Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Getting the Best of the West
June 3: I was rearing like a colt in heat to get started this morning. The finish line of West Virginia was clearly in sight. I dashed off and quickly reached the end of the NBRT. On the way into Parkersburg a woman stopped on the highway and gave me a Gatorade. I'm going to really miss this state.
Parkersburg may be a very nice city and if so the ADT does it an injustice. I traveled by the strip club and bail bondsman district and was not impressed. The only perk was a laundromat, which I took advantage of - guess the locals need to clean up after the strip clubs.
Crossing the bridge over the Ohio River I experienced a great moment in symbolism. Passing directly under me as I went was a coal barge full of anthracite, a perfect representative of the state I was leaving.
Great moments in irony 3: I was not actually in Ohio until I reached the end of the bridge - West Virginia owns the Ohio River up until the bank on the other side.
I landed upon that bank in Belpre, Ohio, formerly known as Belle Prairie before locals got tired of saying so many syllables. They kept trying to call me Al as well.
The ADT was much kinder to Belpre, passing along the river along Civitan Park and the Stone Fort, a property dating back to the French and Indian War. Blennerhassett Island sat in the center of the river.
The early history of Belpre is action-packed, sort of like a Michael Bay film, but with less explosions and better dialogue. Lewis and Clark passed in 1803 on the way to their famous expedition. One of the first floating mills was built there by Captain Johnathan Devol in 1791, using the power of the mighty Ohio to move the wheels.
The most intriguing episode from Belpre's past relates to the aforementioned Blennerhassett Island. Wealthy landowner William Blennerhassett allegedly plotted a new nation in the west there. The plot was headed by former Vice President Aaron Burr, who was charged with treason when his plans were uncovered. Burr is still the only man to be tried for violating the constitutional statute on treason. He was found innocent - whether he was guilty or not is still debated by historians, some of whom feel Thomas Jefferson framed his political rival.
I wanted to stay in town to see Blennerhassett Island and solve the mystery for myself, but the Budget Lodge where I had planned to stay was out of business. I was forced to push own towards Veto Lake.
The steep hills out of Belpre quickly reminded me of how easy I had it on the rail grade of the NBRT. Seven hard miles later, I found the lake, set up the tent amidst a goose turd minefield laid by our Canadian friends, and ensconced my frame in a sleeping bag cocoon. Sixteen more miles had evaporated under my feet, 546 for the trip.
Sleep did not come easily, however, as my roommate, the loudest frog in the world, was not himself ready for bed. The "dog who barks at everything" living across the street did not help matters.
Just as I began to drift off a car pulled up ten feet from my tent. Four people got out and started to look for a place to fish. They noticed my presence and kindly darted off to find a new spot, leaving me to slumber.
A couple of hours later a truck stopped in the same spot. Apparently I was wearing a "please disturb" sign. This time it was a young couple. Realizing I still had one Crystal Lake water bottle I thought about Jason Voorhees' predilection for terminating lovers' trysts. I worried I might become collateral damage as he wielded his murderous machete on the two. Fifteen minutes of trite conversation drove this bored eavesdropper to tears and soothed my mind that nothing carnal was in the offing. Less than an hour later they left and I was mercifully allowed to rest.
16 miles/546 total miles
Thanks to my new friends in West Virginia:
Daniel and Maria Walls
The staff at the Medallion
Sharon and Paul Weekley
Tim and Fritz in Hepzibah
Sheriff John in Philippi
Bill in Kanawha
Dave in Walker
Pop Tart lady
"Beware the bears" guy
Harry in Cairo
Sandy in Philippi
Melvin, Renee, and Seth Howdershelt (sp?)