Click for larger imageToday: Beautiful West Virginia, ugly West Virginia, Kentucky and strippers with really big butts.

Monday morning:  Erik and I leave Pittsburgh and head south to Cass West, Virginia.  It is a 190 mile drive which takes five hours across the winding Appalachian roads.  As we dig our way deeper into the Bible Belt we pass a mobile home dealer (whoops...I mean "manufactured housing) offering the latest model:  two-story mobile homes.  If wider doesn't suit your taste, you can always build upward!  Having passed numerous trucks carrying halves of manufactured homes to their destination, I'm not certain how the two story model is transported.  Perhaps it comes in four pieces instead of two.

Click for larger imageIf the Bible Belt runs across the mid section of the United States, then it is made up of smaller subsections.  We cross the Jewish band in Pittsburgh (arguably part of the Torah Belt), followed by competing streaks of Methodists and Presbyterians ruling West Virginia, then Baptists in Southern West Virginia and Kentucky.  A few Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses hang on the edges, but given they preach at length even during football season, their numbers aren't significant.

Cass, West Virginia, is about as isolated as you can get geographically, technologically and chronologically.  Built in the deep mountains of West Virginia in 1901, Cass was a company logging town.  The town survived until the 1960s when the trees and money were gone.  At the peak of its prosperity, Cass operated the largest logging railroad in the United States.  West Virginia took over the land in the 1960s, turning the town and the railroad into a state park.  Cellular telephones don't work here and the only operating telephone line is connected to a pay phone on the side of the general store.

Click for larger imageErik and I are staying in one of twelve original logging company houses now rented out as tourist lodging.  Seventy six dollars claims a three-bedroom, two-story houses with porch swing, grill and fully furnished kitchen. 

Tuesday morning:  We make our way to the Mennonite bakery four miles away.  The bakery sits in the middle of a dairy cow pasture.  Directly behind the bakery is the largest, land-based, moveable object on earth: the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Observatory.  Weighing sixteen million pounds, the radio telescope seems a bit out of place behind the Mennonite women mixing dough. 

Click for larger imageLater in the day, Erik and I climb aboard the Cass Scenic Railway for a ride to the top of Bald Knob, second highest mountain in West Virginia.  The one hundred year old logging locomotive pulls us up four thousand feet for an amazing view of West Virginia and several other southern states.  (There is great conversation among the tourists about WHICH states you can see.  Given I've left the GPS unit in the car, I decline to offer an opinion.)

Some other interesting bits of West Virginia:  A full dinner for four dollars, an "Officially Endorsed Aerosmith Tribute Band", long lines of decaying railroad equipment on hidden rails, and Conway Twitty clocks.

Click for larger imageWednesday morning:  With a wave to the cows near the Mennonite Bakery, we're off to Kentucky.  We head south, then west, deciding we'll eat lunch in Charleston. 

One simple sentence about Charleston, West Virginia:  Charleston is the ugliest, most depressing city I've seen in days.

Louisville, Kentucky, on the other hand, is a handsome city.  Ornate historic buildings blend with modern architecture along the banks of the Ohio River.  We arrive late in the afternoon as the temperature peaks at ninety five degrees with an equal amount of humidity.  Erik and I stroll down the wharf, wander through an afternoon concert in along the water and back through the older sections of downtown.  Even the decaying bits of Louisville aren't eyesores (take note, San Francisco).  The streets are clean, the people are polite and the city feels safe.

Click for larger imageSouthern men, it seems, have an onboard GayDar jamming mechanism.  Perhaps the combination of the slightly effeminate southern accent, the over emphasis on polo shirts and polished loafers, the generally queer character of southern manners, or a combination of all of these make it nearly impossible to tell a straight southern from a queer one.  Erik and I agree - GayDar fails to reasonably function south of Pittsburgh.

Unable to differentiate between straight and queer on the street, Erik and I head out to sample the local queer nightlife.  We try Louisville's largest nightclub first and find it devoid of anything except hard core alcoholics.  On the advice of a bartender, we venture to a second location which features strippers on Wednesday night.  We see first hand the strippers in Louisville feature something else - the biggest butts either of us have ever seen in florescent G-strings. 

Slightly tipsy, we wander back to the hotel, past the White Castle burger stand (which neither of us dares try), through the crowd of tobacco-company executives meeting at our hotel and past one more southern guy we can't quite peg.

Tomorrow...Saint Louis, Missouri (who just had their sodomy law overturned along with twelve more states!)...

[Photos from the last three days - click a photo for a larger image:]
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Road Trip 2003 Statistics
Day Number
24, 25 & 26
Location
 Cass West Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky
Odometer
12,748
Miles to date
6,579
Funds Raised
$1,891.46
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