Carry Me Back, Part 1

I finally have a little bit of time.  (Emphasis on “little.”)  So I’ll regale you with a brief tale of my trip back home to Virginia.  And some photos as well, for the attention-deficited amongst us.

I got up damn early, took my shower, and finished packing the car.  My brother had asked if I could bring my electric guitar, and I was dubious, but indeed I managed to get my amp, my Gibson, and a little plastic tote containing amp cords, tuner, etc. in the car along with all the stuff we really needed to take.  I then woke up Boy, who was not as terribly sleepyheaded as he might have been.  We had breakfast, gave goodbye kisses to Dys and pats to the dog, and hit the road a little before 8 am.

Not long into the trip, Boy struck up a conversation with me about varying brands of semi trucks (tractor trailers, etc. – whatever you call them where you live).  We agreed to pay some attention to them from time to time during the drive, calling out which trucks were which (Freightliner, Mack, Peterbilt, etc.) to each other.  We plowed away for about two and a half hours before taking our first rest stop.  It was still relatively early in the morning and relatively pleasant, considering the scorching temperatures that were forecast for the day, so we took our sweet time about that stop.  We stood in the shade for a little while, watching traffic go by on the interstate and checking out the semi’s to keep up with our spotting game.

We swept on through, making excellent time and making use of pre-packed coolers and snack bags (awesome) until our lunch stop on the far side of West Virginia.  Boy had never had a Frosty (to his recollection, at least) so I picked Wendy’s as our lunch stop and ordered a medium chocolate Frosty to go with our lunches.  A “medium” was much bigger than I was anticipating, it turned out – and after eating a big pile o’ fast food, neither of us was terribly hungry.  I was amazed that Boy took a handful of bites and said I could finish the last two-thirds of it.  Uh, NO, not after that huge-ass burger!  We eventually whittled it down and polished it off, but I admittedly found that tidbit hilarious.  On a 90+ degree day, I’d never expect Boy and I, of any two people on earth, to have trouble finishing a cup full of ice cream.

The West Virginia Turnpike had upped its toll from $1.25 per stop to $2 per stop.  I wasn’t expecting that, and I was not a little pissed off.  But $12 to cross WV as quickly as possible is still a good deal.  Beautiful state, but the displays of the differences between have and have-not are huge in that state.  It makes me a little angry at capitalism.

I will also take two minutes here and bitch and moan.  I drive some 1200 miles of highways in this country with enough regularity to be quite familiar with them.  1100 miles of that, I have no trouble with.  But there are two 50-mile stretches that are guaranteed to be completely full of people cruising in the left lane and backing up traffic for miles behind them:  from Indianapolis to Scottsburg, Indiana, and from Huntington to Charleston, West Virginia.  People:  it’s called “lane discipline,” aka slower traffic move to the fucking right.  TYVM, drive through.


I did my customary barreling through Blacksburg trying not to look at all the Virginia Tech stickers everywhere, we swept through Roanoke and headed toward Bedford.  Boy was asking me about exits, and I told him I didn’t remember which exit we took, but it would be the one marked for the National D-Day Memorial.  I then took some time to explain what D-Day was…and why the memorial is in a tiny town like Bedford, Virginia (because the National Guard unit for that town was mobilized into the 29th Infantry Division, and as such was in the first wave onto Omaha Beach – Bedford suffered the most losses per capita of any town in American on D-Day).  That expanded a bit into a discussion about the causes and progress of WWII, Vietnam, and the Civil War, all of which were fought by Boy’s ancestors.  He seemed to have some interest, which was much appreciated by yours truly.

Even if having to answer his point of “I wish people would just stop having wars” was difficult to do while driving.

My grandfather, whose 80th birthday on Saturday occasioned the trip in the first place, was back in the hospital for some congestive heart trouble.  So as we neared home, I consulted with my mom as to whether they’d be home or at the hospital when we got there – and if they were at the hospital, we could just go meet them there.  Boy was not terribly enthused about this, but it was averted when we finally figured out that they’d be back home before we got there anyway.  So we made it to my folks’ place around dinnertime, had some pizza, and relaxed from a long, but still pleasant, day’s drive.

Friday my mom had to work but my dad was off.  So we planned a quick trip back to the neighborhood where I (and actually my dad as well) grew up.  I wanted Boy to be able to see where his family lived while he was at an age to sort of appreciate it.  He’ll appreciate it more in another 15 years, probably, but who knows what’ll happen between now and then.  All I know is that in three years, he won’t give a holy rat’s ass.  So no time like the present!

I took the camera with me for that outing.

This is the house where I grew up.  It’s been changed a bit by its present owners, and not much to my liking, but the core of it is still “home” in a very fundamental way.  I was born in February; my dad was working construction at the time, so he and several of his friends and coworkers started building this house in April.  We moved into it in September, when I was still an infant – and my parents lived there until I was 25 – the summer after we found out that Dys was pregnant with Boy.  So really that was “home” for the entire first part of my life.

Not far away, down a little dirt road (or closer if you went through the woods, like I usually did) is this house.  When I was young, my aunt’s adopted brother lived here before he built his new house across the road from ours.  Before I was born, my great-grandparents lived here.  The oldest part of the house was built by my great-great-great-grandfather, supposedly after he returned from the Civil War.  I think for the past 15 years it’s been home to a few successive families of migrant laborers.

On the other side of the highway we walked along the old dirt road beside my uncle’s house.

One of my uncle’s horses was very happy to see us.  This is my favorite photo of the trip – my son’s and my dad’s hands in the picture.

Farther back in the woods was an object lesson for Boy:  My first car, a 1972 Chevy Nova.  I bought it in June, spent a few months working on it, got my license in the following February, totaled it a month later in March.  My neighbor (the one that built the house across the street) took it for parts, took what he needed, and shoved the gutted hulk back into the woods on his property.

Maybe it’ll help with the “don’t drive like a teenaged boy, even if you are one” speech in a few years.  But I doubt it.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo – it’s an old piece of some sort of reaping equipment from the Great Depression (or earlier).  It has big metal wheels, a long toothed arm that sits off to one side, a big round-ish metal seat pan, and an attachment for a harness so it can be pulled behind a mule or horse.  We used to sit up in the big seat and pretend like we were driving some psychotic war chariot.

We then went a little down the road to visit my grandmother (dad’s mom) who still lives at home alone in the house where my dad grew up.  We spent a little time with her, mostly letting Boy talk, and then we went back to mom & dad’s for lunch.

More to come on this story…  in the meantime, there are more photos in the Flickr set if you’d like to peruse.


7 Responses

  1. My own father explained about nuclear weapons as deterrent to war while we were on one of our road trips. You’re continuing a grand tradition.

    I didn’t get quite that far. But I did also talk to him about older forms of transportation, as he was looking at railroad tracks and I asked him to imagine crossing West Virginia on horseback – or by train, stopping at every little hamlet along the way.

  2. I love the photo of the horse and the hands.

    At least you know how that car got in the woods. I’m still trying to figure out how that rustbucket I photographed got in that forest preserve! LoL

    I know how it got there…but even the old dirt road that leads back to it has been re-routed, so we had to walk a now-grassy path to get back to where he dragged it off the road. In ten more years it’ll have grown up even more thoroughly, and anybody walking up to it will be wondering how the hell somebody wrecked that car that far back in the middle of nowhere!

  3. It looks really dry there right now.

    It is. Even that torrential downpour on Saturday didn’t completely green everything up again.

    Wasn’t it neat seeing the first car though?

    I’m not sure. If it had been in running condition, definitely. As it is, it’s a reminder that I did something stupid, and was lucky to have survived it.

  4. The pics are lovely. Must be nice to have been home for a bit.

    It was. I wish I’d had another two days…but then it would have worn on me.

    “Home” is still home, but the people are still the reason I left and probably will never move back. Not my family so much (although sometimes) but the community as a whole.

  5. I cried when I drove past my childhood home… it now looks like a landfill. It used to be the most attractive home with the best looking yard in the neighborhood; now it’s obviously a crack den. I do like the hollowed car left to rot in the woods… reminds me of home. 🙂

    Sadly my great-grandparents’ place, which was next door to the house where I grew up, was bought after her death by a couple of shitheads who completely ran it to hell down. It now looks like the beginnings of a junkyard with the remains of their “race cars” out there.

  6. […] Back to ye olde trip to Virginia.  First part is here. […]

  7. […] in time for the holidays, when the next one might be on tap.  Oh well.  Here’s the link to Part 1, here’s Part […]

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