All I wanted was lunch and a drive along the river, but my foray into West Virginia brought me face to face with the state's economic turmoil.
The plan, during a visit to Cleveland, was a day trip across the Ohio River and down the West Virginia side to Weirton, lunch on the town's main street and a little sightseeing.
I didn't expect to have trouble finding a place to eat in Weirton, a rundown old steel town of about 20,000 residents. But all I found were boarded-up restaurants, a couple of fast-food places and a Chinese take-out.
Later, I learned more about the town: Weirton Steel Corp., which once employed 13,000 workers, went bankrupt in 2003. The company that bought it shut down steel production and now employs only about 1,000 in tin production. The town's economy foundered.
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We weren't enthused about a casino buffet, but our best option for food was to backtrack to the Mountaineer Casino & Racetrack Resort, about 10 miles north of town.
Like Weirton, Mountaineer grew up around a core business -- a thoroughbred race track established more than a half-century ago. But unlike Weirton, Mountaineer has thrived as it expanded into a resort with a casino, entertainment, hotel and the addition of poker tables last year. We found a sprawling parking lot that overflowed with cars and busloads of gamblers, and a happy surprise: The casino's steakhouse served an elegant brunch.
But we had gotten more than lunch out of our day trip. We had gotten a sobering lesson about local economies.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.