Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rainelle, W. Va.

Friends: The rugged, mountainous terrain of West Virginia has blocked the radio waves of the larger stations carrying the baseball playoffs. About all I can pick up on my mini-radio in the evening hours in my tent are small local stations. One night I listened in on the inaugural broadcast of a community radio station in Clay as I camped a few miles out of the town along a river behind an abandoned shack of a house.

Three locals were encouraging everyone in the area to contribute to the station, if only as announcers reading commercials. One of the in-studio voices said, "We have a lot of talent in the area. Some people think we are all just a bunch of hillbilly hicks. But last summer when we had that music talent show there were a couple that were real professional." Someone suggested that the station would be a good opportunity to share recipes and gardening tips. Another suggested programs on canning and tanning animal hides.

If someone wanted to have a program on local history, there would be plenty of material.
Historical markers abound telling of the pioneers and town founders and of those of renown who have passed through. Much of it is Civil War-related. I've had the opportunity to camp several places where General Lee and his troops overnighted. It was still undeveloped and thickly forested, not much different than it was nearly 150 years ago. There have been plaques announcing George Washington slept here and that Gen. Stonewall Jackson's mother is buried nearby and that the town of Grantsville was named after Gen. Grant.

The luxuriantly forested mountainsides are a kaleidoscope of colors with the leaves changing.
Neither New England nor Door County nor any other region known for its fall foliage could be more spectacular. And W. Virginia tops them all, as it is uncontaminated by cutesy B & B's and boutiques and billboards and gawking tourists and signs advertising moccasins and fudge and cappuccino. Nor has the countryside been despoiled by trophy homes and cottages or designer log cabins. The residences are modest-sized, unpretentious homes and shacks and fortified mobile homes, nearly all with a dog on a chain or behind a fence. I can go the better part of a day without seeing a fast food franchise or other reminders of the runaway consumerist forces that dominate the lifes of most. I buy my provisions at general stores that have served their communities for decades. The planet hardly seems in peril off in these hinterlands.

This is a region of people who enjoy the out of doors. Kayaks on car rooftops are a common site.
People continue to appreciate seeing a touring cyclist, giving me friendly toots as they pass. I
still must be on the alert for evil forces. The devil comes in many guises. I've had several
encounters here in West Virginia, though none playing a fiddle. The first was a 30-year old guy driving a Jeep with a kayak on the roof and a bicycle on a rack on its rear. The driver stopped in the middle of the road after passing me on a long, steep climb. He jumped out and asked, "Would you like a ride? I've got space on my rack for another bike." I didn't even slow as I replied, "Thanks, but I'm having a nice ride." I stayed as far from him as I could, going around his parked Jeep on the passenger side, not caring to catch even a whiff of him. I did notice a bulge in the back of his baseball cap as he turned from me to get back in his vehicle.

Later that day as I sat outside a general store munching a peanut butter sandwich a woman with her hair in a bun driving a pick-up truck asked, "Can I give you a ride somewhere?" She hadn't even asked where I was coming from or where I was going. I had been hoping to make it to North Carolina by the weekend so I could go for a nice ride with my bicycling friend Tomas. But it was further than I anticipated and the going was much slower with all the climbing, so it didn't look like I was going to make it. Still I couldn't be tempted by Lucifer or any of his agents to abandon the bike.

Later, George

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