Sunday, October 2, 2016

Visiting the "other" Charleston

I'm sure when most people hear the name Charleston they think of the southern city in South Carolina.  There is however, another Charleston which isn't as well known.  It's the capital of West Virginia so therefore was on my "hit list".  As you may or may not know I am walking all the state and state capitals of the United States as part of a walking program through the American Volkssport Association.  I am a member of the Canadian Volkssport Association which is affiliated.  As of this moment in time I have walked in 34 states and 33 state capitals.  I say walked..the total I have visited is much greater but was before I joined the walking club and was just an ordinary sightseer.  I only started this walking program in 2005...okay that has given me 11 years but hey I've been busy visiting other places as well you know!.  Once my knee is fixed (here she goes again...) I plan to get back at it very seriously.....

When I knew I was going to Cleveland I just could not resist the opportunity to get a couple more state capitals in.  I had already walked the capital of Ohio and some of the nearby states.  When I found that Charleston was just five hours by bus I decided to go for it.

After I finished my 6 km walk in downtown Cleveland I headed back to the hotel, got my luggage from storage and walked over to the bus depot.  The bus wasn't a Greyhound (yay!) but the Barons bus company - the driver was respectful and the bus was clean.  Even better was that I had no one beside me the entire trip - always nice!!!  The scenery was pretty on the way over - so many trees. West Virginia is full of hills/mountains and trees!  Due to a smudged window I won't even attempt to post photos. We pulled into the modern depot just past 10 p.m.  I had read on the internet that taxis in Charleston were as scarce as hens' teeth so I deliberately booked a hotel within walking distance of the bus depot.  I had to ask someone where my hotel, the Charleston Capitol Inn was as while the address said one thing the location was was behind another building.  I prefer airbnb homes over hotels but sometimes centrally located hotels make sense if I am there for just a short while.  Needless to say I collapsed into bed and slept well.

The next morning I peered at the offerings of the "free" breakfast...after the nice breakfasts at the Hampton Inn in Cleveland these were pretty dismal offerings.  I just had a bagel and coffee...fake eggs and microwaved sausage patties don't do it for me.  The hotel itself is in the process of being renovated and becoming part of the Wyndham group - if I ever visit again I won't be able to afford to stay there.  I had emailed the person in charge of the walk and she had given me instructions on how to access the walk from my hotel so that was so helpful.

So off I went...heading west four blocks to the Kanawha river where I would walk along to the start point at the Hampton Inn.   I saw this delightful sculpture in front of the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences on my way...

It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz - I guess because of the character with the pointed hat (tin man!). It is called Festival delle Arti by Harry Marinsky and the figures depict the performing arts.

Then onto the river walk where I alternated between walking on the pathway by the river and on the sidewalk beside the street.

This place was pretty deserted on a cloudy Saturday morning.  The river walk was fairly pleasant and soon I was to the start point where I could sign in and stamp my books.

Daniel Boone!!! Not as exciting as Davy Crockett but he'll do!!!

This river was muddy...this is the Elk river.  I had crossed over the bridge shown in the picture and after signing in at the Hampton Inn I was now on my way back downtown.  I stopped into a couple of shops that were open and got into a conversation with the shop keepers in one of them.  Upon learning that while I had water on me I needed to get some more eventually one of them went to the back and presented me with two small bottles which is all I needed.  That act of kindness warmed my heart.  Even though the local accent reminded me of a few scenes from "Deliverance" (was waiting to hear the banjos start playing)  I found the people in Charleston friendly and helpful.  By now it was starting to heat up and the humidity was getting to be something else.  Somewhere in my research about Charleston I had read about Amy's ice cream which is a locally owned business.  When I spied it I zoomed in and had an ice cream cone...peach!  I sat outside and relaxed in the shade.

The ice cream was super and I just sat and enjoyed, thinking how lucky I am to be able to do these kind of things.  And I noticed the clock was broken...the time was about four hours earlier than shown on the clock.  See the building across the way that says Taylor on it...a book shop!  Eeeee!!!  I had to stop and have a quick look with a mental note to come back later as there was going to be live music.

Damn that fire...made me walk another 5 sweaty kilometesr to see it!  I passed within a block of my hotel so decided to take a break.  I cranked up the air conditioning full blast and sprawled out on my bed and guzzled water and a pop I had stashed in the fridge like there was no tomorrow.   After an hour of this lethargy I felt energized enough to carry on.  My 5 km walk was more or less complete but I had decided that I needed to do the 10 km as what is the point of walking a state capital if you aren't actually going to see the state capital.

There were several of these pieces of art on poles all the way to the State capital.  The area at first was a bit "dodgy" but then turned into a trendy area with lots of cafes and restaurants. It was so tempting to stop and eat but I knew if I did it would be so hard to get started again.  By this time I was sitting down a lot as despite taking Aleve/Ibuprofin (I've learned since then my "magic cocktail" or my happy pills as I call them is a lethal combo and I don't do that anymore) my knees were a bit unhappy but it was the heat and humidity that was doing me in.  I found out later that with the humidity it was equal to 99F that afternoon.

Of course West Virginia is known for its coal so I had to stop at the Coal Miners' memorial. Part of that descripton above bugs me but let's not go there...

I turned sideways as I thought it might make me look skinnier...nope!

The lady who took my photo said the Capitol was open and I could go up those stairs to get in.  Well I staggered up the stairs and it was locked.  A fellow sitting there said the side door was open but in the end I didn't go inside.  I decided to visit the West Virginia state museum (free admission) instead as it was so cool.  By this time I was exhausted from the heat so I sat down more than I explored.  It was interesting though and I would love to go back when my brain was not fried and melting through my head...believe me it felt that way!  I just could not absorb a lot of what was there which was a shame as I do love history museums. I did learn that West Virginia was part of Virginia from 1776 until 1863 when they seceded from Virginia  (a Confederate state) to join the Union during the Civil War.  Hey, I'm Canadian we didn't learn this stuff...or if we did I guess I was daydreaming. (I did a lot of that during my forced 12 year confinement at school)  No photographs were allowed but I did manage to sneak this one in of an old telephone cord board. (shhh...)  I did this back in the 70's - it was a great job!

Soon it was time to leave the coolness of the museum and head back out.  Just after I left the heavens opened but the moisture was welcome and so what if I was soaked - it cooled me off a bit.  It soon ended and I was off but not before grabbing a shot of the front of the State Capitol building.

"Abraham Lincoln Walking at Midnight" is the name of the sculpture above.  It was completed in 1974.  It was created to depict Abe's sadness during the Civil War.

I took this from across the street on the river side walking path as I was just too darn tired to cross the street - and that's the truth!

Memorial to Charles Clendenin - whom Charleston was named after by his son George, one of the founders.

I walked along this path for what seemed absolutely forever, grabbing shade and sitting down when I could. "Will this thing EVER end"? I muttered to myself.  Finally, finally the cross street to my hotel appeared and I gratefully stumbled to my hotel room where I collapsed for a good hour on my bed.  After a shower I headed out to find something to eat.  I had my heart set on a place which I knew was within walking distance on the same street as the ice cream parlour and book shop.  To my distress it was heaving with a one hour weight.  There was a music festival going on with people dancing but it was just not my kind of music (screeching women) so in desperation I went into a pizza parlour.  At least it was a locally owned iconic place and not a chain but it wasn't what I wanted.  However I did not have it in me to try to find another place and it was too far to walk back down to the area I was interested in.   I walked over to the book shop and had tea and listened to a folk singer and that got to me after a while - I wanted my bed!

It was a good day but a tiring one and I feel like Charleston and I have a bit of unfinished business.  I'd like to explore the State museum in more detail, see the inside of the state capital, visit the market and explore more shops. These are things I can usually do in a full day of walking but between my knees and the heat it just wasn't possible. The walk is done; I don't need to do it again.  Will I ever get back there? Likely not but never say never!

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