Ashland, Ohio. Mile 400.


Rain. Lots of it this morning. I watched it pounding away on the roof of the GMC as it sat stately across the car park from our Holiday Inn Express. My first thought was “is it watertight?” Most motels are though and Holiday Inn has been in the business for a few years so I had every confidence.

We packed up and headed out, with the rain really pouring. I opened the GMC door with some trepidation but all was well – apart from some drips by the dinette but nothing major. That job will be first on the to do list when we get back to DC. Once again it fired right up though and soon we were splashing out to Route 250 in the murk. We’d poured over Google Maps before setting out and found that we could get all the way to DC on two roads, 250 and 50, both old highways that cut through the hills.

Wooster, the next town came and went and we stopped before Uhrichsville for some fuel. I looked over at the next pump and there was an elderly Amish man with a white beard and a broad brimmed hat filling a fuel can. His buggy was parked by the garage, the black horse steaming in the rain. We saw several more buggies on the road and in fact we only saw Amish people walking about. Otherwise everywhere we went through seemed deserted.

The road got smaller and the communities more sparsely settled. We began winding up into the damp hills and soon we were twisting along a high ridge looking over rolling brown landscape. We came to Cadiz, birthplace of Clark Gable. There was not a great deal for Clark Gable to have stayed around for. Outside the town  was a sign which said “Clark Gable Museum + Coal Museum”. In town, was another which just said “Coal + Gable” and an arrow.  Gable had deserted them after all and Coal kept people employed for a while at least.

We crossed the river into Wheeling and West Virginia. Its very much a faded remnant of its 19th century heyday. Once grand Victorian buildings now housing flea markets and carpet warehouses. The rain didn’t help and its probably a lot nicer in the sunshine but neither of us felt like stopping so we zizagged through the streets until we hooked back up with Route 250, which ran across an old iron bridge and YIKES a “Clearance 8′” sign . I wasn’t sure that we could fit under it but Dad hopped out and checked and we squeaked through.

We were both getting hungry by now so pulled in to a Walmart, as you do when you are hungry. It was actually the Subway which called us in like a Siren. Two hours later, reeling from the vastness that is Walmart and laden with the inevitable bags of rv-related purchases we staggered back out to the carpark where I realised I had left the lights on and turning the ignition key I was greeted with a depressing “click”. So this is where the little “aux” button on the dash comes in useful. It switches to a backup battery, the engine turned over and all was well.

All was not well in the West Virginia that lines route 250. The communities seemed mired in the most depressing kind of dank poverty. It was hard to tell which houses were derelict and which still inhabited. The difference between one and the other seemed wafer-thin. It felt like being in what we would now euphemistically call a Developing Country. Rotting cars lay strewn around muddy yards and the road itself was completely falling to bits. At times it was hard to drive over something that actually had tarmac on it; great swathes of roadway were just collections of potholes loosely connected by gravel. Cars would occasionally fall in behind us only to turn off a few miles further on. No-one else it seemed was driving the whole length of this road. There were several occasions as we rounded another crumbling hairpin, the wheels spinning on the greasy road, that I wished we weren’t either. I saw two people by the road. A man scowling as chickens scratched about in the mud at his feet and an elderly lady with a mushroom of white hair getting out of a car. She gave me a big smile and a defiant wave.

It took about two hours to drive the eighty miles from Walmart to the Super8 in Fairmont West Virginia where we are propped up on our beds half-watching Monsters and Aliens. Tomorrow we drive the final two hundred miles to Philippa and Tom. Great! Night all.

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