Rough roads and other reasons to visit W.Va.

I went over the river and through the woods last week, but it had nothing to do with my grandmother.

I traveled to Marshall County, West Virginia, on Wednesday to take a look at the road conditions there. In order to get to Moundsville to meet with Tom Hart, the county emergency management director, and Betsy Frohnapfel, county administrator, I turned south out of Belmont and traveled through Centerville and Jacobsburg to reach Pipe Creek Road. That route took me to the Ohio River, just south of the Moundsville bridge from Ohio 7 to W.Va. 2.

As I made my way through the more rural portions of Belmont County, I thought to myself, “How bad can their roads be compared to these?” My car bounced through potholes and rumbled over rough patches. I passed areas where mud and trees from above had slipped down hillsides and piled up right at edge of the roadway.

Other spots were intimidating, as the earth and rocks still overhead threatened to slip at any moment. I drove around orange barrels and other warning markers where sections of the pavement had fallen away from the edge of the road and slipped into the nearby creek.

Truth be told, though, those problems are nothing compared to what Marshall County is dealing with. The issues are similar on both sides of the river – potholes, buckling pavement and slips above and below the roads. But the level of damage in Marshall County is extreme compared to that seen here.

There are numerous places where near Cameron and Fish Creek where only one vehicle can pass over a section of road at one time. Slips on the Ohio side may reach 2-3 feet into the pavement and extend for about the same length. In Marshall County, entire lanes have been eaten away by erosion, and the slips are several yards long. They are also deep, with sections of pavement dropping 5-6 feet below the rest of the road surface. Hart says the problems resulted from a combination of heavy truck traffic associated with the natural gas and oil industry and extremely wet weather in recent years.

In some areas, you can look down from those slips and see that the earth has slid 40-50 feet down the embankment. All of the trees in the paths of those slips have fallen and become uprooted, contributing further to the erosion problem. Those trees’ roots help absorb water and hold soil in place when they are standing.

Obviously, road conditions are bad all across the Ohio Valley. I visited Marshall County because the commissioners there decided the problem was so severe and widespread that they declared a State of Emergency. After seeing things for myself, I believe their declaration is justified.

Let’s hope the situation does not become that serious here in Eastern Ohio. Residents can help prevent that by reporting major problems to the appropriate municipal, township, county or state agencies. Whether they will have the funds to provide a fix, however, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, be careful out there. Keep your eyes open for orange barrels and warning signs, as well as for slips and holes that may suddenly crop up.

I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time on the other side of the Ohio River lately. Another recent trip took me to the Towngate Theatre in Wheeling, a favorite spot for an occasional night out with my husband, Mike.

This time, we saw a production of “The Shaughraun,” a comedy set in Ireland in the late 1800s. The story focuses on an escaped convict who is trying to make his way home. In the process of searching for him, an English military officer falls in love with his sister, and the story contains plenty of drama and laughs.

The modern audience in Wheeling had a bit of trouble getting on board with the production’s call for cheers and jeers as various characters appeared on stage, but otherwise the production was great fun. The cast, as always, did an outstanding job of bringing a different type of entertainment to the region.

If you would like to visit the Towngate, you can do so today for a screening of “Rear Window,” provided by the Wheeling Film Society. Or, from 8-10 p.m. next Saturday, you can enjoy “Improv with the Crazy *s.”

Visit for more information about the Towngate and its lineup or about any Oglebay Institute event.

Finally, last weekend Mike and traveled to The Highlands to celebrate a birthday at Olive Garden. My mother-in-law, Midge Strough, was the guest of honor, and the entire family enjoyed a delicious lunch together on April 7.

Afterward, Mike and I did a little shopping before we returned home. We visited Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up a couple of items we would have found at Kitchen Collection in the Ohio Valley Mall, if that store were still open. We also visited Walmart, but that experience is pretty similar no matter which site you choose.

It’s surprising how many people I know who were born in April. It seems many of my co-workers, friends, former classmates and relatives have birthdays in April. If you know an April baby, be sure to wish them a happy birthday when you see them.