Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day Trip Down the Ohio River.

After staying up late last night reading about the lingering questions in the FBI investigation of the post-911 anthrax letters, it was very refreshing to get out of town for the day with a nice long drive. My friend John put together an itinerary for a day trip earlier this summer. He grew up in West Virginia and understood my interest in the state, so he wrote out a plan that would take me down through a few of the small towns along the Ohio River. In theory it seemed attractive, and I have a good sense of John's tastes, so I figured he'd set me on the right path. My friend Mike shared an interest in getting away, and he decided that he wanted to drive his newly-acquired Ford Probe. It had been a long time since I filled the role of passenger, but it freed me up to serve as navigator.

We left at around 9AM, and I made sure to get fortified on espresso before we even left the 'Burgh. After a reasonably brief interlude that took us off our course, we found our way to Rte. 22 and headed for Weirton where we could pick up 7 South, which is on the Ohio side of the river. Our first stop was Steubenville, where we wanted to take a look at some murals. Throughout the city there are about 26 of these paintings that depict the history of the city on the exteriors of old buildings. I couldn't track down the original date of initiation for the project, but I noticed that a lot of them were painted over the last ten (or so) years. We were lucky enough to stumble into an antique store that provided us with a map to find them.

There were several impressive works with themes that included street scenes, a stone quarry, and a hospital. I tried to take some photos of my favorites, but was occasionally thwarted by parked cars obscuring my view. Steubenville definitely has some charm in a beat-up kind of way, and the people we ran into all seemed very nice. We stumbled on a weird little "Animation Factory" at the Creegan Company. I even found a full-size Jack Chick-style Christian conversion comic that I was able to purchase quite cheaply. After a short walk around, it was on to nearby Wheeling, WV for lunch. In the center of this modest city is a market with what are reported to be the best fish sandwiches in the world (at a vendor called Coleman's). I don't like them though, so I had to take Mike's word for it- he said his was delicious.

We also sidestepped through an extremely cramped bookstore called Paradox. I was a bit overwhelmed by the looming shelves, narrow clearances, and unconditioned air, and didn't stay nearly as long as I would have liked to. We continued on our way down the Ohio River Valley on Rte 2, eventually hitting Sistersville. There we came across another bookstore- but this one was going out of business and had priced everything at a dollar. It took me a little over an hour to comb through the inventory. I walked away with titles by Jim Thompson, Rick Bragg, Colin Wilson, and Steve Erickson. I was pretty nearly in heaven. Mike meanwhile was impressed by the architecture and bucolic setting, both of which seemed to him to be literally frozen in time.

Our last stopover was in Moundsville where we planned to grab dinner. I got to choose the place as Mike was still impressed by that fish sandwich and I was the beneficiary of the only misplaced tip that John had for us. J. suggested we get pizza at DiCarlo's, which must be some local tradition. It was like school cafeteria-style "pizza" in a square shape, and the extra cheese I ordered was thrown on top uncooked. I thought it was terrible. I chalked it up to childhood nostalgia on John's part. Anyway, I insisted on the Acapulco Mexican Restaurant on 8th Street. I had recalled it from an earlier trip through town when I toured the Penitentiary. It was even better than remembered, and the perfect way to conclude our fun before heading back to Pittsburgh.

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