Saturday, August 27, 2005

Grayson Lake State Park, Grayson, KY

11:00 p.m.

Just crawled into the tent after a long, and somewhat grueling ride. About 460 miles today, much of it on the twisting back roads of West Virginia.

A Starbuck’s stop an hour back was welcome (near West Virginia’s largest shopping mall, which is oddly located between Charleston and Huntington.) Coffee and a coffee cake constituted dinner. About the only social contact all day occurred here: a couple from Huntington asked about my trip.

***

Left Manassas at noon heading west on Interstate 66. It was completely overcast, and had rained earlier. In Front Royal, I left the interstate to travel south on the famed “Skyline Drive”, but just a short time in a line of cars convinced me this was not the day to go that way. Returned to 66 and jogged over to West Virginia route 55.

Rain started soon after leaving Front Royal. Thick mists rising from the forests, it was like being submerged; the air I was breathing tasted like water.

I was reminded that rainy pavement can be slippery, especially painted surfaces (i.e. lines, arrows, “stop” signs). Impatience is dangerous. You can't be in a hurry.

I was so disoriented by the twists and turns of this highway, and the continual climbing of mountains then dropping into valleys. When I finally looked at the map, I couldn't believe it. I had been convinced I was driving north or northwest much of the time. I had actually driven much farther south than intended.

I had missed a turn onto highway 33 (33, 55, 66 – what’s the difference?) I should have picked up the interstate an hour or two earlier, but instead was running somewhat parallel, though far south.

Still, it was curious wandering this pristine near-wilderness of West Virginia. Even in foul weather, it looked incredibly lush and ancient. It was not difficult to imagine the frontiersmen and the Indians wandering these forests. But then there were the Ferraris. Red ones. On this isolated road, I passed more Ferraris this afternoon than I’ve probably seen in my entire life. It must have been a rally (though none were riding along “together”, and they all seemed to be driving at roughly the speed limit!)

There are signs that change is coming to this remote corner of the country. A modern interstate system is being engineered through these mountains and forests, with dramatic bridges spanning many deep canyons, and huge cuts slicing hillsides, so that the traffic will flow effortlessly (and obliviously) through this magical landscape. The system is named for Robert Byrd, the senior Senator from West Virginia, who has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.

The atmosphere was so heavy and it was about 65° in the highlands; I was getting quite chilled, as my riding suit had soaked through in numerous places. But now, dropping down in elevation (and out of a cold front?) it grew quite warm. And after five hours in the rain, I saw a glimmer of sun.

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