Sunday, December 1, 2019

West Virginia

My friend Ryan wanted to take a weekend trip to Charleston, West Virginia and then swing through other parts of that state, Kentucky, and Ohio before heading home. He was kind enough to invite me along.

And then kind enough to tolerate me as I kept getting car sick, had delayed us initially, and had brought us to a terrible truck stop diner.

He’s a great friend.

- Downtown Charleston.

We made it to Charleston around 11 PM and checked into a hotel where Christmas music was already playing softly in the lobby. We set about wandering the streets of the city at night and making photographs.

- Kanawha Coin Shop.

- Kanawha River.

- Charleston hillside.

- Charleston hillside.

- Downtown Charleston.

The next morning, we gambled on a continental breakfast of lukewarm eggs and decent coffee before wandering around some nearby neighborhoods over to the capitol building.

I had passed through here (and other parts of WV including the resort bunker, the random pedestrian overpasses, and Wheeling) a few years back, but this time—the capitol was under renovation and only a slight part of its golden peak could still be seen. Still, the building is impressive and thanks to the friendly police officers manning the entrance, we were advised to tour the nearby museum. West Virginia is a state of incredibly friendly people and interesting history.

After some more neighborhood wandering, we found coffee and ketchup-flavored potato chips at the downtown market before eventually settling on a local brewery and restaurant for dinner. The nightlife of Charleston seemed to feature bars that we weren’t too interested in, so instead we opted to walk around the city’s downtown mall, which is unique in the facts that not only is it a successful mall in the heart of an urban core—but also a successful, mostly filled mall in general.

- Charleston City Market.

The next day, we killed time at a local cafe/bookstore/art gallery/cinema/educational space before heading out towards Huntington.

- Taylor Books, Charleston.

- Departing Charleston.

The small downtown offered up a cold, decent walk, but the highlight was Stewart’s Original Hotdogs where you can get a variety of 6 different dogs, chips, and a half gallon of root beer for ten bucks.

- Huntington.

- Huntington.

- Huntington.

- Huntington.

I love root beer stands. I love them even more when they’re open year round. If I had money, I’d turn the root beer stand concept into a food truck and then force Cincinnati to be more accommodating to food trucks.

- Stewart's Original Hot Dogs.

Fun fact: West Virginia style coney dogs differ from Cincinnati-style in that the chili, cheese, and onions, sit under the dog instead of on top of it.

- Gas station, Huntington outskirts.

We left Huntington for Kentucky and eventually Eastern Ohio where I made some frames in support of 35mm Ohio.

On the way out of Huntington, though, we swung by the closed-for-the-season Camden Park.

- Camden Park's Big Dipper.

- Camden Park's classic neon sign.

I had actually been here over a decade ago and it’s an interesting place. I dug up those 2008 photographs and you can read more about the place here.


  1. West Virginia has some phenomenal cities. I really hope it manages to overcome some of the stereotypes and economoc challenges that have plagued it for years, because places like Wheeling and Charleston should be on everyone's radar as day trips. They'd make perfect base-camps for hiking or outdoor adventuring like Asheville or Gatlinburg but the Appalachian malaise still seems to hang thick in the air over them.

    1. That's an interesting take—in terms of the Asheville comparison (never cared much for Gatlinburg, although the outdoor activities are far better than the tacky nonsense in town). One of the things I was often thinking of on this most recent WV trip was how does a city like Charleston re-invent or re-puprose its image. There's a few interesting things going on and in the State Museum, they really, really pump up WV's outdoor activities. Totally agree with what you said—Charleston could be the perfect "base camp" for attending those things. If the Downtown had a few more activities/decent bars/places to stay—it'd be a hit.

  2. I am considering going to West Virginia myself just for the chili dogs... This has me intrigued

  3. I am considering going to West Virginia myself just for the chili dogs... This has me intrigued