What a long strange trip it’s been – part 2

American reader Andy Kopral bought a 2007 997 Turbo unseen on the Internet and drove it across the USA. In this and other posts, he describes his adventures.

I arrived in St. Clairsville, Ohio (just west of Wheeling, West Virginia) on
Friday evening. My father was from Barton, Ohio, about five miles north of
St. Clairsville, and I wanted to visit some relatives in this area. Barton
is a very small town (600 or so residents) in this region of coal mines and
steel mills and has visibly suffered as the economy (and especially the coal
mining and steel industries) has declined. I remember first visiting Barton
as a child in the 1960’s and the town still had a gas station, a general
store, and a couple of bars. Today, all that remains is one bar called the
Mousetrap. I decided to stop at the bar for one beer before heading back up
to St. Clairsville to look for a hotel for the night. It was around 8:00
p.m. and the bar was not busy – a bartender and three men sitting at one end
of the bar drinking and talking. I was pretty sure if I asked around someone
in the bar would know who my father was (although my father was drafted in
1943, sent to Africa and Germany and never returned to Barton, except for
rare visits, he had eight brothers and sisters who had remained in the
area). The bartender recommended I check with the three older men at the end
of the bar, since they were all Barton natives. I proceeded to walk over and
talk to these guys, who looked to be in their 70’s and 80’s (or so I
thought). One of the guys, Bob, was happy to have a conversation, and in
fact knew not only my father but also my grandfather (my grandparents and
immigrated to Barton from the Ukraine back in the late 1800’s or early
1900’s). After a few minutes of conversation, Bob asked me how old I was,
and I replied that I was 55. To my utter amazement, he said he was also 55!
I guess I probably look a lot older than I think I do (I feel about 18
inside!), but I’m pretty darn sure this guy looks A LOT older than I do (you
be the judge – that is Bob in the photo next to my car, and also sitting in
the bar). Anyway, we got into a little argument about living in Barton vs
California, and I thought I better head back to find a hotel room before the
argument turned serious.

I ended up spending the night at the Hampton Inn in St. Clairsville, mainly
because it seemed I could park my car safely for the night. The hotel had a
nice little restaurant and sports bar attached to it (Undo’s – an Italian
restaurant established in 1953), so I proceeded to have dinner in the bar
and have a few beers. A short time later a guy started playing guitar and
singing, and to my amazement he was incredibly gifted, both in his singing
and his guitar playing. He played for about 90 minutes, and not once during
that time did anyone in the bar even acknowledge his existence. I was
stunned, because he was really good. After he finished I went up and gave
him a $20 tip (because he more than deserved it) and told him that I really
enjoyed his performance. His name is Chuck Lucas and he is from Weirton,
West Virginia. He made the comment that whenever he tells anyone he’s from
Weirton, they think he’s probably some kind of hillbilly. Quite the
contrary, he graduated from the Pittsburg Academy of Art, and is very, very
talented. This was the first of many events on this trip across the country
that made me realize what a world of contrasts we live in, and never, never
judge a person by outward appearances – you will invariably guess wrong.

The next morning I drove back to Barton to visit relatives and take some
photos of the Mousetrap (and to meet Bob again). I stopped first at my
cousin David’s and his wife Debbie (whose son Michael lives near us in Santa
Rosa, and who coincidentally is in Barton this week for a visit), and my
Aunt Helen’s. They live on a beautiful 100 acre property that my father and
his brother Jim had originally purchased back in the 1960’s and that now
remains in the good hands of my extended family. A Porsche Turbo causes a
stir no matter where it goes, even in Barton, Ohio! My cousin (second cousin
actually, since she is Dave’s daughter) Tanya would have liked to have kept
the car in Ohio. We had a wonderful visit, and I am going to make the
commitment to visit my father’s home much more often in the future – it has
been 10 years since I last visited.

After visiting with my cousins, I drove back into Barton to take a photo of
the house my father grew up in – nine children, in a two bedroom house with
no running water. In fact, I don’t think the house had plumbing until the
1970’s if I remember correctly. Then I stopped in at the Mousetrap again,
and Bob was also arriving at the same time (around noon) for his first of
many (I’m sure) beers. I offered to buy Bob a beer, and ordered a coffee for
myself. The tab was $2.00. I reminded the bartender that I also wanted to
pay for Bob’s beer, but the total tab was still only $2.00 – $1.50 for the
beer and $.50 for the coffee. A land of many contrasts. In California I
would expect to pay about $10 for a beer and coffee.

My plan for Saturday was to arrive at my friend Jim’s house (we have been
friends since we both went to school in Germany) in Middletown, Ohio, not
far from Cincinnati. I left Barton around 1:30 p.m. or so, and headed west.
I stopped in Columbus because I wanted to visit the Ohio State University
campus and buy some things at the bookstore (Ohio State memorabilia for my
car). I bought a license plate bracket that says “Ohio State University
Alumni” and some other things. I have purchased a personalized California
license plate that says “OHIGHER” – get it?? Some of you will, but let’s
suffice to say for the “G” version of this report that it stands for the
redneck version of Ohio.

I arrived at Jim and Joanne’s around 6:00 p.m. that evening and we had lots
of fun, as we usually do. I took Jim and Joanne for a quick spin in the
Turbo, and then we sat around and had lots of drinks and fantastic homemade
spaghetti that Joanne made. Jim couldn’t keep up with all the partying and
was passed out by 10:00 p.m., so Joanne and I made fun of him for the next
hour until we got bored.

On Sunday my plan was to make it to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I had hotel
reservations at the Embassy Suites (’cause they have the best breakfast
buffet!).

Continued in part III…DSC_3347DSC_3352DSC_3349DSC_3348

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