Category: Road Trips

The Old Burke’s Garden Virginia Post Office

The Old Burke’s Garden Virginia Post Office

Following the very wiggly VA 623, will drop you into the upland valley of Burke’s Garden, Virginia. When there, something about it feels like you’re in a place cut off from the rest of the world.

The local whitepages:

My travels brought me to Burke’s Garden because of a photo I’d seen online of an old post office with a Pepsi ghost ad on the side. I was surprised to see what nice shape the mural is in. By the looks of things, that Pepsi ad is pretty well cared for.

I gingerly stepped up onto the front stoop to take a look inside. My chances of either falling through the step or being stung by bees seemed to be about 50-50. It made me chuckle to myself to think that if I was really lucky, maybe I’d be able to pull off both.

The sign above the door reads: “Burkes Garden, Va – God’s Land”

 

Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial – Whitesville, West Virginia

Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial – Whitesville, West Virginia

While riding along Route 3, I passed through the town of Whiteseville, West Virginia. The small town doesn’t stand out much from any of the other small towns nestled in the West Virginia mountains. But it is home to a memorial that is an arresting sight.

“Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest.”

On April 5, 2010, 29 coal miners perished in the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion. Many times during my ride through West Virginia I repeated the phrase “the mines giveth, the mines taketh away” to myself.


Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial
Whitesville, West Virginia

Just a few miles south of the memorial in Whiteseville, is a roadside memorial near the mine. It bears twenty-nine helmets perched atop crosses and photographs of the men who died there. It was moving.

While the granite memorial is important and will withstand the crush of eternity – seeing these more human elements, fragile and temporary, felt poignant. I could imagine the loved ones who replaced wreaths, came around to tidy up and to generally check on things.

And in a particularly sad twist, the absence of one word, just three little letters, said so much…

Cruising Along Route 3 – West Virginia

Cruising Along Route 3 – West Virginia

After passing through Rhodell, I spent the night in Beckley, West Virginia. That evening I sat drinking a beer alone in a restaurant, thinking about everything I’d seen along the way. Spilling my observations and secrets into my little pink notebook was cathartic.

When taking in so much input all day long, it can be hard to keep track of everything. Little vignettes that feel monumental as they pass can be so touching at the time that it is hard to imagine you could ever forget the details. But, you do. Or at least, I do. As a trip goes on the intake-then-forget process compounds as I absorb more new things and more new things and more…

Each evening during this trip after hanging up my keys for the night, I would start writing a basic outline of the places that I passed through for the day. Just a very loose timeline. From there, tracing my steps I found that I was often able to jog my memory and hang on to little snippets that might’ve otherwise been tucked away in my mental filing cabinet.

Doing memory keeping by hand requires a deliberate concentration and a general slowing down in order to make the words happen. That slow savoring is something that I never get when typing. It felt good.

The morning that I left Beckley, my plan was just to follow along route 3 to head towards Ohio. I would let the day unfold on its own while passing through coal country.

There is no telling what will move or disturb me along the road. As I’m traveling, raw nerves that I didn’t know were there become exposed. When the layers of day to day living fall away and I stop being my get up, kid to school, go to work, dinner, bedtime, repeat, robot-self, I rediscover who I am. My me. My private me.

Something about seeing this tiny shuttered library, overgrown with weeds made me feel like weeping. It felt so symbolic of everything I’d seen in the past few days. It felt like cause and effect all rolled into one.

Passing through Whitesville:

You can see the three-story brick building in the photo below. Everything changes, everything stays the same.


Photo source

Snapshots: The Odd, West Virginia Post Office

Snapshots: The Odd, West Virginia Post Office

Maybe I should just go ahead and have all my mail forwarded here 😉

I think that the first time I ever saw the name Odd, West Virginia was in a photo from David over at Less Beaten Paths blog. He always features great Americana from his travels on his site. And he’s working on a book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names. I’d say that Odd fits that bill.

Paulverizer – The Cyborg Muffler Man of Buena Vista, Virginia

Paulverizer – The Cyborg Muffler Man of Buena Vista, Virginia

This ain’t your mama’s muffler man. No, this? This is somethin’ else! You’ve got that familiar sturdy jaw and that manly mug but that’s about it.

And a nice little hat tip to the motorcycle.

Unfortunately, with the sky so hazy and the crazy backlighting, I didn’t snap very many good pictures. I should probably learn how to use a camera. Since I bungled this, you should probably take a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway and pop off in the town of Buena Vista, Virginia to have a look for yourself.

Paulverizer on Roadside America

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