From Madison, IN

Added: 1-9-2006 0

We’re three days into Indiana now and having a great time. The weather has cooled down somewhat and instead become overcast, but this is just fine for walking and we’re ticking along good. Since I last wrote…

  • We left the library in Aurora and I bought new sunglasses (left the old ones in a hotel room, one of my traditional methods of losing things). We did an interview with the local paper in Aurora and got barked at by a load of dogs on the way out of town.

  • We moved slightly off the ADT on Tuesday to the town of Dillsboro where we ate at Janet’s Diner and slept in the local park after gaining the permission of the friendly local police Chief Ryan Bryant. During our walk we covered important topics such as naming the entire cast of ‘Allo Allo; identifying famous red-headed actresses we liked and asking difficult questions like “Is it acceptable to hike across the desert in a thong?” (the answer is a firm no, for those who are interested) or “Were there two older Chuckle Brothers?”
  • We breakfasted at O’Ryans restaurant and chatted with the good local folk – really good local folk in fact,  including Darrell Price who very kindly bought us breakfast – many thanks!
  • This act of kindness set us up for quite a day. We left Dillsboro and headed for Friendship, site of the National Muzzle Loading Championships. Friendship was a great little place with a very nice tavern where we chatted with the landlord and landlady about many issues of importance (why they were out of pies when the landlady bakes the best pies in the county; the correct type of slang to be used when describing English money). We played pool and were even allowed to use the landlady’s cue. Big friendliness…
  • After Friendship it had to be Cross Plains. Except that on the way we were beckoned into a house by a lady, and then cooked for. Strange indeed, but Anne was our host and a great one at that, sorting us out with fried chicken, onion rings and cheese sticks. Quite unexpected, and very filling. We even got meet her son, Britten Michael, and experience the pleasure of a limboing Elmo doll
  • Soon after this we reached Cross Plains where we ran into two old fellas chewing the fat on the porch of their old grain silo/flea market. Chester and Dave were their names, lifelong Democrats both and we spent a good hour drinking a beer and chatting the state of US politics, as well as learning that Cross Plains was an important stop on the underground railroad. Another unlooked for encounter, and time well spent…
  • Finally we finished the day’s twenty miles by camping on the lawn of Randy Holland’s house, another very kind person who entertained us in his kitchen for a bit until his family came home and found two stinky Englishmen sitting at their table. To their credit, they didn’t bat an eyelid and we were able to continue talking all things politics for a good while. On top of this, the kids later bought us out pizza which capped a pretty amazing day – breakfast, lunch and dinner all taken care of by the extremely friendly people of Indiana. We’ve only been here three days and it’s amazing…
  • And so today. I’m writing this from probably my favourite town yet on the entire journey. Big talk, but Madison is a really fine old river town with a packed main street and plenty for us to do (for me: Pirates of the Caribbean II; for Dave, sleep). We’re at the oldest hotel in town courtesy of Ira, the receptionist at the hotel who sorte

And that’s about it for now. Action packed and all that. 60-odd miles in 3.5 days, not so bad. Tomorrow we quit the trail for another social engagement – we’re hitchhiking to Indianopolis where we’ll be picked up by friends and taken to Toluca, Illinois to play bocce ball. More soon come from the tournamant…

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In praise of the Fiddy...

Added: 29-8-2006

ah, sweet Route Fiddy, your gentle curves and bends, your litter strewn shoulders and the alarmed faces of those who ride on you…

Yes, we’re back on the road, back on the Fiddy, a road which seems to be our constant companion on our route west. The Fiddy can be big, it can be small but mostly it’s just noisy and hellish to walk on. It’ hasn’t stopped us though – since we started walking again yesterday we’ve come about 20 miles and most of it has involved the Fiddy at some point. We’re out of Ohio and into Indiana (the “Crossroads of America”. Favourite bird: the Cardinal. Favourite flower: the Peony) and all is progresssing once more. Hiking equipment is clean and sparkly courtesy of Jon Rudolf’s hikerwashingfacilities, and bright smiles are on our faces as we contemplate walking into the grey clouds that continue to line up on the horizon (although we hear it will get better later in the week).

So, yes, Ohio was good to us and we responded by rushing across it as fast as we could. Still, on the way we got to meet good people, eat, er, some good food, and alarmingly increase the number of nights we are spending in  bars. It’s all good though, and we love it (so much so that we’ll be abck at the Junction Trail Festival in Milford in a couple of weeks). From here in though, it’s Indiana and while all we have seen so far is a gigantic industrial sprawl featuring heavy traffic and rubbish malls, I am postive that great things will come from this state as we walk across it (nb. we have already had very friendly responses from the locals). Let’s see…

To bring you up to date, yesterday we walked from Anderson Ferry to Elizabethtown (about 15 miles) and then camped in a field with a lovely view of a power station. We were both grateful for an early night after loads of late ones in a row (but we would not have missed beers with Phil Goddard in Cincinnati on Sunday for anything – many thanks Phil) and resting of limbs was much needed after getting back on the road. Dave has new shoes which are taking a bit of getting used to, trail runners as opposed to boots and they’re gonna need walking in apparently. We’re still able to walk though, both of us, so this is a good thing after 800 miles or so…

Anyway, all for now. Lunch and then more walking. This one comes to you from the really nice library in Aurora – very nice people, here, very friendly…

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I have to be quick...

Added: 28-8-2006

…because if I’m not I’ll miss the finger buffet. This one comes to you from the 21st floor of the Hyatt in downtown Cincinnati where we are staying as the guest of the one and only Phil Goddard – another English coast to coast walker you might remember we met in Hancock, Maryland. To cut a long story short, our paths have crossed once again with Phil and we’ve decided to meet up and talk walk. We’re here in this marvellous location (great view, comfy beds etc.) because last night Phil was the guest of a lovely lady whose name I do not know and she spent ages on the phone getting him a good deal on a room here at the Hyatt. So here we are, sitting in the lap of luxury about to go to the free buffet down the hall…

Prior to this our weekend was spent in the good company of Jon and Kathy Rudolf and their friends and family, celebrating the 70th birthday of Jon’s dad, Don. all was good, the home made beer was flowing, the conversation was good and so was the live bluegrass music. all in all it was a great weekend, one we were sorry to see end. many thanks to everyone in Yellow Springs, Jon and Kathy especially, but also to Jenny the local cinema owner who let us in free to see the very excellent Little Miss Sunshine. Great movie, totally recommended…

Anyway, time to go eat small snacks. Tomorrow we will start walking again, seems like a long long time since we were on the road properly and I’m itching to get going once more. It’s back down to Dave and myself as sadly Lasse has had to return to New York – missing you already sir, feel free to rejoin when you can…

So yes, tomorrow we’ll leave Ohio and move into Indiana. Another state down, only….loads more to go. And so we move…

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New Project Piece and Things from Yellow Springs

Added: 26-8-2006

So, let’s see, where are we now…

Currently sitting at the all-powerful computer at the mother of all bed and breakfasts – Jon and Kathy Rudolf’s fine house just outside of Yellow Springs. Here we are finding yet more recuperation and are waiting, in excitement, for a party this evening that promises bluegrass music, home made beer and lots and lots of hog (Jon stayed up all night roasting a pig in the garden).

We’re here because Jon invited us a couple of weeks ago when he visited us on his motorbike up in the Hocking Hills. Our party, which had swelled to four, is now down to three with the departure of Mikkel ( we miss you mate) but we’re still enjoying ourselves very much.

Not so much to report aside from our lazing around really…we hiked from central Cincinnati through Kentucky to the Anderson ferry on Wednesday, an easy day of walking that ended with a picnic courtesy of the marvellous Suzanne Stagg. Thursday was a down day and I finally got round to writing a new piece for the Project section…not sure what to think. Go check it now by clicking here

So yes, we’ll be back on the trail tomorrow for another four days of walking before our hectic social schedule takes us into Illinois for a bocce ball festival in Toluca. More information soon on that. Until then, I shall be mostly hanging out at Jon and Kathy’s, watching my pathetic football team lose at home to Everton for the first time in 19 years, catching up with emails and generally enjoying all things Yellow Springs. Out

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New links

Added: 24-8-2006

Exciting times. A kinda photo journey of our day in Cincinnati has been posted here by Ulane (hope she doesn’t mind me putting it up – click soon, before it disappears). Check all sorts of stuff, including hiker’s tans and laundry…

And by clicking here, you can see the article we had in the Athens Messenger a while back. Check my plea for us all to understand each other. So cool….
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Stand back on the kerb...

Added: 23-8-2006

More from Mike Nicolai’s apartment….Cincinnati being kind to us, all things here amusing us…let’s see…on Monday we spent the day walking from Milford to Cincinnati without packs, a complete luxury in this heat. We started with our biggest walking team yet, almost an army – Two Englishmen, two Danes and three Americans – Mike Haas (the local scoutmaster) and his two sons Eric and Joe. Loads of us wandering along the local bike trail and eventually going our seperate ways at the rather strange town of Mariemont – a place which is apparently modelled on an English manor. It’s a weird place, there’s a red English phonebox on the high street and the place reminded me a little of Cheam in Surrey where my grandma lives. The oddest things in America…

We carried on into town in very hot temperatures and desperately looked for liquid. Soon after we found it we also found trouble…in an amazingly surreal turn of events we were surrounded by 5 cop cars and accompanying police officers and told to stay right where we were on the sidewalk. Get down with the oddness…these guys were all over us, telling us that we had been reported as being ‘suspcious’ by a local resident and asking us to provide ID…they went through Mikkel’s rucksack and got confused by the size of the large apples the generous Mike Haas had given us…they basically couldn’t work us out and as we had done nothing wrong we just found the whole thing surreal…one guy was quite gung-ho though – “Stand back on the kerb sir!” – and the others were a mix of surly, silent and, in the case of the leading female officer, a bit incredulous about our trip (She had the brilliant line: “Well, you’re either going to jail or you’re going free.”). Eventually they brought our ‘accuser’ up in another cop car. It was a young woman who frankly looked mortified at what she’d started…you have to picture the scene – we were holding up a very large main road of traffic, all the traffic was backed up in both directions and we were standing in a line on the sidewalk for all to see. I know we were warned about Cincinnati but never realised that we would end up being suspects in the eyes of the police. Guess people actually walking anywhere is just too weird for some people to deal with…

After that little scene was all over we headed up into town for the Cincinnati Reds-Houston Astros ballgame. This was a blast. We’d never been to a baseball game before, we spent ages working out the rules for ourselves and eventually, after two hours where not much happened, we got really into the game after a home run and some fireworks. A great stadium too, we were high up in the cheap seats with a great view of the river…

So that was Monday, and yesterday we took a zero day hanging around Milford doing laundry before going into Cincinnati with Ulane (our new friend from Owensville on Saturday). A great day – a bit of walking, views of the city from high up, a trip to the closed art museum, some good bars in Mount Adams and a late finish with a lift home with a taxi driver from Mauritania who was in love with his new country in an odd way – “Americans very nice, very stupid”. All in all, we’re enjoying this part of the walk, it’s different, it’s urban, and it’s provided us with the surreal police moment. Viva Cincinnati!

Today we go walk in Kentucky for the day. More soon come….

PS: Hello to all at IFLA! Miss you guys too…Seoul seems a long way away and I’m jealous of all you lot out there…I want to know what’s going on!

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A very long entry

Added: 22-8-2006

Monday morning. A few days since our last entry…well, this comes to you from the flat of Mike Nicolai, a new friend and manager of the very fine Nature Outfitters store in Old Milford. Mike is putting up all four of us at the moment and as I write we have two Danes and another Englishman sprawled all over the front room. I’m sitting here with half a haircut as I’ve just been trying to use Lasse’s clippers to improve the rapidly growing mess on top of my head. This may prove to be a mistake, for the clippers seem to be reluctant to actually shave off much hair, leaving me looking like an inmate of somewhere rather frightening.

But I digress. Last time I wrote we were in Mount Orab Library after meeting the Danes. As soon as we got on the road after that it started raining heavily and we were pretty soaked by the time we got ten miles down the road to Williamsburg. We haven’t done much walking in the rain on this trip – we’ve been really lucky with the weather – and the whole experience sucked. Dave’s bag got really wet and he had a lovely damp sleeping bag experience later that night.

So, let’s see…that is Friday I’m describing…we met the Danes (who by now had bought half a supermarket’s worth of barbeque stuff) and headed on to East Fork State Park for the night. Lasse and Mikkel got a lift from a friendly librarian (Dottie) they had met during the day and she was also kind enough to take our bags which meant a nice slackpacking end to the day for us. The state park was just what we needed, with barbeque action, a visit from Jason the park attendent (an extremely interesting guy to chat politics with), a longer visit from the police to the pitch next to us (I think they were dressing down some young hoons) and a good night’s sleep after the previous evening’s shenanigans.

Saturday morning we were off again in the rain, but it soon cleared up and by lunchtime (ish) we’d made it up the road to a small village called Owensville. Our day was considerably brightened by the presence of a passing motorist from Estonia, the incredulous Julana (AKA Elaine for those who can’t pronounce Estonian names) whose face as she drove past Lasse, Mikkel and myself was quite a picture (the ‘odd’ factor of hiking through the most quiet of places strikes again) Julana (and I’m not sure if I’m spelling your name correctly – apologies!) joined us for lunch and sat with us while a succession of people enquired about our trip and warned us off various areas of Cincinnati. If we believe all we’ve heard about Cininnati it would seem we’re about to enter a war zone…it seems quite a place…

So we moved on down the road from Owensville in search of a place to stay the night. Fortunately about three miles up the road we found the Gateway Inn, a small bar which was to become our home for the next few hours. How  to describe our evening at the Gateway…fine people who arranged somewhere for us to stay within an hour of us arriving (many thanks must at this point be offered up to the amazing Skippy, a fella of cowboy hat and reflective shades who let us kip on his lawn. we must also thank J.R. for getting us to the site, and Julana (who had by this time rejoined us) for getting us back to the bar), good jukebox action including some song where we all had to bang ashtrays on tables, great pool players who thoroughly beat me every time I stepped up to the table (for those who know me, I am still persisting with the delusion that I am capable of ‘doing something’ on the table; in reality the only something I am usually doing is losing), good frozen pizza and large amounts of amusement caused by boxes with a picture of a Nascar driver’s head on them (it’s difficult to explain). I should also send out big thanks to Moose, a fine fella who, at the end of a long evening, gave us a three mile an hour escort down a long hill back to our campsite. This was one of the trippiest experiences of my US journey, Dave, Mikkel and myself (Lasse was asleep in the car) walking in front of high beam headlights down a mile and a half hill. The effect was very weird; it felt like we were being marched and I guess it looked that way too – the downhill kinda got to work swinging our arms and we ended up looking like camp cadets on some sort of warped night hike.

Sunday began as per the previous two mornings – later than usual and with a few deeper voices. We got back on the road and headed up toward Milford. Mikkel got a phone call from Dottie saying that she and her husband would take us for lunch when we got there (a really appreciated offer!) and we were in pretty good form by the time we reached the town. We’d been in contact with Mike via email so we knew we had somewhere to stay and I have to say we were all impressed when we arrived – it’s a small town like we’d imagined American towns to be, with a main street full of little shops and a really nice vibe going around. We deposited our bags in Mike’s store, made enquiries about getting our tents fixed (the poles on both Dave’s and my tent have both snapped – this could have bad implications) and headed out to eat Skyline Chili with Dottie and her husband Ray (Chili is a big thing in Cincinnati and Skyline is one of the best in the area).

OK, a really long entry to catch up. So many people to thank…we’re almost out of Ohio and the generosity and humour of everyone has been quite a trip. Tonight we’re off to see a baseball game (finally making contact with the world of American sports) and then tommorrow I think we’ll check out more of Cincinnati proper and stay in the city. So many interesting things have now been said to us about the city that it’s time we got in there and took a look…

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Added: 18-8-2006

well, Walkingthestates is a bit tired and emotional this evening after a long-looked for reunion with our Danish mates last night. Mount Orab, a small town just east of Cincinnati was the venue, and festivities went on way too long for us to get a good night’s sleep. suffice to say things are bleary this morning…

we left Sardinia about 4.30 and motored through to Mount Orab along yet another really straight road. our original plan was to hole up in a cheap motel for the night and I was going to write a piece for the Project section. then Mikkel and Lasse called and told us they were going to arrive a day early so all plans changed. we did hit the motel, chatted cricket with the Indian guy who ran it, and then at 8.30 the Danes arrived. In a convertible. Very classy, although arriving on foot is more honest I’m sure you’d agree…

obviously we hit the bar. Cathy’s bar I think it was, no one there except a bored bartender and a guy named Wes. Wes had driven past us previously in the day and offered us a lift we had to turn down, so it was kinda cool we ran into him again. he was a star too – bought us drinks, paid for games of pool and the jukebox (sooooooooooooo much country) and even took us back to his place to meet his flatmate and talk some more. Interesting Wes Fact: Wes has the unfortunate distinction of being born on September 11th. His birthdays, he informed us, have been ruined.

anyway, we finally got home about 2ish and got to sleep at 3.15. I am not so sharp this morning. We’re about to get some maps together and head back to the Buckeye Trail which will take us up to East Fork Lake. Looking forward to a barbeque tonight. After that we’re off to Milton to meet a contact there and then it’s Cincinnati – we’ve been warned about it by many many people, but we’re looking forward to it. If anyone reading this is around in Cincinnati, please feel free to get in touch (i.e. we are now issuing a shameless request for somewhere to stay in the city, please help!)

all for now. need liquid.

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Nearing Mount Orab

Added: 17-8-2006

Following on from yesterday…we headed back to the laundromat where, sure enough, Carl Snell was waiting for us….a fascinating hour or so of interview later we departed for Winchester. Carl was an extremely interesting guy, the stories of his walk with his cross (the first one was wood and very heavy, had to be chopped down to size by a mate with a chainsaw; the second was of a far lighter material as Carl embraced lightweight hiking) were pretty amazing really and made me grateful all I was taking was a 44 pound backpack (we finally weighed the packs at Connie’s place on Sunday morning).

After our long chat with Carl we got back on the road for a really pleasant evening’s walk to Winchester, some 5 or so miles west of Seaman. About 7pm  we ended up going to the Mayor’s farm and seeing if we could pitch up on their land (they also have a golf driving range on the property – quite a surprise). Pam, the mayor’s wife was extremely kind and telephoned her son Josh who in no time agreed to let us camp round the back of his garage about 1/2 mile down the road. Nice people, these Ohians…

So yeah, we got a good night of being spoiled by Josh and his fiance Kristen. Showers, use of a high powered gas cooker (our alcohol stove is playing up), sodas, a couple of beers and an untroubled night’s sleep in the yard. All good. This morning we grabbed a lie in and headed into Winchester in bright sunshine about 8.30, ate big breakfasts and felt good. About ten minutes out of town Dave realised he’d left his walking sticks at the restaurant (we were out front filming the building next door – a brightly coloured facade by the one and only Carl Snell featuring a prominent Ten Commandments that should not be missed by visitors) so we both walked the ten miles to Sardinia (where we are now, in the library of course) seperately. It was a very, very long straight road this morning, and we have another 7 miles of it if we are to get to Mount Orab later on today.

All for now. Thinking of a rest day tomorrow. Danish reinforcements arrive sometime during Friday daytime and we’re both looking forward to some company. Cheap motel, here we come…

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Musing on God (and the road)

Added: 16-8-2006

As I write this our laundry is at the laundromat and our bodies are in the local library. We’re in the town of Seaman, sadly not named after the ex-England goalkeeper but instead a small town in Adams County, one of the southernmost counties of Ohio. I last wrote in Waverly where we spent a top Sunday night, and since then we’ve moved in a general westerly direction across the state, sometimes on the ADT/Buckeye trail, other times not (in order to continue with our daily diet of cooked breakfasts and hamburgers).

Ohio is rapidly proving to be an extremely interesting place. We’ve seen quite a bit of the backroads, walking through rolling hills (it’s certainly not as flat as I’d imagined it) past farmhouses, recently built detached homes and the ubiquitous trailers. Everywhere we’ve stopped we’ve been very well taken care of, with people (as usual) keen to know exactly what two English blokes are doing walking through the smallest places. We’ve covered quite a distance since Waverly, doing 10 miles on Monday across to Idaho (a tiny village where we camped on a community centre’s field and enjoyed home made cookies and an amazing lemon cake courtesy of the nice lady next door), 21 yesterday across to Serpent Mound, an Indian effigy site from 1000 AD, and another 10 or so this morning to Seaman. We are really moving across this state, mostly because we are heading more in the direction of the smaller towns instead of sticking to the more rural areas.

This is because we get to meet way more people. Yesterday we were informed that we had entered the bible belt of Ohio and, for European non-church goers like us, it was quite an eye-opening experience. I’ve been meaning to write a project entry for ages on some of the USA and religion but time is not on my side…suffice to say there is plenty in my head about God and this country. Yesterday though, we talked for quite a while with a local restaurant owner who was a firm believer in the bible. Very firm indeed, holding every word to be exactly true. It’s difficult to write about such conversations without sounding snobby or clever, like we are looking down our noses at people’s beliefs, but I assure you this is not the case. Such conversations have to be reported. People take their religion very seriously here and sometimes this can sound quite odd to our ears. A belief that God put George W. in the Whitehouse, for example, over (the not religious-enough) John Kerry is something that is worth noting, along with a previously heard view that we are now living in the last days (i.e. what’s going on in Israel heralds the trumpets and horseman and whatnot that come with Revelations). It should also be noted that the UN may be the seat of the Antichrist.

OK, it sounds like I am very sceptical of this – and I am. But the people we have spoken with about religion have been extremely nice to us and we are very grateful. Within the small communities that we are passing through it is clear that the local churches (of which there are many many many – tiny villages might have 5 churches, some of denominations we have never heard of) play a very important role in people’s lives, and people take their religion very seriously, especially a belief that the Bible is literally true. This is a challenge to Dave and myself and we spent most of yesterday talking about it, especially the views of a number of Christians we have met that the people of Israel (i.e the Jews) are the promised people. It’s making our head spin – Judeo-Christian enmity has been on the books for years, and now there appears to be some sort of alliance between the two. We need more information to digest all of this stuff properly…

So enough religion (although we just met Carl Snell in the laundromat, who carried a cross on his back around Adams County a few years ago, and who has also walked up to Columbus, Ohio with his cross. He is an extremely interesting guy (read: spritual, not religious) who we hope will be at the laundrette when we get back…). The walk continues. Later today we go to Winchester, then we’ll head up towards the marvellously named Mount Orab tomorrow to meet the interpid Danes, Mikkel and Lasse who last time I spoke with them were driving a convertible to Chicago in search of House music. More soon come…

Interesting library fact for my library folks: the wikipedia is filtered in this library, along with loads of other stuff we like (Phil Goddard, has your blog gone all dirty on us?!!)

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New pictures

Added: 14-8-2006

Loads of new pictures of West Virginia and Ohio now in the Gallery folks…

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Richmondale - Waverly

Added: 14-8-2006

Six showers in seven days people – that’s a record. Gone are our funky selves, replaced instead by clean-smelling walking gods. Well, maybe not the god part but we smell better and have clean clothes. The last week (our first in Ohio) has been distinguished by some really amazing hospitality and some very kind people. Over the weekend we met Jon Rudolph, who has invited us up to stay with him at the end of the month in order to repair kit and take a load off for a couple of days, and Connie Myers – the angel of Richmondale. Connie has been a refuge for an amazing amount of thru-hikers over the years, from the legendary Ken and Marcia Powers to Bill and Laurie Foot (also legends, those of you who have never heard of these guys will have to take my word for it) and many others. Now we too have a picture in Connie’s scrapbook, fresh and clean and ready to head the wrong way down the road out of Richmondale.

We were thoroughly spoiled by Connie, with amazing feasts, a tour of nearby Chillicothe and full laundry service. We even got sent on our way with packed lunches that included homemade brownies. Truly refreshed, we spent yesterday walking along back roads to the small town of Waverly – not on the Buckeye Trail/ADT but we had an idea that good fun was to be found there…

And how right we were. Waverly is a very small place with a tiny town centre and a strip mall on the east of town. We had walked 15 miles and were in the mood for a beer (yes, what a surprise) but there was only one bar open. Fortunately this bar (Denny’s Dog House, Happy Hour 8am-10am) was a place packed with good people who made us feel at home straight away. There was slow dancing with the locals (Dave does a lovely two-step), the Stones on the jukebox, interviews on video camera and loads of photos to be taken. Local guys Dave and Bill helped look at our route and warned us of upcoming dry counties (Bill, I will return for that deer roast you bet me). There was also Jim Thomas, AKA Truk, who kindly bought us beers and invited us to stay at his home (after his wife and family’s concerns that we were passing axe murderers were assauged) for the night. We had a great time with the Thomas’s – a great family who were well into their sports and good hosts. Many thanks!

So now we’re getting ready to walk on further west and try to work out where we will meet our uncontactable Danish mates Lasse and Mikkel. Fellas, where are you?! No phone calls etc. Have you bottled it?

Finally, Auntie Sue, many thanks for the brandy blister remedy. If possible, I will combine it with Jeppe’s jellyfish suggestion, although finding both of these items could be tricky in Waverly. Nevertheless, I will try.

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Previously on Walking the States...

Added: 13-8-2006

Previously on Walking The States…

  • Following successful crossings of Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, and some taxing sitting down in Washington DC, Stuart and Dave made it to the border of Ohio. There, after accepting the advice of two bikers, Tim and Joe, they decided to break with the American Discovery Trail and head to the nearby college town Athens in search of a night out.
  • Athens proves to be a fine place to hang around, and our heroes meet such interesting folk as the Girl Who Thinks We Are Backpacking Across Europe, Jamie and Jac, Kristen from the Athens Messenger, her colleague Gallagher and his lovely wife Erica and the good folks at the Italian Deli round the corner from their house.
  • After Athens it is Nelsonville, where photos are taken for our piece in the paper, poor quality sandwiches are bought at the Crossroads Gas Station and a realisation dawns that Kristen knows everybody in Athens county.
  • How did our travellers know this? Because on Wednesday night they ended the day in possession of a log cabin at the top of a hill outside of Nelsonville, soaking themselves in a hot tub looking out on some fields. Such gifts as these (provided by Mikki and Jay, good friends of Kristen) come along rarely, if at all, and a hot tub is a hot tub is a hot tub. It was A Good Thing (and they got to watch a documentary on the history of heavy metal. Twisted Sister, for anyone’s information, were a really awful band but Motley Crue, on the other hand, were almost as groundbreaking as the Beatles. According to VH1 anyway…).
  • Following hot tub action, there is a brief interlude of 20 more miles where our heroes walk apart for an entire day, as tiredness moves Dave a little off the pace and impatience to be moving forward puts Stuart at the front. Dogs bark at the passing walkers, people wave and many backroads are walked. Shortly outside of Blackjack there is an encounter with a general store where Stuart drinks two cans of coke in quick succession and a cat eats Dave’s sandwich while he is not looking.
  • That night is spent at Old Man’s Cave campsite, where there is a feast of pasta in a tuna and tomato sauce. The iPod is broken out for the first time in weeks and music fills the air as wine is supped. While said wine is being supped, Stuart, looking over Dave’s shoulder from the picnic table, is able to see a five year old climb inside his mother’s car and let the handbrake off, almost resulting in a comedy SUV-Disappearing-Inside-A-Hedge moment. Sadly, his mother was hip to his game at the last, and a big car/toddler tragedy was avoided.
  • Later that night, Stuart fends off racoons from outside the tent with one of Dave’s walking poles.
  • Friday is a tough day for Walking the States. The fella’s hearts just aren’t in it, and Stuart has a small blister. He is annoyed, because he believes himself to be Blister Superior, and this blister is laughing in the face of superiority and natural order. Dave, who has massive blisters like seashells on his feet, appears to be able to walk through tremendous pain every day. Go figure who is more blister superior…
  • The end of Friday afternoon is especially tough, with our heroes seperated by distance once again until an unlikely visitor approaches Stuart bearing gifts. It is a man on a motorcycle, and he pulls right up in front of our man on point and asks “Are you the guys looking for a bar?”. Most unexpected, as was his next gesture, the producing of a clear plastic bag containing a can of Speckled Hen and a can of Double Chocolate Stout.
  • It turns out the man, who shall henceforth be known as Jon Rudolf, for that is he, has been in touch with our team before via email and left a message too convoluted to explain here but which nevertheless contained the phrase ‘dingo baby’. Jon had travelled 100 miles on his motorcycle in search of our two hikers, and had found them by mistake because they had gone off the trail (again).
  • Jon showers more wonders on our team – motorbike rides to a nearby campsite and more beer. Dave is escorted first, while Stuart waits on a perfect lawn walking in circles reading Malcolm X – he cannot sit down because of the huge number of flies surrounding his stinky carcass. All day he has resembled that smelly child in Peanuts…
  • And so it came to pass that Friday night passed by in a haze of pizza, showers and laundry, campfires and good company. And Speckled Hen and Chocolate Stout. And figs. Good for the digestion apparently.

And so to more recent developments…

  • This morning, our team rise with the shouting of campsite children to a beautiful day. They are ferried down the mountain via a brief stop at a fire tower where Stuart can only get reception on his cell phone by repeatedly climbing to the top and shouting. At the top of the tower can be seen more trees that obscure a most delightful view (we are told).
  • Many goodbyes are said when Stuart and Dave are returned to the trail, and Jon invites them to his place in a couple of weeks where all things will be washed, including rucksacks. More non-chaffing wicking underwear can be bought, and local beer can be drunk. It is a fine invite.
  • Dave is briefly insulted by a local landowner who does not like the look of him sitting on her lawn. He is told to go and loaf elsewhere. So happened the first time in months that anyone has been rude to Walking the States. Stuart goes back down the trail to get a good look at this woman, for she is in The Minority.
  • Stuart and Dave head for Londonderry (Derry!) where they are to make a phone call to Connie Myers, a contact of Pat Hayes the local ADT trail co-ordinator. It is rumoured there may be beds and laundary. On the way to the payphone they see a convoy of about 20 jeeps, and all the drivers wave at our walkers. It is difficult to come up with a different wave back for each driver, although Stuart tries peace signs, jazz hands and even The Wink, although this final effort does not make an impact on account of Stuart wearing shades.
  • At the Londonderry gas station we are told to be on the look out for an escaped convict in the area, a 21 year cop killer who has escaped the local penetentiary after making a rope out of bedsheets and toilet roll (true). A tatooed man with a large wife informs us that the cops are after the wrong guy however, because “if he really was a murderer he would have killed more people by now”.
  • After a successful call to Connie, Stuart and Dave make their way to Richmondale where they are received like kings. One gigantic meal of bison meat loaf, mac n’cheese and various vegetables later, they are given a tour of nearby Chillicothe which has an extremely interesting mix of historical sites, paper mills, burned out buidlings (there is serial arsonist on the loose), great parks, Native American burial mounds, beautiful residential areas and corrective facilities.
  • They also go to a supermarket where they buy more packet pasta.
  • Finally, they return to Connie’s to eat ice cream and pie and chocolate brownies, watch Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby on Larry King Live, write journal entries like this one and argue over who gets the bed in the basement.
  • Since they last wrote, Stuart and Dave have had a very good time.

This journal entry was bought to you in association with Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ (“Really really bad!”) and Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’, both of which were performed extensively on the road today.

Stuart                                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Athens to Nelsonville

Added: 9-8-2006 2

Back on the road again today. This comes to you from the rather nice public library in Nelsonville, a small town about 15 miles northwest of Athens.

We hung around in Athens all day yesterday, eventually being treated to Mexican food by Kristen from the Athens Messenger (newspaper article on us soon appearing, apparently) in a good bar. We also met her colleague Gallagher who was kind enough to let us stay on the couches at the apartment he shares with his wife and friend (now here’s a terrible thing that happens to us on the road – we forget people’s names occasionally. we meet so many people that once we get introduced and get chatting it’s sometimes difficult to go back and confirm people’s names at the end…very embarassing to not be sure about the name of a person whose place we stayed at…oh, and we spell people’s names wrong too – Lea I now know you are not called Lee ‘cos I found your phone number in my wallet. Huge apologies!). We ended up having a great night, good company, nice wine and a good time. Oh, and we finally got to listen to Phish – one of the biggest bands in the US over recent years that we’d heard of but never heard. Personally I wasn’t convinced, so it was a good job we had the Grateful Dead as backup…

so this morning we headed out after a quick bite to eat at an excellent Italian deli (Athens is a great little town – there are plenty of good little spots to eat and drink and you don’t have to just eat burgers) and we’ve covered about 15 miles along a bike trail since about 9am. the walking’s been good, the weather is not so hot and all is well with the expedition (apart from a throbbing Toolan toe). we’re just killing time now until Kristen arrives to take our paper for the newspaper…

later today we’ll head on over toward the Hocking Hills area of Ohio, a place we’re looking forward to (s’got caves and stuff). not sure when we’ll have Internet again after that, will wait and see…

Stuart                                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook


Added: 8-8-2006 2

We came and succeeded in partying. In fact, we’re still here in Athens. After the library yesterday and the addition of some clean clothes to cover our unique scent, we headed into Athens central to see some bars and meet some people.

The place, to be honest, was pretty dead when we arrrived. Of course, all the students aren’t here at the moment, and there seems to be only a skeleton crew of partygoers in place for the summer. We got a few games of pool going on in one pretty deserted pub and then decamped to another, imaginatively named ‘The Pub’. Here we were lucky enough to drink massive goblets of Amber Hock (student specials are still on the menu) and be giggled at by groups of loud girls. Large packs in pubs = strange glances. Prize of the night though, to the one girl at the bar who saw me putting my pack on and asked “Are you backpacking across Europe?”. Only the finest students study in Athens.

Off to another bar with better music and then on to another etc. People weren’t really as chatty as we’d hoped and everyone seemed to have their own thing going on. Meeting champion walkers smelling of the road didn’t seem to be on too many people’s agendas. Still, we got tidy and talked to a couple of people at a bar before deciding to go pitch our tents at a park on the edge of town.

Here things got more interesting because out of literally nowhere a young couple suddenly materialised by our sides and joined us in our walk to wherever. Jamie and Jac were their names, aspiring actress and moviemaker accordingly. They were by far the most interesting people we met all night and kept us most entertained until we got to bed far far later than expected at 3.30am. When we woke up we realised we had camped practically on the town’s baseball field….

So this morning has been slow, it’s hot outside again and we’re catching up on computer things (I’m in Kinko’s at 20 cents a minute; Dave has the laptop in a really nice cafe round the corner) and mailing un-needed items home. We’ve met with a reporter from the local newspaper, Kristen, who listened to us ramble on for an hour this morning about this and that and still thought we were interesting enough to invite us to dinner at a decent restaurant later on. We like Kristen.

So where we go from here today I’m not sure. Dunno if walking is on the agenda. I hope a shower is, even if I am not sure where it’s coming from. Whatever happens today, tomorrow we’ll be back on the road, heading up towards Nelsonville. If there is one flaw in our website it’s the Route page – no one can see where we are or where we’re going. We’re hoping to have that fixed in the very near future using Google Maps. Watch this space…

Some thanks to: Jamie and Jac for making the end of the night last night much more interesting than the beginning; Joe Ferguson, for his Guestbook entry offering us help – thanks so much Joe, sorry we left the area so soon!; Tim and Joe for the invite back to Parkersburg; my sis for keepin on checkin in…
I need: more bodyglide for blister prevention. can’t find any anywhere…
That new: Thom Yorke album sounds pretty good, heard it in the cafe this morning….
Reading: The Autobiography of Malcom X. Dang if I’d forgotten how good this book is…
Yesterday’s Tunes on the Road:
The Eagles – Take it Easy
Rolling Stones – Miss You, Moonlight Mile, Dead Flowers
Elton John – Tiny Dancer
Wilco – Hummingbird
Phil Collins – Did I Miss Again? (have a terrible weak spot for Phil Collins)
Patty Jo – Make Me Believe in You (which segues nicely into…)
The Temptations – Papa Was a Rolling Stone
Dire Straits – Solid Rock
Edwin Starr – 25 Miles
America – Tin Man
T Rex – Metal Guru, Ride a White Swan

Stuart                                                    Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Change O Route

Added: 8-8-2006 0

Walkingthestates likes to party. Everybody does. After our sojourn in malled-up Parkersburg we got to kinda thinking that we had missed out on a weekend somewhere and…well, the rest is that after finally getting hold of an Ohio state map yesterday and seeing where we were, and after conversing with fine fellas Tim and Joe before they sped off on their Harleys (see the Guestbook), we have decided to kinda off-ADT it to Athens, a college town to the west of where we were yesterday.

As I write this I am in Athens library and it’s pouring with rain outside. We’ve walked nearly 20 miles to get here (it’s going to rival our trip to Philippi for a drink) and we think we still have another two to go to get to bar central. Dave is back nursing his blisters in a launderette five minutes away, minding clothes that could kindly be described as Toxic With Side Order of Vinegar. Frankly the same description could be applied to both Dave and I as we are well short of cleanliness. I can almost smell myself coming, if that were possible, and I am not sure that a sponge down in the launderette is going to make us any better (Mike, where is your shower?! We’re coming!). At this point we have nowhere to stay tonight and we’re going to throw ourselves on the mercy of the locals we meet later on. Have to be clean-smelling for that to work…

In other developments, Dave’s achilles has started playing up again after an ill-advised walk to the mall in Vienna in flip-flops. Our walking (about 11 miles on Saturday from Parkersburg to a camp by a nice lake; about 18 miles yesterday from there, via Bartlett (where we met bikers and other folk (some stranger than others) and spent a lot on candy)) to our final resting place in the garden of Mary and Brad Tabler’s house. Mary and Brad came to our rescue and let us camp at their place just as huge rains came down; and about 20 miles today) has therefore been a bit more staggered than in previous days even if Dave has been manfully able to keep up – as long as he can massage every 30 minutes or so. We are back to walking at a distance from each other only now Dave has a little MP3 player with radio he can amuse himself with while I only get to listen to the voices in my head. I got bored of those some time ago so I’m a little jealous of Dave’s access to NPR…

So yeah, we’ve kinda broken with the ADT for a little while. This makes us feel a little like naughty schoolchildren hikers because we said we were going to walk the whole thing but I guess the most important thing is to hike our own hike (I read this somewhere once). We’ll actually head out of Athens in order to rejoin the trail somewhere near Logan so we won’t actually drop that much. Still, the guilt weighs heavy (and will play havoc with our miles counter). I have to stress though – everything has still been done on foot. Dave accepted a lift from a kind lady who has been following our progress online (weird coincidence!) this morning and then had go back and walk the half mile of car journey while I had my breakfast. We are conscientious men.

But more than that we are funky smelling men in search of a bar and good conversation. More to follow…

Stuart                                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook


Added: 5-8-2006 2

As the Ohio Players said ‘O-H-I-O‘. And so say we too. Crossed over from West Virginia about 30 minutes ago and we’re straight into the public library to upload some new pictures for y’all. Things are all good even if it is still burning hot outside and there’s no shade. We spent last night in the Wingate Inn in Vienna, an area to the north of Parkersburg where we thought we might find some fun. In the end the area turned out to be one giant mall…frankly, I found the place totally depressing, a horrible long road with strip malls off to each side and ten tons of chain stores for the committed shopper. We ate at overpriced restaurants and drank at an overpriced sports bar. Worse still I got a hair cut at Wal-Mart (yes, my first Wal-Mart experience – frightening) and got totally ripped off. Having been cutting my own hair for 10 years I don’t think it is too difficult to shave a man’s head and then run the same razor on the same setting over his beard. It takes about 10 minutes. Yesterday my cut took about 30 minutes, was awful and cost me $18.50. What a bargain from the big-box store.

Even with hair issues aside Vienna was a pretty depressing place. It’s definitely my European sensitivity coming through, but I can’t stand these malls with gigantic parking lots and people driving everywhere (or maybe I can’t stand them because I am committed pedestrian at this point in my life). Everything seems so bland and characterless it’s horrifying. Still the mall did have a cinema where we saw the new Will Ferrell thing which was pretty good we thought, with the Ali G fella in it as well as, for some reason, Elvis Costello and Mos Def. Odd. Oh, and the mall also sold me a Duke basketball vest which I shall be modelling for your viewing pleasure in future photographs. It just might be the future of walking…

Stuart                                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Exit West Virginia

Added: 4-8-2006 2

It’s our last day in West Virginia, a state we have come to know pretty well over the last three weeks. We’re in Parkersburg, a large town some 80 miles due west of Clarksburg where we picked up the North Bend Rail Trail last Friday. It’s been quite a week of walking, some good distances covered and good time made. Last time I wrote it was from the Happy Trails Cafe in Ellenboro – since then we have passed on through the small town of Cairo (a really nice small place which used to be much much bigger according to the local inhabitants, although it still maintains a very nice ice cream parlour and a restaurant that does great burgers) and Petroleum (where we gratefully received the hospitality of Trevor and Jackie Feight and their family in a wonderful old house). We also got to have a good long conversation about religion with the extremely generous preacher Terry Jones in Pennsboro which I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet. It’s been immensely hot, over 100 degrees F during the day, and we’ve been lucky that the rail trail has shade and a number of tunnels for us to cool down in. All in all it’s been a great end to our trek across West Virginia, with great scenery and friendly people who have never stopped asking us how we are, if we need any water and what we think we are doing out in such heat.

Now we’re in Parkersburg and it’s a little different. Like our visit to Clarksburg last weekend, we have come off the rural trail and into a far more built up environment. Put simply, we’ve gone from the beautiful to the ugly – in my opinion. With reference to a message on the Guestbook about how we have praised the people of West Virginia in the Journal and then ridiculed them in the Gallery I have to say that to pretend every thing is always nice wherever we are is just not a good way to go about things. Sure, West Virginia is absolutely beautiful, and we have loved it all the way across. However, parts of it are extremely run down, and many of the towns have dwindled in size as jobs have moved elsewhere and in some places there is a palpable sense of near poverty. Not poverty in the Calcutta sense but poverty in a relative sense compared to to the more well-off houses and places we have been lucky to stay in and visit. In Parkersburg, for example, as in Clarksburg, the central business district looks like it has almost been ripped out – it’s been replaced with the area where our motel is, a giant expanse of mall which, to my eyes at least, is one of the ugliest things I have seen in weeks. Just my European self talking, of course, but what I perceive as a great need for the US to keep moving forward in search of the new, the big, and the cheap has led to the development of these massive shopping places on the edge of town that have displaced traditional smaller businesses in the centre (businesses which could not provide goods at low enough a price to satisfy consumers, let us not forget).

Now, to address the issue of ridiculing people I have to go on record and say that everyone we have met has helped us. How cool is that? It doesn’t matter what income bracket they have been from, whether or not they have tons of land and a well paid or job, or whether they have underfed kids running around or have just got out of prison. Every single person has found time to do something for us. I can’t pretend that, at the same time, some of the people we have met have done things…differently to what we are used to, and, yes, we can comment on that. It’s what we’re here for. As Tammy on the Guestbook rightly points out, different people are everywhere (if they’re not Rednecks in WV they’re Chavs in the UK) and we accept that. To pretend that we haven’t met them and that their ways don’t seem odd or strange to us would be kinda weird on our part though, and I can’t apologise for finding some of the situations we have been in funny (often funny in a totally how-have-we-ended-up here way). Lord knows people have found the fact that we are walking across the country in intense heat pretty funny too. People drive by us with this fantastic open-mouthed look which we sometimes give straight back at them. That’s what floats our boat.

So, yeah, we’ve had our laughs in West Virginia, but they have been with the people we have met I like to think, rather than at their expense. Dave and I reviewed the captions on the West Virginia gallery to see if we had been overtly harsh on anyone (yes, you can tell we have such thick skin when it comes to criticism) and our conclusion is: we stand by everything! we really have seen loads of houses with shedloads of random stuff on the porch and, yes, Mark really did go off to help shoot a coyote!

And yes, West Virginia’s scenery really is beautiful. Maybe we’ve erred in not putting up enough shots of it. It’s one of the greenest places I’ve ever been, and the wildlife is amazing (no bears though, shame). We actually have loads of shots of countryside, maybe we’ll add some more to give some more flavour.

Anyway, enough of my thin skin. Last night means one thing: Ricky Bobby and Tallageda Nights. Time to find out more about Nascar through the medium of Will Ferrell and comedy cinema. After that, a night out to celebrate the end of West Virginia, home of fine people, rednecks and all!

Stuart                                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Happy Trails Cafe

Added: 2-8-2006 1

Some live journal action from on the trail…after staying last night at the Church of Christ in Pennsboro, thanks to the good hospitality of Preacher Terry Jones, we were up this morning at 6.30am to hit the trail on towards the Ohio border…five miles down the line we chanced upon this amazing place, the Happy Trails Cafe run by Gary and Mary Ann Schoeny. A great place! Really decent coffee and lovely people (and Internet). One cooked breakfast later and we’re ready to go, heading on to Cairo which used to be called Eygpt and the locals seem to pronounce Kay-Ro. Weird.

Anyway, more later from the library in Cairo (if they have one). Many thanks to all those people who have signed the Guestbook in the last few days…

Stuart                                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Hot Hot Heat

Added: 2-8-2006 1

Heat is the word. Rumour is that it’s 104 outside the library here in Pennsboro. I am soaked in sweat (more danger of being thrown out of the building) and exhausted but pretty pleased with our progress since we left Clarksburg on Sunday evening. Our weekend off passed in a haze of partying, late night pool, all-you-can-eat American Buffet excursions, sleeping, playing with dogs and, finally, the backyard grill to end all backyard grills – many thanks to Lee and Terry for being our excellent hosts.

We got dropped back into Clarksburg on Sunday night and it immediately started raining. Good stuff. Within an hour we had failed to get out of the town due to some funny directions and eventually found ourselves walking down Interstate 50 to find a bridge the GPS said existed but we couldn’t see for the life of us. Despite our rubbish return to the road we eventually stopped at a house in the village of Liberty with a large garden and asked the owners if we could stay the night. As with all of the fine people we have met here in W.Virginia they (Skip, a retired coal miner, and his wife Marveline) were happy to put us up and gave us soda, iced water and WD40 (my tent poles were playing up). In the morning we even got bacon and eggs which was unexpected and a real treat.

So yesterday we set off on the North Bend Rail Trail and ended up knocking out 22.5 miles of it. It’s a good track, flat and shady – which is immensely important at the moment because West Virginia seems to be undergoing some sort of heatwave (along with the rest of the country – people are apparently dying in California). There are a few towns along the way for resupply including Salem, where we had lunch yesterday. Salem is kinda representative of a lot of places we’ve seem in this part of the country – small, quiet, and a little rundown in some ways. In March there was a fire on the main street which destroyed a theatre and a bank building – the remains of the buildings are still not cleared away, most likely due, as one resident told us, to a lack of money on behalf of the town authorities. As we progress through West Virginia we are seeing more run down places now we’ve had our attention drawn to them…people here kinda like to keep things, not throw them away. Porches and back gardens are full of things, from trucks to fridges to rusting pipes. It’s a jumble out there.

Anyway, back to the walk. In the evening, after a long day, we reached Smithsburg where we were welcomed by Gary Perdue and his wife Marlene who were really nice people we could have chatted to a bit longer if we weren’t munching on high quality deer burger provided by our mate Terry, Straight Outta Fairmont 😉 We did, however, get to chat to Cody and his Uncle Pat, two fellas drinking beers around a fire just down from our campsite. Lovely people and a good chat. Uncle Pat was tasting freedom again after 30 days inside so we hung out and talked English cooking versus Hillbilly fare. Good times.

Today we were up at 6.15am, on the road just after 7 and in the diner for breakfast at 8.15. Further down the road and siesta (I’m rubbish at siesta in a field, too many things crawling all over me) by 12.20, back on the road in over 100 degrees F by 2.30. We arrived in Pennsboro at 4, ate heartily and are now off to camp in a field by the Church of Christ. Pretty busy 15 mile day with another earlier start tomorrow. We’re picking up the pace on this rail trail, despite what the West Virginian sun is throwing at us…

Stuart                                            Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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