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Making the most of a summer drive

One thing I miss while working mainly from home is the drive back and forth to work.

That may sound strange, since many people dread their daily commute. For me, though, it is a bit of time each day when I have to focus on just one thing — the road ahead. It also is an opportunity for me to get a look at what is going on in our community.

Last week, I had the opportunity to cover Deputy Energy Secretary Mark W. Menezes visit to Shadyside and the proposed PTT Global Chemical America petrochemical complex site. THat got me out of the house and allowed me to see a good bit of Belmont County along the way.

I immediately took note of all the new signs posted along Interstates 70 and 470, designating a new safety corridor. You can read details of that effort on page one of today’s edition of The Times Leader. Reporter Carri Graham did a nice job finding out what the project is all about.

Once I reached the Ohio River area, I noticed that it appeared to be business as usual for most people. There was plenty of traffic early Thursday morning, but it is worth noting that most people seemed to be driving responsibly.

The PTTGCA site itself was something to behold. Although I have known for years approximately where the plant would be located, I have never actually been on the property before — I had only been to the edges of the area and had taken photos from afar so as not to trespass on the private property.

Currently, it is very much what I imagine a desert to be like. The land has been cleared of trees, shrubs, grass and weeds. It is dry and dusty, baking in the hot summer sun. It also is massive with railroad tracks running across it and workers so far away from where we took photos that I didn’t even realize they were there until I was on my way out.

From there, I turned south on Ohio 7 and headed for West Pipe Creek Road to take a shortcut home. That’s when I really started to notice some changes that had occurred since I had traveled that way.

First of all, the creek level was very low. In spots, it looked more like a bed of stones than a waterway. As I result, I suppose, I didn’t see much wildlife in or around the water, either.

I also spotted some places along the creek and the roadyway where some slips had obviously been repaired. Fresh layers of large stones were laid on one hillside, holding the soil back.

Once I climbed up onto the ridge leading to Jacobsburg, I began to no other types of changes. I saw several lawns that looked quite manicured. My guess is that people working from home or out of work due to the pandemic have more time on their hands and are spending it on yard work.

A few homes, barns and sheds also had undergone big transformations. Many of those changes involved new metal roofs and siding in bright, bold colors. At one property, red and black made a striking combination, and a few buildings along the way featured trim that resembled large timbers.

A few homes sported new exteriors that resembled logs, making them seem more rustic than before, even though their appearances were also fresh and new.

Another thing that caught my attention was a lack of activity at some natural gas well pads. I’m not sure that meant anything at all. It could be that work there is at a standstill because of the pandemic, or it could be simply that those operations have reached the point where they now are basically fully automated.

I was amused as I watched a lamb chase its mother across a field, and I saw several horses swishing their tails to keep the flies away.

As I approached Belmont from above, I was struck by what a quaint little village it is. The few large buildings that remain stand out among the 300 or so homes when you look at it from atop Belmont Hill.

Then, pulling into town I saw several people outdoors, with adults sitting on porches or doing chores and kids riding bikes, chasing one another and playing with their dogs.

It was a nice change of pace to get out and enjoy looking at the countryside again. If you don’t have anything to do at home this weekend, consider taking a drive of your own. If you pass my way, be sure to wave.

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