Roadtrip Mountaineer Expressway — Corridor L

West Virginia/Virginia

July 2011 & July 2014

Lisa and I make a road trip on the Mountaineer Expressway and beyond.  This is one of eleven columns from that trip.

US-19, the Mountaineer Expressway, also called Corridor L, is part of the Appalachian Development Highway System, providing access to a ton of recreational activities in the Elk River, Summersville, Gauley and New River areas, plus there’s easy access to the Monongahela, Washington and Jefferson National Forests, a historic battlefield, a recreational lake, a ghost town, a waterfall and several state parks.  All offer great gobs of fun activities, or even great gobs of relaxation.  Route 19, over the years, has developed commercially as well.  When I first drove this way, oh, back in the 1760s, the route wound through low mountains on narrow, slow and unsafe roly-poly roads past an occasional gas station, local restaurant or business.  Now the highway is straight and the retail chains, and Charles S McCue (see have moved in.  The place lights up at night like a circus.

All this growth came about after the construction of a particular bridge.  Before then, this region of West Virginia was fairly isolated, with rugged terrain and crappy transportation routes.  Once the bridge was in place and Corridor L was complete, traffic and the number of visitors to the area increased tenfold over two decades.

As we make our way south, there along the northbound side of the road walks a man.  In spite of the July weather, he is wearing layers of clothing.  His heroically large beard blows in the light breeze and he is carrying an American flag over his shoulder.  A sag wagon follows.  We assume he’s been walking a long time and is walking for a reason.  Although, if for a cause, he needs to advertise better.

Biscuit World is one of the chain restaurants that has moved into the area.  We drive past a Biscuit World on Route 19, noticing the sign…


Lisa says, “I think we’ve officially crossed into the South.”

The black lawn jockey is a controversial figure.  Look, there’s one in front of that house.  Some people see the black lawn jockey as representing African American history and culture, possibly inspired by a nine-year-old kid who took care of George Washington’s horse.  Others see it as a symbol of racism as the originals were designed in a stooped posture and were given inhumanly enormous lips.  Very culturally unflattering.  In fact, rather offensive.

Another phenomenon here is the pronunciation of the word Appalachian.  We are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian chain.  Note that here, folks say “Appa-lat-chin” rather than Appa-lay-chun,” the way we do back home.

I grew up with Appa-lay-chun, so it must be correct.  However, the locals on the Florida coast along around the 16th century lived in one particular town they called Apalachen, pronounced “Appa-lat-chin.”  They also referred to the Apalachee Bay, the Apalachicola River and to the town of Apalachicola with the same short “A” sound.  These folks were around long before me, so I defer to them.

Yet and still, with the amount of Steelers stickers we see on bumpers and back windows, we know that, south as we may be, we are still in Steelers Country.

The first thing that slows us down is the speed traps.  The second thing is that there is so doggone much to do along the way.  They didn’t develop Corridor L for nothin’.

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