I'm midway through my trip now and have a few more observations about the East Coast or, what I refer to as my "Southern in nature" observations. W. Virginia, if you look at a map, isn't in the South--but if the old saying is true (If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck), then W. Virginia is southern.
More traffic talk: No one speeds here, so they must be shocked when a gunmetal gray Dodge Charger charges past them like the driver is running away from cannibalistic mountain folk (more on that later). It isn't that I'm in a hurry, but I am here only until Saturday and don't prefer spending more time driving than I do with Jarret. No one prepares you for out-of-state driving; there are no tests to pass or guide books to read, so you drive at your own risk. Stop lights are different, can I turn right on red? Why in the heck are street lights hanging from wires and swaying with the wind? Which one is pointed at me?
When Jordyn and I arrived in Charlotte the first night, we left the airport and saw it was an easy drive to our airport hotel. What we didn't anticipate, however, were all of the "Wrong Way" and "Do Not Enter" signs posted facing the cars already driving in the correct direction. It was as if the signs were saying, "Yes, you may be going the right way NOW, but please don't think about hopping the concrete divider and driving over here, too." It seems to me, but maybe this is just too easy, that if a car is traveling in the right direction and sees a sign facing it that says, "Wrong Way," it may scare them (me) into making a wrong turn.
Speaking of wrong turns, Jarret thought it would be extra fun to treat the girls and I to a scary movie while we are in Bluefield. It turns out that the movie "Wrong Turn" is filmed right here in the mountainous wilderness outside my hotel room window! What fun! So, late last night we gathered in his room with candy and popcorn and watched a movie that I've now been trying to forget from the moment two innocent hikers became a backwoods cannibal dinner. For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's about fictional mountain people, who have been so inbred that their DNA has mutated and made them into psychotic, superhuman killers. They prey on travelers (!) who make wrong turns (!) in the mountains surrounding Bluefield, W. Virginia (!!). Great idea, Jarret! I typically hate scary movies, and my friends from high school still laugh that I wouldn't go through our local haunted house when we were 18. Let's be clear: I hate scary movies, particularly one that makes me see those beautiful, lush mountains around me now as a confusing maze of suffocating forest full of cannibalistic mountain people, where the only way out is torture and death. And it's worse for Allie because now she won't go on her nature hikes and will have to find another way to exercise.
Shopping: As I mentioned in my last blog, Bluefield just got their first Aeropostale, a testament to the scarcity of shopping here. While I've been gone only a few days, Allie has been here a month without shopping and, as she said, she was ready to see something other than Birkenstocks and oversized men's polo shirts. Allie and Jordyn were born to shop, and with Walmart and K-Mart the closest thing to shopping in Bluefield, I decided to Google the globe and find somewhere to take them for the day. We found a mall yesterday--a real mall, but we never made it there, as you'll see in the photo. When Jarret went to work, the girls and I traveled about an hour into Virginia to a place called Christiansburg, where we did find the mall. But when we saw the other stores nearby, who could resist a ROSS?! What we found in the adorable town were B&Bs, antique malls, and--of course--plenty of contemporary shopping possibilities. We shopped in record time so that we could return to Bowen Field for Jarret's game, and our first introduction to mosquitoes and wet air. But I did make a mental note to go back to Christiansburg again during our next trip.
Every player on the Bluefield Orioles has a host family, whether they live with them or live on their own. To my knowledge, no one on the team actually lives with their host family. The families provide directions, ideas, and support; they go to the games and ask the players if they need anything. In a sense, the boys are on their own, but the host families are here as a safety net. We met Jarret's host family this week, and on Tuesday night they had us over for homemade rum cake, fruit, and coffee. Norris and Doris Sue Kantor are the most loving and friendly folks you could ever meet. They are both educated and live in a gorgeous Brady-Bunch-style home built in the 1950s. There are no fences here, so privacy comes in the form of hemlocks and 100-year old oak trees lining the property. Norris' claim to fame is that he was once struck by lightning on the golf course (he showed us the burnt shirt), and Doris is (seemingly) the beautiful (and tiny) queen of Bluefield. The rum cake she made was delicious (easy on the cake, heavy on the rum), and it was a pleasure to learn how to sweeten my coffee with whip cream (note: whip cream has far fewer calories than my usual creamer). We had our dessert outside, and as the sun set, the fireflies began their nightly dance, and you can imagine how a troupe of Californians reacted to the flashing lights floating on the summer night air. Doris provided glass jars, and the kids ran around the yard catching fireflies (as you'll see below), enjoying life and pleasing the host family with their carefree enthusiasm.