walking from LA to NY travel blog

the rail-to-trail conversion i walked, along the west fork of the monongahela...

finally got someone to shoot a photo of me in one of...

weird rock-formations caused by a spring in shinnston, west virginia

not sure i'd want this coal-fired plant hovering over my high school......

i just love these cloud-sunbeam formations! we don't get enough clouds in...

not sure about this slogan - clever, but is it making light...

......and i survived it!

now THIS actually looks like a dangerous intersection!

paging mr. barrett......syd, are you there? (whoops, forgot, he's dead now.)

well, i rolled across the ohio river and into parkersburg, west virginia, and the first person i met was a panhandler. the next thing i saw was a strip club, followed by an adult bookstore, followed by another strip club. (the marquee advertised “fabric free dancers”. now THERE’s a polite term!) fortunately, west virginia got a LOT better once i got a little bit east of town......

first, some logistics. after 6 weeks of solo trekking, and a whole lot of backtracking miles, i’m getting some help this weekend. my son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter are flying in tomorrow (saturday) and will be with me for a week. my 6-year-old granddaughter sarina has been counting the days until she can see me. “4 more days until papa day!” pretty cute......

i think i’m in the foothills of the appalachians, so it’s very hilly and very green, with lots of wetlands, streams and creeks just like southern ohio. and i had the good fortune, as i proceeded along us-50 and scouted ahead, to discover a wonderful rails-to-trails conversion that runs for 71 miles. i’m just going to do the last 38 miles of it – and because it only has road-access at a few points along the way, it seemed to make sense to wait until my driver-help gets here. so i bypassed that stretch and jumped ahead a bit. hopefully it’s as pretty as i expect it to be. there are several railroad tunnels on it (one is 2000 feet long) so that’ll be a little bit different, having to use my headlamp.

jumping ahead, i encountered yet another series of walking trails that parallel my route, so i’ve started on those as well. much more pleasant – and safe - walking than roadways. i’ll do about 33 more miles on these trails, so i’m getting more than 70 miles of off-road in west virginia.

and the people i’m meeting on the trails have been very nice. yesterday i had 4-in-a-row: first, a couple on bikes stopped to chat about the trip (it’s that t-shirt!) and then a couple of people were walking their three dogs and i stopped to pet them, and walked the last mile back to my vehicle with them. next i stopped a couple to ask about trail mileage (there are no distance maps of this particular trail) and they told me how to get to the ‘best restaurant in the area’ which was several miles away and a few turns. towards the end, i was getting ready to make a wrong turn and they were following me and jumped out of the car at the stoplight to tell me to go left, not right! and a lady in another car overheard that and said “follow me!” and she took me right to the restaurant’s parking lot. very helpful people!

today the trend continued. i stopped at a convenience store for breakfast (long story, but i missed the restaurant i was heading towards) and a customer started asking about the walk. he was a vietnam veteran and proudly called himself a hillbilly and a redneck (although he didn’t really fit the stereotype of either). he offered to fill up my gas tank for me, or buy me anything else i needed, but of course i gently turned that down. no reason to take charity when i don’t need it. after i finally got to my starting point and was munching on breakfast, a man (who was waiting in the parking lot for his grandson to come back on his bike) offered to give me a ride down to the next parking spot so i didn’t have to backtrack – saving me 1.8 miles of walking. and when i got to my turnaround point at the end of that particular trail, it opened up into a small shopping center that had a mexican restaurant in it – dos hermanos II in fairmont. i stopped in for lunch and was talking to the owner, and at the end of the meal he offered to drive me 3.5 miles back to my car AND bought my lunch! so i got a lot of help today......and restored my faith in west virginia people.

one funny comment from one of the locals: he said “you’ll like morgantown because it’s a college town. the average age in west virginia is about 86, but in morgantown it’s about 19......” it is true that, other than kids, i’m not seeing a whole lot of young people. most of the kids i’m seeing are with their grandparents. (but that’s probably because their parents are at work.) this is coal country, and some timberland, so that probably doesn’t appeal to many young people, and they move. just guessing.

not much else to report – i’m healthy, happy, and on the home stretch!

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