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A Great Rail Trail, A Monster Hotel, and A Gentle Highway
The Greenbrier River Trail would prove to be much better than the North Bend Rail Trail, both in riding surface and in scenery. It is the last un-dammed river east of the Mississippi.
About 8 miles down the trail is the little town of Clover Lick. Nothing there but houses and a restored railroad station. I was eating a snack when a man from Alabama drove up. He wanted to know how to get to Cass. Well, I'd come down the rail trail, which he couldn't use. Looking at his map took a while - the roads all looked like curly fries.
I stopped in Marlinton to do laundry and transfer pictures onto CDs. The town has markers on street posts about six feet up to show the high-water level of the last flood. Their library is quite nice and had the facilities I needed.
I met a guy on a bicycle from the area. While riding the trail at night with a friend, a bobcat jumped from the trees onto his leg. He lost control and crashed. He grabbed the bobcat by the neck to get it to stop chewing on his leg. His friend hit it on the head with a big rock. It was motionless on the ground.
Returning from the river where he stopped his bleeding, he poked and kicked the bobcat and got no reaction, so he put it on his back rack. He went to throw his leg over the seat when he noticed the bobcat was sitting up, looking at him. His friend hit it a few more times.
They put it back on the rack and headed to the hospital. He needed stitches for a gash near his knee, and attention for the many bite and claw marks on his lower thigh and upper calf. The bobcat had rabies. Both men had to have shots.
He'd also been confronted by a bear. It went away when he barked like a dog. (Later, I would find out why this worked.)
Looking for a place to camp, I checked out the park South of Marlinton. There was a loud noise nearby, so I continued down the trail to the next campsite. It allowed horses, so I had to be careful where to walk and put my tent.
I swerved to avoid riding across a stick, then realized it was a snake. Beware of straight sticks without branches.
It has been hot and muggy most of the day, but the predicted rain didn't come. Usually, the trail ran higher than the river, or away from it. As soon as I could, I found a place to swim. Well, swim would be stretching it a bit for a river where most parts were currently (no pun intended) only knee deep. I waded in, found a submerged flat rock to sit on, and stretched out. When I inhaled, I floated. When I exhaled, I settled back to the rock. Perfect!
My bicycle computer has been malfunctioning. I think it is a combination of corroded contacts and high humidity.
I stopped at Renick to go to the Post Office. Renick was WAY up on a HILL from the trail, but with a combination of rests and determination, I only had to push the bike about 30 feet. I mailed two CDs with pictures back home. While I was inside, it rained hard, but only lasted about 10 minutes. Nearby, I had a mediocre lunch of chicken and dumplings, and cornbread salad.
The trail brochure said there were raspberries, strawberries, and apples along the trail and to feel free to eat any. I found some raspberries that were ripe and good.
I stayed at a trailside camp near Anthony.
I met Dan Green, who lives along the trail. He built a recumbent from Tour Easy plans and two old bikes. He bought the bottom bracket and chain stay part from Easy Racers, and has a nice bike that he likes to ride.
As we were talking, a man drove up in a pickup that had a dog in the back. He got out and started to wave around some kind of antenna. Dan excused himself, saying something about trespassing.
It was a bear hunter. He lets his dogs run free to chase and tree bears, much like raccoons. The dogs wear radio collars, and he was trying to find them. Problem was that he had passed two "NO TRESPASSING" signs getting there. It seems that the bear hunters feel they can do whatever they want, including running down fences and chasing bears through people's yards. Some feel that if they got a bear hunter really upset, they would find their house burned down. Hunting bears with dogs is legal in West Virginia. Training the dogs to tree the bears before the season is also legal. You just can't kill the bears … at least, not legally.
The last 10 miles of the trail went quickly. I was told that the Greenbrier River Trail was all downhill if you started from Cass. Of the 76 miles, I figure I only knew I was climbing for about 2 of them. It might have been more, but it was so gentle I didn't notice it. Nearly all of the trail is in good repair, and a few miles around Marlinton are paved. Bad stretches were very short and far between.
People had told me that when I got to White Sulphur Springs, I should check out the Greenbrier Hotel. Since rooms are $300 a night, that is all I did.
As I rode up to the front gate, a guard met me. I was ready and told him that I wanted to shop (there are stores inside). He said I could park by a white pickup. I lost track of it and rode all the way to another guard station. He had me park my bike in view of the station, then told me how to get to the shops.
I got lost outside the building, walking half way around it. Backtracking, I found a door opening into a huge dining room and asked directions. I got lost again at the end of a dead-end hallway with hotel offices along it. A nice lady led me back.
There were a lot of Ralph Lauren type shops, and a small snack bar. For $4, I got a piece of German chocolate cake and some peach ice tea. I wandered around to check out the exercise room, the swimming pool, and the 8-lane bowling alley.
In the bowling alley, there was a pool table. I asked the bowling alley attendant what the charge was to play pool. She said it was "Complimentary". There was a kid there just rolling the balls around, so we played two "complimentary" games.
I tried to leave, but got lost again. I mentioned I was lost to another guest. He said he'd been coming here for several years, and he still got lost. It's only three stories high, but huge!
I wanted to get a shower and to charge my camera batteries. There had been no motels in Caldwell, the town at the end of the trail. The first motel I came to had two small rooms left. The lady in charge first asked $50, plus tax, then came down to $45, including tax. I said that was still higher than I wanted.
The next place was recommended by the guard at the Greenbrier Hotel. It was a bed & breakfast that would normally get $80, but it was full - the State Fair was still going and this was the ever-popular tractor pull day. A third place normally charged $50, but had jacked the price up to $80 because of the fair.
I decided to turn north on WV-92 but missed my turn. Good thing some old men sitting by the road complimented Sarah. I stopped and chatted. They offered me a beer; I said I really needed cold water. One of them went inside and got a gallon jug of bottled water. They then told me that I'd missed my turn.
Back at the turn was a grocery store where I stocked up for the trip north. I didn't expect many services along WV-92. I bought some turkey and cheese at the deli. I also got a bag of ice, which was more than enough to fill all four water bottles.
WV-92 was looking almost flat compared to the rest of West Virginia. It was actually fun to ride, and had a lot less traffic than folks led me to believe. When I got to the turn to the Blue Bend Campground, I found 4 miles of huge roller coaster hills, most of which found me pushing Sarah to the top.
With a mile and a half to go, I saw a sign indicating a private campground was only a quarter mile away. I bit. The office was closed and the grounds were full of tin cans without wheels (trailers that no longer travel). I decided another mile or two of hills would be better than this place. And it was.
An 80-something man and his wife hosted Blue Bend Campground during July and August. As we talked, they fed me a sandwich and iced tea. They also let me plug in my camera-battery charger, as the campsites had no electricity. Their miniature hot-dog dog bit my big toe, and it wasn't just a nip. Camping cost $7.
After dark, everything got quiet, except for one family. About 11, I put on my 'cop' hat and went to talk with one of them about the quiet time and asked if they had someplace else they wanted to be. Things got quiet, but about midnight, the kids were noisy again. I caught the dad, and asked him who would be most upset if they were asked to leave in the middle of the night. Five minutes later, you could hear a leaf drop. It turns out they almost got kicked out earlier in the week for noise making.
This morning, about 8:20, the campground host drove up the road, issuing many horn toots as he went. I guessed he thought everyone needed to be up by then, but he was just tooting 'Hi' to the campers who were already up and out. A while back, he got complained to by a woman. She overslept because he didn't toot to wake her up. He was just being cordial.
I'd promised myself that I would explore a few hollows. I took a side trip up Hatfield Hollow Road. After a few hundred feet, it turned into a one-lane gravel road, and within a half mile, it made a sharp left turn over an embankment. That's where I turned around.
WV-92 kept offering fantastic scenery, but no services. I checked my map and figured the intersection of WV-92 and WV-39 would at least have a convenience store - NOT! Minnehaha Springs, just 4 miles up the road, would. Nope - just houses. That left Frost (that's a town name, too). It had a party store, with grass growing up through the cracks in the concrete and a long-ago posted "For Sale" sign. Half the houses in Frost along WV-92 were empty, and some looked haunted.
I went back a half-mile to the only sign of life - a lady mowing her lawn. She said that Bird Run National Forest was a couple miles down a side road. I was really tired; I had to work just to ride down a gradual hill. I did 44 miles, my longest day.
It was a free campsite with pit toilets, good water, and no other campers. I got a sponge bath at the pump.
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