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The Lighthouses Of West Virginia

Long Ago

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

A beacon in the night (Image via Wikipedia)

Long ago, a sailor navigated the ocean. Desperate for safe harbor and a source of supplies, he looked out into the dark night hoping for a sign of land and a clue that other people were near.

The sea caused his little boat to roll and pitch as he pressed on through the darkness. As the boat rose from the trough of a wave he saw something. In the distance, a glow gradually turned to a shaft of light in the dark night. The beckoning light of the lighthouse let him know he was on course and nearing harbor.

Lighthouses still operate on the world’s great bodies of water. Most of these towers were built long ago and remain in use as a navigational aid to mariners.

I am not a mariner. I did not sail the dark and lonely sea. I drove through West Virginia at night. Yet, like our sailor, I saw a glow in the distance.

Not Long Ago

Map of Interstate 77 in West Virginia

Interstate 77 through West Virginia (Image via Wikipedia)

Two nights ago I navigated the length of Interstate 77 north through West Virginia. Desperate for caffeine and fuel, I scanned the darkness hoping for an indicator that I was near a town and other people who could help cure that desperation.

The winding road caused my little car to pitch and roll as I pressed on through the night. as my car rose up from a valley, I saw something. In the distance, the glow gradually turned into a pool of light in the dark night. The beckoning light of the billboard let me know I was on course and nearing a town.

Billboards Are The Lighthouses Of West Virginia


The lighthouse for Beckley, West Virginia (photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya)

In navigating the Interstate highways of West Virginia in the dark, I detected a clear pattern. The first indicator that you are approaching a town in West Virginia is a billboard. Not just any billboard. The billboards that serve as the navigational beacons in West Virginia are always for strip clubs or porn shops.

It appears to me that any conglomeration of people in West Virginia that could be construed as a town must have a strip club or a porn shop. I am convinced that this is how people find the town they live in. They drive Interstate 77 until they see the billboard displaying the generic stripper woman assigned to their town, then they get off the highway.

Is West Virginia the only state where this sort of business advertises along the highway? Absolutely not. It is just the only state where the ads are so pervasive. It is sad to see. West Virginia is a beautiful state populated by nice people. Let’s hope they can class the joint up sometime soon.

Seriously…get a hobby.

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32 Comments on “The Lighthouses Of West Virginia”

  1. I did not see that one coming…nicely done, sir!

    Wendy

    P.S. Thought of you last night…Jim made his version of jumbalaya…

  2. I suddenly have that song “Signs” by Tesla playing in my head.

  3. omawarisan says:

    Breaking up the scenery, breaking your mind?

  4. Todd Pack says:

    When I’m on the interstate and pass one of those places, I always get a little depressed because I can’t help but imagine how someone ends up working there. I know these places are in the middle of nowhere, but, seriously, there’s no Hardee’s where you could get a job? You don’t have a Piggly Wiggly?

  5. We found him Captain!! says:

    Many decades ago they had numerous lighthouses in WVA. They were short and rounded, the governor decided to fill them with rock salt since they were not getting many calls from lost mariners. My father once told me that those rock salt lighthouses were also churches. I think he was right…….

    Nicework Omaha!!

  6. Margie says:

    Have you driven through Nevada? Just add the local casino to the cat house and truck stop billboard/lighthouse grouping!

  7. pattypunker says:

    great juxtaposition, sad state of affairs.

  8. Nothing like a little heavy equipment and a gentleman’s club to guide you on your way!

  9. Katybeth says:

    When I am desperate for caffeine and fuel–any light will do.
    If I were looking for a sign that I was on the right path….a strip club sign might indicate to me that I needed to turn around or it might indicate to me that I needed a loosen up a little.
    As for billboards, I think they are all tacky but can be fun when they lead you to the BIGGEST ALLIGATOR SWAMP IN FLORIDA.

  10. omawarisan says:

    I’m with you, generally those places indicate a part of town where you don’t want to get out and fuel. IN this case they indicate the presence of population.

  11. I didn’t know this about West Virginia. I think of that banjo song in Deliverance when I think of West Virginia.

  12. Betty says:

    I’ve never visited West Virginia but this did nothing to change my pre-conceived notion.

  13. Pauline says:

    “The billboards that serve as the navigational beacons in West Virginia are always for strip clubs or porn shops.”

    Weird! When I’ve travelled in the US, the billboards that I saw were ones for religious organizations, so there were giant images of Jesus’ face spread randomly on the side of the road. These are just as tacky and obnoxious as the strip clubs/porn ones that you saw.

  14. planetross says:

    John Denver should be on a few billboards … just so you know that you are driving through it.
    (IMHO) … I don’t know what that means, but all the cool kids use it, so it must be the cats ass … or pajamas … or something like that.

    • Zahara says:

      Yo planetross, how ’bout In My Humble Opinion? maybe, just guessing.

      Omawarisan. Lighthouses that lead you to the dark places….I wonder what kids growing up in the area think of these signs? Maybe they don’t read ’em ’cause they’re in the backseat fighting with their siblings? Very odd. In certain regions of Northern California all of the billboards advertise indoor gardening stores, the latest craze. Do the billboards tell us who is making all the money in town?

  15. John B says:

    Unlike Mamarazzia (cool name by the way) I have the Five Man Electrical Band version wedged in my head. I heard it first back in….wait for it…. 1970. Man I am old. One then about it is life isn’t much different now than it was then: We all are looking for a sign on this road called life. Enjoying your blog and prescriptive on this ride call life. Write on.

  16. Steve says:

    Not to burst your bubble about all of the preconcieved notions concerning our adopted home state, but considering your choice of a title I feel obligated to enlighten your dear readers to our current lighthouse construction project. It’s the real deal…100′ tall and yes, it will feature a Frensel lense that you will indeed see for miles before you arrive. To learn more/view photos, visit us at; http://www.summersvillelakeretreat.com

    • omawarisan says:

      Steve, that lighthouse is an amazing idea. I love it. Good luck with it.

      I don’t really have a preconceived notion regarding the state. It is a beautiful state full of nice people. I know that from living there briefly as a child, and from a lot of visits. I don’t even have a quarrel with the businesses the billboards advertise – to each his own! It is just an odd pattern.

  17. Love WV says:

    From the viewpoint of a WV native, yes the stripper billboard is less than enticing- as I am sure the girls there are as horrid as can be imagined. The truck billboard on the other hand is very important for business in WV since most occupations involve heavy equipment. I do not think that we are one of the only states with such tasteless billboards. Going on a trip crossing a few states anywhere there are adult store ads, gentlemen’s “club” ads, and everything else so necessary to “weary” travelers. It is so disgusting that we are usually stereotyped as wearing overalls with at least one, if not both, eyes towards the peach orchard. I think the “club” ads are up because instead of in some cities and towns there may be many “clubs” like this popluar enough to not need signs. These few places with the ads are rare in our region- so the creepers definitely need good directions, because on their way to see these ladies I seriously doubt they are following a GPS…but I do not think that a few nasty billboards can even characterize 1% of the people living here that would give you the shirt off of your back and be happy to do so.

    • omawarisan says:

      I completely agree with you on the people of wva being good folks . I go through the state fAirly often and lived there for a short period. I tried To write this not as an indictment of those folks but of those who make the place look bad! Than you for a well thought out and reasonable reply!


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