United States Presidential sites. Graves of Vice Presidents. Hard Rock Cafes. Baseball parks. State Capitol buildings. Hot dogs. Anyone want to venture a guess what all of these have in common? Throw in some signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, a dose of John Brown, a casino, an unbelievable war veteran, and even a re-visit of Stonewall Jackson and you’ve got the most recent road trip in my repertoire of venturing across America in search of the historic, fun, and unusual. My friend Bob and I began this journey which took us through a total of eight states (with three amply visited, and two touched upon – those being the two which are the subject of this posting) on Friday, June 12, 2009.
The week between my weekend Kentucky road trip and this road trip had been mostly uneventful. I had a mere four days to get everything packed and ready, which is always stressful. In the middle of this, Ashleigh ran out of gas in our neighborhood and I had to get out of bed to get her, rear-ended a car and damaged her hood, and ripped out a screen to break in the kitchen window. And that was in a period of four days. Ah, to be nineteen again!
But by that Friday, I was packed and raring to go. I had swapped cars with my Mom, who had agreed to let me take her Honda Accord so that I didn’t have to put so many miles on my car as it nears its 200,000 mile mark. We were having an employee appreciation day and cookout at work that day, so my boss Sue appreciated me enough to let me off at 3pm to go get Bob at the CVG airport in northern Kentucky. And I had eaten about eight desserts from the dessert contest, which didn’t serve me well for the rest of the day.
My trip to get Bob through the mid-day Friday Cincinnati traffic wasn’t nearly as eventful as his to get here. Although he had to endure a delay getting out of Denver during his layover when a passenger went into convulsions and threw up, it paid off for him when he got to sit near famed Cincinnati Reds baseball Hall-0f-Famer Johnny Bench. Had I gotten to the airport about 15 minutes earlier, I too could have gotten in on the celebrity encounter, as he was waiting on the sidewalk for his ride next to Bob for some time. I ended up arriving at about 4:30.
Bob and Johnny Bench, 15 mintues before I arrived
Bob arrives and climbs into the trunk
From there, we set out on our long drive for the evening through southeastern Ohio and into West Virginia. I drove this first leg, but Bob would – as tradition dictates – be doing most of the driving, while I navigated Maggie the Magellan GPS device. We arrived at our first destination at around 8pm, the West Virginia State Capitol. This building had been dedicated in 1932 after years of the capitol switching between Charleston and Wheeling.
Obviously at this late hour, it was closed up so we couldn’t get inside. I have heard that this was one of the nicest capitol buildings, so it was a disappointment to once again – for the third time – be locked out. Oddly, the first thing to greet us upon our arrival was a nice big statue of our old pal Stonewall Jackson, who had so heavily factored into a previous road trip through Virgina that Bob and I had taken.
That Stonewall Jackson really gets around. Literally. This monument was dedicated on the old statehouse grounds in 1910, moved here in 1926, and then relocated on the grounds in 1976
With the Abarahma Lincoln Walks at Midnight statue, erected in 1974, honoring the fact that West Virginia first became a state on Lincoln’s watch
The Charleston State Capitol – the 7th statehouse I have visited…
…and the 3rd I’ve been locked out of
The pensive steps pose
At the Charleston Zero Milestone (for measuring highway measurements within the state) across the street from the Capitol, overlooking the Kanawha River
We spent about a half-hour roaming the grounds, taking some pictures, and then heading over next door to the Governor’s Mansion. Strangely, although the mansion has been occupied since 1926 with the acting Governors, there was no gate around it and we were able to walk all the way up to the front door. We refrained from actually knocking.
The lovely Governor’s Mansion
Playing with the Governor’s knocker
Bob and I expelled from the Governor’s Mansion
We attempted to get some food at a place called the Smokehouse Sandwich Shop in town, but although they had told Bob otherwise over the phone, the were closing up at 9, ten minutes from when we arrived. So instead we settled for good ol’ Bob Evans for the ‘down on the farm’ experience. I had the Country Biscuit Breakfast – even though those burgers and eight desserts were still churning around in my belly.
Bob Evans, as the stomach churned
After the late dinner, we traveled further northeast into West Virginia to a town called Clarksburg. It was nearly 11:30 by the time we arrived and I spent a goodly part of the rest of the waking hours in the bathroom of the Days Inn & Suites. I was hopeful that I wasn’t getting sick for the long road trip ahead. Fortunately after that evening, I was much better.
Feeling better the next morning during our continental breakfast, as proven by my ingestion of this hard boiled egg
We had chosen to stay in Clarksburg for a specific reason and once again, it had to with Stonewall Jackson. This is where he had been born and there was a monument dedicated to him at the Harrison County Courthouse and a plaque marking the site where he had come into the world. So first thing that next Saturday morning, we headed out to see these locations. But as we often find out, things are never quite as easy as they should be.
There was a Greater Clarksburg 10K race going on in the city that morning, so many of the streets had been blocked off. We chose to ignore one of them and nearly got the car trapped before backing it down a one-way street and then going the wrong way down another one to find a parking spot, with Maggie barking impossible orders all the way. Because of the run and celebration going on in town, our photo at the Courthouse square also featured several celebratory balloons!
Stonewall’s memorial at the Courthouse, surrounded by people, decorations, and junk
Alas, the balloons were not to honor Stonewall Jackson
The Stonewall Jackson Memorial in the city of his birth
The site of the location where Jackson was born, now the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department
We headed out of town by about 8:45am and then out of the state altogether. Although our destination of the day was in West Virginia, the highway along the northern portion of the state actually took us into Maryland, as we found out when we unexpectedly crossed the border. We stopped at the first rest stop at about 9:45 and admired the nice view of the Youghiogheny River.
Overlooking the Youghiogheny River at our first stop in Maryland – at the location I’m indicating on the map
Throughout the week, there were several occasions when fate caused Bob and I to almost literally stumble into some Presidential sites that we hadn’t planned to see, and in fact didn’t even know about. The first such stop came about 11:30 that day, after we had been driving for a while through Maryland. In the town of Boonsboro was located the very first monument erected in honor of President George Washington.
Although it wasn’t much to look at, it was interesting to see and go into the monument that had originally been erected in 1827. It had fallen into severe disrepair over the use and had been faithfully restored in 1882 and again in 1936. The Appalachian Trail goes right through the state park and by the base of the monument. It was a bit of a hike though the woods (with bugs aplenty) and up a hill to get to the monument. But what’s a road trip without a hike though the woods? Signs along the trail highlighted events in Washington’s life.
At the Washington Monument State Park entrance. I love these old-looking signs.
Bob trudges up the path to the monument
With information about the monument
A stop along the Appalachian Trail
The actual monument was used as a signal station for the Union army during the Civil War
Atop the first Washington Monument
I may look calm, cool, and collected here – but this was scary as hell
Soon enough we were back in West Virginia, arriving at our most important destination in Charles Town not long before 1pm. Our road trip this week had originally been planned for upstate New York, but we had come upon an amazing opportunity in Charles Town that made us re-plan our entire week for areas closer to West Virginia. This important appointment wasn’t until 2pm, so we had an hour to look around Charles Town.
We knew a little bit of the history of the town, that it had been where abolitionist John Brown had been tried at the Charles Town County Courthouse for the raid that he had organized against the federal armory and arsenal. He had been tried for treason, found guilty, and was hanged nearby in town.
In front of the Charles Town County Courthouse, with the sign indicating John Brown’s trial
This was closed up for the day too. By the way, this maneuver has never actually worked.
With the Courthouse, on the streets of Charles Town
As noted in the text and by my expression, the location where John Brown was hanged, which at the time was just a field
But what we hadn’t known was that Charles Town had been founded by Charles Washington (1738-1799) in 1786. Charles was the brother of George Washington and had donated the land on the four corners of the main intersection in town (not surprisingly Washington and George streets) to the city of Charles Town.
Hmm. Learn something new every day.
Plaque memorial for Colonel Charles Washington
Washington and his wife Mildred also lived in a beautiful plantation home in town called Happy Retreat. The house was still there, now renamed Mordington and privately owned. Charles and Mildred Washington are buried on the estate, but if their graves were accessible, Bob and I were unable to find them.
Charles Washington’s Happy Retreat
Besides, we had our 2pm appointment to make, one of the coolest things we had ever done, and certainly something that could never be replicated. We had ran out of time to piddle around.
Saturday in West Virginia will continue…
Bypass the trip and continue with 2009…