Knocking off another state in the quest to see all fifty, I enjoy the views of the West Virginia slopes as I gently sway through the roads over the Labor Day weekend. Unlike the jagged rocks of the western states, the ancient Appalachian Mountains curve gently over one another, all covered with trees and growth and greenery. The sun casts down through the leaves, but with the road so close to the narrow valleys, the mountains often block the direct sunlight.
I depart Pennsylvania and scoot through the oddly shaped tip of Maryland, cruising into the cozy hillsides of my destination. And after peaking over a mountain top, I find myself in the footsteps of a giant wind turbine. I love these guys (see “Breathing Windmills” from December 2011), so I pull over to take in its enormity and its clever ability to hide behind a mountain. The tranquil sound of the rhythmic, powerful mechanism touches me, inspires me, and as I glance up toward the sky, blows me away. When I finally pull my gaze away from the window, I reach down at my side, pick up my iPod and scroll to the last few songs to find “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Of course I plan ahead to have this song at hand, but I had no knowledge that I would find such technology on these country roads. When I pull away continuing down the winding pavement playing the song to fit my surroundings, I think life isn’t so old here.
An Added Bonus
Practically, I rent vehicles in conjunction with the duration and complexity of my expedition, and this single overnight excursion certainly doesn’t merit a high-end vehicle. But when I pick up my little blue mobile, I delightedly discover the economy car has an extra bonus: a sun roof ideal for the bright, sunlit, weekend drive. When I leave Pittsburg, I make a point to have the ceiling window open and the midday sun streaming through the car’s roof. The only previous time I enjoyed a similar perk, a sporty convertible upgrade, I drove it for two days in the Maryland rain and never enjoyed the sunshine on my shoulders.
Back in the car and weaving between the hills, the sun roof loses my affection. The homes of West Virginia, nearly at the road’s edge due to the deep slopes immediately behind them, dart in and out of my line of vision as the bright sunlight alternately streams in the sunroof and then hides behind the mountain sides. I squint and lower my sunglasses, then less than a mile later, raise them back into my hair as the sun ducks behind a mountain. Additionally, the trees blink and flash the sunlight through the sunroof so I finally decide to turn off the natural strobe light and close the extra window to the sky. If West Virginia is almost heaven, I’ll need to get better sunglasses before judgment day.