We left the warm embrace of the wifi from which we posted about our stay on Skyline Drive to venture into the depths of West Virginia, to meet a long-time irc friend of Sarah’s, who goes by tweek` on irc. Plans had been made, though fuzzy, and we hoped that armed with an address and the chance of occasional cell phone signal, we’d figure out how to find our friend in Logan, WV.
The mountains in West Virginia are just as beautiful, but the roads are far steeper than either of us had experienced with a trailer. Fun with using lower gears on the minivan. Around here it takes twice the time to travel the same distance as one can get on a level freeway.
We had not been prepared for just how steep mountains can get, or how isolated towns in West Virginia can get. We saw sleepy little communities and limited resources for travelers, along with the disappearance of any sort of data connection. By the time we were in range of our destination, it was dark, and we were unable to get in contact with tweek`.
We found a McDonald’s in a tiny downtown district, and using their wifi we were able to ascertain that there was a Walmart a few miles up the road.
We pulled in, and we were relieved to see trucks and campers parked in a corner of the lot. We had been on the road for too many hours by then, and we were tired and spirits were low. We were also delighted to find that the Walmart was 24 hours, and that we had a sliver of roaming data available to us.
As we settled in for the night, we were able to connect to IRC and gain a bit of communication, figuring out an exact time and place to meet up the next morning. The little guy was warm and snug, and the curtains allowed us perfect privacy to drift off to sleep.
The next day we found wifi at Lowes. Who knew that Lowes would be such a good source of reliable internet? We downloaded some maps, and then headed back to the area where we had gotten so hopelessly lost before.
Just as we began to worry that we were somehow at the wrong pizza hut, tweek` wandered over, and we went off to Chief Logan State Park to go for a hike and cook up a meal. Sarah had met a number of people from her irc network irl before, but this was the first for tweek`. Conversations and photographs, and we parted ways at around 5pm.
This is what led to a new rule for us for the road: always be able to get to our campsite before dark, preferably before 4. We had stopped in Kentucky to get some wifi and try to find a place to camp for the night that wasn’t rural West Virginia, and we found a place in Virginia that was 39 miles away. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan on the hairpin turns up an elevation change of over 2000 feet, in our tired old minivan pulling a trailer.
We missed the campsite entrance, and had to face the prospect of somehow turning around on a steep narrow mountain road.
Thanks to a friendly and helpful police officer from the town of Norton, VA, we were safely guided to the campground and assisted with finding a campsite and registering for the night.
Unfortunately it was far too damp to build a campfire, but hot showers and electricity to charge our electronics had us both feeling refreshed and renewed. We took it easy on Monday morning, and hiked to the Flag Rock overlook, which had a view of the town in the valley, and…Flag Rock, which turned out to be a rock with a flag on it.
After a hot meal of rice and lentils, we hooked back up to the car, and found the path down the mountain in daytime to be much less scary than the path up at night.
We made it back to the highway, and made our way towards Kingsport, TN, knowing that we would find at least facilities there.
We detoured in the Natural Tunnel State Park in Virginia, taking a short but strenuous hike down a cliffside, and viewed the impressive natural formation that the park was named for. Some photo ops in a railroad engine, and checked the fluids in the car, and we continued our trek towards civilization.
Near Kingsport, 4G data! Time to hurriedly download maps and get information on national parks and highway rest stops. It was already after 5, so we focused only on “where is the next Walmart?” Our coverage map indicated that down interstate 81, we would get 4G signal in Morristown, TN, so that’s where we set our sights.