26 February 2008

WV-08 DAY 3: A nice Sunday drive!

Tal & Sera's Excellent West Virginia Adventure

DAY THREE - Sunday, 17 February.
Agenda: Revisiting two sites from last year - Hawk's Nest Overlook and the "Old" New River Bridge; Mullens, WV; Tri-State Gaming Center, Nitro, WV.

Morning in our little cabin! Beaucoups to do on this Sunday, so let's get started!!

Today was w-i-n-d-y. We went down US-19 to go north on 60 for a short distance through the small village of Ansted, WV (where the Dairy Queen was closed for the winter!). Just past town is what has become one of my favorite spots in West Virginia: the Hawk's Nest Overlook. This is one of two views one gets from its vantage point......
I love this view. We first saw it last March, and since then it's become something of a mental "happy place." I'm sure that railroad bridge makes for a nice challenge for whitewater rafters. Limbo low ..... how low can you go?

And looking to the right, going up New River, here's a good dam view......

For some reason, the music of Bernard Hermann began to fill my mind's ear as we passed this empty flophouse on US-60.
Our next stop was back to the 'original' one-lane New River Bridge, to catch yet another gander of the arch bridge (the one engraved on the West Virginia quarter). I love the view which that bridge offers.

From there, we did our makegood for the Mullens joyride. Last year on our way out from Mount Nebo, we passed through "coal country", including Mullens. It used to be a thriving and bustling coal-mining and railroad town. The view from Highway 16 (or, as they call it up there, Route 16) gives a gorgeous first impression as you enter the city from the east:
Deep inside, it isn't so pretty in many places. When passing through last March, I noticed a very disturbing sight: an abandoned "town diner" -- I knew something was terribly wrong when the proverbial corner diner was boarded up. Some simple Googlistic research showed that Mullens, West Virginia was nearly destroyed by floods in 2001, and many businesses didn't rebuild and instead chose to vacate.

This town once sported its own multi-story hotel. The Hotel Wyoming was built in 1918, and was named for this county:
See the curtain in the window second from the left? It was flapping around in the wind, giving a heartwrenching message of emptiness. I could see into the main lobby -- the floor tiles spelled "HOTEL WYOMING" in mosaic form.

My mind kept morphing this building into its former grandeur, when Mullens served as a hub for southwestern West Virginia, back when coal and the railroads were king. I so wished it were 1955 again, so we could walk in there and get a room with a view -- a panoramic vantage point over the town and the mountains surrounding it.

I'd have to say the most haunting image we took from this visit was found in the window of what used to be a pool hall. Amidst the tiffany-style table lamps piled in the window, my wife spotted a box full of mud-caked billiard balls!
But not all is bleak in Mullens, West Virginia. A tavern and a Dollar General was bringing folks in on this leisurely Sunday afternoon..............
It was depressing, yet offered glimmers of hope. That's West Virginians for you; down but never out.
We made our way out of Mullens and back to Beckley, where we picked up the West Virginia Turnpike for a trip northward to Charleston, where we'd try Lady Luck again. Would one of us make a small jackpot on the nickel slots? The answer after this pleasant visual interlude:
It's a typical image of what one gets on the turnpike between Beckley and Charleston -- much of it winds between two mountainsides. One feels all 'snuggled in' driving this stretch of interstate.

Okay, the answer? Cue the Price is Right "losing horns" -- we busted. We left the Tri-State casino completely devoid of the gambling wampum we allotted ourselves. Oh well. At least half of it was gravy from the scratch-offs Friday afternoon!

Supper was procured at Cracker Barrel south of Charleston, then it was back to the cabin. Tomorrow: A trip to Switzerland. Really. No joke.



Kate/Susan said...

I want to buy up that hotel and turn it into a showplace. What an awesome building.

I am so enjoying your travelogues. Wish mine could be so eloquent.

Talmadge G. said...

That hotel is aching for a restoration. It truly is beautiful, even containing an old 'ghost sign' painted on its north face, advertising room rates in the single digits.

Strange that a town that small would have such a magnificent hotel, but it did. Of course, in 1918 (the year inscribed over the entrance) Mullens was close to 5,000 in population, and a very prosperous railroad city. Today, it's barely 1,200.

I would give so much to be able to buy it, have it gutted and refurbished. Hotel Wyoming v2.0 -- a hybrid B&B/hotel with a restaurant on the ground floor ... a meat-and-three buffet for lunch.

Something like the Hotel Talisi in Tallassee, Ala. (~15 minutes from where Tiger lives) www.hoteltalisi.net

And a BAKERY, too. Surprise, surprise.

With the Coalfields Expressway due to extend around Mullens, don't write off this town just yet.

Kate/Susan said...

What a great plan, Tal... I love the idea of a hotel/b&b hybrid. I've been looking around VA, wistfully trying to find a B&B to buy in my dreams, but... well, you know... hehe I guess this means you're not the GA couple who won the MegaMillions?

Talmadge G. said...

No, but we're less than an hour's drive from them. They live in the next county over to the west.

That hotel looks too nice and stately to let rot like that. This weekend when you come down, I'll show you the video Sera took.

Libster said...

My family is from Mullens. When I was a child, my mother worked the front desk and ran the switchboard at the hotel. She later also cleaned rooms and I helped a few times. Hotel Wyoming was an interesting and creepy place for a kid. It wasn't like the motels I had stayed in. Not every room had its own toilet. They all had sinks where you could wash up but the toilets and bathing facilities were shared by others on the floor.

The same family that owned the hotel also owned the Bud and Henry's Bar and Grill that was boarded up. I remember their fries! In fact, we lived right across the street above what was a dentist's office at the time. I believe it is a construction office now. The pool hall was part of Bud and Henry's.

Your blog and pictures brought back many fond memories and bit of sadness. I remember Mullens when it was a booming town. Why we even had a GC Murphy's department store! I could go on and on but it won't ever bring it back - SIGH.
I'd love to go back someday and restore it all.

Talmadge Gleck said...

Hi, Libster--

I just now saw your comment. Thank you so much for sharing your recollections and memories.

It was like knives to my heart seeing that town in such a shape. I could SEE for myself that it once had so much going for it. That hotel alone stays in my mind today ... the "ghost signs" facing 16 are what first jumped out at me as we rounded that curve and saw Mullens laid out before us.

A G.C. Murphy, huh? I remember those stores myself.

The minute Powerball or Mega Millions decides to be good to us, Mullens won't know what hit 'em. :-)

Thanks again for commenting.