Our Cross-Country Odyssey- Potomac, MD to Wentzville, MO (Days 22-24, July 18-20, 2010)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 22: Potomac, MD to Blackwater Falls, WV

We got completely overheated packing up the car, not really enjoying the 90+ degree heat and humidity, but Laura’s husband John promised us that the temperature would drop 10-15 degrees by the time we got to Blackwater Falls. We kept watching the temperature, which stayed up in the 90s, until we got there and all of a sudden it dropped to 79. Nice, cool, good, until we started walking to the falls. Hot and humid again. It stayed muggy and then, big surprise: a thunderstorm rolled in. We managed to set up the tent, make dinner and look at some maps before the rain started. Oh, innocent Gwen (our dog), who was not even afraid of thunder and lightning! She learned. It was really scary being in a tent with bright lightning and loud thunder! I think Gwen actually had the hardest time with the rain against the tent. It was pretty loud. So, of course, we got to pack up a wet tent in the morning. Yuck.
The drive there was beautiful. We enjoyed the mountains and valleys, the green forests and little towns. It was also good to have a short day and an early night. Had we not been up with the rain, we might have slept well and been up early! The Blackwater Falls were interesting, the gorge nice. It’s harde to be too impressed, though, when you’ve been in Wyoming and Yellowstone and all that…. Maybe we should have done the impressive scenery on the way back…. We noted a LOT more churches as we headed into West Virginia and this continued in spades in Kentucky. Also a lot of cemeteries, which all seem to be on top of hills…. (?) and some lovely penitentiaries, which all seem to have really good views. James had some culture shock when he went into the Sunoco station in Thomas, WV and counted 30 different types of chewing tobacco. He also witnessed a guy buying a case of hard liquor. Who buys a case of liquor in a Sunoco Station? Odd, too, because later they told us somewhere else that you couldn’t buy liquor in West Virginia on a Sunday…. (??) We liked the sign on a school nearby that said, “Have a great ummer!” And, by the way, what is a Fly Market? (Montrose, WV)

Day 23: Blackwater Falls, WV to Twin Knobs, KY

We headed south and then west and north again, doing a “hook” through West Virginia. We followed the mountains south, soaking up the beauty. We really liked the mountains. The little towns were very little…. James really liked the layered sedimentary rock and the combinations of rock and forest. There were some really interesting road cuts to make the highways. We saw a lot of dilapidated houses (some even literally falling apart or with trees growing out of the roof) and noticed that here the houses are set away from the trees. In South Dakota and Iowa, we noticed houses set in the middle of groves of trees in the vast fields. Here, the forest is everywhere, so people have cleared it to build houses and they are very much standing AWAY from the trees.

We visited the state capital at Charleston, WV, with its gold dome. It was very impressive. We then headed into Kentucky, hoping to get pretty far in. We struggled to find a grocery store in Huntington. Finally settling on pakckaged stuff in a bulk store. We headed west on routte 64 and got a ways in, pulling off to find camping near Cave Run Lake at Twin Knobs. We passed a Bar-B-Q take-out and did a U-turn to go back. “Forget the salad and sliced ham,” we said to ourselves, “this is Bar-B-Q in Kentucky!” We bought pork, baked beans, potato salad and col slaw and headed for our campground. We set up the tent to dry out a little while we ate. (How cute and ignorant it seems now….) We walked to the lake for a picnic and decided the greenish brown smelly water was not so picturesque… we went back to the campsite and set up the computer to watch a DVD. I have never been so muggy-hot in my life (and I grew up in Maryland and Virginia…). We literally were sweating from just sitting there. It was like a sauna. The heat was so humid that the sweat just rolled and rolled and rolled down our backs. We commented to each other that there had to be a thunderstorm coming and about 2 minutes later heard the thunder. No surprise! It was pre-storm mugginess…. We dashed to get everything in the tent, brush our teeth early, etc. and took a quick and largely pointless shower to cool off. The ranger came by to warn us about the storm coming in (no kidding!) and when it did, we just stood in the rain and revelled in the coolness of it all. The rain poured down in big drops and the lightning and thunder approached. When the wind started to pick up, we got in the tent. Poor Gwen had learned fear. She was panting and trembling.

The tent held up okay, although the edge of the things in one corner were pretty wet in the morning. I think the hardest part for us, especially James, is that you need to keep everything closed to keep the rain out, but then it is really hot in the tent. He kept trying to hold a little bit open so that there would be a breeze, but we didn’t really succeed. Another day putting away a really wet tent…. Yuck. This time it was on gravel, so it was dirty as well as wet. *sigh* We are currently doing our best to get west of the storm front… (And, yes, the Barbeque was tasty.)

Another random observation: James noticed in the northern states (like Minnesota and New York/Pennsylvania), that there were a lot of women driving riding mowers (mowing lawns) and men using weed-whackers. As we have continued into more southern climes, it is increasingly men riding the mowers (and still whacking weeds). What does this mean? A question to ponder…

Day 24: Twin Knobs to Wentzville, MO

We got up fairly early and headed out to see some of Kentucky’s sights. We got a little lost and confused trying to take the back roads. We get in trouble when the roads go through towns and it involves turning to stay on the same numbered road. We often end up suddenly on another road, without realizing that 801 just turned into 1274 going the wrong way and if we wanted to stay on 801, we had to turn left. So we saw beautiful downtown West Liberty, Kentucky (The Sorghum Capital) 3 times…. We got confused by the “Mountain Parkway” in KY, which is an unnumbered road. (How dare they?) One of my biggest pet peeves on this trip, by the way, is roads on the map whose number is not clear. Drives me crazy. Anyway, we eventually got to the correct road for the Red River Gorge.

A note on accents: I pick up any accent that people use. In Minnesota, the “o” had that special Swedish sound, in canada, the o’s and a’s got a little twist. In Maryland, I started talking like my sister, Laura. The problem. is Kentucky. I have to be really careful that they don’t think I am making fun of them, because the accent is SO strong,…. It sticks, too!

Anyway, we were slightly disappointed in the RRG, which was mostly forest if you didn’t get out of the car and walk at least 1.5 miles. We have a LOT of miles to go today, so decided not to. (Also the heat and humidity…) We enjoyed the surrounding scenery a lot, drove through Lexington, which has gorgeous architecture, found a Starbucks (YAY!) and headed down into the horse country of Kentucky. It is really beautiful and the Kentucky River Gorge was stunning. That one we chose to see three times

We were also impressed by Bardstown (go figger) and skirted Louisville on our way west. Had a heck of a time figuring out what state we were going into. The Kentucky map was not so clear and we somehow managed not to pick up the Indiana and Illinois maps. The US map does not have very clear state boundaries and the regional maps all seem to cover up to this area. For most of us for whom the center of the country is “flyover,” it is well nigh impossible to answer the question, “What state do you enter when you leave Louisville Kentucky going west?” The answer, by the way, is Indiana. We crossed southern Indiana and Illinois today on our way into St. Louis and beyond to find a nice hotel in Wentzville. Okay, so I think we might be in the next town actually (whatever is at exit 203 on I-70), but it is so cool to say “Wentzville” and you can say it is “from Whence we came…” (get it?) and giggle. We were watching that thunderstorm system I told you about, and, of course, it was off in the distance until, you guessed it, the moment we pulled into the hotel front entry- POURING rain on us, high winds, etc. and of course, Gwen had no intention of getting out of the car. So poor James got soaked trying to convince the dog to GET OUT! buy CBD products It is, however, a lot more fun to watch lightning from a hotel window than from inside a tent. (I did and it was.) We are dry (for now) and will get to sleep some time… We did about 570 miles today – over 11 hours of driving!

Fun town names: Needmore, Mingo and Droop, West Virginia; another Smoot. How many Smoots do you need, really?

Petersburg, WV, “Home of the Golden Trout” – ? (There’s only one trout and it’s made of gold? Huh?)
Index Community Church in West Liberty, KY: “You think it’s hot here….”
“THE RED MILE live harness racing” sign in Lexington, KY- someone messed with the E and now it says, “THE RED MILF – live harness racing.”
“Buddy Stump for Sheriff” on 31E south of Louisville, KY (Doesn’t it make you think Bloody Stump?)

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