Still glowing with happiness after our family reunion, we headed south from Cleveland to Morgantown, West Virginia, trying to stay OFF the interstates. This was just as tricky and time-consuming as leaving Chicago, because the suburbs and exurbs stretch on for miles and hours. We Beautiful farmland passed through some attractive bedroom communities, but didn't really find country until we were beyond Akron. Finally we were back in farmland, with patches of forest and hills and curvy roads. The trees were beginning to change color, although they'll never be as brilliant as the woods of New England with their scarlet leaves.
We have observed that Halloween is now a major national holiday, at least in terms of decorations. This year's theme seems to be Large Plastic Objects -- cats and spiders and pumpkins galore. The real pumpkins were for sale on farm stands along with apples and chrysanthemums and decorative dried cornstalks. We passed so many "haunted" houses with spider webs and ghosts and scarecrows that we were quite startled to pass a front porch where the *scarecrow* waved to us -- he was simply a home-owner enjoying a morninig cup of coffee. Of course Halloween has a season which seems to start right after Labor Day. On the other hand, some towns are stringing the Xmas lights . . .
Southeastern Ohio is hilly and braided with twisty roads. We had hoped to stop at Schoenbrunn, the restored Moravian Village first settled Ferry to Sistersville in the 1700s and now owned by the Ohio State Historical Society, but it has been closed for the season. We grumbled that we didn't want to visit in the summer when it would be hot and crowded. So from now until Memorial Day we will encounter some tourist attractions that are closed.
We recommend Ohio Route 800 for a country drive. It ends at a ferry across the Ohio River to Sistersville, West Virginia, where we rode in the wake of a tug pushing ten barges. Sistersville is a former mining and river-barge town (we have promised ourselves a return visit to this part of the country) where modest wooden houses line the roads near the river but a few very large stately mansions, still perfectly landscaped and maintained, sit proudly on the higher old roads, in remembrance of the short wealthy time when they struck oil. Do remember to head north on Route 2 and pick up Route 7 to Morgantown, or else you might have to listen to the lady at the gas station tell you "You really don't want to take that road!" when you point to a particular line on your highway map. "It's not only gravel, but it's muddy and has DEEP RUTS!" So we backtracked. Coal barges Route 7 was interesting enough, with lots of one-lane bridges. West Virginia license plates say, "Wild and Wonderful."
Our destination in Morgantown was the Wise Library (named for its founder, but what a great name for a library!) at West Virginia University. We had been told that this is the best library in the state for local history, old newspapers, and genealogical materials, but we had little idea of what we were getting into. Morgantown was full. The city has 26,000 residents, plus 21,000 students, making it pretty much a one-industry town. The University has two main campuses, because there was no room to expand downtown. The downtown campus includes the library; we were staying near the medical school and upper campus. We drove up and down some impressive hills to get to town, only to discover that there was not one parking place to be found. One of the garages is under reconstruction, and Morgantown, like Rome and San Francisco, is built on hills, with narrow roads and bordered by the Monongahela River, with lots of buildings and not enough parking lots. So we gave up that day.
Then we learned about the Personal Rapid Transit system developed and run by the University. The fully automated cars travel to each of the Personal Rapid Transit major campus areas, running almost silently on rubber tires. After dropping two quarters into the coin slot at the station, the rider presses the button for the desired station (there are about a half dozen). This calls a train which will take him to his desired destination. One must be careful to board the right car, else it might not take you where you want to go. A car will arrive on demand within 5 minutes, until the service stops in the evening. We saw the repair and dispatch barn where the cars line up to go whooshing away on call. It's all a project run by the engineering department -- or at least so goes the story.
That was our E-ticket ride (for those of you who don't know, that's a 1970-s Disneyland term), and we had just as much fun going back to the Medical Center as we did going into town.
As for the library, it is very beautiful, with a large collection specializing in West Virginia History, and contains microfilms of just about every newspaper ever published in the state.