We’ve spent the last four days with Alan in Kalamazoo. This is the end of the beginning of the trip; from here on out we’re pretty much on our own.

Alan kept us quite busy.

FLS_5117There were two artsy festivals in downtown Kalamazoo over the weekend. The second was the Kalamazoo equivalent of CenterFest or ArtsPlosure, or any other annual downtown arts festival with lots of arts displays, food and people.

Alan and Rebecca agreed the Kalamazoo festival had better art than the local N.C. festivals we frequent. I won’t disagree, but I will note that the Raleigh festival would be more interesting the first time you went than the tenth. I’ll also point out the music here was basically just background music, rather than featured ensembles.

WP_20150606_005We also we to several brew pubs, including Bells, which is renowned. Local craft beers here are very good, although they have a milder interpretation of “hoppy” than might be expected from a frequenter of Triangle craft breweries.

We also we to a really interesting sculpture garden in Grand Rapids, the Frederik Mejier Gardens and Sculpture Park. There was a nice indoor section with interesting flowers, especially the orchids. Outside was a wide-ranging sculpture garden well positioned in a large, natural setting.


We were able to meet John and Susan for a nice reunion at Founders in Grand Rapids (yes, another brewpub).


Our last trip was to the Gilmore Car Museum. Very interesting.

I’m going to post a bunch of pictures from this episode. Tomorrow we head to Ludington, on Lake Michigan.

Alan the Gnome

Alan the Gnome


THE Little Deuce Coupe

THE Little Deuce Coupe

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June 4 – Bramble Rose Day

Miles: 322 + 193
States Entered: Ohio, Indiana, Michigan

New River Gorge bridge selfie.

New River Gorge bridge selfie.

NC Highway 16 crosses the Blue Ridge near Bunky’s Hill, then crosses the New River near Jefferson. Virginia Highway 16 engages the New River at Mouth of Wilson.

When we left the campground at Ace Adventures, we decided to take a look at the New River Gorge. At the iconic bridge, which when constructed was the longest the single-span steel arch bridge and the tallest vehicular bridge, in the world, there’s a National Park visitor center with a fine overlook.

There’s not a lot of geologic history in the visitor center; it focuses more on the historical aspects of the gorge, which was a major source of coal. According to our river guide Smiley, Henry Ford bought a coal mine so he could smelt his own steel, and the operation was the best place to work in the gorge. Ford paid his employees in dollars instead of company scrip.

I asked one of the park rangers about the history of the river, specifically about the river changing directions over the course of time, and he’d never even heard of that. This will require some more research.

When we mentioned we were familiar with the southern reaches of the New River, the ranger said, “Blowing Rock.” Huh? Well, upon studying a map, I see the South Fork does rise in Blowing Rock. Who knew? The North Fork starts somewhere near Three Top Mountain.

When we left the visitor center, Rebecca found a scenic road to take that followed, and crossed, the New as we headed north towards Charleston.

Virginia Highway 16.


West Virginia capitol building, Charleston.

The New and Gauley Rivers converge around Gauley Bridge, where we got off Highway 16. We followed the Kanawha River, drove past Charleston, and headed toward Ohio. We crossed the Ohio River at the state line.

Once in Ohio, the geography quickly changed from the dramatic ups and downs of West Virginia to flat farmland.

In Ohio they grow a lot of corn, and in at least one location a lot of windmills.

In Ohio they grow a lot of corn, and in at least one location a lot of windmills.

We spent the night at Lake Loramie State Park. It was a pleasant little park with several lake access points, a lot of fishermen, and dozens and dozens of Ohioans vacationing in their RV trailers.

Flat farm country with a lake makes for great bike riding. We got our bikes off the rack and rode all around the campground. Later while Rebecca went swimming I went on a ride into the town of Minster.

Lake Loramie

Lake Loramie

The next day we broke camp and headed for Kalamazoo, Michigan. Riding through Michigan was like riding through America. Rolling hills, trees, interstate highways.

Now we are camped in Alan’s driveway. We’ll be here a few days, then we’ll set out for Lake Michigan.




Rebecca at the New River Bridge

Rebecca at the New River Bridge

Is the river that flows past you today the same one that flowed past you yesterday (assuming you haven’t gone somewhere)? And even if it is, is the New River in North Carolina the same river as the New River in West Virginia.

Having now floated in both places, I’d have to say they may be the same but they sure are different. The West Virginia version has picked up a lot of water since it left North Carolina. It’s got some world-class rapids.

According to our guide on the New River Raft trip, Smiley, the New River is the second oldest river on earth. Second to the Nile.

I believe he’s correct, although I can’t Google it right now. It is my understanding the New flowed north to south like any good yankee migrant, or river, until the continental collision that formed the Blue Ridge, either 250 or 450 million years ago, at which time it changed directions. It is now most unusual in that it flows south to north, rising in North Carolina and flowing to the Ohio River. Another North Carolina river, the French Broad, similarly flows more or less backwards.

Rapids we shot.

Rapids we shot.

Our raft trip was superb. The weather forecast called for rain by noon, but none ever developed. Smiley was an excellent guide. He took Rebecca and me, and our boatmate Fern from Chicago, through all the rapids in unerring fashion. We were appropriately drenched, but we were never thrust overboard. It was a great six-mile, six-hour journey (including the lunch break), culminating just past the famous bridge.

I can’t show you any photos of the rafting trip, since my camera would not have survived the journey.

Afterward we went to the resort bar for a couple of drinks and games of Scrabble (Rebecca 1, Forrest 1). The drinks were half in price and double in strength. Then we went to our regularly scheduled dinner (part of some package we evidently bought) to find we were the only people in the restaurant. But we were graciously served a family-style feast we could not possibly finish by a typically delightful waitress, typically representative of all the service staff we encountered at the Ace Resort.

First Hike

We had to replace our home water heater a couple of weeks ago.

The first morning in camp it was time to turn on the hot water to wash some dishes.  I turned on the propane and pushed the switch to activate hot water.  The system balked a couple of times, then kicked in – for about thirty seconds.

No hot water.

Upon close review of the attendant documentation, we discovered the de-winterizing process had not included resetting the valves to the hot water heater to allow waterflow.  So I’d been trying to heat water in an empty tank.

Rebecca turned the valves to the correct position.  Still nothing.

FLS_5030So we went on a hike.  The main hiking trail at Ace leads to an overlook of the New River.  We encountered a small group of nuns reciting prayers at the overlook.  It’s about 1000 feet above the river.  At that distance, the New River in West Virginia could be mistaken for the New River in North Carolina.  It’s serpentine, it’s surrounded by rugged green ridges.

Our hike took us back to the Ace complex, where we wandered a few mountain bike trails before returning to camp.  It wasn’t a strenuous hike, but it was a nice ice breaker for a trip that will be geared toward hiking.FLS_5038

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it was time to face the music.

Rebecca took one more look under the hood.  “What’s this button?  Push to reset?”

Bingo.  Catastrophe averted.

Next stop, rafting the New.

Day One

Mileage: about 289

June 1, 2015

States entered:  Virginia, West Virginia

Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain

It’s raining.

We have encamped at our first waystation, Ace Adventure Resort in Medlin, West Virginia. It’s a jumping off point for rafting trips on the New River (not to be confused with the New River in North Carolina, which is the same New River except it is different).

In a couple of days, we will take one of those raft trips, but for now we are snuggled up in the Weg Wam, glad we’re not in a tent. There is a wifi hotspot at the camp bar, but the signal doesn’t reach here, so I will ex-post post this sometime tomorrow, presumably when it isn’t raining.

The trip was fairly uneventful. We almost got out of the neighborhood before I realized I’d left several gift gasoline cards in the kitchen so we turned around. The second time out was fine.

There was one exciting moment early on, as we were driving around Greensboro. Suddenly behind me, inside the van, I heard a violent crash. My first thought was that a kitchen shelf had collapsed. Then it seemed the microwave had fallen. Fortunately, it was just a couple of plastic boxes full of mostly plastic bottles, and the damage was negligible.

We went through Winston-Salem, then past iconic Pilot Mountain, skirted Mayberry (Mount Airy), then crossed over the Blue Ridge into Virginia, where we learned Charlotte has nothing on points north when it comes go traffic on I-77. It took a good 45 minutes to go five miles.

When we got to Beckley, WV, we stopped at a gas station to use one of the gas cards, and there was a mall right next to us, so we went to the mall to get me a new watch battery. So for the first time in more than two weeks it is not 5:02.

Ace Outdoor Adventures. The umbrella did not survive the night.

Ace Outdoor Adventures. The umbrella did not survive the night.