Mills, Bridges and the ’70s: West Virginia

I’m in the final leg of my journey now, heading back to where I (kinda) started from, New York. There’s still a cluster of states to get through before then, however, so we start with West Virginia. It’s fine state. There are trees, there are roads, there are all the things you could want. … I don’t know, after the magnificent vistas of Utah, the coast of California, the redwoods and the madness of the House on the Rock, there’s just something about this place that’s sorta…

Bland, VA
 Exactly.

Okay, the nitpickers might point out that Bland, VA is actually in VA, as the VA implies, but that’s not the point. It’s not like West Virginia slacks off in the name department, in fact it has some of the best I’ve seen since Humptulips, like:

Beelick Knob

But that’s enough immaturity (for now), we’re on our way to find Glade Creek Mill, which looks like this:

03-gladecreekmill

One thing that this part of America has over its western counterparts is an extra century’s worth of rich history. Take this ancient mill, which was completed in the far distant past of 1976. … Wait. Sonofabitch. What a wonder it is, to stand in the shadow of history, and imagine what life would have been like under the Ford administration.

It’s a Frankensteinian amalgam of bits of older mills, some of which at least are older than the milk in my fridge. And it does actually work to grind cornmeal, depending on the stream conditions. Okay, the Mill gets a borderline pass from me.

We continue up further on the road and soon come across a little valley:

04-newrivergorge

This posed no problem to the intrepid American engineers who constructed a little something to handle it:

05-newrivergorgebridge

With an arch that is 518m, it is longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was the longest single-arch span bridge for decades before, y’know, China came along. The bridge itself is almost a kilometre long, which makes it all the more impressive considering that they built it with whatever primitive technologies were available to the engineers way back in… 1977. Oh come on. What’s wrong with West Virginia? Was it founded by a wave of platform shoes and flared jeans? The river the bridge goes over is called “New River”, though it is apparently one of the oldest rivers in the world. They might mean in terms of West Virginia, though, so, like 1971.

Across the bridge is a town called Fayetteville, which under its sign points out that it is the “Coolest Small Town in America”. Every place in the US has some weird superlative after it and a couple of them sound as if they’re trying a bit too hard. And with that dazzling insight into the American psyche (they’re really adding up now), I’m driving north into Pennsylvania. Something has eluded me this entire trip. I saw warning signs of them, but never caught a glimpse. Next time, I go Amish.

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