Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bicycling from Parkersburg, WV to Wheeling, WV May 7

May 7..... 100 miles in trip miles to the end of this day.....15,593.02....The theme of today's ride was bridges, power plants, small towns, and WV 2. I got an early start, for me, because the sun was as warm as I've felt in quite a while, when I walked outside at 9 am. The temperature ended up going into the eighties, and the breeze may have been a tailwind, but sometimes it was just enough to keep me cool as the day heated up. We were staying at the Walmart on the south side of Parkersburg, so the first stretch of the ride was on WV 14, through town, until I turned north on WV 68, which is old WV 2. I'm not sure if I even saw the downtown area, I didn't see the river, but I did see Parkersburg South, a high school, which is not the main city school, and  I saw a pretty big medical center and complex, before I  crossed the Little Kanawha  River and got out of town. The roads in Parkersburg are not bicycle friendly, but the sidewalks did a pretty good job getting me through some pretty heavy traffic in town. I think after being out west, my definition of 'bicycle friendly' has changed, and I'm not going to see 'bicycle friendly' east of Arizona. It's been survival of the fittest since I entered New Mexico, and I've made it to the last day of this part of the trip; all I have to do is survive today. I will finish connecting the line of travel to North Carolina later this summer.
As I left Parkersburg, I had a pretty good climb out of the Ohio River Valley, and got up over 850 ft above sea level, which was my peak for the day, and I'm glad I got it over with early, as I am still not using the climbing gears, because I don't want to change front sprockets by hand. WV 68 was terrible, as is par for the course, but after a few rollers, I went over Interstate 77, and WV 68 became WV 2 again, and I rolled downhill to river level and some intermittent shoulders. Traffic wasn't terrible, but I pulled into a driveway every once in a while to let clusters of trucks passing in both directions at once, pass. Soon I came across the Willow Island nuclear power plant, and I knew I remembered it for some reason. As I went by, I saw the plaque, that commemorated the lives lost when a cooling tower collapsed when it was under construction. It happened within a few years of the Silver Bridge collapse a few miles south. Being from West Virginia, I remember those tragedies well. 
Next was the town of St. Mary's, which I remember because one of the greatest distance runners of my generation, Steve Taylor, ran high school track and cross country there, breaking all sorts of distance records. It's also a town where the train tracks run right through the middle of Main Street. Crazy. Too bad a train didn't come when I was there. Just north of St. Mary's , I came upon a line painting project by WVDot, and they had traffic stopped. I rode down the shoulder, and didn't ask permission, but went right past the road block. I rode for at least five miles with zero traffic, on an improved area where there was a shoulder. Most of the road had such terrible shoulders that there were no lines to paint. They would have been painting broken asphalt and potholes. As soon as I got into the town of Friendly, WV, the shoulder went to hell, and all the traffic came through in a parade. I just pulled off the road, posed Mycicle Bycicle (AKA Bike) with a Mail Pouch barn and waited for it all to pass.
Then it was on to the neat little town of Sistersville, where the last operating ferry on the Ohio River still takes cars over to Ohio. It's a small ferry, and has been saved several times by historical types, for history as much as function. The homes were all old Victorian mansions on the side streets.
Five more miles north on bad road and I came to Paden City, where most of the world's marbles are produced at Marble King. I had to follow a gravel road down by the river, to find the place, which was marked by one small sign, and the place wasn't very impressive, but hey, I loved marbles when I was a kid, and if you own any, they were probably produced in that old, rusty plant.
I got into the biggest town between Parkersburg and Wheeling just about the time school let out in New Martinsville. I had been there many times, but never went off the main road to check out the downtown area, until today. As I stopped to take the picture of the Sheriffs Office, my front wheel slid out in some gravel, and I laid it down, and rolled out of it in the middle of the street. Nice. A little elbow blood, and a little squeak, but no worse off for the experience. 
North of New Martinsville, I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, and got into the chemical plant area of the trip, right when shift workers were getting out for the day. It wasn't as crazy as I thought it could have been, but it was a race to get to the Kammer Power Plant, where I knew the four lane would begin. I was hoping they had improved this area south of Kammer, in the thirty years since I had been there, but no. Actually, they were beginning a widening project, but the construction just made the race to the four lane a little crazier.
 I finally made the four lane, and could relax a little, but the shoulders were filled with rocks and gravel, even though there was no glass or tire shrapnel, fortunately and surprisingly. It was quitting time, and I'll put the redneck gear heads of Moundsville, WV up against any in the country, so I was glad to get to the Moundsville/Glendale multi purpose trail, which ran right along the river for a few miles, and I had never seen it. I popped out right at the base of 'The Narrows,'which is a narrow road between Moundsville and McMechan-Benwood-Wheeling. It is notorious for falling rocks, with a cliff on the right side and a drop off to the river on the other. It's still four lane, but the shoulder is covered with fallen rock shrapnel that the big chain fence didn't catch. By that time, it was going on six o'clock, but traffic wasn't terrible. I don't think there is anyone left in Wheeling, actually, as the population has basically been cut in half since I lived here. After the Narrows, I got off of WV 2 again, and traveled a very narrow hillside, but main roads, through McMechan and Benwood, into South Wheeling. In South Wheeling I once again jumped on a bike path, the Heritage Trail, and took it all the way through Wheeling to Elm Grove, where I was meeting Pam a DiCarlos, home of the worlds best pizza ( in my opinion) ( sorry Briggs. ). As I pulled off the bike trail, I had one more little hill before coasting into the finish, and as I stepped on the pedal, the hanger for my derailleur broke, and twisted up in the spokes of my back wheel. Of course I went down, for the second time today. It is the most major breakdown of the entire trip, one that I can not repair, that might turn out to be a major break, depending on what bent, and it happened less than a half mile from the finish of a 15,000+ mile bike trip. This has been the story of this entire trip. God has been with us, and I have been as lucky as I possibly could have imagined. Everything from only having a few flat tires ( I heard of guys having as many in one day as I had on the entire trip), to having someone like my wife to work out all the details to perfection,  for over a year and a half. I didn't get bitten by any animals, or get in any fights with the country's drivers, who were really great 99.99 % of the time, and I didn't end up on the grill of any eighteen wheelers, like I had feared. This all isn't over. We are just going to take a short break to take care of some housekeeping and family. The road goes on forever, and this party is not going to end.

The Little Kanawha River Bridge as Mike left Parkersburg

Of all the animals (and roadkill) Mike has taken pictures of, this is the first bat!!!

Mike saw this sign at the last second, but his Uncle John was married in Cow Creek, WV and he was an usher.

Willow Island Power Plant

A close-up

The monument to the cooling tower collapse

The entire area

The St Mary's Bridge across the Ohio River

George Washington and Mycicle were here, but not at the same time!

Trains run right down Main Street in St Mary's!

Middle Island Wildlife and Recreation Area

No gates, just flashing lights for the Main Street train!

The gravel track that produced Steve Taylor, one of WV's greatest distance runners

Mycicle resting while a line of traffic went by in Sistersville

Sistersville is very old and historical

The Little Sistersville Ferry across the narrow stretch of the Ohio River, below the locks and dam

Welcome sign for those who cross on the ferry

Cool architecture on the side streets

Marble King factory in Paden City, WV

If you've lost your marbles, new ones are made here!!

Another stretch of narrow WV2 with trucks aplenty

They are proud of their high school sports

More champions!

New Martinsville, WV (at rush hour for Mike)

Downtown New Martinsville (not on WV2)

Sheriff's office where Mike was stopping for this picture when he laid Mycicle down for the first time

"Country Road" Ford - yep, we're in West Virginia!

New Martinsville Locks and Dam, the river gets much wider north of the dam

The Mason-Dixon Line

The actual, original marker, covered so acid rain from the industries don't destroy it!

A familiar sight in WV

Kammer Plant - the biggest of them all

Here Mike finally found 4 lanes and shoulders

These stacks are tall!

The smaller stacks are at the older plant

WV coal

The Moundsville Country Club, where Mike's dad was inducted into the John Marshall High School Hall of Fame

The Moundsville Bridge that Mike's brother helped to design - and it's still standing!!!

Home of the reddest necks and geariest heads in the USA!

Moundsville-Glendale bike trail

Coal mine history

The Bellaire Toll Bridge - it's been condemned for at least 20 years!

This is how they talk to you in Moundsville!

Mike's back home, where the "millhunks or hunkies" prospered 50 years ago

Mike and his friends used to climb on barges like this back in the day

The home of Mail Pouch Tobacco and Swisher Sweets

The field where Mike's daughter decided she could be a runner instead of a juvenile delinquent

The Wheeling Heritage Trail at Tunnel Green

It was cool, wet and dark in there

The unglamorous finish of today's ride!  (and the trip!)

Poor Mycicle Bycicle!

Chip Wamsley in Morgantown, WV repairing Mycicle Bycicle the next day!  If you are ever traveling through Morgantown and need your bike repaired, go to Chip at Wamsley's Bike Shop!  He's the best!

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