You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
A mid-winter gallimaufry
We're back from Italy and nearing the end of our four day trek back from Chicago, now reunited with the Fabulous Two, Melvin and Choupette. It's 3 December 2022 and we're on US Route 250 south from Morgantown, WV, and we've passed the West Virginia/Virginia border a few miles back. This is the first town in Highland County, Monterey . . . and it's time for lunch.
This is the Historic Highland Inn, formerly the Monterey Inn, built in 1904 and presently closed for 'revitalization', according to the sign.
Monterey, named to commemorate Zachary Taylor's 1846 victory in the Mexican-American War, is a sort of interesting little town with an estimated population in 2019 of 136. It came into being as a stop along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, a toll road built in the 1840s to connect the Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River cities through the Allegheny Mountains.
This is part of US 250 which runs for over 500 miles from Richmond, Virginia, through Staunton and Wheeling to Sandusky, Ohio on Lake Erie, following the earlier Parkersburg Turnpike from Staunton westward. US 250 was inaugurated in 1928, expanded to Sandusky in 1932, and eastward to Richmond in 1934.
US 250 is a through route that is mostly outclassed along the way by its proximity to various stretches of Interstates (e.g., I-64 and I-81 near Staunton) and other modern roads, but in some places, especially in the serious Back Country, it's a transportation lifeline.
The town isn't exactly flourishing in all parts of it, but it does have a touristic life of its own through various festivals during the year -- according to Wikipedia, the Highland County Maple Festival on two weekends in March gets some 50,000 visitors to the area.
There are a couple of venerable log cabins along the road (we probably couldn't stand up in them).
That's fairly elegant -- directly across the street from the Highland County Sheriff's Office, but no sign of what it is. All the chairs on the porch suggest somebody's R & R establishment.
That's the Curly Maple grocery store ('The Curly Maple says Welcome').
Monterey is also the county seat of Highland County, ever since 1847 when the Parkersburg Pike drilled its way through here. The memorial base mentions Confederates but the uniform and rifle look World War One-ish. Virginia seceded from the Union in May 1861, but West Virginia seceded from Virginia in June 1863. One interesting nonmilitary result from that . . .
. . . is the vast public debt incurred by Virginia for the building of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike which fell to Virginia after the Civil War. Virginia, arguing that by far most of the Turnpike runs through West Virginia, wished to share some of that payback obligation. It went back and forth, but finally US Supreme Court decided in 1915 that West Virginia needed to pay Virginia some $12 million for its part, and that was finally paid off in 1939.
That cute sloped roof thing in the middle is Claire's Cakes & Cafe ('Special: Coffee, Lunch +and+ Sweets'). The grey building on the right is the Monterey Town Hall, and on the left
is apparently the HQ of the Maple Sugar Fest, the website of which announces that 'in 2023 there will be 10 open sugar camps with unique techniques and stories for you to explore for free'. The festival began in 1958, and 'in 1999, the Library of Congress designated the Highland County Maple Festival a 'Local Legacy'.' In 2014, the Governor of Virginia signed a bill into law designating the festival as the 'official maple festival of Virginia'.'
Sometimes when you're poking round in a small village somewhere, you get the feeling that you're seeing someone you've seen before, somewhere. (Someone whose hobby is checking out antiques stores.)
Here's High's Restaurant -- mangia, mangia.
Convivial, homey, good menu, inexpensive -- we'd definitely go back (if it weren't located in the back of beyond).
And friendly staff, too
Very relaxing, sort of. Now we have only about 50 miles to go over the mountains, on US 250 all the way -- in fact, our Old YMCA condo fronts onto US 250 as it passes through the centre of Staunton (and when the traffic or weather is bad, we can follow 250 over the Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Charlottesville, VA, where there's a Trader Joe's near our Volvo dealer).
Now we've passed McDowell and over the ridge with the 'Confederate Breastworks', where Stonewall Jackson repulsed two Union forces in May 1862, and through West Augusta (essentially a general store with an ATM on the Calfpasture River, near its Barn Lick Branch), and now we're passing White's Wayside Diner on the Hanky Mountain Highway (aka US 250) just a few miles west of downtown Churchville at the edge of the Shenandoah Valley.
And now we're home.
Unpacking is never exactly fun, but at least you can cram most of it into the washing machine.
The cats are being cautious -- surely they remember the place, they've only been a month away.
Sorting all this out may take a little time.
Melvin's newest perch is on the back of that striped reddish chair, when he's not on the cat-tower.
Ah, home at last -- get that TV warmed up!
That's reputed to be an octopus. Place of honor on the wall, overlooking the Ernest Seton foxes and all the birds.
There are the Seton foxes now.
Choupette stands vigil to ensure we're not disturbed while watching the telly.
-- Who needs a wristwatch? We can always tell when it's time for dinner.
Whenever there's a suitcase out, being packed or unpacked, Choupette wants in on it.
After nearly a year of ignoring the little cat toys, Choupette is regaining her savage enthusiasm.
We'd have to sell off our car to buy a camera that could catch Choupette in full flight.
But with two small targets, almost equidisant, choosing the next victim looks paralyzing [that's the Buridan's Ass Paradox; look it up].
Melvin and Choupette are in earnest conversation, possibly planning some small malfeasance, or . . .
. . . just expressing their affections.
Uh oh, not again. Fire engines -- lots of them -- blocking the streets at our house. And that one's blocking US 250 (Richmond, VA, to Sandusky, Ohio). The Middle Atlantic States economy might crash.
Fire trucks lined up on E Frederick Street, even the one that has a driver in the back as well as one in the front.
Nobody's taking any chances --
-- we've been invited to wait out in the street. Christmas Day, 25 December 2022.
Not all of these turned out to have been necessary. In fact, none of them were. The sprinkler alarms were turned off, once someone figured out who had the key, and trained first responders knocked in the door of an unoccupied apartment in the basement and shut the water leaks off.
Whilst we're having all this fun, this truck is still blocking the historic thoroughfare from Richmond, Virginia, to Sandusky, Ohio and Lake Erie.
It appears to be the case that the occupant turned off the heat when leaving for the winter, but didn't turn off the water, which froze, and the apartment is thoroughly in ruins. But since no forensics were done by competent experts, it's been put down to some sort of structural flaw that is apparently pouncing on our condo insurance to finance the renovation of the flat. Life isn't always fair.
Still, no one can fault our fire department -- four huge trucks on the scene within five minutes of the sprinkler alarms going off. Worth their pay, those fellows. (And the first station is just two blocks up the street.)
[Don't look at the photos of the late-February repairs to that luckless apartment at the bottom of this page -- they're too horrible.]
The emergency over, Melvin can climb back out of the drawer.
Here are a few casual snaps of a walk round Staunton in good sunlight. That's down in the Wharf district, across from the rail station.
That's on New Street -- the big reddish building is the Historical Society and museum.
Here's a notice of an exhibition of the superb paintings by our Old Y neighbor, June Jordan. (The exhibition over, the paintings are hung all over one of our corridors, and in the restaurant next door.)
Most of the inhabitants of Staunton seem to be quite well informed people; this truck must have come in from the countryside.
Some sad views from a walk along Bridge St, one of the more neglected parts of town
Bridge St has turned into Green St, things are looking up . . .
. . . mostly.
One of the classic buildings of the venerable Stuart Hall School, begun in the early 19th century
Walking home along West Frederick St
The Christmas season -- the venerable crèche goes up in the far corner.
Most of those bits are artisanal terra cotta pieces from Naples, acquired painstakingly over decades. The elephants are from a less refined source.
Some of the fish and veggies look almost good enough to eat, just too tiny, not worth it.
Every year Staunton encourages Christmas displays at the Gypsy Hill Park, where local organizations can express their good holiday wishes and advertise their own virtues. Many are local churches and schools, others are dentists and legal offices, still others are . . . different.
An interesting building on the fringe of the Mary Baldwin University hill
A de facto plea for a civic beautification grant
Melvin taking his ease
A nostalgia moment on a long afternoon: the Sintra National Palace near Lisbon
On that note, we'll take our leave.
Next up: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC
Lesson #1: Never turn your heat off in your absence without disconnecting the water.
Update: Repairs in progress, 21 February 2023
It's going to be a big job.