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People with a “wanderlust” gene rarely stay put for more than a year, but COVID-19 kept us at home until our mini vacation last week. To celebrate Maury’s birthday, we decided to explore a part of West Virginia with which we were unfamiliar.

Our two-day visit to Parkersburg, chosen so we could visit Blennerhassett Island, offered many lessons and reminded us that it was great to travel again and that hotels and restaurants are currently more health conscious than ever. Blennerhasset Island offered fun, scenic beauty and early American history lessons, including the effects and complications of money, power and politics.

Beyond Blennerhassett, our trip provided other unrelated lessons. Before we left, a friend strongly recommended that we visit the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg and lent us a thick book about the history of West Virginia’s oil and gas industry. This site was not a priority, but the hot weather and convenient location led us to the museum, which turned out to be well worth the visit. While most Americans view West Virginia as being synonymous with coal, the museum made it clear that the boom times for the Middle Ohio Valley parts of West Virginia at the turn of the 20th century were connected to oil and gas.

Our human relations lesson happened at an upscale restaurant where our reservation was bungled. We stepped aside in the waiting area while the host tried to solve the problem. Another couple arrived and faced the same situation. Because of where we stood, the other couple assumed they had arrived first; the man became furious when we were seated before them. No explanations from us or the host were adequate.

The angry man and his wife were soon seated near us and about 15 minutes into our dinner, the man appeared at our table. My first thought was, “This doesn’t look good.” But then, the man smiled and apologized. His wife looked relieved. We all enjoyed our meals, but as we were ordering dessert, the couple came to our table and began chatting. We invited them to join us, which they did. In the next few minutes, the four of us found out we liked each other, exchanged contact information and wished we had met under different circumstances. The lessons here are many, including don’t jump to conclusions about actions of others and apologies come from thoughtful people and do wonders for human relationships.

The final lesson for our trip became apparent when the small ferry that travels to Blennerhassett Island left Parkersburg. On the floodwall, there was an immense, easily read sign welcoming people to Parkersburg. Across the river, a smaller but clear sign welcomed people to Belpre, Ohio. For years, many Huntingtonians have said we need signage on the Ohio River letting people know that Huntington is here. On Huntington’s 150th anniversary, the time is right.

It’s wonderful to be able to travel again, and one of the things this trip did was remind us of the many lessons we learn just from being in new environments.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist and regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch opinion page. Her email is

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