www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Where it happened: Musical fans flock to Hamilton's New York City http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160726/GZ0506/160729771 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160726/GZ0506/160729771 Tue, 26 Jul 2016 03:47:00 -0400 By Becca Milfeld Special To The Washington Post By By Becca Milfeld Special To The Washington Post As much as I really want to see the awe-inspiring, bayonet-bearing, knee-sock-wearing, hip-hop phenomenon that is the musical "Hamilton," I've been having trouble justifying the equally phenomenal price of tickets.

So I created my own front-row Hamilton experience - which, unlike the play, involves almost no sitting. Instead, I spent a day and a half walking from one end of Manhattan to the other on what I've termed a Hamilthon. I was trying to catch a glimpse of perhaps the world's first consummate New Yorker: the real Alexander Hamilton, the one who doesn't sing.

And I was hardly alone.

From Hamilton's Harlem home to his grave in the Financial District, his new, musical-induced fans are everywhere - many with tickets.

With the Tony-, Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning musical sold out through May of next year, it's hard to find tickets going for anything close to face value at secondary agencies such as Ticketmaster.

With delusions of paying far less, I signed up, fingers crossed, for the near-daily online lottery for $10 front-row seats. On average, more than 10,000 people enter for 21 tickets, but at the advice of "Hamilton," I was not throwing away my shot.

I started my tour of Hamilton's life in reverse order, at his grave, in Lower Manhattan. Nestled in the modern cityscape at Broadway and Wall Street is Trinity Church and its ancient graveyard, where the dead date to the 17th century and tombstones read like a who's who of "Hamilton" characters, on whose graves people now place rocks, coins and other mementos. A succulent houseplant was at the foot of Hamilton's grave on the April morning of my visit.

It's no wonder so many people love "Hamilton," which has won 11 Tony Awards and catapulted its creator and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to fame.

The musical tells the story of the $10 Founding Father, born illegitimately in the Caribbean and orphaned after his dad left and mom died. Despite his rough start, Hamilton would go on to become George Washington's right-hand man in the Revolutionary War, the first secretary of the Treasury (largely credited with creating the nation's financial system) and one of America's top Founding Fathers. The cast is multi-ethnic, and a portion of the plot, told via hip-hop and other musical genres, centers on two women, Hamilton's wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and her sister Angelica.

At Trinity, Eliza's grave is next to Hamilton's and Angelica is thought to be in a nearby vault belonging to the influential Livingston family. Hamilton's friend, the improbably named Hercules Mulligan, is several plots away.

"We don't have the official numbers, but we anecdotally know that there's more people that we see in the churchyard" since the musical opened, Trinity spokeswoman Lynn Goswick told me. Case in point: Our conversation was interrupted by a woman inquiring where Hamilton's son Philip is buried. (He died in a duel more than two years before his father. The church doesn't know whether he's in an unmarked grave or plot somewhere nearby.)

My logical next stop was the ancient dueling grounds in Weehawken, New Jersey.

A quick Uber ride through the Lincoln Tunnel brought me to the cliff-top Hamilton Park, which stretches along the Hudson River and overlooks the bank where Hamilton was mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr. The exact spot - approximately where Philip also was shot - is lost to history.

But the picnic-perfect park reveals a phenomenal Manhattan skyline and a nearby bust of Hamilton marks the rough location where the statesman fell. Placed beside the bust is a rock that, according to legend, Hamilton leaned upon after being shot. People now throw pennies on it.

I asked a man who lives in the house directly opposite the bust whether he had witnessed the same Hamilton mania I had observed at the graveyard in Manhattan. No, he said, because New Yorkers think New Jersey is impossibly far away.

"Hamilton did not die in New Jersey, thank God. That is the worst thing that can happen to a New Yorker. They got him back into a boat. He did make it across to the West Village," said Jimmy Napoli, who leads Hamilton walking tours, including a "Hamilton's Wall Street" walk I went on. (For the record, I, too, took a boat back across the Hudson, in a ferry named "Alexander Hamilton.")

At $50, the walk is a fraction of the musical's price. And unlike Miranda, who gave his final performance as Hamilton on July 9 (the role is now played by his former understudy, Javier Muñoz), Napoli isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, he has been giving Hamilton tours for decades.

"I have great vision and foresight. Twenty years ago, when I became a tour guide, I said to myself, 'It's just a matter of time before somebody writes a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, and I'm going to be on the ground floor when that happens,'" Napoli told my tour group of seven with a laugh.

He then went on to pull history from the pavement for three hours, explaining where critical events happened and the founding fathers once lived, spots now mostly covered by high-rise buildings.

With his fast-paced New York gusto, Napoli's could be the second best "Hamilton" show in town.

His favorite tour spot is Federal Hall, site of the First U.S. Congress, as well as the first Supreme Court and executive branch offices. But for me, the highlight was the room where it happens, the very location where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Hamilton held a private meeting in which the two Virginians agreed to round up congressional support for Hamilton's plan for national assumption of state debts in return for Hamilton rounding up support to move the capital to Washington. The room, which was in Jefferson's house, no longer exists, built over by yet another office building.

My next stop would be a house with rooms where a lot of things happened: the only home Hamilton ever owned, his Grange estate. But not before saying goodbye to my tour at Fraunces Tavern, where the nascent Treasury Department once leased rooms and both Burr and Hamilton attended a meeting one week before their duel.

Over lunch, William Carter, a dad from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who brought his teenage daughter, Kayla, told us how at first he had doubts: "I said 'Rap and Hamilton? How dare you,'" but then was won over.

As Napoli put it, not only has Miranda "made Hamilton cool with the kids, I've got 80-year-old women from the South rapping in my face, which is really surreal."

With that, I headed uptown to the Grange, Hamilton's Federal-style house in Harlem in the shadows of what today is the City College of New York.

The house, originally located on approximately 32 acres, is named after the ancestral manse of Hamilton's Scottish father and was completed in 1802, back when Harlem was a rural community nine miles from today's Financial District. However, Hamilton was only able to enjoy the home for two years before he died. Since then, the Grange has been moved twice and now rests on a green hillside in St. Nicholas Park, not far from its original location.

A group of four women, three wearing "Hamilton" T-shirts, were on their way out as I arrived.

"Our visitation numbers have skyrocketed since the play came out and the demographics of the people have changed," said park guide Gregory Mance, who explained that history majors and school groups have given way to "everybody."

In the first half of last year almost 11,000 people visited, a number that nearly quadrupled to more than 40,000 in 2016, according to the National Park Service. The spike is no doubt due to "Hamilton," which opened off-Broadway in February 2015 and on Broadway in August of the same year.

Little is known about the home's interior, so only three rooms have been restored, including the dining room, where there's a replica of the four-bottle wine cooler that Washington sent as a token of friendship during the nation's first major political sex scandal - a torrid affair with Hamilton at its center.

After receiving an email notification that I did not win the "Hamilton" lottery, I stopped by the Richard Rodgers Theatre some 20 minutes before a show and took a spot in the cancellation line, where a lucky few might nab an affordable seat if the Founding Fathers were to smile down.

Standing towards the back, I didn't stand a chance. And I wasn't going to buy a ticket from the several questionable men hawking them at outrageous prices. For a moment, I even wondered after so many jogs to the beat of "Yorktown" and morning bus rides furtively jamming to "The Schuyler Sisters": What if the show wasn't . . . as good as I imagined?

"I was concerned when I saw it it wouldn't live up to the hype . . . and it blew away the hype," Napoli the tour guide, who has seen it twice, said.

Okay, so it apparently is awesome.

But with tickets selling in the high triple digits, as Burr would say, I was willing to wait for it.

Milfeld is a Washington-based journalist. After writing this article, she finally nabbed tickets - for May 2017 - at just $199.Find her on Twitter: @becca_milfeld.

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Music, theater and football coming to Greenbrier Co. http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0602/160729888 GZ0602 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0602/160729888 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:00:00 -0400 By Kristi Godby WV Travel Team By By Kristi Godby WV Travel Team The following is a compilation of upcoming events in Greenbrier County:

n "Cinderellish," the world premiere of the musical comedy by Emmy-award-winning composer Arnold Margolin and Weslie Brown, is at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the State Professional Theatre of West Virginia, through Aug. 6.

Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for children and students, $27 for seniors and $30 for adults.

The theater is located at 1038 Washington St. East in Lewisburg. For more information visit the website at www.gvtheatre.org or call 304-645-3838.

n Beginning Thursday through Aug. 16, the New Orleans Saints will conduct summer training at The Greenbrier Sports Performance Center. Enjoy the rare opportunity to see up-close professional athletes prepare for the NFL season.

There is no cost to attend the practices, but there is a $5 fee for transportation to the center. For more information visit www.greenbrier.com or call 855-453-4858.

n The Ivy Terrace Concert Series is a great way to start to a weekend; the free, outdoor concerts take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at Carnegie Hall, located at 611 Church St. in Lewisburg.

Grab a pizza from nearby Greenbrier Valley Baking Company or an ice cream from Cakes and Cones and enjoy the music.

The upcoming schedule: Thursday, Qiet; Aug. 11, Squirrell Hillbillies; and Aug. 25, BlackKingCoal. For more information visit www.carnegiehallwv.com/performances or call 304-645-7917.

n Aug. 5 is First Fridays After Five, which takes place every month in downtown Lewisburg. Shops, restaurants and galleries remain open through the evening offering refreshments and entertainment.

n Downtown Lewisburg celebrates the written word Aug. 5-6 at the Lewisburg Literary Festival. There is outdoor art, musical performances, activities for children and visiting authors; this year's featured writer is Sarah Gruen, author of "Water for Elephants."

All presentations are free, but require a ticket that may be reserved by calling 304-645-1000.

n Enjoy the acoustic and percussive instruments of Marguerite Aug. 6 during the First Saturday Concert Series at Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, located at 862 Industrial Park Road in Lewisburg.

The free music starts at 2 p.m., and food from the Market on Courthouse Square is available for purchase. For more information visit www.gvbeer.com/events/ or call 304-520-4669.

n Celebrate the end of summer with the largest affair in the Mountain State. The State Fair of West Virginia runs Aug. 12-21. The event offers everything from agricultural exhibits to top-notch performers such as Vince Neil and Jake Owen.

Everyone has a fair favorite whether it is on the Midway, in the barns or on a stick, come find yours. For more information visit statefairofwv.com or call 304-645-1090.

n Get a glimpse of West Virginia's Civil War history during the reenactment of the 1863 Battle of Dry Creek. The action includes infantry, cavalry and artillery, all dressed in their period uniforms.

The combat takes place Aug. 20-21 in the beautiful Greenbrier State Forest, located at 1541 Harts Run Road in White Sulphur Springs.

For more information visit greenbrierwv.com or call 304-645-7149.

For more information about these events and places to eat, sleep and shop during your visit, go to greenbrierwv.com.

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Philadelphia ranks among America's best food cities http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0502/160729892 GZ0502 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0502/160729892 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:32:00 -0400 By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post By By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post No contest. The clear winners in the 2016 presidential convention game are the Democrats.

Hear me out. Anyone attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at month's end is bound to discover, as I did last year, that the City of Brotherly Love ranks among America's best food cities: No. 6, by my reckoning.

Not only is it home to supreme sandwich makers, but Philadelphia also delivers some of the country's best Italian food, at all price points; fashionable vegetarian restaurants; and a smorgasbord of ingredients and iconic eats at the revered Reading Terminal Market. (The last is especially useful, given the many restaurants expected to be fully committed Monday through Thursday during the event.)

The possibilities just get better, I learned after a recent reunion with the city. Since my last visit, the landscape has broadened to include noteworthy Japanese, Malaysian and - there can never be too many - Italian accents.

The "it" gastronomic neighborhoods: East Passyunk, dubbed the future of fine-dining in the city by Craig LaBan, restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer; and Fishtown/Kensington, where the artisanal focus borders on the Brooklyn-obsessed.

"Philadelphians want the rest of the country to know they're about so much more than cheesesteaks and pretzels," prime as those are, LaBan said. To eat in Philadelphia now is to "see the vitality of a city expanding its seams."

Is the city ready for a crowd of as many as 60,000?

"We just had the pope," said Gregory Vernick of the esteemed Vernick Food & Drink near Rittenhouse Square. (Observers said that visit was ruinous for some businesses that had to go dark due to street closures and security concerns, but Vernick counted strolls with his daughter on normally busy roads as a small blessing.)

At any rate, this isn't the city's first rodeo. In 2000, it successfully hosted the Republican National Convention.

Herewith my nominations for where to eat in Philadelphia. Fasten your feedbags: It's going to be a lovely bite or two.

Here's what you get when one owner, Chef Joncarl Lachman, is Dutch and another, Chef Lee Styer, is Pennsylvania Dutch: A tidy storefront in blue and white that lavishes both ring (tube-shaped) bologna and chipped beef on its eggs Benedict and gives diners the option of sweet or savory Dutch baby pancakes cooked in cast-iron skillets.

"Can I tell you about the specials?" Lachman asked. "Everything is special."

He and Styer are behind two other popular South Philly eateries, neighbors Noord and Fond, which means dishes from either sometimes pop up at the Dutch. (A recent afternoon found warm duck rillettes, courtesy of Fond.)

Omelets and waffles aren't just for breakfast, by the way; the Dutch stays open until 3 p.m. But you can also get soup or a Cobb salad as early as 8 a.m.

It's not just the name that tells you what to order in this seafood haunt, where big goblets of gumball-size oyster crackers play the role of flowers on the tables.

The walls, decorated with vintage oyster plates, and the wrap-around bar, populated by precision shuckers with the gift of gab, also strongly suggest that you get some bivalves. The rest of the menu impresses, too, be it bold snapper turtle soup, a banh mi stuffed with fried soft-shell crab or grilled bluefish on farro.

The chalkboard trumpets a milestone birthday for the restaurant: 40 years of catching, and captivating, old-school lawyers, Center City business types and discerning tourists.

There are conscientious cooks and then there's Angelina Branca, a novice restaurateur who opened a Malaysian outpost mostly because she wanted to share with Philadelphia the kind of food she grew up with 9,000 miles away. Lucky diners.

She uses coconut-shell charcoal, basically smokeless fuel that lets diners taste the many layers (lemon grass, cumin, fennel) of the exquisite marinade on her skewered meats.

And one of the two big grills is dedicated to cooking halal (humanely dispatched) meat, including goat that leaves the glowing charcoal as five or 10 sticks of sizzling splendor that only get better with a sweep through peanut sauce. Pulsing with chilies and tamarind, it's a perfect balancing act.

Ribbed stingray stays moist in its wrap of banana leaf, which imparts pleasant grassiness, and nowhere else in this country have I had better beef rendang, soft cubes of meat slow-cooked in coconut cream and treated to a jungle of herbs, sometimes including hard-to-find ginger leaves.

A mural of a street market depicts the place in Kuala Lumpur where a young Branca learned to cook from her aunt. In tandem with the chili-fragrant air, the scene lets us in on her story.

The room alone is intoxicating, with guitar music in the background, hammered-copper accents and, in the distance, a dancing wood fire.

"I want to relax the eye," said chef-owner Konstantinos Pitsillides, former tanner and farmer in his native Cyprus.

Then his food starts coming - sardines with spicy tomatoes, charcoal-warmed veal tongue - and you wish you were a crowd rather than a couple. The dips include an Iranian-inspired spread of pistachio, dill and feta cheese, a verdant companion to the house-baked flatbread.

Filleted at the table, branzino cooked in grape leaves resonates with lemon, thyme and rosemary. Meanwhile, dumplings plumped with warm -spiced lamb and arranged on minted yogurt evoke far-away and long-ago Armenia.

Forget your usual poison and sample a cocktail that hews to the restaurant's theme. Fair warning: One Cypriot, made with piney masticha, tequila, cucumber and sage, easily leads to another.

First you have to navigate a noisy, ground-floor, all-day Asian cafe and check in with a host at a podium in the rear. But all is calm once you're led to a door and descend a set of votive-lit stairs to an underground Japanese tavern with charred cedar walls that could pass for Tokyo, except that everyone speaks English.

Is this the best sushi in town? Pristine baby yellowtail on a pearly finger of warm rice, among other one-bite wonders, suggests it's a contender.

But the small plates are worth Snapchatting, too: notably, lush tuna tartare atop pads of chewy roasted sushi rice freckled with sesame seeds; juicy, deep-fried chicken (karaage); and pillowy bao buns packed with un-Asian - but awesome - corned beef and a wallop of mustard.

Yes, you can get pigeon at this all-day cafe, in the form of a grilled, sliced bird splayed over whatever vegetables look good in the market. But the place's real strength can be found on the concrete counter of the light-filled dining room: Almond croissants scented with orange blossom water that shower your plate - and table and lap - with buttery flakes, and buttermilk bran muffins that buck the usual with their fine crumb and moistness. (Pureed raisins make them sweet.)

One of the two co-owners, Pat O'Malley, spent eight years in the pastry department at New York's Balthazar; his baked goods are proof of time well spent.

Lunch finds an admirable hamburger, built with a crusty beef patty and a model sesame seed bun, as well as winning vegetables, sometimes sliced zucchini and summery tomatoes nestled in a bowl swiped with whipped feta.

The name of the place is reinforced by the wiry installation hovering over the community table: a cluster of bird cages that double as light fixtures.

Tuesday through Thursday, this street cart-turned-storefront is known for its tortas. Friday through Sunday - beginning at 5 a.m. on weekends - it sees overnight workers, then construction crews, followed by restaurant staffers and the church crowd, everyone here for a singular sensation: the best tacos in Philadelphia.

The specialty is lamb - shoulder, ribs, face - chopped while you wait at a small, cash-only counter, the front of which is lined with fixings: hot peppers (attention, Hillary Clinton), diced onion, chopped cilantro, guacamole, julienned cactus. Bundling the pleasure are supple tortillas made from corn that's milled on-site.

Husband and wife Benjamin Miller and Cristina Martinez watch over the place, a roost made cheery with maize-colored walls and significant with lithographs of Mexican revolutionaries, farmworkers and others.

Keeping those tacos company are lamb consomme, chockablock with chickpeas and tiny noodles, and pancita, which is basically an organ recital you can eat.

The word is out: "Earlier the better," said Miller, who has run out of lamb as early as noon some days. Follow his advice: Call ahead for a status check.

No matter how many new restaurants pop up between visits to Philadelphia, I always make time for dinner at Vernick Food & Drink off Rittenhouse Square.

Chef-owner Gregory Vernick, a disciple of the acclaimed Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has a knack for taking the best of each season and turning it into something you can't wait to repeat: toast heaped with chanterelles and charred eggplant, red curry shrimp on jasmine rice with long beans and peanuts, sweet pea ravioli tossed with braised rabbit and mint.

The cocktails are inspired; tequila, grapefruit, cardamom and lime leaves add up to an elegant Palomino.

And the service in the earth-toned retreat, which includes a cozy no-reservations lounge up front, underscores the city's brotherly motto.

With the bill comes a house-made marshmallow or petite palmier. What's not to love?

My nominee for the most beguiling new restaurant in a city rich with choice tables is this expansive haven in hopping Fishtown. Wrought from a long-vacant whiskey blending and bottling facility dating to the 1890s, the interior, set off with mosaic tiles and arched windows, gives everyone a view.

The Fireplace Room beckons with a concrete hearth, skylight and repurposed church pews; the Wood Oven Room, an open kitchen, stars the handsome source of heat for the restaurant's distinctive pizzas.

Chef Chris Painter dubs his food "urban Italian," giving him license to cook outside the box. Triumphs include veal tartare, creamy with Caesar salad dressing, set on toast bites; house-made spaghetti tossed with rings of squid and bottarga; lamb steak jolted with peppercorns and cumin and framed in favas and other beans; and pizza decked out with crumbled lamb, artichokes and a hit of lemon.

Throw in some ace drinks and some of Philadelphia's best servers, and prepare for a long run.

Eating here always makes me wonder when I'll get to see it again and why more meatless restaurants don't follow its wonderful recipe for food and service. I know I'm not alone.

"We're not vegetarians," I overhear a man say to strangers at the next table, "but this is cool!" Or hot, in the case of a fistful of battered cauliflower nuggets, their kick (thanks to red chili ketchup) tempered by a brushstroke of gingery whipped dal.

The menu is small in size but global in mind. Fried tempeh, radish kimchee and Sriracha-spiked Thousand Island dressing make for Seoul-ful tacos, while a pinwheel of wood-smoked, barbecue-sauced carrots lend their sweetness to an asado salad that's crunchy with pumpkin seeds and colorful with grilled corn and slivers of poblano.

The drinks are as serious as at any steakhouse, and the pedigree couldn't be meatier: V Street is sibling to Philadelphia's formal Vedge, one of the premiere vegan kitchens in the country.

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Six wheels, will travel: Crossing America with a bike in the car http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729893 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729893 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:00:00 -0400 By Melanie Kaplan Special to The Washington Post By By Melanie Kaplan Special to The Washington Post Some folks cross the country on a bike. I prefer to drive with a bike in my car.

Over several road trips with a two-wheeler in my SUV, I've come to appreciate driving to faraway places but exploring them on a human-powered vehicle. At my destination and along the way, I hop on a bike to breathe fresh air, get my bearings, stretch my limbs and act like a local for a spell.

Cycling allows you to access routes impractical or unreachable by automobile; and unfailingly, getting out of the car on a road trip sets the stage for serendipity. When you slow from 70 mph to 15, the joy is in the unexpected.

I've learned some lessons on my six-wheel adventures. Here are some of them.

Last summer, on a 7,400-mile road trip, I was halfway into a 30-mile rainy bike ride in Portland, Oregon, when I realized that I had been negligent. I rode my steel-framed commuter, towed my beagle Hammy in a trailer, and wore a helmet and padded biking skort.

But inexplicably, I had left my travel bike pump at the hotel and my extra tube and patch kit back home. I was lucky that I hadn't blown a tire. During that ride, I vowed to never again bike without emergency gear at hand.

REI stores offer free bike maintenance classes, even if you don't buy your bike there. Your local mechanic can teach you basics, such as how to care for your chain and brakes and how to remove wheels and pedals if you are transporting your bike inside your vehicle. Always bring a bike lock, phone, money, local map and more water and food than you think you'll need.

Often, my first stop when I get to a town is the bike shop, where I can ask for ride suggestions. In Portland, I stopped in at West End Bikes and explained that I would be towing 50 pounds (beagle plus trailer); could they recommend a couple-hour ride that erred on the side of flat?

The shop folks sent me on two routes: one across the Gothic-style St. Johns Bridge and another along the east side of the Willamette River, where I discovered a path called Springwater Corridor. Near the beginning of the latter route, I glimpsed the new car-free Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

I biked by the Portland Puppet Museum, heard chickens in several backyards and passed a food-cart enclave called Cartlandia.

Before, after or in the middle of a long day of driving, nothing feels better than giving your muscles a workout. At the beginning of last summer's road trip, which began on the Jersey Shore, I rode at sunrise through a couple of beach towns before driving straight through to Chicago.

A couple of days later, I stopped in Big Timber, Montana - a speck of a town between Billings and Bozeman where Robert Redford filmed "The Horse Whisperer."

While dining at the Grand, a hotel restaurant with a moose head on the wall, I asked my local acquaintance to suggest a cycling route. The next morning, I started at an elevation of 4,000 feet and climbed steadily higher into the mountains, with Hammy behind me. Other than the occasional pickup whizzing by, I had the two-lane road to myself.

Back in town, a well-earned hearty breakfast awaited me at the Grand, and the endorphins from my ride ensured that my feeling of euphoria would last well into that day's long drive on the interstate.

And while you're staying there, get out of your car for good. In McCall, Idaho, last summer, I began my week-long visit with a 20-mile ride around town and Payette Lake.

My friend Dave showed me where to rent a paddleboard and where to look for moose. We pedaled to a yard sale and a hidden haven called Charlie's Garden, as well as Alpine Pantry for blackberry turnovers. As the days went by, I got around completely by bike - a picnic at Legacy Park, ice cream at Scoops, a tour at the smoke-jumper base, fish tacos at Mile High Marina and live music at Crusty's.

A few years back, I got into a similar rhythm with a fold-up bike during a week in Marfa, Texas. After my first ride around town, I was overcome with a sense of belonging: I looked at my bike, locked up outside, and saw parts of a tumbleweed in the spokes.

In Astoria, Oregon, which sits on the Pacific coast at the mouth of the Columbia River, I was set on avoiding the car during my visit, despite the daunting hills. The staff at Bikes & Beyond gave me the lay of the land. In town, I biked along the Riverwalk, a path along the old Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, complete with a live soundtrack of barking sea lions. Along the way, I parked at Pier 39 and ordered a cool drink at Coffee Girl, next to an old Bumble Bee tuna cannery.

Still, I yearned for a longer ride and considered cycling across the bay to Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, which seemed reasonable on the map. But a kind, soft-spoken local named Kurt, who makes bags from old canvas sails, cautioned me against it. He said the roads were too dangerous; drivers weren't necessarily mindful of cyclists. That was good advice.

Joining the throngs of commuting cyclists in a bike-friendly city is like linking up with a school of fish when you're in unfamiliar waters. For a week, I stayed with friends in West Seattle, but one Friday morning I needed to head downtown for a reporting assignment at the historic Panama Hotel.

I left Alki Beach after breakfast, cycling along the Puget Sound and over the West Seattle Bridge. Along the way, I realized I was in the middle of heavy two-wheeler traffic; locals were headed to work. Following the flow meant avoiding awkward, tourist-style stops to consult my map.

Late that afternoon, I returned to West Seattle. As I waited with other cyclists for a drawbridge to open and close, I suspected that the jaded commuters around me saw the delay as merely an obstruction between them and their weekend. But I could hardly suppress my glee at the moving bridge and boats.

When you get curious on a bike, you open yourself up to chance encounters and end up in some offbeat spots. Narrow alleys beckon. Shiny objects inspire detours. Commuting back to my friends' house in Seattle, I veered off the main drag along the port, mesmerized by the massive, colorful walls of shipping containers.

Among the pleasures of riding in unknown places is what I like to call micro-disorientation: teetering on the edge of being utterly lost. I usually look at a map and have a vague sense of my direction and distance before I begin, but I don't have a smartphone. Each ride is like a game: How many turns can I make and still remember the way back? Usually, more than I think, but I also have ridden miles in the wrong direction. In my pocket, I carry a map. I try to remember landmarks. I query strangers when necessary.

For planning routes in unfamiliar territory, my endurance-athlete friend Sarah - who recently drove cross-country, took a few days off from driving for long training rides and competed in a half Ironman Triathlon along the way - turns to technology.

She recommends Under Armour's MapMyRide, an app to map, record and share your workouts; Strava, a social network for athletes; and Ride with GPS, an app to find established routes or draw your own. After selecting a route (and checking the elevation), Sarah plots it on Google Maps and uses the satellite view to scrutinize course conditions - so by the time she's on wheels, she's not surprised by shoulderless roads or gnarly intersections.

Bike computers can tell us our speed, distance, heart rate, cadence, elevation and trajectory. But just for kicks, bypass analytics and soak up your surroundings. Waiting for a train to pass at a railroad crossing, for instance, is a wholly different sensory experience on two wheels than it is from behind a windshield.

Outside McCall, I pulled over by a farm to watch two bulls fight, kicking up dust and head-butting for 20 minutes.

Climbing a hill in Big Timber, I stopped to stare at four mule deer who stared back before they sprang over a fence and bounded across the road in front of me.

Yet what I remember most distinctly about my time cycling in Montana is the absence of all but the faintest sounds. Off in the distance, water trickled. On the side of the road, wind rustled leaves. With each pedal, I could hear my breath.

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WV Travel Team: Beyond the monuments, Washington, D.C., sparkles http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729898 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160724/GZ0506/160729898 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team By By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team Our flutes looked like crystal, and the champagne was free (the reservations, however, had been hard to come by). My wife and I stood in the warmly paneled - and crowded - vestibule of a French bistro, waiting for our table, enjoying the merry cacophony, and the maitre d' provided the complimentary libations to take the edge off the delay.

There was plenty to look at: hipsters, young professionals, boomers, several radiant people who looked vaguely familiar, people dressed up and glowing and the decor: yellow walls above the paneling, tin ceilings, mosaic-tiled floor, red banquettes.

Next to us, a man in a white jacket sliced round loaves of bread and baguettes as rapidly and expertly as a chef might dice an onion; after he was done, one loaf after another, he swept the crumbs into a drawer of the rustic wooden bread station, pushed it shut and started all over again as servers glided by to pick up the baskets he filled.

But this wasn't Paris; it was Le Diplomate, the hottest new restaurant in Washington, one of many dedicated to the Gallic art of cooking. More to the point, it was on 14th Street NW, 10 blocks from the White House in the heart of what had been known for more than a generation as the riot corridor, a neighborhood burned almost to the ground in the civil unrest that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

For decades, it had remained gutted and dangerous, but now it is the center of an ever-expanding collection of trendy, and very popular shops, restaurants and performing arts spaces. Le Diplomate itself was built - at a cost of $6 million - in the shell of a former dry cleaning establishment, Diplomat Cleaners.

Over scallops and lamb, and after salads, appetizers of melted Gruyere cheese pastry puffs and a smoky, delectable salmon spread, we compared notes about Washington and how it has changed since we moved to Florida four years ago and the transformation of the city from a sleepy southern town in the 1960s into a gleaming metropolis today.

While we agreed the city's iconic monuments and government buildings were prime tourist attractions and a mainstay of the local economy, we also agreed that the city beyond the monuments was well worth a stop on any itinerary.

Over the next couple of days, I put it on mine, while my wife joined in the pre-party hoopla surrounding a much-loved aunt's 90th birthday celebration, the reason for our trip.

The next morning, I returned to 14th Street, the hub of African-American commerce in the city until 1968's violence, my wife joining me for an ample breakfast at Ted's Bulletin, a new restaurant that offers a comfort food menu. Then I took off with my camera - I'm a shutterbug - while my wife patiently waited at Ted's.

What I saw was eye-popping: Sleek residential lofts carved out of old, multi-story car dealerships; too many new restaurants and bars to count; fashionable shops offering clothes, decor, designer furniture, kitchenware and edgy art.

There were also entertainment spaces: Black Cat, a top venue for alternative rock, and the Studio Theatre, adorned with a likeness of a sister-in-law Nancy Robinette, whose acting career was spawned in part by Studio. (She's now on Broadway.)

Washington's theater scene is vibrant; more people attend the theater here than in any other U.S. city except New York.

In addition to the Studio Theatre, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the official U.S. memorial to President Kennedy) brings touring and original productions to its stunning Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theatre.

It's also home of the city's symphony, opera and ballet companies. Spectacular Potomac River and city views from its rooftop terrace and a good restaurant are added bonuses.

But the city's other theaters and companies also draw the crowds. They include the Shakespeare Theatre Company, with homes in both the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre, housed in a former department store, and sparkling new 775-seat Sidney Harman Hall; the venerable 1,626-seat National Theatre near the White House; historic 1,200 seat Howard Theatre, which launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye; the recently redesigned 680-seat Fichlander Theatre at Arena Stage, which includes two other theaters; and 661-seat Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was shot.

All present original, repertory and touring productions. The smaller Signature and Wooly Mammoth theaters are excellent as well.

Later that day, after a trip to Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, where I ogled meats, cheeses, flowers and crafts, I sat in Tryst, the cafe at the Phillips Collection, one of Washington's premier art galleries - home to an impressive collection of modern American masters and French impressionists, including Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" - and mulled the changes.

I had arranged to meet an old friend, Lucia Pollock, a former human resources officer at the National Gallery of Art, who soon arrived - after having attended a protest at the U.S. Capitol. Together we reminisced - over vegetable soup and pecan pie (Lucia) and thick, sweet potato soup (me) - not just about old friends, but about Washington's past and present.

Lucia, a local activist, agreed with me that most - not all - of the changes are for the better. We both liked Washington's increasing sophistication. We didn't like all of the city's new architecture. And we were dismayed that Washington still had no vote in Congress.

Another gallery, the Kreeger Museum, is housed in the Kreeger family's contemporary mansion in a tony residential neighborhood near the western end of Massachusetts Avenue. Once open only sporadically and by appointment, the museum and sculpture garden feature the family's notable collection of modern art. It now operates on a much more liberal schedule (free and no reservations required on Fridays and Saturdays; reservations required other days).

Dupont Circle, once a quiet neighborhood inhabited chiefly by students, the offbeat and the elderly, now gleams with imaginative restorations, new paint jobs and the requisite assortment of chic shops and restaurants.

Kramer Books and Afterwords, a book shop and cafe on Connecticut Avenue that inspired the renaissance of the area, was doing brisk business when I stopped in, as was Mission Restaurant across the street, its patio filled with diners. People relaxed in the sun on the lawn around the fountain in the traffic circle for which the area is named.

Another bookstore, Politics and Prose, sits farther up the avenue near the Maryland line and offers a vast selection of literature, much of it political or historic, whimsical gifts, free talks by members of the city's journalistic and political classes, and a cafe that was buzzing when I visited.

Scores of embassies march east and west from Dupont Circle along Massachusetts Avenue, but the grandest embassies are almost all to the west. Most were built in Victorian or Beaux Arts-style and served originally as homes for the city's gilded elite.

The Iranian embassy, once a glitzy hub of Washington social life, is boarded up and showing signs of neglect (the Cuban embassy is on the other side of town, on 16th Street NW).

Newer, however, are the statues in front of the embassies, chief among them the statue of Nelson Mandela in front of the South African Embassy (there's a memorial to Khalil Gibran in an adjacent shady glen); Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy; and a statue of Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, outside the Indonesian Embassy (the majestic, Beaux Arts-style former residence of Washington's noted Walsh family and home, at different times, to the American Red Cross, prospectors for gold, the Hope Diamond and, some say, ghosts).

The neighboring Cosmos Club, whose members are drawn from the city's political and social elite - including four presidents, two vice presidents, 56 Pulitzer Prize winners and numerous Nobel Prize and Medal of Honor winners - sits in splendor across the street from Anderson House.

That house, designed in the style of a walled Florentine villa, is now a museum dedicated to the Society of Cincinnati's role in the War of Independence and prides itself on being the nation's oldest patriotic organization.

Before leaving for the airport, I took advantage of Washington's spectacular spring weather to stroll across Key Bridge, which connects Arlington to Georgetown over the Potomac. At least, I started to stroll, but was soon caught up in the throngs of those who were speed-walking, jogging and biking down the sidewalk in both directions on their way home from work. I had to pick up my pace and keep an ear out for bicycle bells behind me.

I was treated to magnificent vistas that included the spires of Georgetown University, the park along the Georgetown waterfront, Foggy Bottom, the Washington Monument and the Kennedy Center before a bend in the river took the city out of sight behind forested Theodore Roosevelt Island (site of the memorial to the 26th president). Racing skulls glided under the bridge.

I thought of why I liked Washington so much and decided to return more often.

Martin W.G. King is a freelance travel writer based in Florida.

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The restaurants below are listed in the order in which they were mentioned in the accompanying article. For locations accessible only by bus, contact the restaurant or its website for information.

n Le Diplomate

202-332-3333, 1601 14th St. NW,

French, reservations essential U Street-Cardozo Metro or valet parking ($12). www.lediplomatedc.com.

n Tryst at the Phillips Cafe

202-387-2151, 1600 21st St. NW,

Dupont Circle Metro (north exit) Light meals, Phillips Collection. www.phillipscollection.org/visit/cafe.

n Ted's Bulletin

202-265-8337, 1818 14th St. NW

Comfort food, full-service bar. www.tedsbulletin.com.

n Afterwords Cafe

202-387-3825, 1517 Connecticut Ave.

Informal restaurant, Dupont Circle Metro (north exit). www.kramers.com/cafe.

n Mission Dupont

202-525-2010, 1606 20th St. NW,

Mexican food and specialty drinks, Dupont Circle Metro (north exit). www.missiondupont.com.

n Open City

202-965-7670, 3101 Wisconsin Ave.

Refreshments and light meals, bus, ample free parking. www.opencitycathedraldc.com.

n Northside Social Coffee and Wine

828-280-6466, 3211 Wilson Blvd.

Coffee, baked goods, light meals, wine bar, Clarendon Metro. www.northsidesocialarlington.com.

n Jaleo

202-628-7949, 480 Seventh St. NW

Spanish tapas by noted chef Jose Andres, Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.jaleo.com/dc.

n Zaytinya

202-638-0800, 701 Ninth St. NW

Outstanding Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine by Jose Andres, Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.jaleo.com/dc.

n 2 Amys

202-885-5700, 3715 Macomb St. NW

Reasonably priced Italian starters, charcuterie and Neapolitan pizza; wine bar, bus. www.2amysdc.com.

n Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar

202-333-0111, 1736 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Intimate, bustling, romantic French bistro, bus. www.bistrotlepic.com.

n Lyon Hall

703-741-7636, 3100 Washington Blvd.

Excellent French-German cuisine in a boisterous setting, Clarendon Metro. www.lyonhallarlington.com.

n Baked and Wired

703-663-8727, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St.

Espresso and superb baked goods, including breads, cookies, cakes and pies to eat in or take home, bus. www.bakedandwired.com.

n Ray's the Steaks

703-841-7297, 2300 Wilson Blvd.

Excellent steaks at moderate prices, Courthouse Metro. www.raysthesteaks.com.

n Four Sisters Grill

703-243-9020, 3035 Clarendon Blvd.

Excellent fast-casual Vietnamese food, Clarendon Metro. www.foursistersgrill.com.

n Cava Mezze

703-276-9090, 2940 Clarendon Blvd.

Greek tapas, Clarendon Metro. www.cavamezze.com.

n Green Pig Bistro

703-888-1920, 1025 N. Fillmore St.

Sustainable cuisine. www.greenpigbistro.com.

n Whitlow's on Wilson

703-276-9693, 2854 Wilson Blvd.

Inexpensive diner food, rock and country bands at night, Clarendon Metro. www.whitlows.com.

n Iota Club and Cafe

703-522-8340, 2832 Wilson Blvd.

Coffee, full-service bar, inexpensive eats, rock bands at night, Clarendon Metro. www.whitlows.com.

n Screwtop

703-888-0845, 1025 N Fillmore St.

Superb selection of wines, cheeses, and light entrees; Clarendon Metro. www.screwtopwinebar.com.

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n Jefferson Hotel

1200 16th St. NW, 202-448-2300

Arguably the best hotel in Washington, with commensurate stratospheric rates, the Jefferson offers luxurious rooms, the highly regarded Plume restaurant and a cozy bar, Quill, with live entertainment; near the White House. www.jeffersondc.com.

n The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown

3100 South St. NW, 202-912-4100

Reimagined in an industrial building near the Georgetown waterfront, this sumptuous hotel offers exquisite, contemporary rooms and the superlative Living Room lounge; steps to many restaurants and shops. www.ritzcarlton.com.

n Washington Hilton

1919 Connecticut Ave., 202-483-3000

Huge convention hotel that offers all modern amenities and a seasonal outdoor pool. www.hilton.com.

n Wyndham Shoreham Hotel

2500 Calvert St. NW, 202-234-0700

Large art deco-era hotel perched on a slope above Rock Creek Park; outdoor, heated pool. www.omnihotels.com.

n Courtyard Marriott DC Dupont Circle

1900 Connecticut Ave., 202-332-9399

Modern rooms, some with spectacular views of downtown D.C. www.marriott.com.

n Key Bridge Marriott

1401 Lee Highway, 703-524-6400

Ideally located in Arlington, Virginia, directly across Key Bridge from Georgetown, this bustling hotel offers stunning Potomac River views from many of its upper floor rooms and is just a five-minute walk to the Rosslyn Metro; indoor and outdoor pools. www.marriott.com.

n Normandy Hotel

2118 Wyoming Ave., 202-483-1350

Intimate small hotel with modern amenities set between the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park-Zoo Metro stations. www.thenormandydc.com

n Tabard Inn Hotel

1739 N St. NW, 202-785-1217

A locally revered bed and breakfast that offers old-fashioned rooms, a lounge with a fireplace and live jazz and restaurant. www.tabardinn.com.

n Econo Lodge Metro

6800 Lee Highway, 703-538-5300

Pleasant if basic rooms near the East Falls Church Metro station (25 minutes to downtown D.C.) with free continental breakfast and Wi-Fi. www.choicehotels.com

n HI Washington DC, Hosteling International's Washington hostel

1009 11th St. NW, 202-737-2333

Shared accommodations and bathrooms and an excellent activities program, which includes group pub tours and visits to such places as the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. www.hiusa.org.

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All venues are listed in the order in which they appear in the accompanying article.

n Black Cat

1811 14th St. NW, 202-667-4490

www.blackcatdc.com.

n Studio Theatre

1501 14th St. NW

www.studiotheatre.org.

n John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

2700 F St. NW, 202-467-4600

www.kennedy-center.org.

n Shakespeare Theatre Company

202-547-1122

www.shakespearetheatre.org.

n Howard Theatre

620 T St. NW, 202-803-2899

www.thehowardtheatre.com.

n National Theatre

1321 Pennsylvania Ave., 202-628-6161

www.thenationaldc.org.

n Arena Stage

1101 Sixth St. SW, 202-554-9066

www.arenastage.org.

n Signature Theatre 4200 Campbell Ave., 703-820-9771

www.sigtheatre.org.

n Wooly Mammoth Theatre

641 D St. NW, 202-393-3939

Ask about "Pay What You Can" shows and discounts for students and those under 30. www.woollymammoth.net.

n Whitlow's on Wilson

2854 Wilson Blvd., 703-276-9693

www.whitlows.com.

n Iota Club and Cafe

2832 Wilson Blvd., 703-522-8340

www.iotaclubandcafe.com.

n Birchmere

3701 Mount Vernon Ave., 703-549-7500

Name bluegrass and folk music acts, ample parking. www.birchmere.com.

n Concerts at the Capitol

U.S. Capitol West Lawn

Free symphony and pop concerts on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day; military band concerts throughout the summer.

n POV (Point of View)

Chic rooftop cocktail lounge at the W Hotel overlooking the White House, dress code, advance reservations necessary. www.povrooftop.com.

n Quill Bar and Lounge

1200 16th St. NW, 202-448-2300

Cocktails, light meals (expensive) and live music in an intimate setting at the fashionable Jefferson Hotel.www.jeffersondc.com.

n Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia

National name acts, touring musicals in a spectacular, open-air theater; lawn for picnics before the show; bus, ample parking. www.wolftrap.org.

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All attractions are listed in the order in which they appear in the accompanying article. Where admission prices are stated, varying discounts for seniors, students and children are frequently available. For sites accessible by bus only, go to the attraction's website.

n Kennedy Center

2700 F St. NW, 202-416-8340

Free guided tours and roof terrace. www.kennedy-center.org.

n Eastern Market

225 Seventh St. SE, 202-698-5253

www.easternmarket-dc.org.

n Phillips Collection

1600 21st Str. NW, 202-387-2151

www.phillipscollection.org.

n Kreeger Museum

2401 Foxhall Road NW, 202-337-3050

Adults $10. www.kreegermuseum.org.

n Woodrow Wilson House

2340 S St. NW, 202-387-4062 www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org.

n Anderson House and the Society of the Cincinnati

2118 Massachusetts Ave., 202-785-2040

Free admission to museum, appointment suggested for library. www.societyofthecincinnati.org.

n Washington National Cathedral

3101 Wisconsin Ave., 202-537-6200

Highlights tour included in admission; year-round garden tour, $5 suggested donation; classic tower climb, $40, gargoyle tower climb $50; $11, bus, ample parking; many other tours and events. www.cathedral.org.

n International Spy Museum

800 F St. NW, 202-393-7798

Adults $21.95 (significant discounts for children, seniors and the military); explores the history of espionage, especially during the Cold War; Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. www.spymuseum.org

n Theodore Roosevelt Island

15-minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro (in Arlington, Virginia), Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, hiking and birding trails. www.nps.gov.

n Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden

1703 32nd St. NW

Museum (Byzantine and pre-Columbian art) closed until November, but the garden, one of the most beautiful in Washington, is open; $10 garden admission includes guided tour of the garden; bus, no parking. www.doaks.org/about.

n First Friday Dupont

Free admission to visitors who stroll among Dupont Circle art galleries, some of which serve refreshments, on the first Friday evening of the month; emphasizes the local art scene. www.firstfridaydupont.org.

n Heurich House Museum

1307 New Hampshire Ave., 202-429-1894

Suggested donation of $5 for tours; ornate early 1900s mansion of Washington's Heurich Brewery family. www.heurichhouse.org.

n Rock Creek Park

1,700 acres of forest in a ravine that cuts through the heart of Washington from the Potomac River to the Maryland suburbs, picnic facilities, bike paths, 32 miles of hiking trails, public golf course, 13 miles of dirt and gravel bridle paths, with horseback riding lessons and guided tours on horseback available. www.rockcreekhorsecenter.com.

n Textile Museum

701 21st St. NW, 202-994-5200

$8 suggested donation; 20,000 textiles and objects spanning five continents and an equal number of millenia. www.museum.gwu.edu.

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Mountain lions' killer instincts could save human lives in the East http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160720/GZ01/160729959 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160720/GZ01/160729959 Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:29:41 -0400 By Karin Brulliard The Washington Post By By Karin Brulliard The Washington Post In 1921, an article in the quarterly journal of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife made plain the prevailing feeling about one native inhabitant of the state: "The one predatory animal for which practically no good can be said is the mountain lion," it began.

The big cats' main crime? Having caused a "heavy natural drain on the deer supply."

Nearly 100 years later, researchers have made a case in another journal, Conservation Letters, that mountain lions' deer-killing skills could be lifesaving to people on the other side of the country, where vehicles regularly crash into highway-hopping deer.

If mountain lions returned to their Eastern U.S. range, the study found, they could prevent 708,600 deer-vehicle collisions, 155 human deaths and 21,400 human injuries over 30 years.

That would save at least $2.13 billion, the authors said.

The mountain lions' return to the East, where people long ago killed them off, is certainly possible. The lions - also known as cougars, pumas and panthers - once lived across the entire hemisphere. While they're now mostly in the West, crowding is causing them to expand their range. There are now breeding populations in Nebraska and South Dakota, for example, and one male cougar even made it to Connecticut in recent years.

In most of the Eastern half of the country, deer have proliferated in the absence of cougars, destroying vegetation and contributing to so many car crashes that they're the most dangerous large mammal to humans in North America. To control them, officials have resorted to culling and more expensive efforts, like contraception and special highway crossings.

Laura Prugh, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Washington, said she and her co-authors wanted to bring a consumer-friendly, "Freakonomics kind of thing" to her research on large carnivores' roles in ecosystems.

To carry out this study, she said, they examined well-established data on deer-vehicle collisions, cougar predation on deer, available cougar habitat and deer populations in 19 Eastern states.

They assumed each cougar would kill 259 deer over an average six-year life span. To be conservative, she said, they assumed that about 75 percent of those ungulates would have died anyway from other causes, such as starvation, which is happening more often as deer strip Eastern vegetation.

To backstop their findings, they looked at South Dakota, where about half the counties on one side of the Missouri River have been recolonized by cougars in recent decades.

Before the cougar repopulation, deer-vehicle collisions were increasing at a steady rate each year. But in the counties where cougars set up shop, Prugh said, there was a "very dramatic change" within eight years: Deer-vehicle collisions dropped by 9 percent, preventing 158 such collisions that cost $1.1 million every year.

During that time, Prugh said, there was no big change in vegetation that might have led to a deer population decline, and deer hunting actually decreased, which might have led to a rise in collisions - if not for the cougars.

"That was very striking," she said. "When I looked at it, I was like, that looks like made-up data."

Michelle LaRue, a University of Minnesota wildlife ecologist who is executive director of the Cougar Network, which tracks cougar recolonization in the Midwest, said she thought the study was "a really interesting step forward in understanding the benefits that we don't think about when we think about mountain lions."

At the rate they're spreading, though, LaRue said she doesn't expect cougars to repopulate the East anytime soon. Young males, which need to find their own territory to avoid being killed by other males, are the pioneers moving East more rapidly, she said. But females typically migrate in a slower, "steppingstone" pattern, moving to the next open patch and settling down there. You need both genders, of course, to get a self-sustaining cougar population.

LaRue said research indicates that females will begin recolonizing new parts of the Midwest in the next 25 years.

"That's not very far, in relation to the entire continent," she said. "If it happens [in the East], it's going to take a long time."

That's probably a good thing, given that people, Prugh said, might not be psychologically ready for cougars in the Eastern woods.

"What I would hope is that, by making this fairly substantial benefit more concrete, people might be a little bit more accepting of them when they do show up," she said.

Prugh and her colleagues considered some of the costs of new cougar populations, including about $2.35 million worth of lost livestock and an unknown number of lost pets (although cougars, she noted, are "deer specialists," and probably wouldn't consider a house cat worth their time).

Fewer than 30 people would be killed by cougars over 30 years, their study estimated.

"Having cougars in the East looks like it would actually save about five times as many lives, through reducing deer-vehicle collisions, as they would actually kill," she said. "People don't stay awake at night worrying about crashing into a deer the next day, even though it could easily happen. But they might stay awake at night worrying about a cougar jumping on their back as they're walking through their neighborhood."

The chances of that happening are extremely low, she said, but added: "People's fear doesn't really track the statistics well."

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Tours fund restoration at Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ05/160719688 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ05/160719688 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 05:00:00 -0400 Lori Kersey By Lori Kersey WESTON - In an otherwise empty room with turquoise walls and bars on the windows, toys are scattered across the floor.

Crayons and paper, a soccer ball, stuffed animals and a music box: all gifts from the living to the dead of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

Office manager Bethany Cutright, during a tour of the place in late May, was at first dismissive of the toys, which are efforts to communicate with "Lilly," a little girl spirit that some people say haunts the place. Then she admits she's passed by the room and heard the music box playing on its own.

And that's not the only creepy thing to have happened at the old asylum, also known as Weston State Hospital, which closed in 1994 and is older than the state of West Virginia.

"I've walked every inch of this building in the dark with no flashlight, no problems," Cutright said. "[In the] winter time when there's nobody in here and I've had to come over and get something, I've heard somebody say something, and I know there's nobody else in here.

"That's when I get the goosebumps and the hair stands up on the back of my neck," she said.

The massive asylum, which has 9 acres of floor space in its main building alone, attracts paranormal enthusiasts from all around. A YouTube search for the asylum turns up 14,700 results that include ghost investigations both by amateurs and by "professional" ghost-hunting cable TV shows.

The asylum's reputation as one of the most haunted places in West Virginia is helping with a goal - restoring the centuries-old facility. Funds from paranormal tours - as well as historic tours, special events and souvenir sales - all go toward preserving the historic building.

Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor, bought the property at auction for $1.5 million in 2007 and opened it for tours in 2008. The first year, there were 7,000 visitors. That number increased tenfold, to 70,000, last year, Cutright said.

Cutright said since the end of the first tour season in 2008, all the money raised has gone to pay employees, buy supplies and preservation materials, and pay utilities and taxes.

"Over the last eight years, we have spent millions," Cutright said. "It is worth every penny invested to save such a magnificent National Historic Landmark."

Before Jordan purchased it, years of neglect left the structure in serious disrepair. Some rooms, including a cafeteria and kitchen, as well as the catwalks that connected them to the main section, had to be demolished, Cutright said. When the structural issues were addressed, the staff turned its attention to the aesthetics of the place.

They plan each year's preservation project to be done in the winter, when the building is closed to tours.

"We try to develop a plan of action during the tour season so, while tour season is on, we're like, 'OK when November comes, this is what we're gonna start. If we get that done, we're gonna move on to this,' " she said. "It's an ongoing project. Sometimes we get into it and realize the money's not there."

The main hallway of the building was one of the first places that the staff has attempted to preserve, Cutright said. The hallway has been renovated three times, and the most recent is completely different than what it looked like the first time. This time they made it look like what they believe is more historically accurate, she said.

Part of that preservation was to recreate molding archways.

"[There are] a lot of them throughout the entire building," Cutright said. "Not a lot of them survived, and some of them that did survive were damaged really badly. So part of our preservation restoration was to recreate them. We actually used techniques that were implemented by people who do movie sets."

One ward in the hospital has been turned into a gallery that features artwork from patients. More than 300 pieces of art from patients were donated back to the asylum. The pieces date back to 1906, but they're mostly from the 1970s through 1990s. They were part of an art therapy program at the hospital. Many reflect the harsh backgrounds of the patients.

One, a drawing not much more than stick figures, depicts a patient's father choking him next to a tree and sun.

The staff also recreated what a patient ward would have looked like in the 1890s. Bright yellow paint covers the walls and rugs cover the floors.

They've also been working to recreate the doctors' and nurses' apartments on the upper floors as they would have looked when they were in use. When the facility was operational, there weren't a lot of other places to live in Weston, so the staff lived on site.

They've started work on an auditorium, but Cutright said that project will take a while. When the hospital was in operation, the space was used for dances and parties, church services and other events, Cutright said.

Plaster once covered the walls, but now they're stripped down to brick. Holes in the ceiling have been repaired, Cutright said. Work is needed on the auditorium floors, where guests are currently restricted from exploring.

"I have grand visions for being able to use this again," she said of the auditorium.

Not only the building, Cutright is also trying to preserve the history of the hospital itself. She spent last winter trying to collect the oral histories of former patients, who are dying off.

"I think it's important, personally, to save those," she said.

The asylum has its fair share of terrifying stories. One is of a former patient in the 1980s who killed two other patients. The patient suffocated the first man, Cutright said. He tried to strangle the other with a bed sheet. That didn't work so he put his head under a bedpost and jumped on the bed until it went through his skull.

While the scary stories make headlines, lesser known are the stories of patients who say the hospital made a positive difference in their lives, she said.

One former patient Cutright talked to was treated at the facility when she was a teenager. The woman, now in her 70s, credits the asylum with saving her life.

"[The woman said] 'I learned to cook. I learned to sew. I made friends,' " Cutright said. "When she turned 18 and left this hospital, she had a full career. She married the love of her life and had three kids...

"[She said] 'If I had not gone to that hospital, it's hard to tell where I would have ended up.' And you don't ever hear those stories."

Many of the stories from the facility live on in the memories of Sue Parker, a 72-year-old tour guide at the facility. Parker worked as a nurse at the hospital from 1957 until 1970, though she had no formal nursing training, she said. When the hospital brought in trained nurses, she took on another role.

When Jordan bought the building, he asked Parker to work for him, she said.

"Since we come back, I see a lot of improvements," Parker said. "Rebecca and them have been wonderful. Even the hallway out here they made a big difference just painting and redoing."

While in operation, the hospital was marred by reports of overcrowding and poor treatment of patients. But Parker wants people to remember the good things that happened at the hospital, not just the bad.

"It wasn't all bad," she said. "Yes, sometimes it was bad, but it wasn't all the time."

Displays in the old hospital highlight the evolution of mental health treatment over the years. A mannequin lies in a bathtub in a display about hydrotherapy. In another room, hooks that were used to restrain patients are still in the walls.

"We wouldn't be where we are today without the things that happened in these hospitals," Cutright said. "Now, Walter Freeman and the lobotomy - we think it's completely barbaric, but in the 1930s, it was cutting edge ...

"And in 50 years we may look back and say, 'Oh my God, we're putting chemicals in these people, I can't believe they were doing that,' " she said.

Not all of the building will be renovated and fixed up, Cutright said. Some of it will be left to urban decay on purpose.

"There's a need for that, because people travel here just to photograph the decomposition," she said.

For information about touring the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, see its website or call 304-269-5070.

Reach Lori Kersey at

lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-1240 or follow

@LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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Owners of Appalachian Glass keep its fragile WV history alive http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719697 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719697 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch The Appalachian Glass Factory in Weston has a little bit of everything.

The Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau has an office inside what looks like an old feed store building.

There's a gift shop that sells a lot more than just glass, and there's a farmer's market with local fruits and vegetables.

At the rear of the building, Chip Turner or his son Todd stand in front of a furnace and give demonstrations on blowing glass, a technique that turns glowing, molten silicon into delicate globes, Christmas ornaments and playfully decorative fish.

Mid-morning, even with the door to the parking lot open, it's warm in the factory.

“It gets hot,” Chip acknowledged, sweating lightly. “During the summer, it can get up to 117 or 118 degrees.”

He keeps a bottle of soda close by as he works near temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees, explaining what he does as he goes.

The factory gets a lot of visitors, Chip said.

“We'll get upwards of 60 bus loads a year,” he explained while sipping coffee. “The tour companies love us. We don't charge anything.”

Visitors can buy something from the gift shop. There are plenty of options from ornaments and ring holders made in house, to animals and glassware made by other West Virginia glassmakers.

“We try to support each other,” Chip explained.

Glassmaking used to be a big industry in West Virginia, never as big as coal, naturally, but strong.

According to the West Virginia Humanities Council's West Virginia Encyclopedia, at one time about 15 percent of the nation's pressed glass tableware plants and about 21 percent of the flat glass industry was located in West Virginia.

Over the years, 20 different glass companies operated in Lewis County. When Chip was a boy, it was a common career path.

“They used to teach glassmaking at the high school,” he said. “You could take it as vocational training so that when you graduated from high school, you were practically ready for the factory floor.”

Not that Chip actually took the class — at least not at first.

“I took woodworking, which was right beside the glass class,” he said.

Mr. Carlton, the glasswork instructor, showed him how to do a few things anyway.

“Little animals,” Chip explained. “Trinkets.”

He said he loved working with it, loved making things out of the molten glass.

After high school, he worked at local glass factories, including Louis Glass, Princess Home Manufacturing and West Virginia Glass, where his father, Matt, had spent decades working in the company's machine shop, making molds and tools for the company.

Chip got a job in the maintenance shop at West Virginia Glass, but he said there were always opportunities to learn about glassmaking whenever the factory took on extra work or had workers out sick.

He took whatever chances he could get, and his skills grew.

“And then NAFTA killed all the glass in West Virginia,” Chip said, sourly, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement and enacted in 1994.

He started his factory in 2000. Eventually, his father and Chip joined the operation, and they've done pretty well so far, Chip said.

“We're a family-owned business, and we're in 38 states and 13 West Virginia state parks.”

Appalachian Glass is much smaller than the glass manufacturing companies that came before, employing hundreds.

It's more artisan than industrial, though Chip bristles at the word artist.

“We don't consider ourselves artists,” he said. “We're glassmakers.”

Chip sees what he does as a trade and a craft, not really an art. Modern society has elevated art at the expense of trades and crafts.

“It's kind of sad,” he said. “It used to be you could be proud to call yourself a blacksmith. Now, you have to call yourself a metal artist. You're not a potter anymore, but a ceramic artist.”

Chip said his family takes pride in what they do.

“We just make glass and try to keep history alive,” he said.

Telling part of the story of glass, he said, is almost as important as selling it. Chip said he does his part to keep the legacy of glass alive, sometimes in unusual ways.

“I rotate my tools,” he said.

Over the years, retired glassblowers have found him and gifted him with their old tools.

Glassblowers, Chip said, are very particular about their tools, especially the steel pinchers they use called a blower's jack.

Glassblowers used to fashion these tools from the tines of a pitchfork, with handles fit to the hand of the individual craftsman.

No two were exactly alike.

A blower's jack is used to shape the glass and also to separate it from the metal tube of the blower, but Chip said glassblowers didn't casually share them.

“But if you were starting out and the old guys liked you, they might tell you you could borrow an old pair.” He laughed and warned, “But you better make sure you put them back where you got them when you were done.”

He said each set of tools he's accepted represents a life.

“These were tools men used to put food on the table, a roof over their family's heads,” he said. “These were the tools that sent kids to college — and that way of life is gone.”

So Chip switches out his tools every so often, giving them a chance to do what they were meant to do again.

It's his way of honoring the men who came before him and remembering the industry that helped build the town he lives in.

It's a message he tries to share as often as he can, with whoever comes to his family's glass factory.

“I want people to fall in love with glass,” he said. “Glass has its own little life.”

He remembered when a woman told him about glass bottles found buried beneath an ancient ruin. After almost four millennia, there was still wine or liquid captured inside those bottles.

Chip said it dawned on him that his breath might be inside some of the glass Christmas globes he makes for nearly as long.

He takes a certain amount of pride in that.

“Stone erodes,” he said. “Steel rusts, but glass endures.”

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter. Follow Bill's One Month at a Time progress on his blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth/.

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Weston glass museum packed with 18,000 pieces http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719698 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160717/GZ0506/160719698 Sun, 17 Jul 2016 03:00:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch At first glance, the Museum of American Glass in Weston looks like an overgrown gift shop, like it might have started out as a little knick-knack shop, but then went wild after the glass animals multiplied and took over.

There's just so much of everything - antique carnival glass and candy dishes shaped like laying hens, which were popular with grandmas and great aunts, holiday drinking glasses emblazoned with rosy cheeked Santas, novelty soda bottles with Dali-esque stretched and bent necks that were a staple in the bedrooms of kids who grew up listening to Partridge Family records.

There are lamps, milk bottles, soda glasses, goblets, paperweights and arrowheads knapped from chunks of glass.

The museum has marbles for the kids and a glass bust of M.J. Owens, a West Virginia native and the inventor of the automatic bottle-making machine.

There's also a glass hammer securely kept in a case that couldn't possibly be used for anything - and this is just what's on the showroom floor.

There's more in storage, carefully packed away in boxes or stored on shelves, to be used later.

"We have 18,000 pieces," museum founder, volunteer and archivist Tom Felt said.

The oldest piece is a vase or decanter from the declining years of the Roman Empire, circa 100 A.D. There are also pieces from the colonial era of America, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and a lot of stuff from the 20th century.

There's a reason for that.

"Glass peaked in the U.S. between 1890 and the 1950s. There used to be dozens of glass manufacturers. We were preeminent in the world," said Felt, a former cataloger for the Library of Congress.

Most of them slowly disappeared following World War II, when Europe and Japan began flooding the glass market with less expensive products.

"We just couldn't compete," he said. "Then in the 1980s and 1990s, fuel skyrocketed."

The North American Free Trade Agreement didn't help either.

The Museum for American Glass opened in 1993, "with a mission to share the diverse and rich heritage of glass as a product and historical object as well as telling of the lives of glass workers, their families and communities, and the tools and machines they used in glass houses."

Their approach is decidedly omnivorous.

"Unlike, say, other glass museums," Felt said. "We include a little bit of everything. Other museums focus on a particular style or use. Often, they ignore the consumer glass."

The museum gets new pieces regularly.

"About 90 percent of it is donated by individuals or collector's clubs," Felt said.

The collection he said they're most excited about is a 203-piece collection of Steuben Glass.

Steuben Glass was founded in 1903 by English glassmaker Frederick Carder and named for the New York County where the town of Corning is located.

Corning Glass Works, now Corning Incorporated (makers of Corningware, among other things), took over the art glass company in 1918, which flourished and created a "prismatic crystal formula" that became the hallmark of Steuben Glass pieces.

The glass is remarkably clear and closely resembles ice.

Considered a vanity line, Corning sold Steuben to the Schottenstein Stores Corporation in 2008, where it struggled to turn a profit and was closed in 2011.

Corning bought it back a year later.

The glass can sell anywhere from several hundred dollars for small pieces to several thousand dollars for larger or limited edition pieces.

A Steuben Glass Mouse and Cheese Objet D'art, which looks like a block of crystal cheese with a gold mouse nibbling at it, can sell for as much as $6,000 to a collector.

The museum has an example of that design and many others, ranging from paperweights and hand coolers to art pieces meant to sit atop living room mantelpieces.

"It's really beautiful glass, but was probably most popular in the 1950s and 1960s," Felt said.

The Steuben Collection comes from the estate of businessman and Broadway producer Martin Massman.

Massman, who produced Broadway revivals of "The Glass Menagerie," "Of Mice and Men" and "Porgy and Bess," was a devoted collector of glass art.

"The glass company would call him when they had new pieces or if a particular piece came back to them," Felt said. "He bought quite a lot of it."

Massman died in 2014, and the collection came to the museum this year.

The museum will show all 203 pieces beginning in October. As a condition of the endowment, it has to display the entire set for a period of time before it can break up the collection to show in pieces.

"We expect to see some people come in just for the Steuben Glass," Felt said. "It has a devoted following."

Still, the Steuben Glass isn't the only thing to discover. The museum is a storehouse of history and nostalgia, capturing a way of life in America that has been gone for awhile.

"We try to show things that are both pleasing and unique," Felt said.

It also hosts different programs throughout the year for collectors, glass enthusiasts or just the curious.

Like many nonprofit groups, the Museum of American Glass is concerned about finances, Felt said. It is currently in the middle of a $250,000 Face the Future campaign to restore the outside of the building and make repairs.

"We feel that it's worthwhile," Felt said.

Reach Bill Lynch at

lynch@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-5195 or follow

@LostHwys on Twitter.

Follow Bill's One Month At

A Time progress on his blog at

blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth/.

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Republican National Convention: Where else to go in Cleveland http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ05/160719720 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ05/160719720 Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:30:50 -0400 By Andrea Sachs The Washington Post By By Andrea Sachs The Washington Post Don't assume anything. Not about Cleveland, the second-largest city in Ohio and site of the Republican National Convention from Monday through Thursday. Nor about its hometown-boy-gone-game-show-host Drew Carey.

"If you're a library person like me ..." the "Price Is Right" master of ceremonies said during a phone conversation about his old stomping grounds. He finished the thought with a recommendation to visit the Cleveland Public Library and its sweeping marble staircase and reading garden.

The Forest City native, and creator of the namesake show with the catchy "Cleveland Rocks" theme song, said he still returns to the scene of the sitcom - as recently as late spring.

For attractions, he said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a "no-brainer" and urges visitors to stop by the Great Lakes Science Center ("people forget it's next door"), the Cleveland Museum of Art ("a fantastic art museum"), the Cleveland Botanical Garden (10 acres of gardens, plus the Glasshouse) and the Museum of Natural History (home of Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor).

GOPers with a hankering for Polish or Ukrainian cuisine will "be in heaven," he said. Sterle's Country House, for one, pairs food (schnitzel, pierogies, haluski) with dance moves (polka nights) from the old country.

"It's stupid fun," Carey said.

For condensed nuggets of entertainment, Carey directs conventioneers to Public Square and East Fourth Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with bars, restaurants, live music venues and comedy clubs such as Hilarities, where he performed stand-up.

"It's such a nice city to walk in, and it's on the lake," Carey said in all seriousness. "I really do miss it."

If you get a break, or simply need an escape, here are some suggestions on where to go in Cleveland:

n Buy a political party outfit: Kilgore Trout

n Chill out after a heated debate: Edgewater Beach on Lake Erie

n Go if you are not a hypochondriac: Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University

n Blow more hot air: Popcorn vendors at North Union Farmers Market (various locations)

n Fork a signature dish: Double bacon cheeseburger pierogi at Pierogi Palace at West Side Market

n Sip a patriotic cocktail: The Chocolate Bar's Let's Make America Great Again Martini - apple vodka, Goldschlager and cranberries stirred with a golf tee

n Freeze your tongue: Mitchell's homemade ice cream

n Track down an elephant or a donkey: African Elephant Crossing exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

n Feel tiny amid outside art: Free Stamp, a 28-foot-tall Claes Oldenburg sculpture

n Float down a river with a paddle: Upper Cuyahoga River

n Raise a glass in a presidential watering hole: Millard Fillmore Presidential Library

n Saunter down a cultural row: University Circle

n Rock it: Whipps Ledges in Hinckley Reservation

n Tiptoe through the petals: Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park

n Roll in the money: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum

n Act like a team player: Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians

n Honor president No. 20: Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery

n Bridge the divide: Lorain-Carnegie Bridge

n Release your inner film fan: "A Christmas Story" House (a.k.a. Ralphie's house)

n Hide if you pledge allegiance to the opposing party: Coventry Village.

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In Cleveland, the GOP will find fine food - if someone will serve it http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ0506/160719721 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160714/GZ0506/160719721 Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:30:23 -0400 By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post By By Tom Sietsema The Washington Post To read about it, Cleveland appears ready for its close-up for the Republican National Convention this month. Downtown's Public Square - 10 acres of green park - just reopened, following an investment of 15 months and $50 million.

Nearby, a new Hilton added 600 rooms to the city's inventory. Local pride was only burnished with the recent NBA championship of the home team, the Cavaliers, starring LeBron James.

But how does it taste? One civic booster, the award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer, likens the food scene to those in Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and both Portlands (Maine and Oregon).

I wouldn't go that far, having recently taken a big bite out of Cleveland, although I can vouch for wonderful urban farms, a passion for suds and restaurants emerging from former no-dine zones. (If you spot the local treasure, walleye is the way to go on a menu.)

One missing ingredient: good service. With a handful of exceptions - the upscale Edwins, the happy-go-lucky Mabel's BBQ - most of the places I tried treated this anonymous diner as if I were invisible.

At the trendy Butcher and the Brewer, I sat for several long minutes before any of the five faces behind the epic-but-not-busy bar bothered to make eye contact. At Alley Cat Oyster Bar, I was asked three times by three waiters if I was ready to order. One foot into an otherwise genial Nate's Deli, I was hit with "Can I help you?" - from a woman shouting from a booth in the back. And so on.

(A local cab driver had no idea where one of the city's oldest and most beloved institutions, Sokolowski's University Inn, dished out Polish fare.) Suffice it to say, Cleveland hospitality polls "low energy," to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump's library of insults.

The city's recent uptick in restaurants is partly to blame, said chef Zack Bruell, an observer of the scene since the early 1980s.

"All of a sudden, the labor force has been stretched to capacity," he said.

Donald Trump is calling for "showbiz" at the convention, scheduled for Monday through Thursday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

"Otherwise," Trump said, "people are going to fall asleep."

Probably nothing will be able to compete with the expected theater from the GOP's presumptive nominee and company. Anyone needing a break would do well to take his or her appetites to any of these vetted establishments.

If you didn't know its reason for being, it might strike you merely as a chic French restaurant with an impressive cheese cart and a bartender who knows what she's doing.

Although Edwin happens to be the middle name of founder Brandon Chrostowski, the name of the establishment is short for "education wins." Long story short: Chrostowski got into trouble as a youth in Detroit, caught a second chance with the help of a Greek chef and wants to see that others in similar situations have a way out - and up - after having been "touched by the system." (His words.)

Thus, the majority of the people greeting you, taking your order and cooking your food are former convicts, participating in a six-month program that teaches them what they need to know about the restaurant trade, from crunching numbers to tasting wine.

For your enjoyment: frog legs, potato-tiled grouper, dessert souffles and, with advance notice, pressed duck with blood sauce. Not to be missed is the grilled seafood sausage in a pool of shallot butter sauce - "proof," said the owner, "that food is a vessel for change." Amen.

Prolific restaurateur Bruell calls his eighth contribution to the food scene "a glass box on the river," and that it is: an exposed kitchen and breezy dining room overlooking a boardwalk on the eastern bank of the Cuyahoga River.

A hybrid between an East and a West Coast oyster house, the light-filled, oyster-hued seafood specialist serves a lobster roll, fried calamari (with kimchee), grilled octopus (with succotash), crab cakes and shrimp-stuffed peppers that come with a server's warning: "They've got quite a kick." Duly noted.

"EAT MEAT," screams an illuminated red sign at the scene of my across-the-board favorite eating experience in Cleveland, its barn-like expanse as shiny as the smile of creator Michael Symon, Iron Chef on Food Network and co-host of "The Chew" on ABC.

Ever heard of Cleveland-style barbecue? Pork spareribs reverberating with Eastern European spices suggest the idea has legs, as do sides such as spicy cabbage mixed with spaetzle. Also finger-licking good: fatty brisket cooked low and slow over fruitwood, and broccoli salad jazzed up with dried cherries and peanuts. A bartender whose beverages matched his banter helped keep me in my seat. Ever had a Sazerac snow cone? Don't knock it until you've tried it.

What to do with a surplus of green beans? If you're Karen Small, owner of one of Cleveland's early farm-to-table restaurants, you toss them in tempura batter, fry them to a light crisp and serve them with ponzu sauce and a dip sweet with reduced pineapple juice.

Seventeen years after putting the beans on her debut menu, Small said she can't take the appetizer off. Same for her hamburger, which wins fans with its grass-fed beef and arrives with a garnish of fine onion rings and a cone of hand-cut fries.

The chef's menu reflects her Italian background and her love of Asia, France and Spain, all of which means it's proudly American. And her sources include produce (lettuces, herbs) from the 6-acre Ohio City Farm, a neat field that has a view of the cityscape and is tended by Burmese refugees.

Find time for the exemplary chicken paillard lavished with an arugula-feta-ramp salad, and don't leave before you try the signature dessert, a divine caramelized banana split that gets its crunch from shards of griddled sticky buns and its punch from rye-infused caramel. The beautiful food suggests serious training; Small countered, "I'm self-taught."

Having previously indulged in the baked rice pudding, I can see why the pope, or at least his likeness, smiles on the dessert selection at this 93-year-old landmark peddling Salisbury steak and nonstop polka.

Never mind that the cabbage crammed with beef, pork and veal and draped with tomato sauce is food enough for three. To visit this Polish institution, run by the third generation of the Sokolowski family, without adding some pierogi to my cafeteria tray would be a shame.

The crescent-shaped dumplings, made with sour cream, stuffed with potatoes and cheese and drenched in butter and onions, merit a spot in the hall of fame of comfort food -- surely part of the reason the James Beard Foundation recognized Sokolowski's as one of America's Classics two years ago. "Enter as strangers," read a sign on the photo-plastered wall, "leave as friends."

The joint dares you to buy into a different breakfast. Anyone for a banh mi fueled with springy Vietnamese sausage, kimchee, a fried egg and a smear of "everything bagel" cream cheese? Try it; you'll like it.

If pancakes with white chocolate, candied jalapeños and salted caramel-coffee crumble are more adventure than you want at 8 a.m., ask for some Training Wheels. They're the menu's term for buttermilk flapjacks, naked save for powdered sugar and proof that simple (light and fluffy) is sublime.

A storefront with white walls, the cafe shows a sense of humor with a collection of black-and-white photos of a man getting an egg smashed against his head and another being splashed with milk. Whatever.

A quote on the chalkboard reads, "I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I'm awake." Too bad this (bracing) coffee comes not in a mug but a paper cup, supposedly so you can take it into the street to continue caffeinating after paying the bill.

"We encourage sampling," said Jesse Mason, lead scooper at the pint-sized shop. Cheers for that, because his weekly-changing menu runs to such enticements as sea salt caramel, mint chip and taro root - the No. 1 seller - each honest flavor made in small batches using organic milk from a local Amish-run dairy.

Rolled out two summers ago by the Los Angeles transplant and his wife, Helen Qin, the walk-in attraction takes ideas from everywhere: customers (lavender ice cream), Qin's Chinese background (black sesame-squid ink ice cream), even the owners' meals away from home (chicken and waffles ice cream).

One night a month, the creamery becomes a drive-in, showing movies on a 16-foot inflatable screen. And come this fall, the owners will return to serving ramen on certain nights, if only because they want to share a happy memory from Los Angeles.

Sure, you can get a Reuben or a burger. But your focus should be on the Middle Eastern specialties that the Maalouf family has been offering in this modest 50-seat cafe for almost three decades, such as chicken marinated in mustard and lemon, then grilled and rolled up in pita with whipped garlic.

The charm of their Lebanese food: "No shortcuts," said co-owner Ghassan Maalouf. The chickpeas and fava beans for the coriander-zapped falafel are ground on-site, and the eggplant for the baba ghanoush is roasted in-house.

"Nate's" refers to the deli's long-ago operator.

"The name doesn't matter," said Maalouf, whose parents never bothered to change the title so as to "leave vanity out" of the equation. The back booth is sometimes occupied by his now-retired father; an employee's young charge clears tables, even though he's no taller than the cart he's pushing through the dining room. Nate's is as much about family as it is about flavor.

For sheer ambition, it would be hard to top this epic industrial American tavern, its row after row of community tables ending in flashy tanks and tubes. An estimated 1,500 barrels of beer a year (about 380,000 pints) are, as the restaurant says, "hand-built." Any given day, upward of a dozen house beers are on tap.

Most popular? The crisp German-style Repeater Kolsch. Most unusual? Albino Stout, the shade of pale ale. Beers also find their way into a handful of cocktails.

Full-time butchers and charcuterie makers assure good (and innovative) eating. Think tacos hit with chorizo and pickled jalapeños, whole smoked chicken wings, lamb ribs in jerk sauce. But everyone is welcome, food-wise, hence the kale Caesar salad and the flatbread, flavored as if it were a pierogi.

If there's a golden boy in town, it's chef Jonathon Sawyer, whose James Beard award (2015 Best Chef: Great Lakes) and varied restaurants have won Cleveland a measure of culinary respect in recent years.

His youngest establishment is Northern Italian, intimate and eye-catching, with illuminated streams of glass beads dangling from on high and whitewashed brick walls creating a cool cocoon. Mirrored tables are a canvas for charred, Parmesan-flecked broccoli on a brush stroke of roasted eggplant, and pepper-spiked rigatoni draped with creamy lamb ragu.

Want the full Sawyer experience? Loosen your belt for his 12-course tasting menu: a parade of charcuterie, local mushrooms, house-made pasta and, teases the menu, "beast roasted with pine, hard wood or hay."

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Group says it's warning schools about Noah's ark attraction http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160712/GZ01/160719857 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160712/GZ01/160719857 Tue, 12 Jul 2016 15:35:32 -0400 WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) - A group opposed to a new Noah's ark attraction in Kentucky says it is warning hundreds of public schools against visiting the Ark Encounter.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says ark field trips would expose children to religious proselytizing in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Lexington Herald-Leader that warning letters went to more than 1,000 school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a message to school districts Monday in response saying that neither outside groups nor state education officials should dictate field trip selection. A school's site-based decision making council approves trips.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based group says it heard from parents concerned their districts will organize trips to the ark.

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A food lover's road trip to Columbus, Ohio http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0506/160719978 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0506/160719978 Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Caroline Clippinger Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Caroline Clippinger Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Columbus, Ohio - Ohio's tourism slogan might be "The Heart of It All," but the capital city of Columbus is quickly becoming the heart - and soul - of the state's culinary scene.

You can find this surprising dining metropolis just a quick, three-hour jaunt from Charleston, making it the ideal weekend getaway this summer. Columbus is a known haven for breakfast fanatics and ice cream enthusiasts, but there are plenty of options for every taste and budget.

Here's a quick breakdown of how a weekend might go:

Upon your Friday arrival, head for the historic neighborhood of German Village for a casual dinner with drinks. Harvest Pizzeria is the perfect place to unwind after the drive, followed by libations at its sister spot, Curio.

The focus at Harvest is on local ingredients, and the pizza shines as a result. Don't miss the Spicy Yuma pie, on a blackened and chewy crust topped with a chipotle-spiked sauce, corn, chorizo, roasted peppers, cheese and jalapeños. Add an optional egg on top and let the runny yolk ooze and enhance every bite.

To fight off the heat, head next door to Curio for innovative Prohibition-era cocktails like a Silver Dollar Pony, swimming in bourbon and bitters.

The next morning, venture over to Fox in the Snow Café for breakfast in Italian Village. This newer spot boasts excellent pour-over coffee, tantalizing custard donuts, and an arugula-crowned egg sandwich that will have you raving. Make sure to get there early or you might miss out on some of the best of the baked goods.

To stock your pantry at home, make North Market your next stop. Here you can purchase everything from colorful macaroons to crusty marble rye, and it is also the best way to get a taste of Columbus for lunch.

Hot Chicken Takeover is a personal favorite, specializing in fiery fried chicken and cool house-made ranch, but don't forget about renowned Katzinger's Deli Reubens, Brezel's jumbo chocolate chip pretzels or healthy quiches from Little Eater.

To enjoy a sunny Columbus afternoon, shopaholics can journey to Easton Town Center, an outdoor fashion mecca, while families and animal lovers can spend the afternoon at the award-winning Columbus Zoo.

At dinnertime, there are many mouthwatering choices, but for road trippers Wolf's Ridge Brewing is an easy winner. Such beautifully plated dishes aren't typically found in a brewery, but this restaurant excels at both food and beer. The bright and modern interior is the perfect place to indulge in dishes such as corn bisque and scallops, all paired with craft brews in every imaginable style.

Banish your sweet tooth by heading to the area's most beloved ice cream purveyor for dessert: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. There are various locations around the city, so stop into the shop nearest you, and experience the wide array of seasonal flavors. Opt for the mini scoops to try all the varieties, like salty caramel, pistachio and honey, or biscuits and peach jam.

Before leaving town, brunch at Katalina's Cafe is essential. The Breakfast Tacos and the sweet-and-spicy glazed bacon are fabulous, but the must-try items are the pancake balls. Plump nuggets of pancake batter are filled with your choice of Nutella, dulce de leche caramel or pumpkin-apple butter, and these bites are ready for dunking in maple syrup.

Fresh-squeezed juices and hot coffee will help kick-start your day, and the umbrella-filled patio laden with picnic tables make for a cozy morning experience. Katalina's alone is worth the journey to Ohio.

With its short distance from Charleston and wallet-friendly lodgings, Columbus is the ultimate road trip destination for local foodies.

Caroline Clippinger is a Columbus-based attorney and bonafide foodie. When she's not visiting friends or checking out the food scene in neighboring states, she writes the popular Columbus Culinary Connection food blog. Follow her postings on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CBusConnect.

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WV Book Team: Put feet in the sand and nose in one of these beach reads http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0605/160719995 GZ0605 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160710/GZ0605/160719995 Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Dana Smook and Elizabeth Fraser WV Book Team By By Dana Smook and Elizabeth Fraser WV Book Team Ah, summer, the perfect time to sit back with a cool drink and a great book. It is almost universally understood that there is nothing - nothing - more relaxing than lounging in a beach chair with a hot read and sand between your toes.

Are you looking for the perfect book to take with you on your summer vacation? Want to read something breezy but smart while you're poolside? Look no further. We have some recommendations just for you.

Terry McMillan, chick-lit star of the '90s, is back with "I Almost Forgot About You," a feisty, feel-good novel about personal reinvention and acceptance. After two divorces and countless other romantic missteps, our heroine Georgia thinks she's done with love. A successful optometrist with two grown daughters, supportive friends and a beautiful San Francisco home, Georgia is certainly not unhappy. But she is not altogether happy either, and she decides to take a chance on a wild journey, leaving her life behind to start all over again.

McMillan tells Georgia's story with her usual warmth, humor and keen ear for language and conversation. Full of funny, engaging and frank dialog, this warm-hearted book is a strong beach read candidate for anyone who has dreamed of what could have been.

In "Girls on Fire," author Robin Wasserman explores the fraught relationship between two teenage girls who get lost in a spiral of rebellion, defiance and violence. Set in a small, ordinary Pennsylvania town in the 1990s, the story follows Hannah Dexter and Lacey Champlain, who meet during their junior year in high school and become fast friends.

Before long, Dex and Lacey are inseparable. From booze and drugs to scary encounters with older men, the girls become involved in seriously risky behaviors. When a popular basketball star from their school is found dead in the woods in a suspected suicide, readers gradually discover that the girls are caught up in terrible entanglements with their classmates.

Capturing the sometimes awful intensity of girlhood friendships, "Girls on Fire" is brutally beautiful and hard to put down. Clear some time for this one, because once you pick it up, you won't be able to stop reading.

"My Best Friend's Exorcism," by Grady Hendrix, is an inventive, darkly funny horror novel that also follows two teenage girlfriends. If you are someone who might enjoy "The Exorcist" featuring bigger hair, more spandex, and all the pop-culture wonders of the '80s, then you will love "My Best Friend's Exorcism."

Best friends Abby and Gretchen are going into 10th grade in 1988. After Gretchen disappears during a drug-fueled sleepover, she comes back a different girl. Gretchen's bizarre behavior escalates to maliciousness that brings disaster to everyone around her.

Has she been possessed by something unholy, or is she merely held captive by the stormy throes of adolescence? Is Gretchen's best friend forever strong enough to beat back the devil?

The book is sure to tug on the heartstrings of Gen-X'ers, but with nuanced character writing and solid storytelling, Hendrix will exceed expectations for a silly '80s flashback. This is a story about the power of friendship. Satirical, intense and surprisingly heartwarming, "My Best Friend's Exorcism" is, like, totally the perfect summer reading choice - if you don't mind some gore.

John Hart's new novel, "Redemption Road" has been in big demand since hitting our library shelves, and we can understand why. Overflowing with tension and treachery, "Redemption Road" is a finely written, intricately plotted literary thriller which holds readers captive until the last page.

Our feisty heroine is detective Elizabeth Black, an emotionally damaged cop who's being investigated for excessive force after shooting and killing two rapists. Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues a forbidden relationship with ex-cop Adrian Wall, who has just served 13 years in prison for murder. She doesn't believe he's guilty.

Woven between these two plot threads is a first-person narrative from a shady, unidentified man who kidnaps and tortures several women. Will you guess his identity?

"Redemption Road" is at once gritty, dark and violent, as well as moving and profound. This mystery will keep you on the edge of your beach chair, and with a Southern melancholia akin to Pat Conroy's, it makes for a great summertime read.

Curtis Sittenfeld takes on a contemporary retelling of "Pride and Prejudice" in her tender and smart new novel, "Eligible." In Sittenfeld's modern version of the story, the Bennett family resides in Cincinnati's upscale Hyde Park neighborhood. The Bennett sisters, ages 23 to (almost) 40, are unwed and mostly aimless, the family home is crumbling, and, after Mr. Bennett has gone through a health scare, he reveals he has no health insurance.

Elizabeth is a magazine writer in New York City who comes home to Cincinnati to try to put the family affairs in order. Readers will delight in the funny, quirky family dramas, as Sittenfeld provides the Bennett family with modern issues. Mr. Darcy is unveiled as a brooding neurosurgeon, but it takes a while before he becomes significant to the story as Liz is dealing with everyone else's problems and being "the voice of reason amid a cacophony of foolishness." Playful language and funny, endearing family scenes make this a charming, enjoyable retelling of a beloved classic.

If you're looking for a summer read that is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny, don't miss "Mother, Can You NOT?" by Kate Siegel, who became an Instagram phenomenon when she began broadcasting texts from her mother over the social network. There's nothing like a mother's love. And for the author, there's nothing more embarrassing than a mother's love.

A book of true stories about the dysfunctional relationship between Siegel and her boisterous, overbearing mother, many readers will be able to devour this quick collection of essays in one day or one sitting. Also of note, mother and daughter narrate the audiobook version, so it's worth sampling if you can get your hands on it. (The audiobook is available through the WVDeli e-book downloading service. Ask your librarian for more information.) This hilarious little hardback is just perfect to take to the beach with you.

In a hammock, on a beach towel, on a pool float, wherever you do your best summer reading, we hope you get plenty of it in this year. Savor the summer reading season while it lasts. If you need more suggestions to keep your summer full of books, just get in touch with your friendly local librarian. We're always happy to help.

For more information on these books or others, contact the main branch of the Kanawha County Public Library at 304-343-4646 or visit www.kanawhalibrary.org.

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Outdoor art installations celebrate Connecticut's iconic Glass House http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160707/GZ0506/160709779 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160707/GZ0506/160709779 Thu, 7 Jul 2016 18:50:00 -0400 By Katherine Roth The Associated Press By By Katherine Roth The Associated Press NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) - Philip Johnson's Glass House, built in this leafy corner of Connecticut in 1949, was always about more than architecture. While Johnson and his partner David Whitney lived in the house, they turned it and the grounds into a haven for avant-garde art.

Artists like Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Frank Stella were encouraged to experiment and take creative risks on the 49-acre estate - which along with the house includes a pond, neoclassical-style pavilion in concrete and other small structures.

In keeping with that tradition, the Glass House has commissioned three outdoor installations by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose works Johnson collected.

The works surround the house, which is a national historic landmark, and highlight its art-world legacy in celebration of its 10th tourist season and the 110th anniversary of Johnson's birth.

"Kusama is an artist Johnson both collected and admired," said Irene Shum, curator and collections manager at the Glass House. The new works are meant to "playfully engage the entire site, creating a celebratory mood."

Johnson and Whitney, both of whom died in 2005, "were great patrons of the arts, and art interventions like this are in complete alignment with our history," she said.

The highlight is a landscape installation, "Narcissus Garden," which Kusama first created for the 1966 Venice Biennale. It is comprised of 1,300 stainless-steel spheres, each about a foot in diameter, drifting and bobbing on the newly restored 1957 pond, built by Johnson in a little valley just below the Glass House. The mirrored surfaces of the paper-thin spheres reflect viewers and the scenery around them, including the Pond Pavilion (1962), also by Johnson.

The spheres skitter across the surface with the passing breeze and make a slight pinging sound when they bump against one another. You can see them glinting in the sunlight from much of the estate. Versions of the installation have appeared in Australia, France, Britain, Brazil and, in 2004, New York's Central Park. In this version, the spheres are larger, more numerous and unrestrained.

Before its restoration, the pond "had never been dredged and was in danger of becoming a wetland and disappearing as a pond," Shum said.

When "Narcissus Garden" was first installed, "the frogs were croaking and jumping and singing," said Christa Carr, a spokeswoman for the Glass House. "It was a truly joyful moment."

Tucked on a hillside of native grasses just above the Glass House is one of the 87-year-old Kusama's most recent works, "Pumpkin" (2015). Made of red, glittering steel, the pumpkin is over 4 feet tall.

"In Japanese, a 'pumpkin head' is an ignorant man or a pudgy woman, but for me, I am charmed by its shape, form and lack of pretension," says Kusama, who grew up on a farm.

Both installations are to remain on view through Nov. 30.

An additional Kusama installation, "Dots Obsession - Alive, Seeking for Eternal Hope," will open Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 26. It will cover the outside of the Glass House with red vinyl dots of various sizes - the first work ever to be installed on the house itself.

"It will be installed in the fall when the leaves are all turning, so that it can really play on the surrounding colors," said Carr.

All three Kusama works can be viewed from inside and outside the house, and "Dots Obsession" is meant to temporarily transform it into what Kusama has dubbed an "infinity room," featuring both the dots and the shadows they create.

"My desire is to measure and to make order of the infinite, unbounded universe from my own position within it, with polka dots," Kusama says. "In exploring this, the single dot is my own life, and I am a single particle amongst billions."

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Turnpike traffic up over recent holiday weekend http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160706/GZ01/160709768 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160706/GZ01/160709768 Wed, 6 Jul 2016 13:58:21 -0400 Eric Eyre By Eric Eyre Last Friday marked one of the biggest Fourth of July weekend travel days in the history of the West Virginia Turnpike.

The Turnpike recorded 194,523 toll transactions on Friday, up from 183,186 transactions in 2011, the last year Independence Day fell on a Monday.

"Friday was really high for us, one of our highest days ever," said Greg Barr, general manager of the state Parkways Authority. "That was a big number for us."

The traffic caused backups at Turnpike tollbooths and prompted some complaints.

"We started getting complaints at 3 p.m.," Barr said. "That's the peak travel time."

During a five-day period - Thursday through Monday night -- the Turnpike handled 690,874 toll transactions, compared to 643,839 transactions in 2011. That's a 7.3 percent increase.

"Everything upticks on a holiday, especially when fuel prices are low like they have been this year," Barr said.

Traffic was up 7.8 percent over last year, when the Fourth of July fell on a Saturday.

"It seems like it's always a little better when the Fourth falls on a weekend or a Friday or Monday," Barr said. "People seem to get away a little longer and travel a little farther."

No major accidents blocked traffic during the holiday weekend, he said.

Turnpike transactions could dip this week after massive flooding caused the cancellation of The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament in White Sulphur Springs.

"Maybe we'll see a little impact, but the bottom line is most of the travel on the Turnpike this time of year is vacationers, out-of-state travelers going on summer vacations, not to a local event," Barr said.

The Turnpike didn't sustain any damage during the floods that devastated other parts of the state, he said.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

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Noah's ark of biblical proportions ready to open in Kentucky http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160706/GZ0113/160709773 GZ0113 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160706/GZ0113/160709773 Wed, 6 Jul 2016 10:14:39 -0400 By DYLAN LOVAN The Associated Press By By DYLAN LOVAN The Associated Press WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) - A 510-foot-long, $100 million Noah's ark attraction built by Christians who say the biblical story really happened is ready to open in Kentucky this week.

Since its announcement in 2010, the ark project has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education and shouldn't have won state tax incentives.

"I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the ark.

Ham said the massive ark, based on the tale of a man who got an end-of-the-world warning from God about a massive flood, will stand as proof that the stories of the Bible are true. The group invited media and thousands of supporters for a preview Tuesday, the first glimpse inside the giant, mostly wood structure.

"People are going to come from all over the world," Ham said to thousands of people in front of the ark.

The ark will open to the public Thursday and Ham's group has estimated it will draw 2 million visitors in its first year, putting it on par with some of the big-ticket attractions in nearby Cincinnati.

The group says the ark is built based on dimensions in the Bible. Inside are museum-style exhibits: displays of Noah's family along with rows of cages containing animal replicas, including dinosaurs.

The group believes that God created everything about 6,000 years ago - man, dinosaur and everything else - so dinosaurs still would've been around at the time of Noah's flood. Scientists say dinosaurs died out about 65 million years before man appeared.

An ark opponent who leads an atheist group called the Tri-State Freethinkers said the religious theme park will be unlike any other in the nation because of its rejection of science.

"Basically, this boat is a church raising scientifically illiterate children and lying to them about science," said Jim Helton, who lives about a half-hour from the ark.

Ham said the total cost of the ark surpassed $100 million, a far cry from a few years ago, when fundraising for the boat was sluggish and much larger theme park plans had to be scaled back.

Millions of people first learned about plans for the ark during a debate on evolution between TV's Bill Nye "the Science Guy" and Ham in early 2014.

A few weeks later, a local bond issuance infused tens of millions of dollars into struggling fundraising efforts. And earlier this year, a federal judge ruled the ark could receive a Kentucky sales tax incentive worth up to $18 million while giving a strict religious test to its employees.

Months later, the tax incentive ruling still has some opponents of the boat scratching their heads.

"It's a clear violation of separation of church and state. What they're doing is utterly ridiculous and anywhere else, I don't think it would be allowed," Helton said.

The court ruled in January that Kentucky officials could not impose requirements on the ark that were not applied to other applicants for the tax incentive, which rebates a portion of the sales tax collected by the ark. That cleared the way for the group to seek out only Christians to fill its labor force. New applicants will be required to sign a statement saying they're Christian and "profess Christ as their savior."

Philip Steele, one of the thousands who got an early preview of the ark Tuesday, echoed Ham's often repeated comment that the sales tax generated by the ark wouldn't exist if the ark was never built.

"I just don't think they understand it," Steele said of the ark's critics. "They'll be able to keep a portion of (the sales tax) to further their ministry, but so be it."

When Ham was asked about the tax incentive at the Tuesday event, he drew loud cheers when he proclaimed no taxpayer money was used to the build the ark.

As much of a boon as the $18 million tax break would be, Bill Nye's agreeing to debate Ham may have helped turn the tide of years of sluggish fundraising.

Nye, a high-profile science advocate and former TV personality, debated Ham on evolution and drew a huge online audience. Nye later said he didn't realize the attention it would draw and said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

The video of the debate posted by Answers in Genesis on YouTube has 5.4 million views.

About three weeks after the debate, Ham announced that a bond offering from the city of Williamstown had raised $62 million for the project, and a few months later Answers in Genesis was breaking ground at the site of the ark.

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Busy tracks, accommodating hosts make McDowell inn a railfan mecca http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160704/GZ07/160709875 GZ07 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160704/GZ07/160709875 Mon, 4 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer LANDGRAFF - After a lengthy do-it-yourself restoration of their newly bought 1922-vintage three-story brick building following devastating floods in 2001 and 2002, Dan Clark and Elisse Jo Goldstein-Clark were able to spend their first night in what would become the Elkhorn Inn.

"After getting four feet of mud and water in the first floor, Dan had gutted and power-washed the building and stripped plaster off all the walls and pulled out all the insulation," Goldstein-Clark recalled. "We were staying in a third-floor room with no door when the first train of the night went by. It felt like the whole train was coming through the building. I started crying, and after more trains went by, I stopped crying and started thinking, 'We have to find people who love trains!'"

That task didn't turn out to be as difficult as she imagined the following day.

"When I Googled 'people who like trains,' the whole world popped up," she said. "It turned out that railfans are everywhere."

It also turned out that railfans around the world are familiar with the Norfolk Southern Railroad's Pocahontas Division, nicknamed the "Pokey," which sends 35 or more trains and helper engines up and down the dual tracks fronting the Elkhorn Inn each day.

"We've had railfan guests from England, Wales and even Australia who were passionate about the Pocahontas Division long before they came here," said Goldstein-Clark. "We've got the best legal train-watching in America. In addition to all the trains passing by, we often have coal trains stop here to change crews."

"You can sit on the porch and watch trains coming through all day, or drive to nearby scenic and historic spots to photograph and video them, as I like to do," said Michael Saverino of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a 10-time guest at the inn. A number of trestles, tunnels, loading and fueling facilities found within a few miles of the Elkhorn Inn make great backdrops for Pokey line rolling stock passing through the rugged terrain of McDowell County. "The scenery and the mountains here are truly spectacular," Saverino said.

While the just-out-the-window presence of rail traffic was briefly seen as a nightmare to Goldstein-Clark, it ended up creating a dream niche market for the Elkhorn Inn, located in a remote section of a county that has seen better times.

"Over 60 percent of our guests are railfans," she said. "They are great guests. They are interested in the inn and the area's history, and they tend to make return visits, even in the dead of winter, to photograph trains in the snow. Dan and I have become personal friends of many of them, and we've become railfans, too."

To reach out to former guests and attract new ones, the Elkhorn Inn recently had a railcam installed on its second floor, making it possible to watch and hear passing Pokey Line traffic in real time from anywhere with Internet access. The remote camera is part of a railstream.net system of 12 railcams, placed at busy railroad sites from Nebraska to Pennsylvania.

Saverino developed a program that uses automatic train control signals to map rail traffic along the Pocahontas Division tracks between Bluefield and Williamson, allowing railfans at the Elkhorn Inn to view location displays on their personal computers, hear comments from railroad dispatchers, and estimate when the next train will pass by.

"Sometimes you will find as many as 75 people at a time looking at the feeds for this line at sites across the country," Saverino said.

Saverino said he caught the train bug from his grandfather while growing up in the Pennsylvania coal town of Windber, founded by the Berwind family, for whom the McDowell County town of Berwind was named.

"My grandfather taught me how the coal trains worked the rail yard and introduced me to the guys who ran the trains and worked the yard," he recalled. "Since the age of 5, I've never lost my interest in trains."

Severino's son, Mike, also a railfan, accompanied him on his most recent trip to McDowell County.

"For railfans, there are really only a couple of other places in the country - the Station Inn in Cresson, Pennsylvania and the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana - that come close to offering what the Elkhorn Inn offers," said Severino. "You're right on the tracks here, but Dan and Ellise are what really make the place. They make you feel welcome and anxious to come back."

The waters of the inn's namesake, Elkhorn Creek, draw the second-largest group of visitors to the former Empire Coal & Coke miners' clubhouse.

"You just don't find streams like this anywhere else in the east," said inn guest Mike Trunzo, who works for the fly-fishing retailer Orvis in Arlington, Virginia. "The fishing is really phenomenal. I caught over 20 fish this morning, and the crazy thing is that they're all wild, with beautiful colors and blue spots on their cheeks."

Several multi-pound brown trout were among fish landed and let go by Trunzo, along with numerous smaller rainbow. Elkhorn Creek, which has produced trout weighing more than 11 pounds, is the only place in the state where brown and rainbow trout, neither of which is native to West Virginia, spawn and reproduce in the same stream. The phenomenon can be traced to the mechanical breakdown of a trout hatchery tanker truck on U.S. 52, which parallels the creek and passes Elkhorn Inn, in the early 1970s.

Once polluted by outflow from coal processing sediment ponds to the point that it could not support aquatic life, Elkhorn Creek had begun to rebound by the time of the historic breakdown, with cold water steadily released from a non-acidic deep mine near its source keeping the stream cold enough to support trout. When no other hatchery truck could be found to offload fish from the disabled tanker, the driver released his cargo of trout into Elkhorn Creek, apparently figuring they had a better chance of surviving there than on the highway berm. He turned out to be prophetic.

"I'll be back," Trunzo told Clark, after loading fly gear into his car and beginning his journey home.

Goldstein-Clark served in the Israeli Army and later produced a series of paintings commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard, while her husband had a career with the U.S. Army before they both joined the Federal Emergency Management Administration. In 2001, they were sent to McDowell County to help in the flood recovery effort. It was then that the two spotted the former coal company clubhouse - one of the few buildings in Landgraff still standing - and decided they would give the building and themselves new careers.

"If you would have told me before I came down here that I would be operating a bed and breakfast in West Virginia some day, I would have called you crazy," Clark said. "But we've always been satisfied here. I've enjoyed learning to modify and improve recipes I've learned over the years and it's been good to get to know our customers so well."

"Where else can you photograph trains, take off on your dirt bike and ride trails, and then have Dan fix you dinners like African clay pot chicken or Vietnamese pork chops?" Saverino asked. "It's combination of everything I like."

For more information on the Elkhorn Inn visit elkhorninnwv.com or call 304-862-2031.

Reach Rick Steelhammer

at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Shepherdstown theater festival lets new material shine http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160703/GZ0506/160709960 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160703/GZ0506/160709960 Sun, 3 Jul 2016 00:01:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team SHEPHERDSTOWN - The charms of Shepherdstown at any time of year are notable, but in July they take on a world-class profile as savvy theater goers make a special pilgrimage to the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), now in its 26th season.

CATF's status comes from its focus on staging new American plays and the passionate vision of its producing director and festival founder Ed Herendeen.

"There's nothing like doing a play for the first time" Herendeen said. "New plays involve risks, and we believe in taking risks. We embrace the danger."

With a new play, there is no safety net of tradition to fall back on for actors, directors and playwrights. Virtually all the plays have existed primarily on paper, staged in the playwright's mind or possibly once before in public. They have not had all the juice squeezed out of them by being workshopped to death.

Herendeen emphasizes that, first and foremost, CATF is a festival of playwrights. The words as written are sacred, and if questions arise, the playwright is called. The decades of success with plays first brought to life in Shepherdstown means that high quality scripts come to Herendeen, and actors' agents pay a lot of attention.

"My first thought was 'They're doing this in West Virginia?' " said actress Betsy Aidem when her agent suggested the festival.

"I like working on new plays, and CATF has a high level of production values for something new."

At least four of this summer's plays can be considered comedies, if you are prepared for laughs to be soul-scathing as well as funny, and are ready to embrace Herendeen's taste for dark visionary comedies.

There's a maritime epic that resurrects family secrets, a fascinating play about hijacking a play, a comedy about being "the other" that has a naked man in a cage as a wedding gift, a play about friendship and the exploration of time, and a play that uses "Long Day's Journey Into Night" as the backdrop. Three of the plays are world premieres, and two are new drafts. All were written in the past year.

"20th Century Blues" promises to be popular, witty and captivating as it explores 40 years of friendship and the concerns of the four hyper-verbal women who shared the decades.

"This is a funny play," Aidem said. "Women getting together can get really ribald."

It is a world premiere, but playwright Susan Miller is no stranger to the stage. The winner of two OBIEs - Off-Broadway Theater Awards - and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she boasts a long list of credits including nearly 20 plays, screenplays and award-winning new media. Miller was in Shepherdstown for the month of June and never misses a rehearsal, making notes and sharing observations but making few changes.

"The play was in good shape when I got here" Miller said. "I spend the rehearsal time listening, watching, inviting questions."

It took the heroic effort of a group of CATF fans calling themselves "The Staging Team" to raise the additional funds needed for the play to be included in the festival. It is not in repertory because of the casting.

"Do you know how hard it is to find a good play with a part for an over-60 woman?" Herendeen asked. "And finding plays for four older women is impossible."

He knew that choosing this play would put them over budget, but Herendeen and the board would not pass on it and committed to finding the money to stage it - and they did.

Herendeen's brainchild creates a kind of summer camp for theater folks, from the techies and publicists to playwrights and actors. They live together for more than two months in residential apartments on campus.

They work together and hang out in the chic little town on the Potomac. The playwrights understand that this is a place and process where they can change, polish and perfect their work. The actors and directors take their essential part in helping a piece evolve seriously.

The family-like setting of the intensive season even influences casting choices. Actors are considered for skill level and their capacity to play several different roles simultaneously. They are also selected because they are people who can share the camaraderie of the group.

The intensity of the work - six weeks of rehearsal and four of performances, all while living together on campus - drives the company members to find special places in the town, whether it's bike riding on the C&O Canal towpath, running lines at the Bavarian Inn's infinity pool or hanging out at the Mecklenburg Inn. All the daily life activity in a small town makes for an intimacy with audiences and local folks.

In this season there are five plays plus a company of 130, the largest ever for CATF. The core is 18 actors, virtually all equity players. The five plays are scheduled in rotating repertory Wednesday through Sunday nights plus Sunday matinees for four weeks beginning Friday and concluding July 31.

If full immersion is your goal, any jam-packed visit can include time to see all the plays at a price comparable to a single ticket for a Broadway play. Sunday and weekday night shows are the real bargain at nearly half price. There are pay-what-you-can previews today through Thursday.

There is more to CATF's four-week season than simply plays, including art exhibitions, stage readings, lectures, artist/patron discussion, workshops and classes, films, and post-show conversations. All the activities contribute to the unmatchable dynamic among the audience, the artists and the work.

During the past 26 years, audiences have grown increasingly sophisticated and aware of the rare experience available in Shepherdstown. They come from nearly 40 states and a variety of foreign countries.

Once it was courageous to attend the CATF plays and tread new ground in American theater. Now its simply good sense and an experience not to be missed.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is author of "Way Out in West Virginia," and "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare," available from WVBookCo.com.

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Mystery Hole owners reflect on years running WV roadside attraction http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160626/GZ05/160629788 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160626/GZ05/160629788 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 04:00:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch The Mystery Hole is for sale, but just because the iconic property is on the market doesn’t mean the tours have stopped.

The summer season for West Virginia’s best-known roadside attraction began just a few weeks ago and owners Will and Sandy Morrison said so far the crowds have been steady.

“We’re seeing about 100 people a day when we’re open,” he said. “It varies a little, but I’d say that’s the average.”

The Patel family was part of that number.

Standing just outside the ominous entrance to the attraction on a sunny, Friday afternoon, Shivani Patel seemed a little nervous.

The weathered, old building had a vaguely haunted feel to it. The hall leading down into the hole looked claustrophobic.

Several months pregnant, and surrounded by children, she said she didn’t know what to expect. The whole trip to the Mystery Hole was her husband Manish and his brother Jay’s idea.

The family was in town for a wedding. The Patels live in North Carolina and Texas, but the brothers used to reside in West Virginia. And the Mystery Hole was an almost annual summer pilgrimage.

“I guess I’ve been here four or five times,” Jay Patel said.

Manish Patel agreed. That sounded about right to him, too.

“I love it,” Jay Patel said. “It’s just fun. You don’t see things like this very often.”

They were the veterans. Almost everyone else in the group had no idea what to expect as 22-year-old guide Zach Gates ushered them down into the dimly lit wooden structure.

“You’ll notice the gate is locked behind you,” Gates said.

This didn’t help Shivani Patel’s nerves, but she was a good sport as Gates took the group through the occasionally garish, occasionally silly, sometimes baffling Mystery Hole.

The gravitational anomaly sits inside a hut on U.S. 60 on a cliff that overlooks the New River Gorge. Inside, balls appear to roll uphill and visitors seem to be walking up the walls at impossible angles.

The Patel brothers, at least, had a good time, and everyone on the tour got a laugh for their six or seven bucks. The kids lingered in the gift shop afterward, looking for a souvenir or toy to take for the drive home.

The good news is the Mystery Hole, one of the last roadside attractions in West Virginia, isn’t going anywhere, but Will and Sandy Morrison hope to, eventually.

“We’re not closing the Mystery Hole,” Will Morrison said. “If it sells, we move. If it doesn’t, we’ll keep it open.”

“We just want to maybe do something different,” Sandy Morrison said. “We might go south.”

They’re a little guarded about revealing what else they might do. Will Morrison’s background is construction. Sandy Morrison came from retail and has manned the Mystery Hole gift shop for almost two decades.

“We might try another business, maybe,” she said.

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The Morrisons bought the Mystery Hole in 1999, two years after the death of its creator, Don Wilson.

Wilson opened the attraction in 1972, and he ran the Mystery Hole as much for his own amusement as for the business it could bring.

A retired Navy veteran and Union Carbide metalworker, Wilson became something of a local character who entertained thousands of visitors with his personally guided tours through the Mystery Hole.

People visited from all over the world. Will Morrison pointed to a sign in the back of the gift shop.

“We got all 50 states,” he said, proudly, and then read off a couple of the names of the foreign locations.

The Mystery Hole has seen visitors from almost every continent. Wilson did his tours day after day, year after year, until his health took a bad turn in 1996. He died of cancer a year later, at the age of 80.

The Morrisons bought the attraction after a friend mentioned the property was for sale, though Will already knew about the Mystery Hole.

A Michigan native, Will Morrison’s mother was from West Virginia. He remembered his family driving past the attraction in the summers on their way to visit his grandmother.

“There were nine of us in that station wagon,” he said. “And not enough places for us to get out and stretch our legs.”

They may have stopped once or twice, and even if they hadn’t they would have heard about the Mystery Hole. It was a West Virginia institution with a sort of cult celebrity that inspired paintings and songs.

Will Morrison said the couple’s original plan was to match Wilson’s tenure — 25 years — but after 18, they’re just interested in making a change.

So far, they haven’t had so much as a nibble on the property.

“Not a single one,” Will Morrison said, shrugging.

But they’re not giving it away.

The asking price is $495,000, and Will said they’re not interested in just selling it to someone who might want to put in a gas station or some other business.

“We want to sell to someone who’ll keep the Mystery Hole going,” he said.

At the edge of the parking lot, looking over the rail to the gently flowing New River below, Will said the whole area could be on the verge of a tourism boom and explained there have been talks about flooding this part of the river, called The Drys, for three months each year, creating a new whitewater rafting attraction.

“I think they’re looking at keeping it a Class III,” he said. “That would make it more family friendly.”

The change to the river could happen as early as 2018.

For the Mystery Hole, it could mean more visitors. Will Morrison said he thought another owner could add onto the site and invest in the nearly 2 acres of property.

That’s the one regret he’s willing to mention — not doing more with the Mystery Hole.

“That’s always been a problem,” he said. “You get people waiting in line or people who’ve come through the tour, and they’ve spent money in the gift shop. They still want to spend money, but there’s nothing to spend money on. There’s nothing else to do, nothing else to buy.”

Somebody else with deeper pockets could maybe look into that, Will Morrison said.

“The property comes with a concession trailer, a second parking lot we added on, some out buildings and a cabin,” he said.

The cabin has scarcely been used, he added.

“We talked about moving into it,” he said. “But then the house across the road came up for sale. We bought that, instead.”

The cabin has been sort of a lounge for the Morrisons. Will supposed they could have rented it out, but doing that seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

“We probably couldn’t have got more than $100 a night,” he said. “And then we’d have to clean it.”

Aside from the Mystery Hole, Will Morrison said he also had another 10 acres adjoining the property that he’d be willing to sell. This could be used to further develop the property or maybe do something entirely different.

The Morrisons said time at the Mystery Hole has been good.

“You learn a thing or two about customer service,” he said. “You learn you better come to work with a smile on your face, because if you’re not happy, your customers aren’t going to be happy either.”

Reach Bill Lynch at

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304-348-5195, follow

@LostHwys on Twitter

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blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth

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