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!
Posts Tagged ‘Vickie Mendenhall’
As you can tell by my lack of blog posts lately, I have become preoccupied with photography. I should be working on my third book or writing here more often, but it seems to have taken a back seat to what has become my passion: pretending to be a photographer.
My father was a photographer when he wasn’t working as owner and broker of his real estate company. He used a press camera which I wish to God I had in my possession. He loved taking pictures and vacationing through West Virginia meant getting out of the station wagon at each hairpin turn so he could get a photo of the “beautiful view.” There were at least 150 “beautiful views” per vacation. I didn’t mind because I was little and a ham for the camera. He has since passed, but I honestly feel him beside me when I frame a shot.
I love photography more than writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy receiving a royalty check each month from Amazon for my 2 ebooks. It’s not much, but it still pays a bill or two, so that is nice. But, I’ve decided to concentrate on writing after I retire in a few years. My summer writing time has been replaced by day tripping and photography.
When you focus your camera, it is interesting to find out what your interests are. I had no idea when I started taking pictures that my eye would find old barns appealing. Old stuff. Maybe that’s why I like to haunt antique shops.
But, I credit my love of old barns to my grandfather. He didn’t actually live on a farm, but purchased one to house his prized palomino horses. He named it Cherry Farm and I loved going there. I believe he rented the house to a family who took care of the horses. There was an old barn full of pigs. And I was sold. A couple of years later that barn and the pigs inside burned to the ground, but my love of barns lived on.
So, the first time I decided to take a drive, I was surprised what caught my eye. I seem to like old bridges, barns, and abandoned buildings. Who knew I would take back roads in hope of finding a wonderful farm to photograph. Here are just a few of the barns I have photographed in the past few weeks.
Old Route 250 on the Marion/Taylor County line. It’s a goat farm and I love driving by it.
Dean Drive. This is on the road behind my former home. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times…funny how it is now a
The rest are from my little jaunt yesterday.
I took about ten photos of this “truck graveyard.” Of course, that’s not really what it is.
Had to put the dead tree in this shot.
This is the best I could do. It was on a winding road with no place to pull off. I rolled down my window, and aimed.
This is what happens when we finally get a break from the snow and the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon. For those readers who are barn lovers, I drove from Fairmont south on I-79 and took the Lost Creek Exit. I drove on Route 270 from Lost Creek to West Milford and took Duck Creek Road (love the name) to Watters Smith State Park, which was CLOSED…bummer. I doubled back to get some photos I missed on the way and then took I-79 to the Jane Lew Exit in Lewis County and took Route 19 to Clarksburg. I had never been on either road before, so I had fun.
When I was young I told my grandma I had been on every road in West Virginia. She laughed at me and I got mad at her. In my defense, it seemed like I had. My dad couldn’t be away from his real estate business for too long (although I know now he really didn’t want to be in the car with my mom for very long), so our vacations were traveling around West Virginia.
I still love traveling around this state. The barns are becoming old and decrepit. Pretty soon a new Walmart or housing development will spring up on old farmland and yet another barn will be just a memory. I hope to photograph a lot of them before time, or perhaps another derecho takes one down.
I made my first gingerbread house this past Christmas. I am fifty-seven years old and had never made one, so I decided that would change. I informed my children, who are now 28 and 26, it is never to late to begin a tradition, and that when they came home from eastern Europe and New York City to stay with me over the holidays, we would be making gingerbread houses….beer included in the mix.
I have been researching gingerbread houses and even have a board on pinterest on the subject. If I was going to create a gingerbread house, I really needed to know what the hell I was doing.
I started by looking at recipes for creating the gingerbread walls and roof for the house and I thought to myself, “Oh, hell no.” No, this gingerbread house newbie was going to have to buy kits this first year. The thought of mixing and rolling and baking on top of my Christmas cookies and planned dinner was too much for me.
So, I found kits at Walmart. I also started accumulating candy and stuff to put on the gingerbread house. I bought other bases because I wanted to have room to make a yard. I was ready.
The best part of this was the fact that my kids, now grown, seemed to be excited to put together a gingerbread house. When they were small, I was so busy getting ready for a Christmas Eve sit- down dinner at our house for 25 people, baking cookies and cleaning, that I just never thought about gingerbread house building. It took us a while to get everything cooked and ready. I even used china and didn’t think about using plastic bowls or plates for salads or desserts until I was just tired of it all. So, our gingerbread house building I guess had to wait.
Better late than never.
My son has been living in the Republic of Georgia and already had plans to alter his gingerbread house. He was thinking of Georgian architecture and went to the kitchen and came back with a knife. He sat, studied, and then began manipulating his walls and roof. He was smiling, so I knew he came up with an idea.
Alex, on the other hand, jumped right in and began icing her walls to the base. She remarked several times she was going to win. Before we started, we decided we would post our houses on my facebook wall and ask my friends to vote on the best gingerbread house. No one would know who built what house. Alex was on a mission to win.
I, on the other hand, was dealt a blow when my gingerbread house was missing the icing bag. Really? Strike one on momma’s house. I tried to improvise by getting a zip lock bag and cutting a hole in one of the corners. Total fail. I made quite the mess.
We had a lot of fun though. After Alex spent a lot of the time bragging about how her house was going to win, disaster struck….sort of. She put so many round little balls on her roof, that her roof slid right off the house. It was too heavy. She used a few choice curse words and then just sat and looked at her award winning gingerbread house.
So, her roof became a side yard. She exclaimed that she was done, but then grabbed a few gingerbread people and started icing them on as the roof. It left a hole in middle. As she finished her bottle of Blue Moon beer, she placed it into the middle of her house and proclaimed her creation, “a ginger-ALE- house.” Way to recover, young grasshopper.
Adam, meanwhile, changed the whole thing and created a drive-in. Yes, a drive-in movie theater. I was ready to start calling him Gingerbread Fred as he had pieces of gingerbread lying on the table with no direction in mind. And then it came to him. The result was creative and so very cute.
I loved his result! It’s a Wonderful Life was even playing at the gingerbread drive-in and the scene where George tells Mary he would lasso the moon for her was on the screen. He had little cars with the speakers by the car and I just loved it.
So, we were done. I was pretty proud of my first gingerbread house.
It was a basic house, but I liked how I made the icicles. I also put tootsie rolls as logs.
Now it was time for the judging. We cleaned off the messy table and lined up the contest entries.
I then put it on Facebook, where my friends obliged and immediately began voting. People were also guessing who they thought each gingerbread house belonged to. Most of the people thought I made the drive-in, Alex made the cottage, and Adam made the beer hall. It was fun. I won, of course, but as I got votes for “best workmanship,” the kids both received kudos for being creative.
In the end, our first gingerbread house building was a success, minus my icing fiasco.
I smiled when Adam said he wanted to do it again next year.
Gingerbread Fred will be thinking ahead.
Alex, on the other hand, will probably take a more modest approach and wait until her house is done before bragging.
And I am just happy I had both of my children on the same continent, spending an evening with their mom making memories.
When people turn 40, 50, or 60, they usually get gag gifts from friends who want to rub it in their faces that they are getting up there in the age category, Black balloons add a festive touch to the marked occasion. And when the fun is over, the balloons burst and the gag gifts are put in a closet and forgotten about until they can be re-gifted when their next broken down friend reaches the golden age of creakiness.
I’m all about re-gifting goofy presents to the next birthday boy or girl, but wait a minute. What if you can actually use a gag gift? I think I can.
When I turned 50, I received some strange gifts to mark my creaky, decrepit, broken down, sapless body. Some people receive prune juice, arthritis rub, or Depends undergarments. I was presented, among other treasures, a magnifying glass, a saggy boob bra, and a pill compartment thingy.
It’s actually pretty big, you know, for all my medicine. I laughed when I opened this one, but after the party was over, I walked my rickety legs over to closet and shoved it somewhere to sit forever beside the rest of the gag gifts. I did later re-gift the bra to the friend who bought it for me since she was just a year behind me.
One day, a year or two after the wonderful birthday party, I couldn’t remember if I took my blood pressure pill or not. Strange. I mean, what the hell? Did I take it or didn’t I? Well, shit, this was frustrating. I didn’t want to take another one because maybe it would kill me or put me in a coma.
Hey, where is that pill compartment thingy my dear friend Debbie bought for me? I could actually use the thing.
And I have for several years now. Every Sunday morning I put a new week of blood pressure pills, calcium pills, and multi-vitamins in each little container so I won’t forget to take my medicine. Good grief, I am old!
When I travel, I really don’t have the room in my purse or bag for this giant pill reminder, so I carry pill compartment junior when I hit the road.
Pretty sad, aren’t I? I’m using my gag gift and purchasing more for my benefit. Yes, I am an old fogey now. But, I need to remember to take my medicine since I have little brain cells left.
But, take a look at the photo….
Yes, that’s right. You can barely see some activity going on in compartment M (which means Monday 🙂 Today is Saturday and on Tuesday I realized I missed my Monday medicine.
I obviously need a 24 hour nurse.
When my daughter graduated from NYU in May, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to Central Park after all the activities. We did and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Spring had sprung and people, wildlife, and flowers were all around us. I took pictures of turtles,
my daughter watching ducks
and just took in the beauty of the park.
I then walked by and noticed a beautiful tree littered with initials carved into its base. I kept walking, but then smiled and turned around. It needed to have its picture taken and I immediately thought “blog post idea.” I’m just now getting around to writing about the tree with the initial tattoo (ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
This tree had initials carved on it on all sides. I am terrible at estimating how old the tree is, but I am sure many of the initials were from long ago. I thought about the people who carved the initials. Long ago men carried pocket knifes. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I imagined people strolling along the path in the park, holding hands when they decide to mark that specific moment in time by carving their symbolic love in the tree, a permanent reminder of their love.
This custom has been around for centuries. I know one instance of tree carving, but decided to google and see what else came up on the subject.
Well, I’ll be damned. There is even a name for tree carving: arborglyphs.
The lifespan of an arborglyph ( I feel smart writing that) is of course limited to that of the tree. If a tree in the forest dies, so does its etchings…eventually. So, archeologists are confined to perhaps a few hundred years with the tree carvings, unlike petroglyphs, which may date back thousands of years.
Too bad trees don’t last forever. What a story that could be told!
Which brings me to a lesson I teach every year about the lost colony of Roanoke and a famous tree carving.
On May 8, 1587, a group of 117 men, women and children left England to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. The colonist,s under the command of John White, headed for a destination on the Chesapeake Bay, but landed further south.
This colony on Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the New World. White, then governor of the colony–left the settlement and returned to England to get more supplies. Because of England’s war with Spain, there were no ships to spare. Three years passed before John White could return to Roanoke Island with the supplies. When he finally returned to the colony in 1590, he found the island deserted. The only trace left by the colonists was a mysterious ‘cro‘ carved in a tree, and ‘croatoan‘ carved in a fence post. Croatoan was the name of the nearby island and a local tribe of Native Americans.
It is possible that some of the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke may have joined the Croatans. Roanoke Island was not originally the planned location for the colony and the idea of moving elsewhere had been discussed.
In this case of tree carving, it was done for the purpose of relaying a message. There was no heart with an arrow through this one. But, in the end, it was etched in a tree and made the fourth grade history book ever since.
So, the next time you want to show your love by etching the big plus symbol between your name and the one you love, remember that announcement will last a couple of hundred years.
So, be sure of it.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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:
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.
The sign was still the same.
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.
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.
I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.
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.
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.
I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.
The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.
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.
Sit at your own risk.
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.
Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.
A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.
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.
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.
Even though I got to see Lake Louise yesterday on the Icefields Parkway tour, I deliberately stayed to the left by the boat house during our short stop. I didn’t want to go inside or even see the front of the hotel and veranda. I wanted to be surprised.
Our Sun Dog tour guide dropped us off and I stood in a short line in the immense lobby.
My room wasn’t ready yet, as it was only 3:30 and check-in time was at 4:00. No problem, I will just sit down on a chair and take some pictures. I looked up at the enormous chandelier. Some women were looking at me. Well, not really.
I didn’t want to lug my bags around or leave them behind the desk, so I continued to scope out the lobby area from my seat. Out of nowhere , a white labrador retriever walked slowly right by me, just taking its good old time. I then saw a dog bed and a dog food bowl near a pillar with a picture of the dog and an explanation. I wanted to get a picture of the dog on his bed, because a picture of an empty dog bed just didn’t cut it, but he never sauntered back my way. I found out later the dog is the official mascot at this pet friendly resort. If you can’t bring your own dog, he is here to welcome you. I found a short video from 2010
I had a great people watching spot and honestly, the 30 minute wait went by quickly. I got back into the short line and got my room key and I was on my way. I was in room 501. I had to walk a far distance down from the elevator. I loved it though, because it reminded me of a scene from the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining.
When I opened up the door, I immediately saw two suitcases by the door. Uh oh.This can’t be good. I walked all the way back down the hall until I found two maids cleaning a room. They were so very friendly and called for a manager to come up immediately. They brought out a chair from the room they were cleaning so I would be more comfortable. I sort of smiled to myself, because this was the first bump on my previously unblemished trip.
The manager appeared in a few minutes and immediately looked up the information. In the meantime, she asked if there was anything I would like to drink while I waited, and she called down for a coke to be brought to my room. She then looked at her papers and informed me that was indeed my room. The luggage must have been part of a tour group that had not arrived as of yet and was put in the wrong room. She took the bags out of the room, and I entered. This was taken care of in less than 5 minutes. Not much of a blemish. I put my stuff down and looked about the room. There were so many windows. I was at the end of the building. No wonder it was a long walk down the wing of the building. I had so many windows.
Here was my view from my room:
Room service brought up my coke and I then looked to the left. Another great view.
I looked out the right side of the room, which was right beside a field and the tree line. What the hell?
Seriously? Was this a grizzly bear in the side yard?
It was. Whaaat? This is crazy.
Can this trip get any better? I grabbed my room key and my purse and walked like I was on fire down the hall, into the elevator, down 5 floors, out the door, stopped to take this picture of the veranda-
I don’t know why I stopped to take this picture. After all, on was on fire, right? I hurriedly made a right on the path and noticed he was still in the field. He had walked over a bit and now had an audience. Please forget me with the amount of bear shots I am going to post, but I was excited to see a grizzly bear.
This was my favorite photo of him.
The management was right on top of things and didn’t let us too close. I had a contingency attack plan. See those two little girls in front of me? Just kidding….maybe, I mean, you just never know what would happen if a bear came after you.