I left yesterday on a storytelling trip to eastern West Virginia: three gigs in two days, all for 4-H camps. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
I live on the western side of the state, so I would be driving all the way across West Virginia, almost to the Virginia border. Traveling across such mountainous terrain can be...exciting. Fortunately I built in extra time; I needed it.
I had not left my hollow before I met the first obstacle. Recent flooding had clogged ditches and created flooding. The state roads crews were out cleaning ditchlines. I waited and waited and waited. Fifteen minutes later the equipment moved and I got past.
More road construction greeted me about 45 minutes into my journey. This time it as bridge repair. More waiting as heavy equipment moved heavily about.
US Rte 33 East, which I would travel for most of my journey, crossed Gilmer County, site of recent bad flooding when the Little Kanawha River flooded sections of the town of Glenville and other communities.
Landslides (called "slips" here) took out parts of the highway, so I met more road repair crews; trees had been knocked down--more repair crews, this time electric and telephone.
I finally reached the 4-lane highway, about 30 minutes over schedule. Driving was easy until the 4-lane ran out. In the high, treacherous, twisting mountain road that Rte 33 becomes past Elkins, I found myself behind a semi with smoking brakes.
We inched down Middle Mountain and other peaks along the way, until we reached smoother sailing at Seneca Rocks. I went north, he went south, still smoking.
At this point I was on Rte 28, a fairly easy and scenic road. The obstacles here were farm machinery. This is hay season and the tractors were out in force. After 5 hours on the road I reached my oldest son's house in time for a quick visit before heading off to my first gig.
Storytelling outside is usually nice, but Monday evening it was 90 degrees and HUMID. Two of my grandchildren (my oldest son's children) came with me and I think they were amazed that I would tell stories in such heat. I was soaked by the end of the gig, thankful for my linen outfit that absorbed the sweat without big stains, and more than ready to oblige my grandchildren with a trip to Dairy Queen.
Today I traveled again, south to the mountain counties of Pendleton and Pocahontas. Again, the trip was one to keep me on my toes:
and a road painting truck slowed me down. Which wasn't really a problem because I got to take a lot of photos along the way. The weather was cooler today, and the kids were great.
Finally homeward bound, I realized that my brake rotors (which now have 234,000+ miles on them) were not in very good shape. Learning this on 4000-foot mountains is not a good idea, and didn't do much for the calmness of my digestve system. My car is a 5-speed so I used 2nd and 3rd gears to keep me slowed down for the hairpin curves.
Outside of Elkins, the heavens let loose with a terrific rainstorm that literally blinded me for a few minutes. The rain was so intense the wipers could not keep up.
By the time I reached Weston, even the ducks were walking! I braked to allow a family of them to cross in front of me. Rain off and on dogged me across twisty Rte 33.
Storytelling is always an adventure, filled with unexpected surprises. Storytelling in West Virginia has an added dimension--mountains, curving roads, unexpected obstacles, and beautiful, breathtaking views. It's not for the faint-hearted, but no storyteller will ever say that traveling to gigs in this state is boring!