On Monday morning, my job took me Southwest into the State of Virginia. I will be the first to admit that there are parts of Virginia that are absolutely beautiful. Virginia is such a diverse state in regards to the fact there is Ocean front, marsh lands, large rivers, fairly flat lands, and even majestic mountains. We even host the world famous Luray Caverns and if you haven’t seen them, you should try to make it out one day.
One of the things Southwest Virginia is known for is Coal. We have a number of large coal mines deep in the Appalachian mountains. My eventual destination was one of these towns.
I’ve travelled all over the state, but I had not yet been to coal town. As a coal virgin, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. So when I pulled into town, I was quite bug eyed.
It seems that coal towns are planned rather differently than most towns. At least the one I visited, and several others I passed through. They make a road, by blasting through rock faces and everything is built along the road. Stores, houses, you name it. When they run out of room, they simply stack things up the mountain side. Sort of like those step pyramids.
When I got to town, the first thing I noticed was that I had no cell phone service. This really didn’t surprise me, since you are surrounded by mountains. I knew I would have internet access, because I asked the hotel and was quite proudly told “we even have WIRELESS access in our hotel”. I’m not ashamed to admit that I fully expected to have to milk the Hotel owner’s cows to gain access though.
When I decided to get something to eat, I asked and it seemed my best choice without spending “the big bucks” by going to the Peking Chinese Restaurant was The Huddle House. For those not in the know, The Huddle House is pretty much like Waffle House, but they don’t concentrate on waffles. They concentrate on Huddles, whatever those are. I suspect it has something to do with Mountain Oysters and if you don’t know what THOSE are, you don’t want to know. Trust me. The food? Not to bad actually. Although they were out of butter. How can you be out of butter surrounded by cows? I mean come on, just go like, churn some right?
One of the things I learned though, while visiting this town, was why people in mountain country drive so slow. I really had never thought about before and just figured it was because people who live in the mountains typically live at a slower pace than us city folk. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. It occurred to me that first of all, to drive 30 miles in the mountains will typically take you an hour. At least. So mountain folk are just as much in a hurry as the rest of us. The problem it seems, is that mountain folk drive slowly because they really don’t know what to expect in the case of what is going to fall off the mountain onto the road in front of their cars. Things like trees, rocks, drunk people, small animals, and bears. Yes, bears. Hitting a deer is one thing, but can you imagine hitting a bear? Especially one that SHOULD be hibernating? That’s a good way to get your car, and your face, eaten real quick. Small animals you can count on, at least for no other reason everywhere else they run OUT INTO the road. I guess it stands to reason they are going to tumble there way OFF a mountain. If it happens to be a cat, I fully expect it would land on it’s feet and begin to wash furiously, trying to make you think it was just skiing or something, instead of rolling down a hill. You know how cats are.
I think the fear of drunk people falling onto the road off the mountain originated from the days of when there were lots of illegal stills. But maybe I’m wrong about that. There isn’t much to do in these towns as far as I could see, so maybe people just end up drinking to much.
I am happy to report though, the town I visited had a brand new place to eat. Brand new building and everything. It was a Pizza Hut. Maybe next time I go though there I will stop and eat. As long as there are no Mountain Oysters on that pizza that is.
I do know that I worry about the way that have housing set up in these town though. If a rock at top breaks free, and rolls down the mountain, it’s going to take out houses like a bowling ball and bowling pins. That kinda makes me nervous. And maybe THAT’S why people drink in these towns.