I made it to the mountains of West Virginia mid afternoon. There were short bursts of light rain that gave way to warm rays of sunlight which made the lush green hills surrounding me more vibrant. Though the scenery was strikingly beautiful, I have never driven on a road quite like this one. The highway felt like it was touching the sky and it was long and winding. Before every turn, it was hard to predict if I would be going on a steep incline or steep decline. I managed to keep my fear in check. Glancing at the fine mist rising over the hills reminded me to relax and focus. . After a few hours of driving, the hills finally gave way to a small town. I parked Eunice and took a look around. There were several mom & pop stores on the main road, modest homes scattered in the hills, off in the distance and a train going through the center of it all… slowly carrying heaps of coal! I stopped to look at at the endless piles of black rocks. That’s the stuff that has built our country. It’s something I don’t get to see everyday. I saw a billboard miles back advertising a Shoney’s Restaurant. I’ve always been curious about that chain so I decided to have an early dinner there. It was located by the tracks like everything else. Maybe, I’ll bump into an interesting coal miner to talk to. I walked into Shoneys and was promptly seated. Like many places I’ve been to before, it was a homogeneous crowd. The people were blue-collar and “down home”, what you would expect from a coal mining town. Even though I stuck out, I didn’t feel any eyes on me beyond a passing glance. The people seemed to be just minding their own business and enjoying their meals with friends and loved ones. My waitress quickly came to the table to take my order. I opted for the buffet and got right back up again. When I got to the buffet to fill up a plate, I was pleased with the country-styled selections offered. It was similar to Home Town Buffet, so, I was happy!
As I was piling up with fried chicken and mashed potatoes, one of the young, aproned attendants came out from the kitchen to replace a few entrees that were running low. He was slender, attractive, and mildly effeminate in his bearing. He looked at me with a warm smile and I politely reciprocated before looking at other savory dishes to cover my plate. I saw out of the corner of my eye that he was still looking at me. “How often do you retwist your dreadlocks?” he asked. Puzzled, I stopped what I was doing to take a good look at him. “Once a month” I replied. “They look really pretty!” By this time, he was wiping down the counters. I asked him how did he know about my kind of hair. “I know about dreadlocks, braids, relaxers… I go to cosmetology school when I’m not here.” he said with a hint of pride in his voice. I was impressed… I told him how awesome it was that I came to the middle of West Virginia and bumped into a random white guy who has an interest in black hair care. I could only assume that he will not be staying in this town forever.
After my meal, I hopped back in Eunice and drove to the other side of the state to reach my destination, Point Pleasant… home of the legendary Mothman. It was late in the evening when I got there. Tired from a full day of driving, I checked my navigation system and opted to set up camp in Gallipolis, Ohio, right on the other side of the Ohio river, where they had a Walmart.
When I woke up the next morning, I took out my phone and searched for gyms with a shower that I could grift. There was not a one! I couldn’t say that I was surprised, because though Gallipolis and Point Pleasant were both nice and quaint, they were out of many things that other places have spoiled me with, like free hygiene. I started to search for creative alternatives and found that there was a community pool with showers that would only cost me five dollars for a daily pass.
When I got there, I found that the showers had no stalls or dividers, just clusters of plain, energy efficient shower heads like my old middle school locker room. There was a campground with showers, but the manager wasn’t home, only her killer Chihuahua who growled and followed me around the grounds. Three strikes! I didn’t think I would have to go back to taking sponge baths in my van again, but it would have to do. My only consolation was taking perverse humor in being a naked lady on Main Street in the middle of the day… and nobody knew!
After grooming, I decided to step out and check out the little shops of Point Pleasant. Main Street had an all-American look and feel, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was lined with prewar brick buildings that housed antique shops and discount boutique stores with walk up apartments on the top floor. I even saw an American flag or two hung outside… and it wasn’t even July! Then I came upon my main attraction, the Mothman Museum. The Mothman, by local accounts, is a creepy, supernatural creature with a tall, menacing moth-like body and large, glowing red eyes who haunts the area from time to time. People have seen him flying and making high pitched screeches, striking terror in those he chooses to encounter. The Mothman has been linked to several bizarre happenings; most notably, the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967 where 46 people lost their lives. I first learned of the Mothman upon the release of The Mothman Prophecies film in 2002, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Of course, as with any Hollywood movie based on true events, there was a flood of articles, cable shows, and entertainment news segments saturating the media to pique people’s interest in the film and the folklore. Mission accomplished.
When I went into the museum, I was pleasantly surprised that it was like walking into a cool, hole-in-the-wall memorabilia store on Newbury Street in Boston. The atmosphere was quirky, fun and casual just like the patrons who took time from their travels to make the visit. The museum didn’t take itself too seriously and there was a statue of the Mothman hanging overhead to greet all who entered.
All around, there were countless of eerie artifacts, drawings, newspaper clippings, and even props and costumes from the movie. In the back, there was a dark room where you could sit down and watch an hour-long documentary about the Mothman that played on a continuous loop. And of course, tee-shirts were available to buy as a souvenir. By the front counter, there were two maps displayed that encouraged patrons to pincushion where they traveled from… I was amused to see that people people had come from ALL OVER the world! Weird stories reach far.
Questions will always linger about who or what the Mothman is. There are several paranormal theories. Could he be an extraterrestrial, a ghost, a demon, or something that simply materialized because enough people started believing in him? Does it matter? Since there’s a sizable body count attributed to this entity, I say it’s best to leave it behind as a mystery and simply pray for God’s protection from things such as this!
I spent the next few days darting back and forth between Point Pleasant and Gallipollis. Apart from hanging out at McDonalds to people watch and go online, there really wasn’t that much to do. My only source of excitement was the uneasy feeling I’d get from driving over the Ohio River bridge and then making it safely to the other side. For the first time in my travels, I started to feel restless and bored and decided it was time to quickly move on. It was a bright Sunday afternoon and I figured a dash to the nearest city was what I needed. I couldn’t get on the highway to Dayton fast enough! My impulse was to floor the gas pedal, but I stuck to my rule of never going over 55-65 mph with Eunice. And it was a good thing, too.Five minutes into my drive, I smelled a very foul odor in the air and wondered if there was a sewage treatment plant nearby. Seconds later, I heard a loud POP and my van suddenly dropped and tilted to one side. My tire blew out. I was able to maintain control and quickly pulled over to the emergency lane. I got out and took a look around my camper. My left, rear tire was half way stripped and the flapping rubber violently cracked my sewer valve and hit the sewer cap clean off. Not that you could call it clean. The sewer I had smelled was my own… and it trailed all down the highway!
I couldn’t believe my luck. It was like something in this town was keeping me from leaving. Of all the tires to blow out, it had to be that one! Of all the times during my travels that this could have happened, it had to be now! Seriously?!
Sidenote: I learned from experts that tires can blow out at any time even ones that are in good condition! I had mine inspected before hitting the road and it still happened to me. Never speed with your camper van or RV because it’s heavy and you need to be able to keep control if something unpredictable happens. Never risk an accident. For the other person involved, it will be just his car that’s out of commission; for you, it will be your home! Be safe fellow gypsies!