Several Springs ago I needed to get to the other end of the county quickly, so I jumped up on the local portion of the Interstate to avoid city traffic. A little less than half-way there, I realized my need to pull over quickly in order to find a restroom. My bladder is pretty big, but when it's full there's little time to spare. I pulled into the nearest Interstate rest stop, and waddled up to the urinal.
A traveler--who ignored the space-in-between rule we men have coded into our DNA -- mistook me for an out-of-state traveler, like him, who was just passing through.
"Beautiful state, West Virginia. Don't you think? I'm from Colorado. We have beautiful mountains, but these hills are really pretty. Just incredible."
"Yep," I answered. "The hills are very nice."
He continued: "The thing about it, though, is that the whole place is so damn remote. There doesn't seem to be much in terms of civilization, at least on the stretch of road I'm taking."
I was almost finished.
"Yeah, we natives hear that a lot. There's not a lot of flatland here, so the towns and communities are tucked away in between the mountains. You gotta get off the Interstate to really get the feel of the state."
"Well, I'm just passing through," he replied. "I don't have the time to really stop."
I zipped up, wished him a safe trip and hit the door.
There are some aspects of West Virginia that trouble me, including the never-ending battles with poverty, a general population that's less educated than the average American and the medical problems that are inherent in impoverished societies that are growing older. There are things to love, too. West Virginia is a beautiful state, with good people who, generally, seem to care about community.
Recently, there's been a move by some West Virginia bloggers to create a new archetype for West Virginia. It's a nice idea, and I'm hopeful the effort is successful. My thought, though, is that there's only one way to make that happen:
Make sure those folks traveling through on the Interstates have a valid reason to stop, visit and get to know us. We've had too long a history of people quickly passing through.
Happy birthday, West Virginia. I may not always like you, but I do love you. You're family.