Down By The Riverside *
The Hampton Inn is in quite good condition with a high Booking.com rating but I was less than impressed by being kept awake by the noisy elevators next to my room. I had to resort to wearing earplugs. I must admit that when I first got to the door of the room last night I thought about this potentially being a problem, but decided that as the hotel looked new-ish, it would have decent sound insulation. Wrong.
Moral – if your room is next to an elevator, ask to change. When I complained on check-out, I was told that “we’ve had complaints from the other side of the elevators but not on your side before.” Really? Excuse me if I don’t believe you, Mr Liar Receptionist. The hotel clearly knows this is a problem and has done nothing about it.
The room itself though was good, clean and modern, as is the rest of the lobby area that I saw. Breakfast was fine, just standard hotel fare.
On the road again by 11 am, I need some gas and eventually find a station to fill up. Today I am driving the Ohio River Scenic Byway, doing most if the Eastern Section and some of the Middle. Whilst warm at 74º F it is still overcast with complete cloud cover, but there’s no rain, as I re-cross the Ohio River and re-enter Ohio.
As soon as I hit the OH-7 S highway after leaving Wheeling I’m right by the very wide Ohio River. The road stays right by the river, tracking it mile after mile, as it will do for most of the drive today. At times I’m literally beside the river, at others a few hundred yards away, in other places a mile or so. But throughout the journey, the river remains a constant companion. In places you can stop and jump into the river should you so desire, elsewhere there are tantalising glimpses through trees and in other places it disappears out of sight. But it always returns.
I’m struck by the amount of industrial plants on the opposite West Virginia side of the river, but then think I shouldn’t be because the river was obviously the main transport route many years ago, and many businesses have clearly survived into today. Industry is good of course but they do disfigure a pretty landscape in many places.
Roll On Down The Highway **
South of Wheeling the road is a 2 by 2 lane freeway, flat and fast with languorous bends to match the river’s course. Further south the road becomes one lane either way but it’s not much slower. There’s little traffic and I’m bombing along although photo opportunities are rare in terms of “pretty” pictures that get the road and river together in one shot without there being a chemical plant in the background.
I’m constantly aware of the river’s presence, seeing it out of the corner of my eye whilst I concentrate on the road ahead. It’s a really good drive but it’s not easy to record what I experienced because there are few places to safely pull over: there are no defined turn-outs and many of the road shoulders quickly fall away or look soft. I’ve learnt – hopefully – from stopping for some questionable ‘photo opp’ decisions on previous trips, which I got away with, and resolved on this trip to be more circumspect. J
This Byway – and I only did a small part of it, 220 miles today – is a great drive. My day on it was excellent, a real good mix of road types – freeway, 1 by 1 lane slow roads, 1 by 1 lane fast roads – through towns, villages, communities and the river is always there nearby. It’s a drive where I wanted the river to be right alongside almost every mile I did, but that’s not possible of course, nor maybe desirable perhaps so as to give some variety.
Just before Marietta around 1.30 pm I pull off the road into a shopping center to have lunch in a Subway. They’ve got a special new turkey sub on sale, the Autumn Carved Turkey, and it was excellent. In Marietta itself is the Ohio River Museum, which I had planned to stop at and visit. But when I pull into the car park, it’s closed and I discover that after Labor Day it’s only open on weekends until the end of October, when it shuts permanently until April. Ah well.
Back Into West Virginia
The road comes inland for a few miles towards the end of the day before I leave the Byway on OH-7 S and turn left onto WV-106 S. On this I cross the Ohio River via the East Huntington Bridge to enter Huntington, which puts me back in West Virginia. A few miles later I arrive at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Huntington – Civic Arena. The weather changed significantly during the day, gradually brightening up throughout the afternoon and getting warmer all the time. By the time I exit the car at the hotel, it is clear blue sky and very hot, and very humid, around 80º F. Earlier it had reached 82º F at one point.
The hotel receptionist is not very friendly and begrudgingly helpful when asked for advice, but check-in is negotiated successfully. There’s no breakfast included here but after venturing out around 6 pm to walk to a 7-11 three blocks away to buy breakfast, I decide it’s too hot and sticky and return to the hotel. Breakfast is available for $9.95, which is considerably cheaper than what most hotels charge, so I decided when walking to pay that in the morning. The 7-11 would probably cost me $6-7 so it’s not too much more, plus walking in the heat would not have been pleasant.
For dinner I walk across the street to The Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe bar, a kind of shrine to the local Marshall University’s sports teams from what I gather. It’s busy when I enter, and there’s only one seat at the bar left, but that’s OK. There are lots of TVs behind the bar with sports on as well. I order some ribs and fries and they are very good. Good food so far on this trip! By 10 pm however, on a Friday night, in a university town, I’m practically the last customer in the place. I ask the bar lady what’s up and she has no idea why it’s so empty. But she never engaged with me throughout the evening and she doesn’t elaborate any further now, and as she just walks away I can’t probe her further. I take this as a cue to leave and so head off to bed.
* Old Negro Spiritual song
** Roll On Down The Highway by Bachman-Turner Overdrive