I kicked off my road trip (well… Part Two thereof. Click here for Part One.) on October 1 from Charlottesville, Virginia with the destination of Steubenville, Ohio. It was a jagged, mountainous route that had me crossing state lines more times than expected (Virginia then Maryland then West Virginia then Pennsylvania then West Virginia then Ohio, I believe?). I was intrigued by signs for a place called Endless Caverns so I followed them, but did not find any actual caverns so I continued on (turns out they were Beginningless Caverns in my experience too, get it?! Okay I’m done here.). A friend in Charlottesville had recommended stopping through Wheeling, West Virginia on the the homestretch towards Steubenville as there is allegedly good Italian food in Wheeling (and Steubenville is a food desert of sorts). However, it was Sunday evening in God-fearing West Virginia and everything seemed to be closed, so I just took a few quick pics and leaned into the final half hour of my journey.
Steubenville may seem like an obscure jumping-off point for a road trip but hear me out: a dear old friend of mine had been living there for a year or two that point working for a youth ministry program (in a town where the youth need all the help they can get). Though it was once a booming steel town (and the home of Dean Martin!), the past decades have seen Steubenville become a desperate, desolate place with rampant addiction, violence, and general crime (to include the prominent presence of a number of Chicago and New York-affiliated gangs– it’s an approximate midpoint between the two larger cities, and so has become a bit of a drug hub from what I understand). Sadly, as we know, it’s not an uncommon tale in our country.
While my short visit was sobering in many ways, it was also heartwarming to see the relationships my “cousin” (the easiest explanation of our own relationship, she’d decided) had built with the kids in town and their families. I also found Steubenville to be a surprisingly beautiful place, with murals on many of the downtown walls, stately architecture, and the Ohio River as a scenic backdrop.