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Horseshoes, Marbles, and a Talk With a Dead Man

Sun 4

Now I'm casually headed back to West Virginia's North Bend State Park for the Bluegrass Weekend. It is less than 100 miles, with about 60 miles on the North Bend Rail Trail.

I rode from Harold's, north of Fairmont, to east of Salem. The first mile was 10% grade and the temperature was hot. I did it in several stages. Once out of Fairmont, I used main roads to go south. At one time, a bank thermometer read 101 degrees.

Part of the route was on a familiar road - old US 50 through Wilsonburg and Reynoldsville to Wolf Summit. I didn't buy another cantaloupe.

I don't remember much except pushing Sarah up a lot of hills. It was one of my longest days at 38 miles - maybe more - the computer was occasionally not working.

Camp East Salem

I stayed at a campsite along the trail at East Salem. Someone had donated the land across from a noisy water treatment plant. I picked a location right next to where the treated water was returned to a creek. It smelled fine, and the sound of the water was better than the whine of the treatment plant pumps.

Mon 5

Today was one of the most memorable days, so far. It was my first day entirely on the North Bend Rail Trail, the trail I had planned to ride. This trail included various riding conditions. Some parts had large, coarse 2" rock. Other parts were as good as it could be, without being paved.

The grades were gentle. I continue not being able to tell up from down, and none of the 'ups' were hard enough to require a rest.

I arrived in Salem, looking for food. Some guys at a horseshoe pit recommended a place a half mile away. A couple miles, and some HILLS later, I found food. It wasn't the one the horseshoe guys had in mind, but the French toast was good.

The horseshoe guys had said I could play with them, but I needed to return by 11am when it starts getting hot. I caught a ride with a guy in a pickup truck. My driver turned out to be the local sheriff on his day off. In 1996, Salem earned the title of "The safest town in the safest state".


I hadn't played horseshoes in over 30 years. I teamed up with Fred Zinn, and we almost won one game, and did win the next. Later, I played Fred. He won 21-0. I said I'd play again if he'd use my shoes (different weight and shape) and go first. He won that one too, but it was 21-13.

Fred is a local proponent of the rail trail. A musician, he organized free concerts at Depot Park the first Thursday of each month. One area of the park has Bluegrass (acoustical instruments only). The pavilion has a mix of traditional country, gospel, bluegrass, etc in half hour segments. Inside the restored depot are dulcimers. Near the caboose informal pickin' goes on. Dang - I had missed it all by four days.

Remote Valley

Back on Sarah, it was mostly downhill through a tunnel and a large, remote valley. I got to Smithburg just before six, and it looked like rain. A lady I was talking to asked what I would do if it rained. I said I would get wet, making me smell better.

As soon as I left her, it came, and how! I was 100 yards from a 20x25-foot shelter, but got soaked getting there. I went to the far side, and still got soaked from the wind blown rain. In 15 minutes it was over, and less than an hour later I was dry.

I had dinner in Alice's Café in West Union. Just west of town, I stayed under a shelter at a trailside campground. This place was rocky, even under the shelter. The concrete porta-potty (an oxymoron, for sure) had its plastic windows knocked out. It must have been like an oven. A small bird nest was perched on one end of the handicapper rail.

West Union Camp

So far, seeing anyone else on this trail would be an event.

Tue 6

North Bend Trail Tunnel

I went through the trail's longest tunnel today. It was almost a half mile long. The first 20 feet were flooded with 2-3" of water, and the surface was like clay. None of the tunnels are lighted.

Children At Play

Pennsboro is where fancy marbles are made from molten glass by hand (ouch!). I could have my pick at only $25 each. Along the trail, at the edge of town, I saw a factory with many piles of different colors of crushed glass. A nearby sign said: "DRIVE WITH CAUTION CHILDREN AT PLAY".

At Ellenboro, I stopped at a 7-11 that also had gas pumps. A big truck had a gas tank on each side. When the driver filled the left side, he just passed the hose through the window, across the front seat, out the other window, and filled the other tank.

I decided to leave the trail and do a loop to the North. Of course, it started with a half-mile long, 10% grade. I rode the first 1/10 mile, then pushed Sarah up the rest in stages. That earned me several miles of nice, effortless downhill.

With darkness only a couple hours away, and in need of a rest, I stopped at a house at the top of a hill. Mike Cicca (sick ah), a mason, was adding brick and stone to his home in a most interesting way. He would have large stone mixed in with the brick, and some of the brick, instead of going straight across, would follow the stone.

Dead Man Walking

Mike is 69. About 17 years ago, he died. He had a stroke. In the hospital, all the machines flat lined, and he was pronounced dead. His wife put her hand on his forehead and said "Forgive me", and he said "Forgive you for what?" Without that, the next day, he would have been embalmed. He needs new knees, but won't get them. He has diabetes. He needs a triple bypass. He followed doctor's orders and quit smoking. He immediately put on a lot of weight. He looked his doctor in the eye, and said, "All this weight can't be good for my heart. I'm going back to smoking 2 packs a day", and he did.

It had been a while since I had a shower, so when I passed an old fashioned motel, I reasoned it couldn't cost much, and turned around.

Darrell Nutter was outside doing some maintenance. It turns out that it wasn't a motel any longer. He and his wife Betty are turning it into apartments. In the 50s, it was the Rainbow Motel & Restaurant.

I told Mr. Nutter I needed a place for my tent, and could use a shower. Well, units 1, 2, and 3 were still being remodeled. I could use those for the night, and be inside in case it rained. How much? He said, "Oh, never mind", then asked if I needed towels and said he'd try to get his wife to make me a sandwich.

Motel Food and Towels

He returned with a TV tray, then with a chair, then with a tray that included a huge bowl of soup, crackers, a tomato, two peanut butter sandwiches, and two towels and a wash cloth. The soup had at least the following: hamburger, corn, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, lima beans, onions, and carrots. And it was delicious, and so filling that I had to pack the sandwiches for the next day.

Wed 7

On the Way to Petroleum

I decided to head for another campsite back on the rail trail at a town called Petroleum. Getting half way there was mostly down hill. Really! The other half was very scenic, but not too steep.

I saw Paul Satterfield out on the bench in front of his trailer and decided to stop and talk. He let me use his phone to make reservations at North Bend. I'd tried to contact Karen twice, but she wasn't working, so I dealt with the gal on the other end of the phone.

Paul had bought two bikes at a garage sale for a total of $10. One was rideable. Paul didn't have a car, but he did have a bracelet on his leg that activated if he got too far from his trailer. He had been caught driving without a license and was under house arrest for six months, with a time window to be away for his job.

He liked my RealLITE tail light, and bought one of the factory-seconds I'd tossed in the car. I'll drop it off at the end of my trip.
I arrived quite early at Petroleum, and decided to explore the trail to the west. There wasn't a water pump at the campsite, so I wandered into town - a collection of a half dozen homes and a converted three-story hotel. There was not even a place selling "Petroleum Jelly".

Petroleum Hotel

I stopped to chat with the family at the 'hotel' and, as I was about to leave, the grandmotherly matriarch asked me if there was anything I needed. I said I could use some water. She asked if I would like some ice. I asked if I could kiss her. She said yes, so I did.

This part of the trail wasn't in particularly good shape, so after 10 miles and a tunnel, I decided to take the regular roads back.

That is when my appreciation for the rail trails took an immediate growth spurt. I got pooped out part way up the first hill. The guy whose house I stopped in front of said I was about half way, pointing to an imaginary spot behind his house where it ended. He lied. I was only about 20% up it, and pushed Sarah most of the way. By the time I got to the top, he had phoned ahead and had his relatives looking for the guy on the funny bicycle. They gave me some much-appreciated ice water.

More hills and a gravel road got me back onto the WONDERFUL rail trail. I stayed at the Petroleum campground tonight.

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