Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On the Road Again - West to the Ohio River

We went to bed to the sound of sleepy robins chirping in the pine outside our window. And we woke to the sounds of a rooster crowing. We are staying at the Bramble Creek Bed & Breakfast in Little Hocking on the Ohio River south of Marietta, Ohio.

We left home on Sunday and the day was mostly the blur of the Interstates as we drove west across Pennsylvania to Wheeling, West Virginia and the Ohio River. I’ve made this drive many times over the past years and although some find it monotonous in its green rural nature, I’ve always found it a pleasant and at times interesting, if not even humorous.

Around Harrisburg we hit a long patch of highway that was rimmed in a riot of small wildflowers: white, yellow, with an occasional fuchsia pink. Round topped silos and red barns dot the landscape. Fields that are visible are barely woken from winter’s dormancy.

Just around Harrisburg, we were on the fringes of what has been historically the major coal producing areas of Pennsylvania (and where some mines still hang on). Large Billboards read slogans such as: Without Coal Most Cities Would Be Dark or Welcome to Coal Country or even better Coal: Clean Green Energy. And in fact the sight of ugly smelters and coal tinged air seem to be a thing of the past…but not the far distant past. As we came out of the Allegheny Tunnel (one of many tunnels that thread the “ridge and valley” topography of central Pennsylvania) we entered a wide valley with curiously stunted and sickly trees. At first I thought perhaps it was the work of a beetle or tree fungus. But soon I noticed on the map the telltale “dots” of mines throughout the region and out the window we could see the manmade hills of slag from mining operations. The coat mining/processing history of this area was marked in no small way by the ailing trees and vegetation. And yet it seems that at the base of all these sickly forests are new plants and trees that appear more robust, perhaps the new generation of plants to accompany the new generation of coat technology? We can only hope.

At Wheeling we turned south on Ohio highway 7 which hugs the western shore of the Ohio River. Our destination for the evening was Marietta Ohio…the first town established in Ohio (more on Marietta later). The drive down the Ohio is a curious mixture of the picturesque, the historic, and the grotesque. One curve brings us to a bucolic set of hills with plump green trees and views across a wide, placid green river. The next curve brings into view smokestacks from coat fired electrical plants along with curious hourglass shaped cooling towers. (that made us first think they were nuclear plants).
Then it’s back to fields and trees. And then again we come to views across to West Viriginia and HUMONGOUS aluminum smelters. Back and forth all the way down the river. and then further south of Marietta are the chemical/polymer plants.

And yet, here I sit in the parlor of a home that was begun in 1800 (the part I’m in was built in the 1860s?). I’m looking out the window to the river, lovely and green. Oak trees provide shade and a perch for a whole gang of robins. An occasional barge moves up stream and an occasional motor boat whizzes by. Geese fly up the river and float down it. The view I’m looking at has hardly changed in the 200plus years since this house was built. We’re happy to enjoy the view for a few days.

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