Now that the weather has begun its turn towards the inevitable all around crappieness of winter and already I see Christmas stuff everywhere, the weekends become much harder to plan and predict. Primarily they have revolved around daytime reading and football and drinks/dinner/whatever in the evenings. So as I found myself sitting on the couch the other night, half reading making notes for my latest project while half way watching House on the idiot box, all the while simultaneously exchanging text messages with a certain young lady form the Great State of Kentucky with the most incredible eyes and irresistible little Kentucky draw to her voice (the after dark bunch have met her on our degenerate bourbon fueled gambling trips to the Keeneland Horse Park), the subject of what’s up for the weekend arose. About half kidding I suggested I would drive down there if she could get out for the evening. She could. So I did.
Unable to find a flight, I checked Yahoo maps. Piece of cake, 450 miles, they estimated 7 hours, I figured six tops. So after delivering some crucial documents on a trust account I manage to our Silver Spring, Maryland office, I ht 7-11 for the mandatory large coffee, two packs of cigarettes with a diet Dr. Pepper in reserve and set my sights up 270 towards Frederick and the mountains beyond.
Some observations from my journey:
I love to drive fast. I know its against the law and unsafe and all that other ca-ca, but I love it. I was managing a steady 80 through the mountains all the way to Morgantown, WV, and then had a pack of cars flash by doing an easy 100 mph..Nothing else to do. Swig down the coffee, put out the cigarette, get up on the wheel and join them. I got in the middle of the pack and we ran single file all 150 miles to Charleston without ever really slowing. I have written of this automotive phenomenon before as it always occurs on Interstate 95 allowing one to blast through the Deep South at Nascar type speeds. I did not expect, however, to be so blessed on this trip. But there it was. Foot on the accelerator, up tight on the wheel through the Mountains, the switchbacks and turns up and down the hills. To put it simply, it was a blast. I t always amazes me how these breakaway packs of gonzoid drivers seem to instinctively act and react, with an established order of progression for changing lanes and protecting each others space on the road. More interesting, in an early pass I determined one of the other drivers was a genuine NFE. In way of explanation the term was coined on a drive back from Myrtle beach when our breakaway was led by a beautiful blonde in a convertible, pony tail flying, chain smoking while blasting up 95 at 100+mph. I remarked to my traveling companion that was my kind of a woman, a real girl, the epitome of the perfect woman, nothing fake, no façade to her if she could hang with the big boys at these speeds. He concurred dubbing her the original Non-Facadel Epitome. Dana Patrick for example is a perfect example of a true NFE. Fridays NFE was a brunette in a trans am with long wavy locks and a pack of marlboros on the dash.But I digress. Of course I usually do.
The Interstate Highway System in this country is an under appreciated marvel and a true testament to the ingenuity, determination and engineering capability of the United States. It is a wondrous enough accomplishment to just consider the roads that run along the coasts or through the plains. But my journey from the point of Frederick on into Ashland Kentucky was a series of climbs and descents of mountains form 1 to almost 4000 feet, with grades ranging from 3 to 6 %. At some point during the original construction the equipment must have been almost vertical on the mountainside. The roads have been chopped and blasted and simply willed out of the terrain. They are well-maintained and safe to drive. Even by idiots like me.
The area around Morgantown, West Virginia is booming with technology projects. There are technology parks and new construction everywhere. Rt 79 through the area is referred to as the High Tech parkway. This is of course fueled by the proximity of WVU but it is good to see the expansion of the tech industry somewhere away from the coast.
West Virginia is an amazing state. Parts of it appear to be have been simply hacked out of slate gray hillside by an angry deity with a blunt ax. Run down shacks and the ubiquitous doublewide hunker down in the little hollows and clutch almost desperately to hillsides. Other parts are simply awe inspiringly beautiful with although I am loath to use clichés, awe inspiring vistas and sweeping mountain grandeur. If it this wondrous at 90+ mph I wonder what it looks like at lesser speeds.
I am aware that some statistics show a weakening in the economy. It is hard to believe when you are on the interstate and see the US GDP rolling by 18 wheels at a time. Wal-mart, Food Lion, Dixie Trucking, trans-am trucking. The roadways are packed with Commerce on the move headed to various distribution and retail centers. Unless there is a hideous inventory buildup somewhere that I am unaware of, we are still buying and selling an enormous amount of goods in this here great country of ours.
Anecdotally, West Virginia is very religious state. On my drive back Sunday there were very few cars on the road in the early part of Sunday afternoon. Most of these had out of state plates. I hypothesize that they were all at church. No state troopers either. No a one for 200 miles. So I suspect even the gendarmes of the highways were busy praying singing and snake handling at Little Holler Baptist and Stinking Creek Church of God on Sunday. Much like the deep south it is on of the few states where you see a billboard urging you read your bible on the opposite side of the road from one advertising the twin pleasures of an Adult Superstore and Oriental massage parlor. Very open-minded. All types of spirituality embraced apparently.
Charleston West Virginia seems to be having some sort of renaissance. The skyline shows sleek mini-scapers and large corporate campuses. The train yards were full and the city from the interstate (from a more sedate 60mph) seemed to be bustling. There was even a little rush hour back up at 5:30 on Friday. Huntingdon, WV where I stayed also seems to be growing on the back of Marshall University with shopping and retail complexes being developed downtown.
It was so tempting to stop a throw rocks at the international coal building. ICO (NYSE 4.74) is easily my worst stock of the year. Not, of course as bad as that unmentionable donut stock a few years back but still a stinker so far. Of course, this would lead to broken windows and another asset write down in the next quarterly. So I abstained form this cheap juvenile show of frustration. But it was tempting.
Arriving in Huntington on Friday I anticipated checking into the downtown Radisson and finding some food and a bar in which to watch the terps on ESPN2 play in the final of the Coaches against cancer basketball tournament. They were playing a Michigan State Squad who upset #3 Texas the night before. To my surprise, she of the ever-amazing eyes asked of I wanted her to join me. For those who knew me well, this is a seriously silly question. She suggested a place for dinner. Leading us to
Rocco’s in Ceredo (http://www.roccosristorante.com/contact.html), located between Huntington And Ashland, Ky is a treasure. The food is as good as any I have had anywhere.
The University of Maryland, also known, as the beloved and much maligned Terps appear to be better than the preseason pundits thought. They beat MSU to win Friday (helped by a missed time clock violation but a win is a win) and trounced a very good St. Johns team the night before. Still not in the top 25 and the ACC is a bear as always but I look for a return to the NCAA after two years in the backwaters of the NIT.
A woman who knows and understands college BB is a treasure. Even is she has the poor taste to root for the Wildcats of Kentucky.
Driving by a coke plant at night is a lot like driving past the inner circle of hell. Belching smoke and leaping flames abound. Somewhat surreal if you asked me.
If you know of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than watching the #1 college football team play the number 2 while rubbing the back of a beautiful woman while she sleeps, please do not tell me. I don’t want to know. I prefer my version.
That game was everything it was built up to be. Great college football. Next up, Notre Dame-USC next Saturday with Army-navy looming on the horizon.
Jeff Shaara is as good, if not better writer than hs father. His contiunation of his fathers cvilw war work was wonderful stuff. To the last man about WWI was as good and so was the revolutionary war Glorious cause.Add the rising tide, a look at the early part of WWII. Most accurate historical fiction writer I have read in a long time. Sticks to the facts and adds dialogue appropsraite for the temperment and personalties of those involved. Highyl recomended
We are now in sports junkie paradise. College Conference title games, rivalry matches and bowl season just around the bend. The pro-game is heating up, the ravens are winning and college hoops are under way. God Bless ESPN.
Tim Wilson (http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/wilson_tim/bio.jhtml) is one seriously funny redneck comedian. Vulgar and a long way from PC (sounds a little like a certain slim Chesapeake bay are value guy doesn’t it?) but funny.
On My drive back I saw snow. I hate snow. I have friends that love snow. They talk about ski trips and such. Skiing is one of those things that make no sense to me. Strap waxed boards on your feet and slide down the mountain. Its cold and its wet. Don’t they know that the lodge has heat, a fireplace AND a bar? Or that for about the same money they could fly to Aruba and spend the day on the nice warm beach and the nights frolicking and gambling in the casino? I refer you to my earlier comments on snow from this time last year.
About 11 I decided that a nightcap was the just the thing and off to bed. Pouring a tumbler of Irelands finest single malt I stepped out on the deck to see what changes the weather had wrought. The snow was falling fast and furious, racing through the lights on the edge of the grounds, dashing to and fro in a jumble of flakes, the flaky confusion resembling an airborne version of the original mosh pit at a grateful dead concert. The ground now was covered, each fallen morsel piling on the other, flake by flake, stitch by stitch, weaving a soft white blanket over the earth, the mundane parking spaces now a snow covered playground. The trees off in the distance, those stark, bare branches that usually cut the sky with slashes of winter grey ugliness, now almost majestic in appearance, branches bending into intricate patterns, ice sculptures carved by a maniac snow queen for a winter celebration. Over the frozen waters of the creek off to my right, the snow continued to fall, swirling patterns of ice shaved off some celestial diamond bouncing and skipping with the wind as they covered the icy layers of Thompson creek. The watermans work boats, usually hulking industrial looking crafts covered in netting and cages, now rose like snow covered hills off some surrealistic arctic landscape, these white masses rising from the ice, the harsh workday edges rounded off by the falling snow.The piers extended over the water ways of ice, fingers of whiteness untouched as yet by footprints, just suspension bridges of snowy symmetry and perfection over the ice.
I paused and sipped my glass looking at the newly formed wonderland of wintry excellence, listened to that unique lack of sound that comes on snowy evenings, as the snow covers and muffles the earth and the clouds hang low to earth, disgorging sound baffling clouds of wintry wetness over the earth.
As I stood there, beholding the changes upon the earth, the mundane everyday turned into a painting by some heavenly currier and ives, breathing in the quiet and dampness quality of suspended noise from the world, regarding all that had happened to the world with just the arrival of one small winter storm, I had but one thought at regarding such sights
MAN, I HATE THE FREAKING SNOW.......I GOTTA MOVE SOUTH
The drive home took a little longer as there was no breakaway, but six houras dootr to door wasn’t bad.Lots of times to ruminate on the great questions of life, value versus growth, men versus women, loves lost, loves still to come and all the other eternal and unsolvable, and of course essentially meaningless drivel one tends to reflect upon whilst driving. While listening to the ravens beat up Atlanta on the Morgantown radio station I luckily found at game time. I arrived in time to see the Cowboys upset the Colts and catch up on the island goings on of the weekend. Glad I went away after the update.
At last!!!..a new liquidation on the tape..back to work.