Roadtrip: George Washington National Forest

The night was terrifying. We were in our tents in the George Washington National Forest during a torrential downpour that began a little after 11PM. In the car it was pure silence, outside it was a cacophony of nature.

At some point the rain stopped, and as the sun rose it seemed like hundreds of birds woke to greet it. It was beautiful and really, really loud.

On our way out we stopped at a diner just outside of the forest. It was staffed with women in their early 20s, and I wondered what work was available to the youth of West Virginia’s forest dwellers. We hadn’t had cell service for miles; what kind of internet did they have at home? How’s their Instagram game?

We sat down and I ordered their featured breakfast: farm-fresh scrambled eggs (this was true: the eggs were very yellow), two thick pieces of bread that turned out, to my father’s estimation, to be a white country loaf. I got sausage, Mark got bacon. We both had fewer than five but probably more than three cups of coffee. We ordered two biscuits for the road.

Both of us were in good spirits, but with 12 hours of driving ahead I could tell that the vibe was little tense. We’re on our way to Nashville. In the picture above, Mark is pumping gas and I’m smoking a cigarette with a little wax in it.

Several hours go by, and as we head west the landscape gets more lush and there are many more types of trees.

More hours go by.

We pull off the highway to use the bathroom about an hour before we reach Nashville. Inside they’re playing new country music that I can’t identify. This caught me by surprise: I never really liked country — it’s too crisp a packaging of the american dream for my taste — but when I lived in Tennessee it was, truly, inescapable.

The atmosphere inside was oddly tense. A weathered woman in her forties mopped the floor by the candy and beer, there were a couple of people behind the counter, and at a single table there was a small group of people. One man, who seemed like the center of the conversation, spoke with one of those assistive devices they give to smokers that develop throat cancer. As a gross, very lame smoker, this was a little too real.

The bathroom was a florescent nightmare from the 80s, but it worked.

Before long we were just outside of Nashville. I have mixed feelings on Nashville. My parents and friends live in and around it, and they tell me it’s booming. Tons of new restaurants and some kind “tech scene.” But for some reason, no one can tell me why there’s a boom happening, and nobody seems to have jobs.