Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Trip to West Virginia (Updated)

Updated 6/21/13:

I haven't posted any in-depth stories in quite a while, so I'm overdo obviously.  If you're going on the ride with me now, then grab your coffee, sit down, and strap-in (or strap on, if that's your thing).  The ride is about to begin.

My brother Larry (second-oldest in our family; I'm the youngest) and I drove up to his cabin on top of one of North Fork Mountain, one of the tallest places in West "By-God" Virginia back in mid-May of this year.  About one month ago, as the crow flies.  He lives in Northern Virginia, and I live in Virginia Beach, in the Southeastern corner of the state, about three hours apart via driving.  To make things convenient, we met at my sister's house in Richmond, parked my car, and hopped in his Jeep to continue on our trip.  In all, it was about a five-hour journey to our destination in West Virginia.

I took so many pictures of the beautiful scenery along the way that my poor 16 GB iPhone 4S couldn't keep up.  If I didn't have my laptop to offload them onto, I would have been seriously depressed. (Yes, I know, you Android folks are going to tell me to get an Android phone, which I may very well do upon my next renewal on Verizon unless Apple pulls a major upset between now and August 2013).

The Scenery

What can I say?  The rolling pastures, the small towns, and the gracefully winding roads along the way are simply candy for my hungry eyeballs.  I haven't traveled to as many places within America as most of my friends have, but I have been through Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, quite a bit of Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  I'm convinced that West Virginia contains some of the most beautiful land I have ever set foot upon.

 The first picture shows the snow-melt creek that runs under the entrance road at the main gate at the foot of the mountain.  The land around the foot of the mountain is part of a small county of mostly small family dairy farms, chicken and pig farms, and crops.

Inside the gate, and up the mountain, it's private land.  The mountain is parsed into lots of anywhere from two to five acres each.  My brother's cabin is on a 3 acre lot on the eastern-facing side of the top of the mountain.

The little lizard guy below was so still in the middle of one of the trails that I first thought it was a kid's toy.  Then I remembered that there aren't any kids on this particular mountain.  As soon as I stooped down to get a closer look, he suddenly moved, which made me jump back a bit.  He (or she?) was about 5-6 inches long from nose to tail.

I saw another one with the same coloring not much later. I also saw another that was black with bright green spots, which was hiding under a rock that I turned over.
 Most of the drive up on Saturday was under an overcast sky.  No rain to speak of, just a calm, cloudy day.

Alpine baby cones

Forest trail (entrance road) near the foot of the mountain

Typical foggy view on Saturday (near the peak)

More baby Alpine cones

The colors of the various trees, flowers and even the rock formations were (are) simply amazing!  The baby Alpine cones are a much more vivid magenta than my iPhone could capture. Some of them have red spores at the tips, while others are pure pink, purple or magenta. I'm sure a tree expert could tell me more, but to me they're either long or short needle Pine trees. :)
The Fruits of our Labor

Mission Semi-Accomplished

Rocks left behind from road-building
Ultimately, our mission was to cover the existing plywood flooring with a layer of tongue-and-groove oak flooring.  We could have easily completed our mission had it not been for a few distractions, setbacks and snafu's.

1. Tools.  Or I should say, lack thereof.  We had most of the obvious items on hand. But it seemed that every time we turned around, there was a small, but important task, which required a tool we didn't think to bring along.  Things like a cordless screwdriver, a chalk line, a pry-bar, and a set of wire cutters.

2. Gas Generator.  The Coleman gas-powered electric generator that my brother purchased was designed by a team of blind monkeys, strung-out on heroin, and with both of their arms broken.  Seriously:  It is the single-worst designed product of ANY KIND that I have EVER encountered in my 49 years of living on this ball of dirt.

Let me elaborate:  The problem started when the "full" tank of gas ran out within an hour of filling it up.  Upon closer inspection, the rubber tube connection between the tank and the carburetor was not rated for gasoline.  It dissolved into a slimy goo.

Taking the generator case apart led to more wonders.  For starters, each of the eight screws was a different length.  As soon as you separate the molded plastic case halves, the lack of internal wiring length translates into immediate disconnections, which are not color coded or matched in any way to make it apparent to the non-blinded monkey how they are to be reconnected.  Then finally, the rubber tube itself is a dog-legged thing with a 3/16" diameter opening on one end, and a 3/8" opening on the other.  Not easily replaced with your standard, run-of-the-mill spare tubing you might have laying around.

Add to this the small but significant feature in the nearby town that they close everything except food stores and doctor's offices on Sundays, which this little mishap conveniently occurred upon.

We managed to drive down to the town in the valley anyway, run into a VERY nice family who had everything they owned laying around their yard, including a spool of rubber tubing which was roughly 1/4" diameter, and could be forced into working a la MacGyver style.  After two hours of bending, twisting, slipping, scraping, bruising, cursing and swearing, we managed to get the tube replaced and after another half-hour we had the casing reassembled and were able to fill the tank again and get it started.  It was now about 10:30 PM.  

With the electricity back in action, and the lights back on, we got to work fast on the flooring and made some decent progress. Measuring, marking, cutting, knocking into place, nailing... wash, rinse, and repeat.

The Crux of the Biscuit

The best part of this whole experience actually had little to do with the flooring task.  It was just spending time with my brother Larry.  When we were little, he was roughly nine years older than I, so we had little in common and no mutual friends.  There weren't many things we did together until many years later.  As we've grown older we tend to stay in touch more and our discussions seem to indicate more in common than either of us ever expected.  With both our mom and dad having passed away, the stories we can share with each other about things that they did are nothing less than priceless.

While we haven't nailed down an exact date, we are determined to go back up to finish the flooring, as well as some overdue maintenance on the windows and siding.  I'm looking forward to it.  More to come, stay tuned!
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