What is up with West Virginia?

I have traveled my fair share throughout my life and I’ve never seen anywhere like West Virginia. I moved here in August of 2007 from Harford County, Maryland. I’ll claim the phrase “culture shock” here.

I had heard that the campus was beautiful. I had painted a picture of what living in Morgantown would look like. Sprawling green parks to lay out in the sun in between classes, being able to drink from the fountain {like everywhere in Europe}, sitting outside coffee shops reading my notes…

When my mom and I pulled in through star city I could scarcely believe my eyes. I was confused, I was looking for the town and it still looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. Sure, I’m used to the big cities like Baltimore, New York, Rome… but I have been to countless small cities and they still looked like quaint providences. They looked united.

We drove through campus, and yes, it was beautiful. Lush garden beds at every spare space, benches, trees and small patches of velvety grass. The campus was fine enough, and yes there was a small chuckle in the adoration of how tiny “downtown” was, but I was also scared. {mind you, I grew up in downtown Baltimore, and not always the good parts}

The downtown was okay, but there was something a bit off.

About a week after being dropped off that fall I finally mustered up the courage to walk downtown. I explored Casa Di Amici’s, Tutto Gelato, Pinocchio’s, and the Bead Monster {now known as Silver Pennies}. I had an awesome time out. It was so fun to walk through this small downtown and buy things from these little shops.

The longer I stay West Virginia my eyes have been able to adjust and periodically see through the particles of coal and limestone truck pollution to uncover an endless list of questions. The politics and buyouts run deeper than the coal mines that swiss-cheesed this once beautiful state.

In my undergrad, I used to wonder about the people who lived in Morgantown. Who were they? Why did they choose to live in such a gray place? What thing caused them to stay and live in this desolate town? What made them want to stay instead of running away to a happier place?

The years went by and other than a college diploma, I also received one amazing best friend, a group of girlfriends, a husband, a family, and a love for this wild state.

Through rock climbing, I got to see a part of this state that few others have ever seen. I got to touch the earth more than many others ever will. I became intimate with the spirit of the mountain in a way only I know and understand. I fell in love with Appalachia, West Virginia.

One defining thing about me {as my close friends know} I am as defensive as a female lion over a cub for the things I love.

When I fell in love with West Virginia and Morgantown I wanted to be more than just another leech on the mountain. I became friends with some of the greatest families in this city, I dated a boy in every corner of this town and knew the back roads better than the locals. I became a resident of the state and pay taxes to my city and state. I opened multiple businesses in this state and am proud to put my location as Morgantown, WV.

I understand there is a vast and complicated world of money, greed, politics, and self-preservation, but I still don’t agree with it.

Maybe I was blind to all of this manipulation and ass-kissing when I grew up in Maryland, but at least I got to walk on sidewalks that didn’t have rebar exposed and crumpled after 15 feet of walking. I have trouble understanding why this city and this beautiful state wants to destroy itself.

When I visit other cities I see that in some ways, they are all the same. We all have a crappy part of town, and a nice part of town, and a rich part of town, the shopping areas… but Morgantown, you’re kinda sketch.

Also, you don’t get along very well and your seriously limiting the growth of this state and it’s incredibly obvious who’s pockets are getting padded. To be honest, I don’t even trust the politicians who say they have the same values as me. As far as I can see, I haven’t seen much change since 2007.

Any outsider would have trouble understanding the mundane issues we have to fight tooth and nail for. We had benches downtown in 2007, but were removed because they didn’t want homeless to sleep on them. We complain about our homeless, but we have no plan to care or assist these individuals. Hell, call me blunt and evil, but move the homeless shelter to another corner of town. Let us have our benches back!

How about fountains… Remember when I was reminiscing about drinking fountains everywhere in Europe? Morgantown has/ had fountains but we don’t want out homeless bathing in them, so we just have dry cement decor. We don’t have fancy sprayers in our fountains {if they exisited} because it’s annoying to maintain.

I’m going to interject some positive change here to keep your mind happy: We did just get two bike lanes in town… WOOOO! {This is genuine and not sarcastic “woo” by the way}

I’ve been to China, a so-called military state, but I saw not one police officer. I have been to Mexico and yes, their police officers had AK-47s, but they weren’t everywhere. It doesn’t matter where or what time, I am guaranteed to see at least 5 police officers within a two-mile driving session. Usually, I’ll see one pull out of a drive, while another two pass by the other way and one comes snug on my ass waiting at a light. I can’t blink without seeing a cop car. I’ve never seen this many cops in Baltimore, or Harford County, or Boulder. I support those who risk their lives to keep us safe… but are we living in such a dangerous place that we need all of these policemen patroling? My family and I have jokes about what if firefighters patroled the neighborhoods this way. I’m sure they would find more fires and cats to rescue, but who put the cat in the tree, to begin with? One summer I got pulled over 3 times in one week. I never got a ticket as I was not doing anything wrong, they were just hungry and bored.

And how about the inspiration for this whole piece. Our roads, noise pollution, dust, and inability to speak on the phone outside are directly impacted by the semis driving through our town.

{making a small note here to apologize to the drivers. They don’t make the decisions, they are just caught in the middle. Sorry your companies won’t pay more for your worth.}

There’s this spicy issue in our small town about these trucks driving through our downtown. We want them out, the state says nothing, and the big companies keep destroying our town and the ambiance.

We almost banned trucks from driving through back in 2014, but the state said they can’t do anything. It’s a state road and it’s allowed trucks this big to roll through every day.

I want to say to the state… do you live here? Do you get woken up at 4:30 am from airbrakes? Do you have to wait behind a truck while another one passes the opposite direction because the road is not big enough for them both to pass at the same time? Is your driving route to work and home killing your axels from navigating giant blacktop waves?

There’s a spot at the bottom of Pleasant St. that is constantly needing repair… as in every few months. Yes, it’s so nice of them to patch it up every quarter, and the waiting until the rebar is exposed protocol you’ve got… it’s totally working. Now traffic moves even slower in dangerous dodges to avoid the iron pothole of doom.

I used to own a business right there on pleasant. A sweet little white bakery. If I was lucky I could open my doors, but only for about 5 minutes until the next 8-wheeler croaked up the hill. I’d have to close the doors to hear my customers and to shield the thick gray dust from pouring into my shop. My customers wanted to see fairy glitter on their desserts, not truck-dust.

I am a cyclist. I love riding through the back roads and city roads of this beautiful state. Unfortunately, my friends and I prefer to go to PA for a ride rather than our own town. Why? The roads are better. There are no trucks, and we don’t die from the pelting rocks fro their hauls and dust.

Let’s go back to how small our roads are. Actually, our roads are perfectly suitable for cars and large pick-up trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks even. But one thing is obvious… semis cannot fit on our roads.

Even when I am driving on a two-lane road, the opposite direction of a truck, I am practically pushed off the road and onto the sidewalk. The trucks not only use up every inch of their allotted lane, but they love to pour over into oncoming traffic. With the dangerous potholes that one needs to avoid, we also have the added fun of truck-dodging.

When the city of Morgantown tried to ban the trucks from driving downtown the DOH stated it’s not the city’s jurisdiction to limit what can be done on a state road. Sure.. isn’t that what the DOH is for though? To help maintain a safe environment for drivers and pedestrians? The DOH does seem to be in favor of the deterioration one of its major cities in the state. The state has agreed to ultimate destruction and hazards impacts to Morgantown’s downtown by allowing trucks to drive through. They want ownership… but they don’t want to pay for road repairs. I’ve gotta say, I just got back from Mexico and their roads are better than ours.

Ed Boyle, who is a secretary at one of the trucking firms stated: “It would have been a rather large economic impact to Preston Contractors, Nuzum Trucking and all the other trucking companies in the area that would not have been able to utilize state routes.”

I hear you, Ed. But do you hear the thousands of locals, drivers, pedestrians, business owners, students and institutions that are being negatively affected? Are you taking responsibility for the loss of business, commerce, and community that your company is directly responsible for? Are the trucking companies giving extra to taxes to the DOH for driving on roads that were never built to sustain your use?

Of course, let’s not just blame the DOH and Ed. How about our very own City of Morgantown? Besides your hatred for sleeping homeless people, why don’t we have a budget for our repairs of roads that are not state owned? Oh, that’s right, we are going to settle the blame on WVU for not contributing to the community.

Why can’t we get along? Why can’t we understand that one improvement helps all of us? Yes, I know this shit costs money and will take time, but I ask you one question. Do you like visiting places with poor infrastructure? Do you want to live like second best? Do we not also live in this first world country where everyone else gets legit sidewalks and paved roads? Why do we think that we don’t deserve better roads, and quality of life?

Dozens of towns in our very own state have laws implemented that protect their heritage and culture and neighborhoods. Hundreds and thousands of towns in our country have better infrastructure and care than our state and morgantown.

Maybe it’s my inherited Maryland arrogance, but I think we deserve roads, green spaces, benches, fountains, trashcans, sidewalks, noise-pollution-free atmospheres where dust doesn’t prick your eyes. I love this state because it is beautiful, and let us help this state be united in its beauty. We have worth.