Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hit the Road and Go

Amidst the rolling hills of Lonesome Pine Country Club in Big Stone
Gap, Wise County, Southwest Virginia
By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

With American country singer Johnny Cash’s “Hit the Road and Go” playing on my phone, I recently escaped the bustling sounds of New York City—on board a Greyhound bus—to explore the sprawling roadways, hills, and valleys of Southwest Virginia. 

That is usually how I spend summer vacations: hit the road—with my 70-liter trekking backpack; my mind set on a shoestring budget—and go to places I have never been to. Proud to say that made my first time visit to the busy streets of Jakarta, Indonesia in 2008; pristine, pure white sand beaches in Krabi, South Thailand in 2010; and for that matter, the star-studded Broadway theatres in New York City, United States of America in 2009, in clichĂ©, unforgettable.

My first trip to Southwest, Virginia was no different in any other way. In fact, spending nearly 19 hours in transit on a Wi-Fi friendly, Dallas-bound Greyhound bus was somehow a thrilling experience. I got to meet a bunch of interesting people: first, the lady bus driver who intimidatingly announced into a microphone her ground rules—for instance, keep your headphone volume low (she actually stopped the bus in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike because one passenger did not adhere to the rule); and do not chat with your seatmate during the night, among others—before leaving the Port Authority in New York; second, the traveling chemistry professor from Tennessee who frequently visits the Philippines, particularly Cebu and Davao, to spend his holidays with family and friends; and the list goes on.

I got off the bus in the more urbanized area of Kingsport, Tennessee, where my hosts, Dr. and Mrs. Francis and Nilda Jaynal, fetched me and gave me a little tour of Big Stone Gap, Wise County and Norton City, Southwest Virginia—the couple’s second home away from New York for more than 20 years.

Two of the most scenic spots that were a feast for the eyes were the Powell Valley Overlook, near Norton City, where a number of residential houses, vast farmlands, and a slew of churches of different religions are located in the valley below the overlook; and the Lonesome Pine Country Club, an 18-hole golf course surrounded by the wide-ranging views of the Appalachian Mountains.

Interestingly, Norton City is a city populated by nearly 5,000 people only. But it has everything a city has to offer: chained-brand hotels, popular U.S. banks, a row of restaurants, and convenience stores. However, the nearby Wise County seems more progressive with its cineplexes and chained-brand wholesale stores.

For the faithful, the devotion to the First Filipino Saint San Lorenzo Ruiz is alive and well at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church (1009 Virginia Ave.) in Norton City. The church is set to celebrate the feast day of the saint on Sunday, September 14, at 2 p.m. I must say that is all the more reason to pay a visit to both Wise County and Norton City, Southwest Virginia, which are also accessible by plane; nearest airport is the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee.

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