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Second Thoughts About First Impressions

Wed 31st

I went back a mile to the power plant, excited about Jesse's offer of a tour. As I rode up, a guard with a big mirror on a stick was looking under a truck. I asked to see Jesse Nila. He checked the records. The only Nila was Jesus, and the Iron Workers supervisor was a red headed guy named Jesse. Jesus didn't even show up for work today. I'd been had.

Back on the road, there were many kinds of big trucks. There were so many hills and curves, I didn't know if another was coming from the other direction. A few miles later at Shinnston, I found the West Fork River Trail to Fairmont, and got onto it. Instant relief!

Colorful Rock

Along the trail there were rock walls, exposed when a place for the railroad track was made a century earlier. Over time, mineral-laden water from the high ground has run over the edge, marking the rock with many beautiful colors.

Colorful Rock


It was almost 2pm and hot when I came to Worthington, a small town with a dam and a wading area. The dam is only about 5 feet high. I was able to sit under it, getting a wonderful shoulder massage.

Worthington Dam

I crossed the river to find food and met Danny Harbert mowing his grandmother's lawn. He is a cyclist, and once did a 700-mile trip in 6 days, followed by months of operations and recovery for the damage to his hands from the ride.

He invited me to stay the night at his home. I resisted. It was early afternoon. I'd only ridden about 12 miles. His place was back near where I started. He offered to drive me back to his home, then back to the dam in the morning. I'd think about it while eating lunch at the only place in town.

While I was having a great cheeseburger, a disabled person arrived in a motorized wheelchair. His left arm was useless, and he was blind in his weird-looking right eye. He said his wheelchair could go 20 miles on a charge, even with the HILLS. He just drove it down the right edge of the road. After he left, I learned he had been a heavy drug addict, and nobody liked him. Oh well.

Danny showed up before I finished, and I had decided to accept his offer. As my adventure was based on finding interesting people rather than covering miles, it was a good decision.

He first took me into Clarksburg to the Holy Mosses bike shop. I replaced a leaky water bottle and bought a backup pump. He then drove me to Fairmont to the end of the trail. He wanted me to see what it would look like when I got there, and then showed me how to get through town.

Danny is a coal miner, working from midnight until some time in the morning. The mine has a conveyor belt that runs over a mile to the power plant I was at yesterday morning. He drives a loader that takes coal just after it is removed and puts it on the conveyor belt. He works about 100 feet deeper than did those miners that were trapped in the Pennsylvania mine.

So, just how is coal mined? A coal vein is usually about six feet high. The cutting machines cut about 7 feet high. They start by making three mile-long tunnels, 16 feet wide and 100 feet apart. Then they make another three tunnels another 1000 feet away. These are their highways for getting stuff out, including themselves. Then they cut away all of the 1000 feet in between, for over a mile. After they cut away the first 25 feet in the large area, there is nothing to hold up the ceiling, so it falls in behind them. Sometimes, there is enough wind force created to knock off helmets.

When there is too much rock in the coal, they have to wash the coal. They put it in a big pool, add some magic ingredient, and the coal floats to the top.

Danny has other skills. He is a clown, dressing up to visit kids in hospitals. He is a photographer. He recently shot 60 rolls of film of baby bald eagles growing up in the wild. He works with suicidal teens. He also makes a part-time income doing leather work.

Danny's girlfriend Karen works at the North Bend campground. The camp ranger I met there had some trouble dealing with her and complained to management. They sided with her. Danny told me this guy was just fired, and that Karen will make sure I have a place to stay for the Bluegrass weekend. I love it when a plan comes together!

Danny fixed me spaghetti for dinner, then went to work.


Thu 1st

This morning, Danny took me back to the dam, as promised, and I proceeded down the relatively level, mostly-shaded trail.

There was a multi-tiered waterfall, with a pool at the bottom. It was about 25 feet high, and really close to the trail so close that when horses drank from the pool there was evidence that their butts were hanging over the trail!

In spite of Danny's guidance, I got off the trail at the wrong place and got lost. I made a wrong turn going into Fairmont, allowing me to experience another huge HILL. At the top, I could see all of the Mary Lou Retton Park. I eventually found a laundromat across from a Pizza Hut, used the services of both, and mailed home some obviously unnecessary cold weather gear.

While at the laundromat, I met teenagers and adults from a church group. They had come to West Virginia to help people who couldn't afford to replace a roof or do other similar work. They are spending eight weeks here, staying in a Girl Scout camp 6 miles northwest of town. They invited me to dinner tomorrow night, and offered a place to camp.

It helped me make my decision about going east beyond Morgantown from the HILLS into the MOUNTAINS. I won't. Instead, I'll start from that camp and make a northerly loop on back roads back to North Bend State Park.

Danny had said there was another short rail trail going north out of town. It had a tunnel, and a ways farther, a wide spot where I could camp. As I approached the tunnel, the temperature dropped 30 degrees. I found the camping spot, then continued up the trail because I was curious, and I had time. There was an old fort at the end.

I hung out in the parking lot watching geese and ducks on the river. An older couple came up with bread to feed them, as they do nearly every evening.

Then Harold Santy and his friend came along on their BikeE recumbents. We talked, and Harold said I could stay in his yard back in town. I accepted, rode back with them, then dropped nearly all my equipment in his back yard. They took me on a guided tour of the area (which amounted to Harold and his friend finishing their weekend ride, as planned). With all that, I did almost 30 miles today - for at least 10 miles of it I was 40 pounds lighter.

Saturday, there is a free Blues concert, which I may go to. If so, I will be back here at Harold and Christine's that evening.

Christine was expecting a friend from Pennsylvania. She arrived soon after Harold and I got back from our ride. I was assigned the overstuffed leather couch in the living room. It was too short for me, and the grandfather clock chimed 4 times an hour, although I think I slept through a few.


Fri 2

In the morning, I used their computer to compose a trip update. My Internet service was down, so I couldn't send it. In the afternoon, I headed for the library in Fairmont, but their equipment wouldn't read my floppy disk. So, I just sent a short "I'm OK" message.

Later in the afternoon, I headed for the church group camp 6 miles out of town. By 5pm, I had pushed Sarah up the first HILL and gone only one mile. The other five miles were said to be worse and I needed to be there by 6pm. It was not to be.

At the Fair Mart at the top of the HILL, I bought a bag of crushed ice and filled all 4 water bottles. Then I turned around and coasted down the hill to Fairmont, greatly exceeding the 25mph speed limit. Wheee! The thought of that cool tunnel and camping spot from yesterday was irresistible. It was still light when I got there, so I rode up the rail trail to Pricketts Fort and found a good spot to camp.


Sat 3

Pricketts Fort

I decided to take the tour of the fort when it opened at 10am. I got the senior discount - saved fifty cents. Originally a private fort, long since dismantled, it was re-built as a composite of several forts, including features that certainly were not in any single fort.

The Indians wanted the settlers to leave, or be dead. Prickett had a farm and didn't want to go, so he built a fort for protection. I learned the following:

  1. The Indians lived not in teepees, but in wood dwellings.
  2. England wanted to sell wool to the settlers, so it was illegal to have the kind of sheep that made good wool. The wool they had was itchy.
  3. They made some fabric out of wool, and other out of flax, a plant that took two years to process before it could be woven into linen. The linen was still less expensive. They also made a blend by using wool in one direction and flax in the other, calling it woolsey-linsey.
  4. No one but the rich wore underwear - it was too expensive.
  5. Everything they brought to the area came by boat, on their back, or on their cattle. There was not enough grass to support horses, and there were no roads for wagons.
  6. The Indians wore a lot of silver jewelry and pierced their ears and noses for it.
  7. I saw a 10x10 foot 'house' along the wall of the fort. It was set up to sleep a family of nine, and it had a fireplace.
  8. There was a hand-operated machine to put rifling inside the barrel of a long gun.
In the afternoon, I went back to Harold's place. The four of us went to a Polka Dot restaurant - kind of a diner with wild decorations. We then drove to the free blues concert. It featured Johnny Johnson on the keyboard, the guy about which the song "Johnny, Be Good" was written. After that, there were fireworks.

This night, I stretched out on my ThermaRest mattress on the screened-in porch, away from the grandfather clock. Nothing disturbed my sleep.

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