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MOUNT HOPE, WEST VIRGINIA—Hello from scenic southern West Virginia, home of such famous family attractions as (I kid you not) Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area, the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, and the Mystery Hole. (If I knew, I’d tell you.) But no time for fun and games—we’re finally en route home.
We were up at eight today, wanting to avoid the rush at Monticello—Thomas Jefferson’s estate in Charlottesville, Virginia. We piled into the Camry and, after navigating us onto the scenic route, Dad fell asleep in the back seat, leaving Jenny and me to appreciate the Virginia vistas.
We woke him up in the Monticello parking lot and took the courtesy bus up the hill to the estate. Charged with the video camera, I caught plenty of footage—mostly of the outside of the gift shop while I waited for my travelling-companions to emerge.
Before turning west, we treated the Camry to an oil change and checked the UVa campus out. (Jenny and I meandered around the grounds and mingled with the reunioning alumni while Dad struggled to extricate the Camry from an awkward position where it had become wedged among caterers’ trucks.) As the sun sank in the sky, we headed west on Interstate 64, imagining that after awhile we’d find a friendly small town in which to dine and spend the night.
Not so fast, Yanks. Our first stop was Covington, Virginia—which turned out to be completely dead except for a stately penitentiary. As we drove through downtown, Dad observed that “You could fire a cannon her and not worry about hurting anyone!” (There were a few other cars in town, but Dad recognized prestige when he saw it: “A Camry! In Covington!”)
We moved on to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the only two operating businesses of any note seemed to be a shop named after its specialty—”GUNS”—and a huge blue-blood resort that Dad (whose travelers checks came in twenty dollar denominations) figured had to cost upwards of a thousand dollars a night. “I’d be signing travelers checks until next week! And then I’d be doing dishes!”
Finally, though, we found a good ol’ Ramada Inn here in Mount Hope. They’re very friendly here, even though I put my foot in my mouth with the gift shop cashier. Seeing the university decals Dad proudly sports in the Camry’s back window, the cashier asked me, “So who goes to Harvard—you or your sister?”
“Um, I do.”
“What do you study?”
“Really? That’s the one class I got a B in this semester.”
“The rest were As.”
“Oh—sorry. Do you study sociology in high school?”
What can I say? She looked young! Anyway, it made me feel particularly badly that I had to pay for $1.06 worth of postcards with a twenty-dollar bill.
NEXT DISPATCH: Graceland?
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