Friday, May 28, 2010

New #624. On The Road

I've been travelling a little and will be posting more upon my return. I've not yet graduated to the sophistication of making entries from the lowly telephone. I have learned how to take pictures with it, which I've been doing a lot of the last few days. With a little ingenuity, I'll get them from the little screen on the phone to the screen on your computer - but not tonight.

I've been on a several day tour now in its third day.

Day One took me across the Commonwealth from Louisville to Catlettsburg along I-64, noticing as I always do the especial beauty of Bath County whose hills are a different color green - a little lighter and brighter - than the rest of the countryside. It is something that has always appealed to my viewing interest. At US23, I exitted the roadway and drove north up to the city of Ashland with its downtown nestled along the main street, with short side streets emanating up into the hillsides built with big and little homes, and other streets reaching across the several-tracked CSX railroad yard and down to the Ohio River. I went as far as about 16th Street, then up the hill and a left to Lexington Avenue and alongside Central Park, and finally back south eventually to the interstate.

Crossing over into West Virginia, I made my way to that state's capital city again exitting off the highway and down into town. West Virginia's capital at Charleston, with its beautiful gold-domed seat of government, is a very large series of connecting buildings set in a park, all facing down to the Kanahwa River which courses through the entire town.

From Charleston, I took the West Virginia Turnpike (I64-I77) southward, my favorite route in West Virginia, arriving a darktime in the coal industry town of Beckley, home to Congressman Nick Rahall, one of a line of men and women by that family name who have played a role in the town for many, many years. Beckley, the county seat of Raleigh County, sits on top of a hill. I stayed overnight at the Budget Inn on Heber Street, the only motel left in the downtown area - all the others have moved out along the by-pass on what it known as Eisenhower Boulevard. Very early the next morning, I walked the streets of downtown Beckley, all of which seem to feature a hillside. One doesn't go far without going down hill at some point. Beckley has a yellow bricked United States Courthouse Building, along with its limestone Raleigh County court house, which, if I remember correctly, was built in the late 1930s. I have pictures and will add them at some point.

Day Two took me eastward across the mountains along I-64. As I have always done in this stretch of roadway, I dropped off onto the "old road" (US60) and travelled through the village of White Sulphur Springs, with its famous resort, very little of which can be seen from the village's main street, called Main Street. Most of the resort sits behind a two-mile long green wood fence which wouldn't pass code regulations back along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. I made it back to I-64, stopping along the way at a one-lane wide town which had a Sunoco station, as I was beginning to run low on fuel. The town's name was Collinsburg as I recall, and eventually the roadway climbed back up to I-64.

Once in Virginia, I again took the old road, again US60, down into and through the towns of Lexington and Buena Vista and back up again, where I left US60 and spent about 50 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a two-lane wide peaceful, even lonely ride, along the ridge, headed northwards toward Charlottesville, and maintained by the National Parks Service. For those fifty miles, I encountered only a few other vehicles, mostly motorcycles, a few bike-riders, and a few hikers. The elevation at one point reaches 3294 feet above sea level. For comparison, the highest point in Jefferson County is 902 feet (sometimes listed as 888 feet) at South Park Hill out near I-65 and the Bullitt County border. The courthouse in downtown Louisville is 462 feet, marked by a geological survey marker down along the left bottom of the front steps facing out toward the Thomas Jefferson statue and Jefferson Street itself. But, I digress.

My venture once off the Blue Ridge Parkway was along US250 down the hill eventually arriving in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. I drove a little around town and through the college campus, finding my way out of town on US29, my route, for the most part a four-lane divided full access highway from here to my first major destination, our Nation's Capital, from which I am now writing. Ok, I'm not exactly in DC at this point, but rather at a motel out by the Dulles Airport in Sterling, Virginia, about 23 miles from downtown. Each of my travels from the motel into DC have taken about an hour. Northern Virginia is full of four-lane highways which seem to go on for miles and miles, but few of them take you into DC.

Yesterday I did some sightseeing as well as some business-seeing while in the District of Columbia, but did very little else. My evening plans were changed around some and I eventually made it back to the motel for the night, just in time for a big thunder-and-lightning party which dropped quite a bit of rain. I watched it all from my third-floor window.

Day Three (today) was mostly spent inside the buildings of our federal government. I went on tours, walked through all the connecting tunnels, and, at the invitation of my favorite congressman, my congressman John Yarmuth, climbed the 370-or-so steps to the top - the very top - of the Capital Dome - actually to a platform on top of the dome. Again, at some point, I'll communicate this with pictures. It was a most exhilirating view. On a clear day, as today was, you can see for miles and miles. I thought about President Abraham Lincoln, whose presence here is felt, looking into the hills to the northeast towards Hyattsville and Bladensburg and seeing the cannon-smoke during the War Between the States. Looking westward to the hills in northern Virginia, again I could almost hear the sounds of gunfire over in Manassas knowing the troops of the Army of Northern Virginia planned their takeover of the United States government from places which I could now see atop the nation's most famous legislative building. Although I had toured the entire facility, and got to sit in on some of the Jobs Bill-Extension of Unemployment Benefits debate where the Democrats were for it and the Republicans were, as is their wont, strictly saying no, it was from up here on top the building that, being able to see the entire metropolis, well into Virginia and Maryland, and perhaps to the northwest into West Virginia, that I got a full sense of the history of the place. The entire trip could have ended there and been a great success.

Of course, once finished with that "full sense of history" I had to come back, literally, down to earth along those same 370-or-so steps, one at a time, slowly and steadily. Back in the real world, I met briefly with Congressman Yarmuth who related the story of a 19th century Kentucky congressman killed by a Courier-Journal reporter on one of the interior stairwells. I'm not familiar with the story and will do some research on it upon my return to Louisville. I also met a young reporter outside the House Chambers who is a graduate of Louisville Male High School and reminded him that before the building in which he attended Male was Male, it was Durrett, from which I graduated 32 years ago next week, long before he was born. While we were talking the bells went off and John quickly ducked into some room marked "Members Only" to cast a vote, one in a series of seventeen votes expected for the day. For the record, there are lots of rooms in the capitol marked "Members Only."

After the afternoon of touring inside, I walked outside and down onto The National Mall, which is being prepared for Memorial Day festivites, with the city being filled up with tourists, especially Vietnam Veterans on motorcycles - thousands of them everywhere. There will be concerts on the front lawn of the Capital and a huge motorcycle parade on Sunday beginning at Arlington Cemetery winding through the District and ending at the Lincoln Memorial.

I'll miss it. I'll be leaving tomorrow for New York. But, before leaving, my dear friend Preston will be arriving for a few days stay in Fairfax for some educational purpose and we are going to meet for a coffee.

One other note - while out for a walk today along New Jersey Avenue SE, I ran into one of my old bosses and dear friends, Denis Fleming. Denis has served for many years as Chief-of-Staff to Kentucky's Sixth District Congressman Albert B. Chandler, III. I've not seen Denis in years and we quickly caught up with each others' lives during the interim. We had a pleasurable discussion about the passage of the Don't Ask-Don't Tell legislation, which had passed the House last night, carrying not surprisingly the support of my congressman, but certainly a little suprisingly, the support of his boss.

That's all for now.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend and Happy Birthday to my #3 nephew Elijah Gene Noble, who will be 7 tomorrow.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.