Friday, March 11, 2011

Wandering in West Virginia's northern panhandle

Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 4:37pm

I took half a day off on Friday to meet up with Anna in St. Clairsville, as she returned from a business trip to western Ohio. We had learned of a special deal the Wheeling Nailers hockey team (Pittsburgh Penguins farm team) offers--for $99 you get two game tickets, dinner for two at a local sports pub, and a night's lodging at a hotel within walking distance of the arena. The end of Anna's business trip coincided with a Nailers game against the Dayton Bombers (a fitting name for a franchise in an Air Force town), so we signed up for it a few weeks ago.

After meeting up in nearby St. Clairsville, we did a little exploring of Wheeling. It is such a shame to see the once proud and bustling city of Wheeling only a shadow of its former self. The "powers that be" are so concerned about our current economic situation and its impact on Wall Street (as well as the haughty residential suburbs in Connecticut, etc.).

Where was the concern when West Virginia led the country with 25% unemployment in 1982? We have gone through economic difficulties numerous times, and yet survived. Surviving is not the same as thriving, but at least we are still here--and West Virginia and its mountains will always be here. [Like the words of the Hank Jr.'s song, "A Country Boy Can Survive."]

Luckily for us, the WVU-University of Dayton NCAA Tourney game was set for 3:00 and not 7:00 on Friday. We got to watch the game at Generations
sports pub, a place we had never been before. It was a decent meal, but the game was a disappointment. If we had not had the special coupon for dinner for two at Generations, we might have went to TJs Sports Bar or River City Ale Works--two other restaurants we have enjoyed in Wheeling.

I've been a hockey fan dating back to the days when I would listen to out-of-town radio stations across the AM dial, often pulling in NHL games that piqued my interest. My first hockey game was when one of my Dad's coworkers (a transplanted New Englander) took his son and me to Pittsburgh in 1973 to see the Boston Bruins (including Hall of Famers Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr) play the Penguins. During my law school days, I got to go on a bus trip to see the Penguins play the Edmonton Oilers with Wayne Gretzky, who was obviously going to be a "great one." While living in DC, I shared a limited season ticket package with my UC friend Chuck Crum for the Washington Capitals. I've also seen NHL hockey games at Nashville (in conjunction with WVU's Music City Bowl win), San Jose (while on a business trip), and Columbus.

Anna is not as experienced with hockey, but she and I attended college hockey games at WVU and Ohio University. Last year, we got to see the Penguins play Tampa Bay, with her friends from Pittsburgh. Anna and I also had attended a Wheeling game about five or six years ago. She sees some similarity between hockey and her beloved game of basketball that she played in high school. However, she thinks the fights are stupid, and I agree.

Hockey is much more interesting to watch live, as opposed to on TV. It also makes a difference if you know how incredible their skating skills are. If you have never skated, you can't appreciate the mastery the players display with their quick changes of direction and bursts of speed (both forward and backward).

The first period Friday was scoreless, but then Dayton erupted for three goals in the second. Surprisingly, Wheeling was able to tie the game in the third, sending it to overtime. Neither team scored in the overtime period, so we got to see a shootout. Unfortunately, Dayton won the shootout to end the game. It was the second defeat to Dayton within six hours.

After the game, we stopped at DiCarlos Pizza for pepperoni rolls. DiCarlos is renowned in the northern panhandle, but while it is OK, I don't consider it fantastic. It's a nice change of pace because it involves a different cheese strategy--not melted, but freshly shredded.  I wouldn't want it all the time, but when in Rome...

On Saturday, we ventured to the Cabelas store in the huge new development outside of Wheeling for some sightseeing and lunch (I had ostrich while Anna had wild boar). Even if you are not a hunter or fisherman, this huge store is incredible. We like the amazing freshwater fish aquariums. On this day, they had a man inside doing cleanup using "snuba" gear, which Anna and I had used in the Virgin Islands (see underwater photo on my profile page).

Afterwards, we decided to forego the easy way back to Morgantown via I-70 to I-79. Instead, we dropped down to Moundsville to see the Marx Toy Museum--Marx toys had a factory there, where Big Wheels, Rock'em, Sock'em Robots, and other toys were made. We were able to look inside through the windows, but unfortunately it was closed (?). We also drove down around the mound museum and the former WV penitentiary, both of which we had previously visited. Downtown Moundsville is another example of a downtown that has vastly changed in the past generation. The Fostoria Glass Plant "ruins" were another sad statement about economic upheaval.

We took U.S. Route 250 out of Moundsville, en route to visit Prabhupada's Palace of Gold (, the Krishna temple located in the hinterlands of Marshall County. Their motto is "Simple Living and High Thinking" which is something many of us could benefit from--we are experiencing these economic problems because too many folks adhered to the motto "High Living and Simple Thinking."

In its heyday, it must have been beautiful, but it is showing its age and is not the showplace it once was. Apparently, as often happens with utopian communes, schisms occurred that ruined the dreams they had. Now it is difficult to keep up the maintenance needed on "America's Taj Mahal."

We then cut across from Rt. 250 across to Waynesburg, PA, and toured the campus of Waynesburg College. It is a nice small college, similar to Marietta College, but on a hillside (with a huge graveyard behind it).  Waynesburg itself is the county seat of Greene County, PA, and an interesting small town (with a coal mine on the western edge). Finally, we picked up I-79 and returned to Morgantown.

It was an interesting way to spend about 24 hours exploring the northern panhandle, while discussing such diverse topics as communes, economic transformation, two-lane highways, sports, etc. I'm so lucky that Anna puts up with me!

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