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almost heaven

This is such a banal thing to write an entire blog post about, but I have such a love/less-than-love relationship with the state of West Virginia.

We drove through it today on our way to a lacrosse tournament in North Carolina. Forever and ever we drove through it.

And. In many ways, it's amazeballs. I would know--I have driven through West Virginia a grand total of eleven times. Wild and Wonderful is its state motto and I would agree with wild. Wonderful? Eh. I leave that to the fine folks who call it home.

"How big IS this state?" Said Maggie as our Chevy Trax screamed around another lip of roads that seem eternally perched on the edge of Middle Earth.

Maggie had fallen asleep and woken up twice in this state, and I was as confused as her since, in my mind's eye map of the US of A, I don't recall it being the width of Pennsylvania (another bafflingly long state).

"I don't know. These are the Allegheny Mountains, though. I think."

I had told Mags earlier that I *thought* we may see the Smoky Mountains on the way to North Carolina, but I was wrong. Here we were careening at 79 mph (thank you, cruise control) knee deep in God's Country--every faith we'd be in Carolina by sundown. Our faith in Google Maps is positively ridiculous.

Around and around you go. These mountains. The Blue Ridge? The Allegheny? I don't even know what mountain range this is.

I tease my dad a lot that his house (in Pennsylvania) is--as the crow flies--provably pretty easy to get to, but it takes forever because you just follow mountain pass, after mountain pass, around and around (and around and around) like a top.

It feels claustrophobic to me, all this earth on either sides of my ears. I feel that way in Colorado, too. It's beautiful. Stunning. I fundamentally lack the words to describe the majesty of it. But, listen, I get freaked out if somebody is standing over my shoulder when I am at my computer. So, the mountains? Gorgeous, yes. But I'll take the plains. I'll take the sea. I feel taller there.

But still. WV? The BEST rest stops. Well, except for Connecticut. But...well, you know. Of course...it's Connecticut. Friendly, clean. And--as seen in my picture--I'm pretty famous in West Virginia. You're welcome­čśĆ

West Virginia is shockingly beautiful. Like, it doesn't even look like it's a part of America. Plunging valleys, dramatic rises. Rolling hills and hairpin turns. There are times the sunlight doesn't even touch the road, so towering are the brother and sister mountains that stand sentinal. Towns that are--well, I would say "tucked" but that would be too tame a word. Towns are built and then dared to stay. They are built on rock. They cling to cliffs, they pour into valleys. But it is not tame.

I have a friend who once lived in West Virginia, and her description of it is one I have never forgotten. She said, "Everything is extreme there. If it's raining; it's a monsoon. If it's snowing; it's a blizzard. If it's fall, the leaves are more breathtaking than anything you have ever seen. If it's sunny; it's 115┬░ in blistering humidity. There is no in-between."

John Denver sang of it in Country Roads--which they really take for a ride out there. #almostheaven adorns every toll plaza. Take me home. Country roads. Mags and I thought that was hilarious.

"How many more miles do we have to go?"

By this time, we were in construction traffic, which was moving at a brisk clip, because no one slows down on this mountain. Not even boats and tractor trailers...but the lanes seemed to be getting slimmer and slimmer--as if we were actually going to have to pass through the eye of a needle to get sprung from this joint.

"Twenty-one. Nineteen exits," I told Mags. "The exits are descending, that means they are counting down to the state line."

She sinks back in her seat and goes back into thw world that is her phone. "Twenty one miles and we will be out of West Virginia. FINALLY."

"Yep. You and me and Loretta Lynn. The only people who ever got out of West Virginia." It's my favorite joke. But she doesn't laugh. 

"This place is gorgeous," she says, and grabs the pillow in the backseat for Nap #3.

"But please let regular-Virginia be flatter."


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