Yesterday I wrote part 2 of our trip, ending with the Bed and Breakfast in Huntington, West Virginia, on Friday night. We woke up early Saturday morning and left before our hosts even got up. Turns out, 6 AM in West Virginia is darker than 6 AM in Oregon and Colorado. We’d had many early starts, but this was the first time it was truly still night.
But we had a four hour drive ahead of us, and we were anxious to get there while it still felt like morning.
We’d set our Google Maps route to “avoid tolls,” which probably also contributed to our whole journey being extra-long. I’m very much a toll avoider, partly because I don’t like spending money, and partly because I’m just not used to them. Oregon doesn’t have toll roads. Or if it does, they’re not anywhere I’ve driven.
Although to be honest, I5 is getting so overcrowded these days I can kind-of see why toll roads are a thing.
The point is, we drove some random roads through West Virginia.
I never knew much about West Virginia until I lived in Virginia briefly ten or so years ago, and everyone told West Virginia jokes. “Isn’t West Virginia basically like Virginia?” I asked. I’d always thought of them as like, you know, North Dakota and South Dakota. Basically the same place.
“Oh no,” I was informed by the shocked youth group. Apparently there was a whole history here. Different sides of the Civil War and everything.
Based on what they told me and various things I’ve read since, I’ve learned that West Virginia is known as a strange place. But I’ve never really seen that strangeness. I’ve driven through corners of it, but never through the heart of it.
Never, that is, until this trip.
Jenny was driving and I was navigating. We were on US-60, but then had to cross a bridge and get on WV-61. That, I would say, is when the bulk of the weird started.
To begin with, there was that bridge.
As we approached it we saw road construction signs, orange cones, and a “one lane bridge ahead” sign. We turned right onto the bridge, and it was indeed one lane. The other lane was blocked off with orange cones and held random bridge-repairing equipment.
But there was no flagger of any kind.
That was weird, I thought. Did we approach the bridge from a weird angle? Well, surely the flagger at the other end will see us?
And then suddenly there was a line of cars coming right at us.
It was like a bad, bizarre dream.
But what can you do? Jenny just pulled onto the other side of the bridge. The blocked-off side. There was just enough room to slip between the cones, and thankfully there was no equipment right there. The line of cars passed us, and we continued on.
There was no flagger at the other end of the bridge either.
It was so bizarre. I have never ever in my life seen anything like it. Why would you have a one-lane bridge with no flagger?
I mean, with some bridges it wouldn’t be a big deal, because you could look across first and see if anyone was coming. But this bridge was not that way. Both 60 and 61 ran parallel to the river, and there were so many hills and weird corners there was no way to see if anyone was coming before you started across it.
I guess the road construction guys were just like, “oh well, we’ll just leave some space between the cones so that someone can pull over if they need to?”
Maybe that’s how they do it in West Virginia?
After all, once when the road got bad there was a yellow “rough road” sign with a suggested speed of 35 mph. So maybe the type of place that would put up a sign instead of fixing the road would also make a one-lane bridge without a flagger and expect folks to just figure it out?
Anyway. To be honest, WV-61 was probably the weirdest thing we saw on our whole trip. It wound up and down and back and forth through thick forest.
“You know, it’s actually quite pretty here,” I said.
“Yeah, pretty…sketchy,” said Jenny.
There was a double-wide trailer house with several feet of space between the two halves. Random structures made of pallets. Abandoned gas station pavilions, just there, like an umbrella for nothing. Sometimes covered in kudzu. Lots of old RVs. The sketchiest houses I’d ever seen. A sign commemorating someone who’d apparently founded grandparent’s day. I only saw one person–a man who stepped briefly onto his porch when we passed by. So often I didn’t know if the area was abandoned, or if people actually lived in these half-condemned houses.
Also. I didn’t see any Trump signs.
That seemed really weird to me, honestly. Even nine months after the election, Trump signs littered the Midwest as we drove through. But we got to West Virginia, and we didn’t see a single Trump sign in the whole state. Was it a random fluke? Or are West Virginians just not as into Trump as mid-westerners are? No clue.
Eventually we got back on a main highway again, and crossing the state line into Virginia. And then around 10 am we pulled into Blacksburg, and into the parking lot of our new home!
Now I must admit that when I stepped into the apartment I was a bit disappointed. The place, first of all, was dingier than I expected. For some reason I’d thought the floors were real hardwood, but they were the fake kind you get at Home Depot and click together. Everything looked like it had been painted over too many times.
However, the main thing that crushed my soul in those first few moments was the musty, moldy smell.
Now, Jenny barely noticed a smell and it didn’t bother her. So maybe it wasn’t a big deal, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit sensitive about smells. They don’t give me headaches or anything, but I can hardly stand to be in a room with a bad smell. The idea of living in a bad-smelling apartment for a year suddenly seemed overwhelming. And I have a secret fear of living someplace that makes me sick. (I have no evidence that mold makes me sick, just fear, LOL.)
We hauled all our stuff in and made piles in the middle of our respective bedrooms. Then I drove to Walmart for cleaning supplies, and Jenny started sorting through her stuff. The previous tenant had left us an armoire, a dresser, a tall lamp, and a small metal rack, but beyond that the house was unfurnished.
But then, just as we’d started cleaning with our new set of supplies, Aunt Margaret arrived to save the day.
My Aunt Margaret lives several hours south of Blacksburg, and she’d offered to help us move in. She is also, in true Yoder fashion, a Rescuer of Abandoned Things, and she somehow owns extras of just about anything you could ever possibly need. She showed up with a mattress and box spring, bedding, towels, washcloths, rags, kitchenware of all sorts and descriptions, blender, toaster, crock pot, curtains, décor, canned food, frozen food, tubs of butter because butter was on sale, shower curtains, shower mats, etc.
Also, a pot of chili, which was fantastic. We were so hungry. We sat on the floor and ate off an overturned box.
“You know, we’d better get going if we want to hit up some garage sales,” said Aunt Margaret.
So we hauled everything in from her minivan, which was probably at least three times the amount of stuff we’d brought ourselves. (I was especially grateful for the mattress…I could live without lots of things but had no desire to sleep on the hard floor if I could help it.) And then we went garage sailing.
We found a few things we needed, like a coffee maker for Jenny, some baskets, some hangers, a toothbrush holder, and a soap dish. But we were really angling for some furniture. We reasoned that today was our best chance to buy it, because we had a van to haul it in. But all the garage sale furniture had already been snatched up, in seemed.
So we went to Habitat for Humanity, and I have never in my life bought so many things at once. We purchased:
- A small dining room table
- Three chairs
- A microwave
- A desk for Jenny’s room
- A bedframe for my bed
- A twin mattress for Jenny
- A bedframe for Jenny’s bed
- An area rug
- A small couch
It was our lucky day, because everything except the rug was 20% off. All together the whole load cost us less than $400.
Then came the exciting task of getting everything into the minivan. There was a whole crew of employees trying to accomplish this feat.
And in the end they accomplished the deed! Just barely, but it all fit in.
We went back to our new home, and now we had another giant load of stuff to haul upstairs. This was tricky, as the stairs are narrow and cramped. We didn’t think we could possibly fit, say, a full-sized couch up them. But we managed with the smaller furniture we’d chosen.
We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning. First we scrubbed our bedrooms from top to bottom and set up the beds. Then we took a break, heading to Wendy’s for supper, before coming home and scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen.
That was enough for one day. Aunt Margaret rolled out an air mattress she’d brought, and we all went to bed.
The next morning we mostly just went through everything she’d brought, deciding what we needed and what we didn’t need. I cleaned out the hall closet so I could store the extra bedding, toolbox, and ironing board in there. Aunt Margaret also went around putting pretty little homey touches here and there. She bought a quilted tablecloth at a garage sale, and she put it on the table with fresh flowers in a blue canning jar she’d saved from Grandma’s house.
That’s when it started to look like an actual home.
Best of all, the smell was slowly dissipating. Opening the windows, keeping the air flowing, and giving everything a good scrub seemed to have mostly fixed the issue.
Then it was time for Aunt Margaret to go. We thanked her and hugged her and out the door she went, taking her furniture-hauling minivan with her.
And here we were, in our new home.
In the end, we saw 6 dead deer, so Jenny’s guess of 7 was closer than my guess of 3. We also saw 2 dead watermelons and 3 dead raccoons. We found most of the states too–all but six: Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Dakota, and Massachusetts all eluded us.
Our list of weird things was long, but we still rank the poop-pumping Starbucks in the grocery store where everyone knew each other as the weirdest. Although if the whole state of West Virginia counts as a singular weird thing it was by far the weirdest.
That is the end of our story of moving from Oregon to Virginia. Next week I’ll plan to write a follow-up post, all about settling in to a new place.
Until then, take care!
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