Day 1 (Friday): This was my day off work. I got a late start packing and all. I drove to Davis, WV to meet my friend, Tim. He and his wife did an easy ride, as this was her second ride on her bike, and she hadn't ridden in years. I found them eating pizza on the porch of the cafe. We got ready, and headed off down a trail straight out of town.
The ride was OK. About 7 miles. It was a little rocky, but not too bad. I only dismounted a few times thinking I would rather not risk getting hurt. So in that sense it was just right. Interesting, not too hard, yet spots to strive for achieving in the future. The only tricky part was that the grass was high (though folded over), and it was hard to see the rocks underneath. Occasionally, your pedal would WHACK into a hidden rock. The scenery was OK, but it had been logged (or mined) or something and the trees were a little scruffy. That and the fact the trail didn't really go anywhere and we were just meandering made it a nice, but not spectacular ride. You could definitely feel fall in the air.
We stopped in town and had a German dinner at the brew pub.
That night back at the OTR site, I drank waaayyyyyyy too much.
Day 2 (Saturday): Doo Dah Parade!
Tim and I decided to go for a ride after the Doo Dah parade. The problem was that a car had blocked me in. I wandered around all over asking for the owner of the car, but with no luck. Finally a group of people rounded up and moved the car! Part of it involved pushing it. But it also meant about 5 guys picking up the rear end of the car and pivoting it on the front end!
Tim and I didn't have a good source for knowing where to ride. We used the Mountain Biking in West Virginia map, but all the mountain sites were gravel forest roads! Sigh. Well, we headed off to do a loop over by Barton Knob and the Union Fort. It was hard to see where to go. The roads weren't quite as they were on the map. And there was no particular starting point. So we drove for too long, then just pulled over where we could find a parking place.
Our plan was to do the loop. We began pedalling. It was fine, but pretty much all uphill. Fortunately it wasn't too steep, but at nearly 4000', I was out of breath a lot of the time. I would stop for a minute or so to catch my breath fairly often. Tim was always ahead, but would wait for me regularly. We'd been out for some time when we broke into a more open area. We passed a travel trailer with some campers and kept moving. Tim remarked on the terrain and speculated this was the strip mined area from the map description. "Perhaps," I counterd, but look at those spruce or hemlocks, or whatever they were. I would have thought the mining companies would have planted something cheap and fast growing like white pine. Something to determine later.
Just a very short way ahead, Tim was a bit ahead when shots rang out! Well, normally a little gunfire in a National Forest isn't all that alarming too me, but! I could see the trail of the bullets just about 30' ahead of me. The bullets were crossing the road from the high side down to the left of me on the low side! After a volley of a few shots, I stayed hiding behind a tree. Then a second set of bullets went flying. I could see the track of the bullets as they flew by. What's going on? At first I thought they might be deer hunting, and being very careless. No, it's not deer season. Are they shooting AT us? They're not super close, but far too close for comfort? I yelled once earlier. Then I began to yell for Tim much more loudly. At least I could then perhaps communicate with him as well as inform the shooter that we were down here, if they didn't know. It was very confusing, because no one in their right mind shoots downhill where they can't see where the bullets go, and across a road at that! Tim thought I'd been hit, or my bike had, and he returned. I felt bad that he rode back through the firing zone, but what were we to do? Going forward through it didn't seem right. And staying split across it didn't seem to be a viable alternative, either. Tim suggested we turn around and leave. If I recall correctly, another shot was fired. We hopped on our bikes and headed back the way we'd come. When we returned to my truck we could hear more gunfire. But it didn't seem to be pointed anywhere near us. Nonetheless, we wanted out. The gunfire at the top of the road was from a small caliber gun. Tim thought it was not a handgun, though the gun near our parking area, it was (and a bigger caliber, as well). When I got back, I found a phone number to call to reach the authorities. A dispatcher took the info, but I could tell, it was all for naught. No one ever called me back, so I guess it was never checked out.
Here are some pictures from the campground:
Day 3 (Sunday): I woke up to a misty morning. A heavy fog/mist hung over camp. Few folks were stirring in the morning, so after one last visit with Tim, I headed toward home around 9. I stopped in Elkins for some food, then drove to Spruce Knob. Interestingly, the mist broke on the ride out of Elkins. It seemed to have been confined to the Tygart Valley. There were some way cool chevrons in the rock in the parking area near the tourist info center.
I hunted around between my map and the tourist signs in the Forest as I made my way to Spruce Knob. I drove past the Seneca Creek lot that was filled with cars. I aimed for the Lumberjack lot that was empty. I parked there and rode up the road toward the top. A group of four 20+ year olds rode past me. We chatted. The one guy worked in the Elkins bike shop. He asked where I was from and said he sees a lot of DC people these days. The gal commented how she wished they had a club like us, but that I was looking at the Elkins mtbers.
It took me an hour to pedal my way 5 miles up the hill and about a thousand feet of elevation gain to arrive at the highest point in West by God Virginia. It was a little bothersome that I packed my big Camelbak with an extra fleece shirt, light, etc., for emergencies. So my back/neck/shoulders were a little sore.
At the top, I head off down the Huckleberry Trail that my "friend" Larry had recommended. I knew it was going to be technical, but I figured, 'I don't mind if there are tough sections. I'll just walk them.' Hah! Famous last words! I went for about 2/3 mile pushing my bike virtually the whole way. The trail was continuously rocky. And not just little rocks, pretty big ones. The trail was overgrown badly and it seemed like half of it was no more than a foot wide. That made it extremely tough to push your bike down the trail. And, it meant that it was hard to see what was coming on the trail--which is quite important for me in rocky terrain. I local hiker with his dog came up on me from behind. The chore of pushing my bike over the rocks in the very narrow trail meant that straight hiking was much faster. He thought it would take me till dark (by now it was 1:30) to do my appointed route. So I gave up, turned around, and pushed my way back to the top of Spruce Knob.
I zipped down the road rather quickly. I kept my speed down to about 20 mph. The concept of road rash on gravel at more than 20 was just too scary. When I got back to the car I decided to see what the Lumberjack Trail was like. It must have once been doubletrack that was now a narrow singletrack of cleared ground. It was much more rideable than the Huckleberry Trail, but it had mud puddles, occasional rocky sections, and downed trees. So after a while, I just gave up and turned around. It just wasn't fun with nowhere to go, on a verystraight trail, and in a quite straight line. I turned around, loaded back up in the parking lot and headed down the mountain.
I hadn't gotten off the gravel when I noticed something wasn't right. I looked in my right side view mirror, and things didn't look right, either. Sure enough. Flat tire--right rear. I thanked my lucky stars that it was a warm, sunny afternoon and I was already dirty. The last time I had to change a tire was in the NIST parking lot. It was raining, and I was wearing white pants. This time, I hadn't done more than get the jack out when a man from Indiana on a motorcycle stopped to help me. He changed the tire for me. I went to put the flat one in my pickup bed, and realized it wasn't safe to drop the heavy weight in the bed directly over his head which was under the truck. I set the tire back down and he said something to the effect, "Let me do that in a minute." I responded, "I'm stronger than I look." "That's not the point." So I tried to be gracious and let him be chivalrous. With that I was on my way back home.
Epilogue (Monday): My truck has been needing new tires for a long time. They were the original tires and had 75,000 miles on them. So I took this as an omen that I should not get the tire fixed, and instead buy new ones (the left rear tire has had an unrepairable slow leak for the better part of a year). $573 later, I now have a new set of safe tires. And a seriously flat billfold. Gas was generally $3.19/gallon this weekend in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.