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Take Me Home, County Roads

I’ve said the words, sang them hundreds of times — “Almost Heaven, West Virginia.” John Denver inadvertently gave us the words and music that have been as recognizable across the world as the “Star Spangled Banner.”

The song has been re-recorded dozens of times by various singers over the years, but Mountaineers claim Denver’s original rendition for its own. I’ve heard it played in stadiums big and small. Even wedding receptions have been known to include the song for appreciative West Virginians in the crowd. It nearly always generates a sing-along.

It was not until this past week, when I had the opportunity to take a long and winding road trip through my beloved state, did I begin to realize the truth behind the song and its words.

As we made our way north driving from Bluefield then to Princeton, the clouds felt close enough to touch in the azure blue clear sky. The deep green forested hillsides appeared as if in three-dimension. Those huge, puffy clouds formed immense shadows over areas of the trees.

There was something mystical about the fog in the valleys while the sun shone brightly against the mountaintops. The road ahead sometimes resembled a roller coaster as it snaked its way up and down the slopes. Wide green spaces and mountain ski slopes beckoned visitors to take another look at what the state has to offer. Then there were the rushing waters of the rivers that cut through the rocks and land, begging for the adventurous to enjoy.

It was in Princeton that we found a gem of an eatery to stop for lunch. Dolly’s Diner is just what it sounds like and more.

The modern restaurant resembles the old diners of yesteryear with a menu as broad as the state. I’ve never met friendlier people, including Dolly herself who moves about the tables to talk with customers.

As for the menu, there are daily specials such as meatloaf and spaghetti, along with burgers and fries.

But it was the Lemon Lush dessert that caught my eye. This delicious lemon pudding, whipped cream covered concoction was something I had not tasted for years. It was something my mother-in-law made each summer.

Some things need to be enjoyed if only for old-time’s sake. It was delicious.

As each mile passed behind us, I drank in the beauty of the state. Coming into Morgantown, there was something so special about that flying WVU logo that told me I was not far from home. The buildings on the state university are as impressive as the school itself.

The closer we got to Wheeling, I realized how much I appreciated West Virginia — with all its faults — as truly a work of art. From its people to its mountains, I have a new appreciation that there is more than just a little heaven here. Thanks for bringing me home again, country roads.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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