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Shepherdstown and Charles Town

April 19, 2013

West Virginia – Saturday, April 13

As long as I was in the little panhandle of West Virginia, I decided to wander through some of the other towns in the area. We started with Shepherdstown, which is the oldest town in the state, founded in 1762. The first successful steamboat exhibition also took place on the river outside of town. It was a fun area to walk through – lots of interesting old buildings in town to look at, including a skinny old building that is now currently the library. There were cherry blossom petals all over the place on the ground. Once I had walked around as much of the town as I could, I found a big park with a long walking trail, so altogether I covered nearly 4 miles in Shepherdstown.

Then I headed toward Charles Town – not to be confused with Charleston, West Virginia’s capital. On the way, I passed the Charles Town race track, and since I’ve been to race tracks in New York, California and Kentucky, I decided to visit this one too, and add West Virginia to that list. I was hoping there would be races this afternoon since it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but post time wasn’t until 7:30 in the evening, although the track was open for all the people who like to go into the clubhouse to watch all the TVs broadcasting races from tracks all over the country. It was very noisy and smoky in there! Back outside, the track was being groomed for this evening’s races, and the winner’s circle was being hosed down.

Then I continued into Charles Town, which was laid out by George Washington’s brother Charles. Charles named the streets after family members and government names. I hear so much about George Washington that I don’t stop to think about the rest of his family – he had 3 brothers, 2 half-brothers and 2 sisters, and they were a pretty wealthy land-owning family in general. Charles lived in Charles Town at a place he called Happy Retreat, and George visited often, and not only is the home still standing, but it’s for sale. It looks funny to see a historic property with a normal “for sale” sign by it! Tula had taken a break while I was walking in the park back in Shepherdstown, but she came with me for about 2 1/2 miles around Charles Town. Along the way, I ran across another unexpected donation opportunity. I was walking by an area of churches and yards, and there was a big stand with a notice on it about free Saturday lunches, and phone numbers to call to make arrangements for donations or to drive meals to shut-ins. I took a picture of the sign and called one of the ladies when I got back to the van. She told me they would certainly appreciate a donation – a lot of people turn out for the free monthly lunches (on the last Saturday of the month when money begins to run out). She gave me the address of the church so I could mail in my donation, so I’m happy to have found a donation opportunity while just walking around town.

By now it was late afternoon, and time to head west into the main part of the state. West Virginia is very mountainous, and there was really only one way to go – back and forth along curvy roads up and down mountains. It was pretty in the twilight hours, and occasionally I would see old painted advertisements for Mail Pouch Tobacco on the sides of barns. I got to the town of Romney, and Tula and I took a break from the car and walked the last mile and a half for the day around town in the last of the daylight – another one nearly as old as Shepherdstown. My book says the town of Romney changed hands 56(!) times during the Civil War – how confusing for everyone! After Romney, I continued to head west for a few more hours – often not going much more than 30mph because of the mountains – and ended up in Fairmont, where I got a place for 2 nights so I can finalize those pesky taxes!
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