Thursday, October 18, 2007

Grantsville, W. Va.

Friends: That traveler's axiom that locals are friendliest where travelers travel least holds true for West Virginia. For the first time in ten days and over 700 miles through four states I have begun receiving friendly toots from motorists and twice I have been invited to spend the night at someone's home.

The first offer of lodging came just after I had crossed the Ohio River to St. Mary's, just a few miles up river from a double towered nuclear plant. As I exited the local IGA grocery store with my dinner of a can of baked beans, some potato salad and yogurt, a 40-year old man awaited me at my bike. He said, "Tell me about your travels." He said he had a touring bike, but hadn't done any touring on it. "Are you the town bicyclist?" I asked. "No, there are a couple others, but they like to ride harder than I do. They're always trying to get me to go riding with them though."

He warned me I had lots of hills ahead and wondered if I had ever done any climbing before. Rather than blowing him away with the facts, which he might have had a hard time believing, I merely replied in the affirmative. He asked if I knew about the website crazyguyonabike and wondered if might have contributed to it. I had an affirmative to that as well. He knew all about touring having read extensively of others' tours, but had yet to go off on one of his own. He hoped I could stay over and share some of my experiences. I wish I could have, if only to convince him to get on with it, maybe even the next day with me, but I had to tell him I was pressed to get to friends in North Carolina, and had to maximize my riding time.

I had to tell a retired World War II veteran the same thing the next day. He said a Japanese cyclist had passed through his town a few years ago and he let him stay in his tee pee in his backyard. He made the same offer to me. He was in a wheel chair and hadn't been on a bike in years. If I hadn't stopped to remove a link from my chain, I never would have met him. As I worked on my bike, he said I could do any repairs on my bike at his place, as he had every tool known to man. The site of all those tools was as enticing as spending a night in a tee pee. He ranted on about his displeasure with the war in Iraq and all else. He was particularly perturbed that Saddam Hussein was given a cell with carpeting and was fed better than he eats.

Although I passed some coal mining in the hilly terrain of southeast Ohio, I haven't encountered any coal trucks on these narrow roads of West Virginia, just a few logging trucks. Deer season is imminent. Quite a few stores advertise themselves as game control sites. The deer are quite plentiful and tame, not only around my tent at night but hopping across the road in broad daylight. Once the firing commences, I may have to be a bit more careful in my campsites.

Later, George

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