5:30 pm. I’m glad to find Dove’s Store, a reassuring last shot from a long day looping thru ‘Highland’ counties in West Virginia: Pendleton, Hardy, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant, and back. Often featured here, ‘Highland’ counties encompass and sustain the South Branch of the Potomac River. And provide generously for those with an appetite for riding county roads. But, I’m still smarting, since morning. An acute smart lingering long after my public humiliation by a tail-thrashing, hoof-splashing, testosterone-charged juvenile Angus bully defending his indifferent heifers, they clearly more interested in a sip of creek water, against my apparent interest in the same. For the rest of the story, check here.
. The once familiar one-stop country General Merchandise ceased operations three or more decades ago. That means kerosene, livestock feed, work sox, hardware, dry beans by the scoop, groceries, popsicles and bubble gum, bolt cloth, fresh gossip, mail and credit must be found elsewhere. Yet the old store buildings continue to survive long after the cash drawers closed for the last time. After all, grand parents and families built these stores and kept them open for long hours each day providing fundamental necessities valued by all. As these silent icons slowly weather and strain under the weight of honeysuckle and tree limbs there seems to be a shared nostalgia, an unspoken reluctance to interfere in any way that might hasten the final dismantling of these precious artifacts.
Parts of Alexander County are very friendly to backroad gawking and photography. This shot, taken a week ago today, is the first from my recent winter trip. Ground level steaming from winter dew did not show as well as I had hoped. Heart level steaming was unaffected.
This year's trip (No. 23) spanned 15 days, 12 hrs, and 42 min covering 2,702.5 summer-baked miles stoop-to-stoop. The truck burned 172 gallons of regular gas, costing an average $3.15 per gallon or 20.1 cents per mile, achieving 15.7 miles per gallon (not bad for slow rough backroads with dozens of stops each day). Total out of pocket expenses averaged $74.92 per day including $33.83 for gas - or 45% of total costs. In the old days gas never exceeded $10 per day. In the process I melted 14 seven-pound bags of ice (they used to be 8-pounds), drank 17 diet mountain dews, and ate 14 chocolate crème-filled marshmallow-covered sprinkled with pink shredded coconut Hostess 'Snoballs'. I heard the uplifting mood-altering songs of the wood thrush (hylocichla mustelina) every day but one and spotted 25 chipmunks, 18 deer, 8 groundhogs, 6 wild turkeys, 8 box turtles, 4 gold finches, 2 red-headed woodpeckers, 1 bear, 1 black snake, 1 inhabited beaver lodge, a momma Canada goose with three chicks, a pigeon on a plank, 2 ticks, 7 shoulder dogs, 5 fighting cock breeders (no pictures taken), and 29 dead possums. Reckless ATV's now flood the backroads like lemmings. Found one new wildflower called sanicle (sanicula marilandica) or black snakeroot or butterwort. It's evidently quite common, but new for me. The most prolific and dominant flower this year was, by far, Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) crowding ditches, lining fences, and filling fields and open spaces. None seemed interested in chasing after me, tho'. This year's photography was for the first time all digital with the new Nikon D200, a magnificent instrument, helping me return with 990 individual shots taken during 254 individual photo stops an average of 15-16 per day. Included in the harvest are: 45 country churches, 11 old stores, 8 fire trucks, 4 barber shops, a race car, 8 triple-crosses, 1 swinging foot bridge, 1 rusty truss bridge, 1 covered bridge, 4 coal handling operations, 1 lime kiln, 2 railroad depots, 5 post offices, 2 old schools, (only) 1 gas pump, 4 cemeteries, 1 court house, 1 bank, and gobs of creeks and rivers, farms and barns, mountain scenics, small towns, windows and doors, numerous wildflowers and a 'special' daisy study (to be posted later). Below is an example of a 'two-fer' including a store and a church in the same frame with moving van sandwiched between.