Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Small Town Livin' (Part 1)

Okay, we all know how it is when you get a bad case of blog-block. That's when you can't think of anything to blog about that day, and rather than bore the cyber-world to pieces with a tale about what you found in your 2 year-old's diaper that day, instead, you just don't blog at all and hope something "bloggable" happens soon. Or, happily, someone actually REQUESTS you to blog about something. So, Ohighway, this is for you.

I live in a town called LaVale. It's a mountain town, nestled between the city of Cumberland (population 22,000), and down the hill from Frostburg (population 8,000). LaVale isn't actually a town - with a population of only about 4,500, it's called a "census-designated place" or CDP. Hmmmm, that doesn't sound so appealing. I think I'll continue to refer to it as a town, even though apparently it falls into the Cumberland-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. Yuck - that's even worse.

Okay - so let's talk reality. LaVale is a suburb of Cumberland, plain and simple. The National Road (Rt. 40), or National Highway as it is referred to around here winds it's way out of Cumberland through a beautiful, scenic pass called "The Narrows", where sheer, towering rocky cliffs appear on one side of the road, shooting up from the river bed of Evitts Creek, and densely wooded steep hills are on the other side of the road. Hey, they don't call it The Narrows for nothing! Anyway, if you can manage to get through The Narrows, heading west along National Highway, which, incidentally isn't a highway at all, you will drive right through LaVale. Supposedly at one time in history, General Braddock marched troops right down this road, but that's history, and I'm no good at history, so we'll leave that to Wikipedia if you're so inclined.

Travel along this National Highway for a few miles, and drive right through this small census-designated place town, and you'll start to notice a few things. First of all, there's really no "main street." When I think of small towns, I picture in my mind a tight little knot sort of near the center of it where several roads come together and close by are the post office, the fire station, a few local businesses, and a cafe or two - always a cafe. LaVale doesn't have this. The first thing you'll notice are the houses. Built in the early 1900's, these stately homes that line Rt. 40 are for the most part, meticulously cared-for, well-landscaped and impeccably decorated during the holidays. I suppose if I owned a home on the National Road, I'd be sure to take some pride in it's appearance as well. Notice, though, that I said "for the most part". There are some holdouts, but ain't that America?

Scattered amidst these homes, you'll start to see some signs of life: there is a post office, a library, not one, but two fire stations, and some of the homes are actually businesses if you look closely enough. An art gallery here, a travel agency there, even a dentist or two. Keep traveling, and all the sudden the road opens up into a large, busy, business district. And here it is, folks, the highway stop. Here's where you find all the conveniences: fast food, hotels, grocery stores, Super WalMart, the mall, Lowe's. It's not long - a few blocks east-west, and a few blocks north-south and it's over. But it bustles. It draws business from both Cumberland and Frostburg, sustains the citizens of LaVale, and pulls many a weary traveler from 68 - the major highway that slices right through the mountains and exits right there in the heart of things.

So in a nutshell, that's our geography. We have the only movie theater for miles around, the only Walmart for many miles around, and as the population increases and the demographic continues to change, we're starting to see more and more franchised businesses appear, to the delight of some folks, and to the chagrin of others. Hey, this area's been long overdue for a Target, a Best Buy, an Outback Steakhouse. Apparently, they're still in negotiation, and they may wind up within the Cumberland boundaries. But for now, LaVale will have to be happy with the Kohl's that's opening this Fall. At least one step in the right direction!

I'm not entirely sure why this "Cumberland-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area" has dragged it's feet for so long in getting large retail businesses in here. Everyone from this area makes regular trips to places such as Johnstown and Uniontown, Pa, Morgantown, WV, Altoona, PA, Winchester, VA and Hagerstown, MD to do major shopping. Those towns, some of which aren't much larger than Cumberland have everything - all the modern "conveniences". And they're all about an hour to an hour and a half away. I'm sure the combined populations of the big three (Cumberland, LaVale and Frostburg) plus the surrounding/outlying areas could easily support many more businesses and retail franchises, but for many years, the city council had blocked development for whatever reason. Finally, though, I believe they're starting to see the light and are opening some doors for the hungry, corporate traders who would like nothing better than to dot our landscape with Olive Garden and Sam's Club and Barnes and Noble. I say bring it on! My wallet is waiting.....

Stay tuned for Part 2, and if I'm feeling particularly literate, part 3.

10 comments:

Ohighway said...

Wow, I've never had a blog created especially for me. Thanks. (OTOH, I guess I never made any special requests before)

I found it very interesting that LaVale doesn't have a "traditional" town center. My town is the same and I thought that odd..... however maybe this is more common than I thought?

Being a fan of the National Road I've seen images from old postcards of the narrows. The road builders and railroads definitely took advantage of the geography to allow them to forge East to West. I have to wonder if there's any truth to the area actually being "Lovers Leap" ??

Thanks again, and I'll look forward to the future LaVale updates.

fishface said...

Girl...you are crazy! Or I am just paranoid. Calling all freaks - (not you Ohighway..because I like to hear about where people live too) here is where I live and what my kids look like...and a few pics of our home... Yeah, I am probably just paranoid. Just looking out for you in this sad, sad world...

fishface said...

I feel bad about my comment - I really want to trust people on the internet. Like I said, just looking out for you :)

Rebecca said...

No, no, point taken. Don't feel bad about giving a warning you feel is warranted. There are lots of sickos out there, and Ohighway, hope you're not a stalker, dude!

Anyway, I thought about it - and went ahead and removed our last name from the blog. Might make some other changes as well.

Thanks for your concern - sometimes we get a false sense of security and get bolder and bolder - so a nice kick in the pants can sometimes be welcome.

Rebecca said...

I THINK Lovers Leap is just a legend. I may have to ask around some of the old-timers and see what they have to say.

Ohighway said...

Wow, a lot of comments stacked up fast on this one. No Rebecca, I'm no stalker. I'm exactly who I say I am on my profile.
However .........Fishface makes a very good point, and it's something I considered when creating a blog. You'll notice I didn't put a town name, nor use any full names when talking about myself, wife, kids. I wanted to retain a LITTLE bit of anonymity considering there may be folks of....uh....less than stellar character lurking out there. I'm sure a really savvy individual could devote enough time to figuring out who I am and where I live. Hopefully no one is THAT curious, and if they are hopefully they intend no harm.

Everybody has to make their own decision here. (And I see it going both ways on the blogs I read) I guess I'm a bit conservative in my approach.

Rebecca said...

Well, I fully admit I made a mistake about originally including my last name. I didn't even think. But as for town names - well - even if I just say I'm from the mountainous region of Maryland, with what I blog about, anybody could figure out where I live anyway.
I know a lot of people who use their last name in their blogs - some even include it in the URL! So when I created it originally, I didn't give it a second thought.
I guess I figure most of these internet stalkers are after 14 year old kids....who wants to tangle with a SAHM with stretch marks? Live and learn. I may change our names to lessen future risk...not sure it's worth it - they could be aliases anyway for all anyone knows.

fishface said...

Ha!! I'm sure the pot calling kettle black. My name is in my URL!!! What a dope I am! I never thought about it because I don't think I have ever typed in my blog address...it has just always been in my favorites and "click" I am there. Fortunately I live hidden in the middle of 1.2 million people - and move every couple years :) Blog on Rebecca!!

fishface said...

It probably helps too that I only have 3 readers - 2 of which are my Moms...

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