People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I Rise To The Occasion

Alton Foley poses the following question over at ImNotEmeril:
... let's ask Jerry. Did Interstate 77 remove enough traffic from US 52 to make tourism, the latest "holy Grail" of prosperity, a virtual impossibility in Bland? (link)
Interesting question. Before I-77 opened (essentially when Big Walker Mountain Tunnel was completed in 1972), US 52 was the main artery running from Bluefield, WV through Bland County to Wytheville and beyond. As was the case in days prior (revisit Route 66 bygone days and the history of The National Road), tourists wending their way down US 52 would frequently make a stop at Big Walker Lookout, a major (by any regional standard) scenic attraction in the county. Motels, tourist cabins, restaurants, zoos, parks, and an array of attractions brought prosperity to out-of-the-way parts of the country in the Golden Age of Automobiling. And with Bland County being sandwiched between Big Walker Mountain and Brushy Mountain, few areas of the country were more out-of-the-way.

When I-77 opened, traffic patterns changed dramatically. Big Walker Lookout for years has struggled to stay afloat and many of the roadside attractions, restaurants, and motels closed. But it's hard to argue that either the hotel business or the restaurant business suffered because fewer people travel US 52. The two Wytheville exits off the interstate are teeming with eateries and chain hotels, as are other exits further south. For every tourist business that has closed over the years, there is along the route of I-77 a Holiday Inn Express, a Bob Evans, and in Bland County, an Indian Village that may or may not be prospering.

The bigger question is: Has I-77 brought prosperity to Bland County, Virginia or have we just been trading dollars (US 52 businesses close and I-77 businesses open)? As far as tourism itself goes, I am unable to find any quantifiable difference between then and now. The Appalachian Trail has more visitors but I've found no study - in my exhaustive efforts - that show hikers to be spending any appreciable cash in Bland. They hike into the county; they hike out of the county. The five I-77 exits in Bland feature a total of three gas stations, one Dairy Queen and one Subway (and a mom-and-pop restaurant that had closed and recently reopened). Other than that, there has been no development along the highway - in 34 years. If the interstate is supposed to be some tourist mecca, it ain't happening here.

By the same token, there are four small industrial parks located not far off the interstate within the county. It's fair to say that the four are situated where they are in part because of their close proximity to I-77. In that regard, the interstate has proven to be a distinct advantage.

Has Bland county prospered as a result? Compared to the rest of Southwest Virginia, unemployment is less a problem (Smyth!) and unlike Tazewell and Giles Counties, Bland is not losing population.

But by every standard of measurement, the demographics in Bland County, Virginia lag woefully behind the rest of the state, whether one measures household income, economic growth, housing, or education (link).

So, in answer to Alton's question, did I-77 eliminate or hinder the development of tourism in Bland County? Probably. More important to me, did the construction of I-77 in itself raise the standard of living in Bland County? Not yet. 34 years and counting.

On Julian Bond

Chad Dotson remembers a day when NAACP chairman Julian Bond was a rational and respectable human being (here).
I’ve mentioned before that Julian Bond, currently the Chairman of the NAACP, was one of the two best professors I encountered at the University of Virginia. These days, Bond is doing little more than making a disgrace of himself.

I once held Bond in high regard. In fact, the first politician I ever went to hear make a speech (he was then an Atlanta Congressman) was Julian Bond (it was a well-reasoned, impassioned speech decrying the searing inequalities that existed in those days and calling for change). As far as political leanings go, it's fair to say that, over the years, I've become a tad more conservative, but I know without doubt that Bond has gone from being a powerful liberal civil rights advocate to radical leftist to what he is today - a crazy loon in the Al Gore school of political idiocy.

Too bad. He once held such promise. Now he's just pathetic.

More on the Islamist Beanbrains

I think the Israelis have it right, now that I think about it. We should build a wall around these idiots before they hurt themselves - and us. They're proving themselves to be incapable of rational thought:
Beirut Mob Burns Danish Mission Over Cartoons
By Katherine Zoepf and Hassan M. Fattah, The New York Times

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 5 — Protesters angry over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad clashed with Lebanese security forces on Sunday, setting a building housing the Danish Mission on fire and attacking a nearby church. (
Over Danish cartoons ...

For the love of God.

When We Get That Wall Up ...

When we get that wall up, we need to toss this guy inside - for his own well-being:
A Slow, Solo Crossing of the Atlantic Is One Man's Response to the AIDS Crisis
By Nicholas Confessore

... sometime in March, [Victor] Mooney plans to dive from a rocky beach on Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, once a prison and an auction site for captured Africans bound for the Americas. He will swim to his white and red boat and begin pulling for a shore thousands of miles away.

Along the way, he hopes to call attention to AIDS prevention — and, he dreams, raise a million dollars for it. (link)
AIDS is bad, therefore Mooney is going to row across the Atlantic. And he's going to raise a million dollars - in his dreams.

For the love of God.

Pick The Twerp

One of the individuals pictured above is a darling of the American left and has labeled George W Bush the greatest terrorist in the world. The other is merely a twerp - who is a darling of the American left. Who has called for the overthrow of the United States government. Hard to tell which is which, yes?

Sheehan, Chavez join to bash Bush, Iraq war

In some of his strongest recent comments aimed at Washington, [Hugo] Chavez condemned the Bush administration and said his audience should work toward ending U.S. dominance.

“Enough already with the imperialist aggression!” Chavez said, listing countries from Panama to Iraq where the U.S. military has intervened. “Down with the U.S. empire! It must be said, in the entire world: Down with the empire!”

[Cindy] Sheehan also noted that singer and activist Harry Belafonte recently called Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world,” and said, “I agree with him. George Bush is responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people.” (link)

Photo courtesy MSNBC.
Click on image to enlarge.