3K Adventure Part 4

Steve and John both work for Stantec, which is an international environmental consulting company. Their job this summer is to walk transects under wind turbines looking for bird and bat kills. When found, they catalog and collect the carcass. The site for this project’s wind farm is the top of a hill in rural West Virginia. These hilltops collect a lot of weather.

The day we arrived proved to be one such weather day. When rain is predicted along with possible lightning, the guys must postpone their walks because of the danger of lightening strikes. If possible, they still need to complete the days surveys, so delays often mean longer days for them. This particular day was so long they ran out of sunlight. The next day was to be their day off, so they used it for a catch up day.

Steve had told us their house was difficult to miss, and when we drove up, we could see what he meant. I guess this type of stilt construction is common in California on the hillsides, but I’d never seen anything like it up close. I felt the urge to grab some 2x4s and cross brace those long stilts, but managed to restrain myself.

We had a very nice visit with Steve and John, including a typically delicious meal prepared by John. We stayed until after dark, and realized on our way home that we would arrive at the campground after 9:00 pm, when the gates are closed and locked. We’d received instructions, including the combination to the lock on the gates, but this would be the first time we’d use them. It did take us a while, but we eventually got inside the gates and got them locked again. Our little motorhome nest was a welcome site. When we opened the door and the bottom step automatically slid out on its tiny electric motor, we smiled at each other. This place was becoming home.

Then the water pump died. We’ve learned to turn the water pump off at the main breaker box when we aren’t using it. It had become second nature to walk by and flip on the water pump switch and see its reassuring red glow. That night there was no glow and no water. I thought for a minute and figured it was most likely a fuse. Marcia had shown us where the majority of the fuses were located, so I grabbed my headlamp and went outside and opened the basement door of the motorhome that housed the fuses. These were row after row of normal automotive fuses… about 40 of them I think. “Great,” I thought. “I’m going to be out here all night swapping out fuses. We were both tired and just wanted to settle in for the night.

Then I noticed a tiny red LED light glowing between two fuses on the bottom row. Hmmm. I pulled the one out to the right of the light, and it looked fine. I pulled the one to the left out, and it was clearly blown. I searched in the car’s glove box and found the correct fuse, and within 5 minutes of starting the diagnosis, we had water again. I’d never seen a fusebox that identified the blown fuse so clearly before, and now I wonder why they aren’t all that way.

Alice and I learned that we really enjoyed parking the motorhome and running around with the car more than doing the miles on the highways with the rig. One day we drove the car to a neighboring town called Buckhannon, where we learned there was a glass blowing studio and gift shop. Alice, Franco and I left early enough such that we planned to find a restaurant in Buckhannon for breakfast. We drove all over that town, and could not find a non-fast food place to eat. We’d about given up when we found ourselves on the end of town near the rail yard and spotted what looked like a restaurant. We parked and tried the door. Although the sign said OPEN, the door was locked. Shoot. We walked around the building to the accompaniment of lovely breakfast smells, but no doors. We were walking back to the car when a fellow walked out the front door. Alice spoke up, “Are you guys open?”

“Yes,” he said. “Just press the doorbell and they’ll buzz you in.” Press we did and in we were buzzed. It was a pretty dark and seedy looking bar. The bartender was a young pleasant looking woman. Had she not given us the good vibes she did, I think we would have fled right then and there. We learned they had to buzz you in because this was a private club, which is how they get around the rules against serving alcohol. We found a booth near the only window, sat down and waited for our waitress.

Of all the places we ate on this trip, that funky little bar in Buckhannon was the most memorable. The service was superb, food was good, and I think everyone in the place came out and talked to us at one time or another. Even the chef came out and accepted her deserved praise for the breakfast. When we asked for directions to the glass blowing studio, our waitress/bartender told us she lived just down the road from him, and proceeded to slide into the booth next to Alice and draw us a map. She then called him to be sure they were open that day, and told us when the best time would be for us to visit. The only downside to this breakfast adventure was there was a parking ticket on our car. We’d parked in the shade for Franco’s sake, and hadn’t noticed the “Permit Parking Only” sign hidden in the branches. We were $25 poorer and not much wiser as a result of that episode.

The Ron Hinkle Glass Studio was another high point of the trip. Ron is a very nice guy that seems to enjoy explaining his craft. Together with his assistant, we observed them making some lovely glass vases and listened to his running commentary. This impressed us both since Ron has been in the business for 3 decades. When we walked back to the gift shop, we stopped and bought some gifts and then headed back to Elkins.

It seems there had been an accident on the road at the bottom of Ron’s driveway while we were there, such that we were not able to turn the direction we wanted to go. We got kind of mixed up as a result, and wound up having to turn around a couple of times. At one point the bungee cord on the rear of the canoe on top of the car came off, so I had to park and walk back to retrieve it. The roads were quite narrow, and there was almost no place for me to walk. The cars were going by at a good clip too. I was grateful to get the cord back on the canoe, and maneuver the car back into the flow of the traffic.

So the days went. We enjoyed all our visits with the guys and all too soon, it was time to hook things up again and hit the road. Our last stop was to be in Lansing for a short visit with my parents with a brief stopover in Cleveland to drop off some maple syrup to my good friends Randy and Stephanie. (…to be continued)

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