Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I love couchsurfing, or: My night in West Virginia

The cross country road trip has been written to death. That's no surprise. While I know this blog is nothing professional and may not have a large readership, I'd like to think I have at least one advantage over my fellow scribes and their pursuit of Americana.

Take Bill Bryson, for example. If you haven't read any of his books yet, stop reading this pitiful blog and go read something he's written. Neither Here Nor There, Notes From a Small Island, In a Sunburned Country... Just do it already.

For the rest of you still reading this, Bill Bryson's first travel book was The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America. Using his hometown in Iowa as a starting point ("I come from Des Moines, Iowa. Somebody had to" - classic), he covered nearly the whole of the continental U.S. in the late 80's. Not yet the powerhouse of travel literature that he is today, his budget only allowed him to stay in every dumpy motel he could find (while driving his mother's Chevy Vega).

Last night I stayed in West Virginia. Instead of feeling sorry for myself in some dumpy motel, I stayed in a private home at a lake community near Salem.

Built in the 1930's as a retreat for rich families in Clarksburg and Morgantown, it exists today off a busy Rt. 50. After too many hours of driving, I turned onto the access road and was hit by a peaceful lake with a hundred or so houses around its two-mile perimeter.

Wendy was my host, the fiance of Gary, the 1995 world freestyle frisbee champion who I hosted last month in Haddonfield. Gary was away in Florida, but Wendy was there, and after getting acquainted, she took me swimming (with two massive water slides and diving board!).

Afterwards we cooked dinner and ate in her gazebo, after which four of her neighbors dropped by to check out "the couchsurfer." They were fascinated with the concept. We talked over wine and ice cream for a few hours before calling it a night (in a bed that was more comfortable than my bed at home). God, I'll probably never stay in a hotel again.

Things I learned while driving through West Virginia:

  1. Highways are gloriously uncrowded, but have construction crews working every four miles.

  2. Country roads are awesome, but makes it a crazy long time to get anywhere.

  3. Looking at the map while doing 70 is not a good idea, especially when the tractor trailer in front of you starts knocking traffic cones into your path.

  4. Do not apply the windshield spray with the driver's side window open. It will shower a mixture of windshield spray and mashed up bugs in through the window.

  5. West Virginians don't like listening to the German techno version of "Country Roads."


Kirsten said...

I hope you don't mind if your sister is now one of your most loyal readers. I'm glad you're having such a great time with the people you're meeting thanks to couch surfing. It sounds like an awesome experience. If only the Internet existed during Bill Bryson's cross-country trip...

Scotticus said...

I thought about that, but then I remembered that Bill Bryson is at his best when he's making fun of the dimwits he encounters. Making fun of people who so generously hosted him wouldn't be his style and would take away half of his material.

Dad said...

"Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye."

Wendy said...

Hi Scott...nice pics of the lake...so here I am following your travels...hope you are having a great time! Wendy