You learn a thing or two when you get your driver's license in Alief, Texas, and drive through Third Ward to get to school.
My mom always warned me not to go on residential side roads because someone could just jump in front of the car and jack me. She also warned me of frequent accidents on small two-lane highways, and advised me to just stay on the interstate for this trip.
I've been ignoring that last bit of advice, driving on state highways and country roads and getting stuck behind Mennonites on a horse-drawn buggy. America's best seen slow and steady away from the interstate.
Well, that's until I got to West Virginia.
Before I left NYC in July, a friend of mine warned me not to watch The Hills Have Eyes . The same friend then later photoshopped my face into the movie poster. I've seen the movie; I don't even think it takes place in Appalachia, but I have seen the bad parts of Deliverance and that's enough for me.
I'd been driving around Ohio ending up in a national park and a hall of fame up until this point. Now it was time to take my mom's advice and take the interstate all the way to Charleston.
I filled up the Fiat one last time in Ohio, right on the border because I didn't want to run out of gas and pull into some small Appalachian town. That's how The Hills Have Eyes started.
I crossed the bridge into West Virginia and went straight to the Welcome Center where portraits of Abraham Lincoln hung with travel brochures. When I came out, a man eyed the car and me.
This must have been one of my mom's fears: me getting jacked out in the open right after filling up the damn car, in broad daylight, in a small West Virginian town where brochures are promoting the state's nature trails or whatever.
"Is this your car?"
"It must be real fuel efficient."
"Yeah, like, 40 miles per gallon, I think. 45, sometimes."
And he slowly walked away.
I haven't been fair to West Virginia, obviously. I don't even think Deliverance takes place in West Virginia. And if there's a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Welcome Center, things can't all be bad.