Day 1: July 21, 2007
The Blues
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Parkersburg, WV Parkersburg, WV I guess thoughts of a Pennsylvania trip on this weekend started with learning that there would be a book signing in Ligonier. The signing was one of many on a cross country tour to promote a new Lincoln Highway book by Michael Wallis and Michael Williamson but I learned of it from the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, headquartered in Ligonier, and noted that Pennsylvanian Brian Butko would also be there. Next I learned that Patrick Sweany was scheduled to play in Thomas, WV, that same night and the preceding afternoon, too. The place he would be playing sounded extremely interesting. Both locations are east of me so I formed a vague idea that I could see Patrick on Friday and Brian & the two Michaels on Saturday. But then I learned that Brian would also be part of the signing event in Pittsburgh on Saturday and so would Bernie Queneau, one of the Boy Scouts who had helped the Lincoln Highway in 1928. It was clearly a bigger event than the one in Ligonier and Sweany's Friday show was a short "sampler" to promote the Saturday performance. So, now I started thinking of Thomas, WV, on Saturday and Pittsburgh on Sunday.

But, if I was going to be in Pittsburgh, I really ought to visit the 78th, my Dad's, Division display at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial. Especially since I found out that it was only a few miles from the book signing. That was cool but there was a problem. The signing would occur on Sunday. The memorial is closed on Sundays. Solving that problem would require a Sunday night stay in Pittsburgh but that would be a lot better than being close to the memorial and not seeing it. The vacation day I planned on using for the trip moved from Friday to Monday and I planned on simply getting as far east as practical after work on Friday. An easy drive to Thomas on Saturday then an early drive, in order to be there by noon, to Pittsburgh on Sunday. Monday would be a visit to the memorial as soon as it opens and a super-slab run home.

But.... There was another change. On Friday morning, my friend John alerted me that some solar powered cars would be going through Wilmington on Friday. The quickest route to Parkersburg, WV, which I thought might be a likely Friday night stop, was over I-71. Wilmington is close to I-71 and US-22, part of the planned route for the solar cars, parallels it. So there was another change. My mini-vacation started around noon on Friday with a drive to near Wilmington. I flat out failed to do the math (cars running at 40-50 MPH don't take long to cover the day's 28 mile route!) and botched John's chance to see the cars on the road (Sorry, John.) but I did get some pictures of the cars at their start point. They are here. I also stopped at Ohio's Smallest Church (That will be important later.) near Athens before stopping for the night at Parkersburg. The two pictures here were taken Saturday morning before leaving town.

US-50, WV I could do some expressway bashing here, and I did get tired of it pretty quickly, but the truth is that even the divided four-lane US-50 goes through some very pretty country.

Greenwood, WV Old US-50, WV Pennsboro, WV Pennsboro, WV Cruise control boredom and a coffee & donut breakfast combined to get me off of the current US-50 alignment. Noodling with the GPS turned up both a restaurant with "family" in its name and a road with Old US 50 as a subtitle. In retrospect, I see I could have picked up some of the Old 50 segment several miles earlier at Ellenboro but I was at Pennsboro before I had a clue. I enjoyed a good breakfast with the friendly folks at the P & H then headed east on Old US-50. The first old motel is in Pennsboro and looks to now be apartments. The second is at the east edge of Greenwood and looks like it was a working motel only yesterday. It's for sale.

Old US-50 near Grafton, WV Old US-50 near Grafton, WV Old US-50 near Grafton, WV At Clarksburg, US-50 loses its extra lanes. Even the current alignment becomes quite pleasant but I still ventured off on an older alignment near Grafton. Just before the mile long segment rejoins the current alignment, an unnamed bit of brick roadway branches off to the right. An even older routing of Fifty or its predecessor? Don't know.

A stone monument sits between the known old and current alignments of US-50 where they come together just west of the Tygart Valley River bridge. Erected in 1928 by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, it marks the spot where the first Union fatality of the war occurred. According to the marker, Thornsbury Bailey Brown died here on May 22, 1861.

Grafton, WV Grafton, WV Grafton, WV Grafton is quite the interesting town. It has a lot of railroad history and strings of rail cars were being shuffled while I was there. It is also the home of Annie Jarvis who is credited with instigating the first Mother' Day observance. That was in 1908 and the church where it was held still stands as a shrine. Directly across the street is a shrine of sorts to ghost signs. Without even trying, I see four different companies, including two competing tobacco brands, advertised on that one wall. The neighboring movie theater is kind of cool, too.

US-50, WV US-50, WV US-50, WV US-50, WV US-50, WV US-50 continues to hold interest by holding to the shape of the earth and that includes up & down as well as left & right. And there are some roadside attractions, too. There was a Confederate flag and a "Keep Out" sign in front of the strange semi-railroad oriented display so I did. Cool Springs Park was a lot more inviting and apparently has been since 1929.

US-219, WV US-50, WV US-50, WV US-50, WV I stayed with Fifty across the Cheat River and past this 1829 stone house. The one time tavern appears to be serving as a residence today. At US-219 I turned south to Thomas.

Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV The big brick building is the Purple Fiddle. The same owner operates the white building next to it as a B & B named Fiddler's Roost. I'll be sleeping in the frame building and eating, drinking, and being entertained in the brick one. The Purple Fiddle is a comfortable place with a home grown decor, some great sandwiches, and an equally great beer selection. The wine selection appears to also be pretty good but I'm no judge.

Here are some views of the Roost inside and out.

Patrick Sweany Band, Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV JB & John, Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV The Purple Fiddle offers more bluegrass than blues and more acoustic than electric but tonight was all blues. J.B & John opened before dashing out the door for another gig. They did what I think openers should do and made a pretty high mark for Sweany & company to shoot for. They were up to the task and a whole lot of good music got made in Thomas, West Virginia, before the night was over.

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