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W.Va. 16: A by-the-way byway

W.VA. 16 originates on the banks of the Ohio River and cuts its way southward across some of the state’s most rugged terrain. It passes through the Southern coalfields and moves on to the Virginia line.It’s doubtful that anyone today would choose to travel the length of the old two-lane thoroughfares that crisscross West Virginia. Instead, motorists might opt for the more convenient path of interstate and corridor highway systems.These days, drivers take W.Va. 16 in small doses, or they might walk its width from the hardware store to the barbershop for a Saturday trim.W.Va. 16 isn’t unique unless you consider the town of St. Marys, where the main street doubles as a railroad track, or the carnivallike hairpin curves between Coalwood and War in McDowell County.
A W.Va. 16 motorist can’t help but get the feeling that the towns and its people who line the ribbon of pavement have been frozen in time.From a diner in Harrisville to a 100-year-old hotel in Clay, and on to a barbershop in War, more can be learned about West Virginia’s proud and sometimes tragic history than could ever be taught in the classroom.As the river towns of W.Va. 16’s northern reaches give way to the tougher, more rugged coal towns of the South, the accents thicken and optimism fades, but one thing holds true:From beginning to end and at all points in between, there is an unrelenting love for the Mountain State.
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