Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Our camp in Milton, West Virginia.

We thought Kentucky was beautiful. West Virginia has Kentucky beat in the beauty department. Rolling hills and mountains covered with trees, wildflowers in abundance, and so many places for people to enjoy the abundance nature has to offer. I think anyone who owns land here must also own a ride-on mower—it is that green.

While we stayed at the KOA in Milton, West Virginia, and being that we were there for only one full day, I took the opportunity to do a couple loads of laundry. As I was putting my wash into the dryers, a boy stopped by to see if any washers were open and then he was gone. He returned a few minutes later with a load and got it started. When I came back to fold my dried laundry, the boy came in again to move his family's laundry into a dryer. I was very impressed that he even knew how to do laundry and asked him if he did this at home, too, to which the answer was yes, occasionally.

We got to know this boy a bit because he spent most of his day and evening with us. His name is Colby, he's 12 years old and shares my grandson, Jaydon's, birthday, July 29th. He comes from Pocatalico, West Virginia, where his father is a firefighter. Colby has an older sister who has moved out on her own and, because of this, he had no one but mom and dad to keep him company on this weekend camping trip. Thus, he latched onto us—and Ollie and Louis and Brandy, and the electric scooter, too. He spent the evening around the campfire with us as well. I bet his parents welcomed the short respite even though Colby's a good boy—very polite and considerate, and very West Virginian. There were a couple of words he said that I asked him to repeat. In one instance, he was saying 'mile' but it sounded like 'mall.' Once I got the hang of his pronunciations, I had no trouble following his tales.

I felt badly the following morning because Colby came by to see us before we left but we weren't ready and moving slowly so I asked him to come back in about a half hour, but we didn't see him again. As we were pulling out of the campground we saw that his family's trailer was gone. We didn't get to say good-bye, but he has my card so I hope he knows he can send me an email. 

Our RV GPS had been freezing up and shutting itself down while on the road so while we were in Milton, Rob contacted Rand McNally and together they went through wiping the device clean of all software and reinstalling the system. We found that it didn't solve the problem and we had to rely on our smart phone Google GPS. Now, the RV GPS knows how long our rig is including the car and our height and weight. It knows to keep us off certain roads unsuitable to our limitations such as low bridges or overpasses, too narrow roads or roads with weight limits. The smart phone Google GPS just thinks we're a car. It took us on a very curvy, albeit a not-to-be-missed-gorgeous, road with sharp switchbacks to get us to Mount Nebo. Even though Louis had been given his motion sickness medication, this road proved too much for him. He didn't throw up, but he spent almost two hours in my arms feeling tense and obviously nauseous. Poor kitty.

We arrived in Mount Nebo by Summersville Lake no worse for wear. The campground is beautifully maintained and our site has the best view of the lake out of all of them. And they have a lighthouse. The lighthouse has a pretty cool story and it can be read at I hope you check it out.

We had planned to rent a boat on Tuesday and explore the lake, but the sky was gray and looked like the rain would start in the afternoon. It started during the night instead and we had a healthy deluge yesterday afternoon. Because of the weather, we changed our reservation to tomorrow, and hope the sunshine we have today continues throughout Friday.
I'll have to let you know how it turned out, preferably with some awesome photos.

Instead of boating on Tuesday, we took the opportunity to take the 38 mile drive down to Beckley, which has the closest UPS Store, to ship the RV GPS back to Rand McNally. While in Beckley, we visited the Exhibition Coal Mine, which was exceptional. It gave you a clear idea what life was like for coal miners and their families living in 'company' towns in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We even got a tour of a real coal mine. We didn't go deep into the mine, but it was deep enough that without light you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. We know this because our guide, Roger, turned out the lights to prove it to us. Our guide is a retired coal miner, 28 years, and worked as an electrician. He had a thick West Virginian accent and a great sense of humor to go with it. He made it fun.

I have found some impressive photo opportunities within the confines of the campground, so along with a few other places we've explored, check it out:

The view of Summersville Lake from our campsite.

This is the tent camping site I'd choose. Secluded and in the woods. The last people there weren't good campers, though. They left evidence of their stay.
A beautiful place to take a walk.

An interesting building on a adjacent property.
A view of the lighthouse and our camp site. That's the Beast, lower right.
This is taken from the lighthouse looking toward the lake. That's the Beast in blue.
This is what was left of a burned-down house we came across on a drive.
Found these wonderful sunflowers while on a drive. We stopped and asked if I could photograph them.

A view of the lake from a vista point.
At the Exhibition Coal Mine.
The 'Company' church.
The inside of the 'Company' church.
A one-holer.
An example of a bedroom in an average coal miner's home that consisted of a parlor, kitchen and usually one bedroom.
A typical stove in a coal family's home. I didn't ask if they burned wood or coal in it.
A typical cupboard. Notice the flour sifter built in on the left side.
A miner's hat with a carbide lamp attached.
An old-fashioned flashlight, eh?
A typical Bachelor's Shanty. It measured approximately 8' by 12'.
Inside the Bachelor's Shanty.
A typical Supervisor's house.
Rob checking out the 1932 GE refrigerator found in the supervisor's house. The docent said someone accidentally threw out the wire shelves. Doh!
That's an old Maytag washing machine and, look, a Kirby vacuum!
The way most of the women did laundry.
A typical school room.
An example of a barber shop. 
I loved this carved seat back found in the supervisor's house. It appears be a scene of a card game in the 19th century.
The engine that pulled or pushed us on the rails through the coal mine.
Our guide, Roger, driving us deeper into the mine. See how low the ceiling is?
What a 1-ton car of coal looks like.
Some of the coal is so black and shiny it looks like obsidian.

As we moved deeper into the mine, I looked back and captured a reflection in the puddle from water that drips from the ceiling, constantly.
A vein of coal with moss growing on it.
A Roof Bolter used to shore up the ceiling.
Roger showing us how they would bolt up the ceilings.
Roger showing us a real carbide lamp and how they worked.
A Canary cage. Canaries were used to determine the presence methane in the mines. Many canaries gave their lives to save those of men.
Rob enjoying the coal mine tour. It was DARK down there!
Rob reading about the dinner pails the coal miners used. The most common were the tall, round ones you see closest. There are three sections. The bottom was filled with water, and that was all the miners had for a 12 hour shift. The center held their meal and the top held their dessert.
On the way back from Beckley, we stopped to see the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest arch bridge in the western hemisphere. These were the stairs down to the look-out.
The New River Gorge Bridge, where once a year they allow BASE jumpers, parachutists and bungee jumpers to, well, jump.
Another view of the bridge.
Oh, my. The steps back up.
Black-Eyed Susans.
Hard at work.
I am amazed how clear the blue part of this butterfly's wings turned out. The upper part of it's wings never held still. They fluttered continuously as it sought nectar.
Vying for supremacy.
A colorful find at the campground.
A little skipper getting it's evening meal.
Brandy, because she seems to get left out a lot.

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