* Prices may differ from that shown
Please note i previously posted this review on Ciao, I've just added some more info
I had always planned to go to West Virginia to visit my Uncle and Aunt who live in the state capital, Charleston. They paid for my flights for my 18th birthday so in 1999, I flew alone. In order to travel on an open ticket, you have to fill in a Visa Waiver form which allows you to stay in the US for 3 months at a time. I was there for almost a year, travelling back to the UK every quarter, staying for a week and then travelling back out. From Manchester you fly to Philadelphia, then by internal flight to Charleston. You can get flights pretty cheap through american airlines- i used to book through dial-a-flight and would pay between £399 and £575 depending on the time of year.
What struck me most when I went to West Virginia is how different the folks who live there are from those who live in the Western states, such as California. My sister in law lives in La Fayette, California and her home town is modern and upmarket.
I made friends in who were from a small town called Whitesville, they were at college in Charleston. When I stayed in Whitesville with them I was amazed at the way many of the residents lived. One man, called Harry, was nearly 40 and lived in an eight foot square shed on his parents lawn. His shed had a couch for sitting and sleeping, a TV and a computer. There was no floor space. He'd never heard of Tony Blair, didn't know where Washington DC was,and spent his days playing an online RPG, Everquest.
I met a guy while I was out here. His name was Scott and he was 25. I liked him to start with but, like many of the townspeople, he was very racist. It was really offensive. His mum, Judy, looked like she would be at home on Jerry Springer. She was 5ft tall and weighed 240lbs. She didn't understand why,being that I am from England, I had never met The Queen.
The rate of unemployment is rather high following the slowing down of the state''s coal mining industry and many former miners develop 'black lung' or 'miners lung', (from breathing in coal dust) meaning they spend the rest of their lives on disability benefits.
There are two major towns, Charleston the capital and Beckley. Between these two semi-civilised places are hundreds of tiny towns. The small towns have little or no restaurants or nightlife- you have to travel to one of the bigger towns. Greyhound buses run between Beckley and Charleston about twice a day, but they only travel to a small selection of the smaller towns once every few days. Taxis are non existent in small towns and there aren't many train lines. If you are holidaying there, stay in a larger town and take excursions from there. If you stay in a small town and the weather turns, you may be stuck there for a very long time!
Many of the people I met there had never even left the state, some of my friends thought Scotland was a city in England. West Virginia is largely a very insular state, those who live there often don't know or don't care what goes on outside their state.Many were uneducated but most were extremely patriotic, they have flagpoles on their front lawns. Religion plays a big part in many of their lives, as does hunting, I was shocked to see deer and bears hanging outside houses that the occupants had shot.
The weather is extreme- in the summer I was there, temperatures reached 40, it's very very humid and the heat is unbearable. The winter of the same year saw temperatures dip to -30. Six feet of snow fell in three days- only major roads were gritted and cleared so we were snowed in for two weeks. The snow came up to the windows of the house where we were staying. many of the houses are like trailers on stilts so they are above the snow.
WV is a beautiful state to visit, the scenery is amazing. I stayed in Charleston, the capital, and in Whitesville, which is on the Coal River. The two towns are an hours drive apart but the drive is so beautiful (as long as you like trees and mountains!) We used to get bears coming up onto our porch- there is a LOT of wildlife to see- (if you catch a glimpse before someone shoots it)
It's part of the eastern USA. West Virginia is known for its magnificent scenery and its abundance of natural resources, including coal, oil, gas, and timber