Photos from the Commonwealth

West Virginia and Pennsylvania share very similar geography and industries.  But there are way more people, and camps, and just things in PA.  Some towns we drove through today were founded before the Declaration of Independence was signed.  West Virginia split off from Virginia in 1863 for those of you who aren’t familiar with our history (and there are a lot of you, still today, ask anyone from West Virginia).  We moved the state capitol several times  — actually from Wheeling to Charleston to Wheeling and back to Charleston.  We just generally didn’t get our stuff together as early as our Commonwealth neighbor to the north. But anyway, anytime I go to Pennsylvania, I don’t really feel like it’s much different from West Virginia, aside from the large cities that are sprinkled throughout.  We have the same trees, the same hills, the same winding roads:

Like these beautiful cows
Like these dotty cows and the clouds above them
And these tall, tall trees
And these tall, tall trees

One of the highlights (and the actual purpose) of our trip was to go to a Nine Inch Nails concert in State College, Pennsylvania.

They rocked the house +
They rocked the house

One of the other highlights of our trip was stopping at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (“The Most Famous Home in America”).

It is worth the trip if you’re in that area — and when you think it was built 75 years ago, it truly is a testament to the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright:

The iconic shot of the house hanging over the falls
The iconic shot of the house hanging over the falls
My loving husband took this shot of me on the bridge leading to Fallingwater
My loving husband took this shot of me on the bridge leading to Fallingwater

One of the best parts of our trip, however, was something we didn’t plan.  As were driving between State College and Mill Run, where Fallingwater is located, we saw the sign for the 9/11 Memorial of hijacked Flight 93.  We made a split-second decision to go view the site.  Right now, there really isn’t much there.  A beautiful walkway and wall commemorating that day with the names of those who died, and a boulder that sits over the impact site.  You can only view the impact site from afar, which makes sense when you recognize the layout of the land.  It is a large, open field.  The park ranger said that the plane came in at over 500 mph and flipped onto its top.

It was a solemn visit, like many national monuments.  But something about the 9/11 monuments are different to me, probably because I remember that day so well.  Most of the monuments and museums I’ve traveled to in my life memorialize things that happened long before I was born.  And as my husband pointed out as we made our way along the walking path, there were young kids there who were not even alive when 9/11 happened.  To them, 9/11 will be like the Vietnam War — something horrific that their parents lived through.

I didn’t really feel much like taking pictures at the memorial, but I did take one:

The woolly caterpillar
The woolly caterpillar

When I was growing up, my grandma would always say to count the number of black rings the woolly caterpillar has on his back and that will tell you how long our winter will be.  This guy only had a couple black rings, which means a short winter.

Here’s hoping.  I’m already ready for summer again.

What did you do this weekend?  What’s an Old Wives’ Tale you remember your grandparents telling you?  

36 Hours in Huntington

I always think it’s fun to read the “36 Hours in…. [insert major city here]” series in the New York Times.  I think it’s high time that someone made one for Huntington, West By God Virginia.  Maybe if The Times asks nicely, I will let them reprint it (with my byline, of course).

Huntington is one of the largest cities in West Virginia, but it’s more of a town by most people’s standards.  Read on to find some of the best spots in town you can hit up in 36 hours:

Start your day with a warm cup of coffee and a breakfast cookie at River & Rail Bakery in Heritage Station.  The coffee there has just the right amount of strength and the baked goods are the best in town.  Stand in line for half the time that you would at Starbucks, in addition to enjoying the friendly service and the comradery the patrons who frequent the establishment.

After you get your caffeine fix, head over to one of America’s most scenic parks, Ritter Park.  In the historic Southside area, this park is full of people and dogs any time of year and in all weather.  On Sunday afternoons, you can even see grown men LARPing in the park (live-action role playing).  It’s super fun for everyone.

The Ritter Rose Garden
The Ritter Rose Garden
In full bloom this time of year
In full bloom this time of year

After you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to Jewel City Seafood for a light lunch of crab cake and Caesar salad from owner Joe.    The seafood is fresh and the diner-like ambiance is endearing.

After lunch, take a short drive to the Spring Hill cemetery, where some of the Marshall University football team’s plane crash victims are buried and a memorial has been built.  A somber sight, no doubt, but it was an event that affected the entire town and still is remembered every year by the University.  It even inspired a major motion picture, We Are Marshall, with actual movie stars.  The cemetery is even home to graves of Civil War soldiers, officers, and generals, so it’s worth the trip.

The Marshall University memorial monument -- as a testament to players, coaches, and friends lost in 1970
The Marshall University memorial monument on Marshall University’s campus– built as a testament to players, coaches, and friends lost in  the 1970 plane crash

As the evening draws near, head to Pullman Square, a recently revitalized area of town.  Concerts, 5ks, and farmers markets take root here.  It’s a great place to be in Huntington.  Pottery Place is an especially great place to spend a few hours if the inspiration is there.  (You can even take a bottle of wine to drink with your friends as you make a custom piece).

From there, it’s a short walk back to Heritage Station to check out some of the shops there before dinner.  They have a locavore store, The Wild Ramp, which only stocks foods and products that were produced within 250 miles of the store.  You can find artisan products in addition to some delicious organic produce, fresh meat, and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.  At Heritage Station, there is also the Finds & Designs secondhand store, where you can find some great vintage treasures.  Everything from evening dresses to blankets can be found, but the jewelry counter is my favorite place to hang out in there.  There are a number of other shops worth checking out in Heritage, but as the list is growing it seems monthly, I’ll just direct you to go see what catches your eye.

Bottle & Wedge in Heritage Station, which shares its right wall with Brown Dog Yoga
The train car at Heritage Station and one of the popular shops, Bottle & Wedge

For dinner, if you’re feeling extravagant, there’s no better place for my money than Savannah’s.  The menu is inspired and well-rounded — my husband loves the lamb.  They have an extensive wine list and sell my favorite beer, Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale.  Whatever you do, make sure to save room for dessert.  Any dessert will do.

After dinner at Savannah’s, only one place is fit to top off your night.  Back to Heritage Station for Sip.  A wine bar with a select few vintages on tap, you can try anything you’re unsure of in a 2 oz glass.  I always get a flight like the Interesting Reds or the California Whites (avoid the wines with the “surprising minerality,” though).  Ask the bartender for the best new bottle they have on tap this week.

After you close out slip, get some sleep.  You need to be back to Heritage in the a.m. for Brown Dog Yoga.

Needing some time on the mat to think about all the fun things you’ve done in the preceding 24 hours and center yourself?  Head to Brown Dog Yoga for a session (heated or not – check the schedule) with some of the best yogis in town.  The beautifully renovated space is perfect to zen out.

After working up a sweat and an appetite, head over to Black Sheep Burrito & Brews for brunch (if it’s the weekend).  They have all you can drink Bloody Marys and Mimosas for $8 a head (90 minute limit — please drink responsibly).

If you drink as many mimosas as you probably will when they’re an $8 free for all, you’ll probably need a nap before you can travel back to wherever you came from as you wrap up this 36-hour tour of Huntington.

But if you’re still up for a little excitement, head over to Colonial Lanes and bowl a few games.  The prices are cheap and they sell beer by the pitcher that you can bring into the alley in the supposedly-haunted adjacent bar Rebels & Redcoats.  Maybe see if you can spot a ghost– the stories about their size, gender and appearance vary widely, probably all made up by some really drunk people who were very bad at bowling.

Questions for you:

Are you a Huntington native?  Did I leave out one of your favorite places?