Wild, wooly, wonderful, WTF, West Virginia
Prologue-it's been a while since I last posted anything about my travels with LAF (Lee). Since we both worked at the same high school it was our custom to hit the road as soon as school ended for the year. This was our way of decompressing. We did this for several years travelling to New England, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia. In 2010, Lee had a serious accident near the entrance to the Badlands in South Dakota. (You can find a write up in the LT forum.) After almost a year of surgery, physical therapy and other assorted treatments, Lee felt he was up for another trip, or as he put it, "I'm Jonesing to get on the road."
Lee replaced his LT with a Yamaha FJR. This may raise some eyebrows for the die hard BMW crowd, but my basic philosophy is that if it has two wheels a motor and runs "good", who am I to cast disparaging remarks? What did strike me about the purchase is that he bought the bike about a month after flying home from the Rapid City Regional Hospital. He was still wearing a hard neck brace and using a cane for support as he hobbled around in a foot brace on his left ankle. When I commented that most people test ride before buying he just laughed and said, "It felt good when I sat on it in the show room."
"Did you sit on it and make 'Vroom - Vroom' noises?"
He laughed and said the geometry felt right and that was good enough for him. Well he had done some extensive research also, but that's another story. Personally, I think he fell for the silver color, but don't tell him I said that. Of course he'll probably read this and and then pull some prank on me like the time he hung a scented air freshener on my left side mirror. Next time I'll find a sun reflector on the wind screen on my RT so the seat won't get too hot from sitting in the sun. It'll either be that or baseball cards in my spokes or a bicycle bell clamped onto my handlebars.
Anyway, we decided it was time to revisit West Virginia. As chief navigator and trip planner I found a great cabin for rent just south of Marlinton and made reservations for the two of us. Lee, as a computer guru and home mechanic handles the nuts and bolts (literally) of our trips. So, with loaded bikes, which means we were probably carrying more than we needed, we headed south from Pennsylvania. Prior to departure my wife asked why we were carrying so much stuff when we were only going for a week. Lee and I answered in unison, "Because we can."
The trip June of 2011 - this is just one episode of our adventure. I must apologize that there are no pictures since the hard drive on my laptop crashed after I had transferred all my pictures from my camera to it and before I could make a back up copy. Yep! You can't fix stupid.
The log cabin was everything we could ever want for home comfort. Two bed rooms, satellite reception, a furnished kitchen, living/dining room, gas fireplace and an outside deck with a roof and an outdoor grill. Sitting under the roof on the deck we could just about spit into the clear, cold trout stream running past the cabin. Neither of us did spit into the stream because I'm pretty sure that it's illegal or at least, frowned upon.
The Wi-fi connection did not extend to our location which proved to be a minor inconvenience when trying to find the local weather forecasts. Our routine was to walk up to the main cabin and use one of their desktops for the daily reports. Then we would walk back to the cabin, have breakfast and sit out on the deck drinking coffee, reading books and listening to the trout stream. At some point one or the other of us would glance at our watch and make some remark about getting our gear on and going for a ride. But there was still coffee in the pot and just one more chapter to read. Eventually we would don our gear and head out for s scenic ride.
On one of these excursions we decided we meander our way north with plans to stop in Durbin, the Green Bank radio observatory and Cass. As we rode through the outskirts of Marlinton we passed a state trooper tucked into an alley next to a small warehouse. The posted limit was 35 and my GPS showed us doing 42 mph. "Uh oh." I thought. "We're not in Kansas anymore." I heard banjo music and began remembering all those memorable lines from "Cool Hand Luke." Checking the mirror there was no evidence that he had decided to come after us. A few miles later there was still no sign that we were being followed so I put the thoughts out of my mind and focused on the ride.
There are plenty of deer in West Virginia and in some strange manner they have decided to reduce their numbers voluntarily by stepping out onto the highway in front of any oncoming motorized vehicle. If you're in a car, truck or RV, this sort of encounter usually results in some serious damage to the vehicle and minor damage to its occupants. The damage to the deer is usually terminal. An encounter with one of these "horned rats" as Lee calls them, while on a motorcycle, is a different story. Simply stated, "It can ruin your day."
My personal belief is that there has been some genetic engineering splicing the genes of lemmings and squirrels with a deer. The aforementioned, self-destructive nature of the deer can be attributed to the lemmings. Once out on the road, their behavior is more like that of a squirrel. "Should I keep going? Stop? Go back? Yeah, go back. No wait! Turn around and keep going. Wait a second! What's that coming at me?" Thud, crunch, splat!
Solution? Try to hit them. If you try to miss one, it's pretty much guaranteed they'll change their trajectory to intercept yours. If you aim right at them they'll think you'll swerve and change accordingly which means you end up missing them. Important safety tip - if the deer is standing in the oncoming lane, don't try to hit it. There's a good chance that there's a fully loaded tri-axle dump truck right behind that deer. (The author takes no responsibility to anyone who does this and does, in fact, hit a deer.)
About twenty miles north of Marlinton we came to an intersection with a general store/gas station. I love these establishments where you can fill up with gas and then walk inside to buy 50 pounds of fertilizer, a box of ammunition for you rifle, nightcrawlers, a fan belt for a '64 Dodge Dart, pickled pigs feet, beef jerky, a bag of Mail Pouch, a loaf of bread and a six pack of beer.
I had almost a full tank of gas, but Lee was just under a half. Our previous trips through West Virginia has taught us that if you see a gas station and you think you might want to top off your tank, don't think about it, do it!
As Lee rolled up to the pumps, I parked the bike and took off my helmet. I had just stepped off the bike when the WV state trooper pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to me. "Great!" I thought. "Here comes a lecture and warning." I envisioned a somewhat overweight trooper getting out, wearing mirrored sunglasses and tilting his Smoky Bear hat just right to give it that buster bad-ass appearance. The lecture would go something like this in a voice trying to imitate Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.
"I clocked you two going through Marlinton at 7 miles above the posted speed limit. Seeing that you boys are from outa state I just want to give you some friendly advice. We're a small, peaceful state and we aim to keep it that way. Speedin' through our communities presents a hazard to folks just tryin' to have a nice day. So let's be mindful of the speed limits and how fast we're goin'. Ya hear me?"
What I did get was a young trooper who could have been a model for a recruiting poster. No hat, no mirrored sun glasses, just a big friendly smile as he got out of the cruiser, walked up to me and asked, "What year is your RT?"
"2006." I answered.
"Damn, I just got an '06 and I love it." For those of you who have encountered this type of meeting, you know how the rest of the conversation went: final drive, oil, tire pressure, gas mileage, valve adjustments, muffler bearings and prop wash. I am not a mechanic - period. Sometime after he mentioned gas mileage I got lost between the shims on a crown bearing raced frammistat and the clearance on a spring loaded thing-a-ma-jig. Fortunately, Lee arrived before I disgraced myself by saying something really stupid like, "How much oil do you put into your tank when you fill it up?" Or, "I haven't figured out how to oil the chain to the rear wheel."
We spent the next thirty minutes discussing West Virginia and life as a law enforcement officer. Actually, neither of us said, "law enforcement officer." His comment was that the biggest problem in the state was pills. By that he meant pain killers. Since a large percentage of the citizens worked in the coal fields it common for them to have back problems. Back problems are difficult to diagnose so the simple solution is to treat the symptoms. You have pain? Have some pain killers: Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone, etc. Since a polygraph isn't used the doctor has to take the patient as his word. The street value for the drugs are probably ten to 15 times the price at the pharmacy. "Hey doc, my back hurts."
"Here, get this filled."
"Psst! Hey buddy! Need some drugs?" Easy money.
With a high rate of unemployment in the state it's pretty easy to see how this becomes a lucrative way to make a living.
Finally the trooper had to get back on patrol. We shook hands, I took his picture and off he went. At this point Lee filled me in on his fill up. After topping off his tank he walked into the store to pay for the gas. A saintly woman with grey hair in a plain cotton dress, stood behind the counter and asked, "How much did you get?"
"How much gas did you get? What do you owe me?
"I have no idea." Lee said. "I just filled it up."
The lady explained that the system is old fashioned and there's no display inside to show how much gas or how much money for any of the pumps. (There are only two and they're both on just one side of the fueling island.)
Lee said he'd go back outside and check the pump. As he started for the door, the lady chuckled and said, "Don't bother." She reached under the counter and pulled out an old pair of 7x35 binoculars. Holding them to her eyes she read the pump. "You owe me twenty-two dollars and forty-five cents." She put the binoculars back under the counter. "I used to be able to read those pumps from here, but my eyesight ain't what it used to be. I got tired of havin' folks goin' back out to read the pump and then one days I saw these 'noculars at a flea market and so's I bought 'em. Pretty smart, doncha think?" There was absolutely no doubt in Lee's mind that he was in the presence of a genius.
Yep! That's West Virginia.
Epilogue - To those of you who followed and enjoyed reading about our escapade in New England and now this one, there's more to come. I have since retired and have some time on my hands. permissum lector caveo
"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God" Kurt Vonnegut
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