pictures,  it started raining. So, I hopped on the hop on hop off  bus and went to the Aquarium. It was expensive, I thought, for $30, but it was a nice place to hang out while it was raining.

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After I left the aquarium, and went and stood in the line for the Hop on Hop off shuttle. I’m thinking they should re-name it the Hop Off Shuttle, because once you are off,  good luck getting back on. I waited an hour to catch a trolley. After I finally caught one, we stopped at the next stop, and there were at least 15 angry people. One lady had waited for 2 hours.

Well, I had to hurry home and get ready for my big evening on top of Grouse Mountain.  I was picked up at 6:45, and climbed into a van with 6 other people. We were supposed to go on a trolley, but since it was RAINING,  people must have canceled. We got to the top of Grouse Mountain, only to find that many of the activities were closed down for the night. And since it was raining, my thoughts of getting a picture of  Vancouver and the supermoon was all but gone. But, I did see two grizzly bears and managed to get a picture of one before it attacked our bus driver. Ok, kidding.

Nice climb to the top

Nice climb to the top

We did get to see orphaned grizzly cubs, Grinder and Coola as they hung out right in front of us, separated by an electrified fence. It was eery being so close to the bears.  One looked at me as I told him the same thing I always say to animals, “Look how pretty you are.”

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Grouse Mountain Bear Cam http://www.grousemountain.com/wildlife-refuge/bear-cam

I got home around 10:30 and am packing everything up as tomorrow I head on my Rocky Mountaineer adventure. Good-bye Vancouver. I hope to see you again!

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