We drove through Maryland. The leaves were not quite at their peak yet, but we saw it a couple of years later, backtracking I must admit, which we try to avoid. The second time around, Maryland was as glorious as New England was now. Moving into West Virginia, it was a hard trip. But we soon got on the new high tech corridor now through these mountains. It's hard to imagine the hardships of the pioneers, traveling here. We camped at Broken Wheel Campground, and the name seemed appropriate. West Virginia is a poor state, very rich in natural beauty – and coal.
The old grist mill on a rushing brook at Babcock State Park, which of course we pictured, is a great photo attraction. We have seen photos of it, all over the country. The New River Gorge is actually very old, and the World's longest single arch steel bridge spans it, 867 feet above the river below. The coal seam is about three quarters of the way to the top, and it's easy to mine. Just drop the coal to the valley below, haul it off. Many sky divers gather at the New River Gorge bridge each year, to risk killing themselves. I just don't have that urge.
This was a backward, isolated area for so long, before this high tech corridor we came down. Travel was hard for these friendly people, who speak so much like the Arkansas hill people of my youth. The slang is so similar, it's amazing. I know they never visited back and forth much, over these mountains. The New River is also a top white water river.
The RV would not start after a stop at Hawks Nest, the first of a string of automobile troubles. It had to be towed 40 miles to have a new ignition switch. Thanks for the tow, Good Sam!
Arriving at Beaver Dam, Kentucky, we were having battery problems. We spent the night. A large party seemed to be scheduled for tonight, so we went downtown. We were walking down the street, surrounded by hundreds of people. The music started to kick in. Every single person there, and I mean every one, stopped and started tapping a foot. Everybody except us. Now if that's not a bit weird. Then, the music really kicked in, and again, every single person, except us, just literally danced onto the street! Not together, really, just dancing. We looked around for the movie cameras. Surely we were on a movie set.
When we got back to the RV park, a track with small race cars roared to life. Naturally, we had to go look. These were kids driving these cars. But they were very loud and very fast! I knew these kids didn't even have a driver's license yet.
On down the road a ways the next day, what we thought was battery problems turned bad. Alternator problems. It was Saturday, and new one was hard to find, but I was determined to do it myself. We pulled into a truck stop, and I got my tools out. I discovered a guy in the truck stop that used to be a mechanic, but now he was just working there at odd jobs. He started supervising me, and kept coming out at intervals to keep me on the right track, for a good part of the afternoon. He would not take pay, but we left some for him anyway, when we pulled out the next day. We have stayed in touch with him over the years. A good man.
We traveled on, crossed the mighty Mississippi, and before we knew it, we were in Arkansas! Home. But still a long way from Arkadelphia, so we camped at Newport. A lady came through the camp, inviting all the campers to a large dinner and party their church was throwing a mile down the road. We were the only ones that actually went, we never miss an opportunity to mix with the locals. They treated us like royals, we had a large meal, and lots of fun. We finally drug back to our RV, worn out. The emergency phone rang. My sister Jan's husband, Bill, had just died. We loaded up and headed out. We normally do not drive that RV at night. The headlights are dim. But we drove through the night, and arrived at Little Rock, parked our RV at Barbara's sister Frances' house, and drove to Fort Worth. I first met Bill Workman when I was a teenager. He was a weightlifter, an Air Force man, and had just retired a few years before. His retirement was cut short. Hard to believe he was gone.
After a couple of weeks of visiting family, we realized we had new passengers now. Hundreds of ants. we loaded up at Little Rock and headed east. We stopped at Selma, Alabama, and learned more about the Civil Rights movement. At Montgomery, we visited Frontier days. A mountainous Mountain Man took a shine to Barbara, and physically, I didn't really see much I could do about it. I did have a gun in the RV, but I held that as a last resort. Fortunately, I managed to steal her away when he was not looking, and we moved on to Georgia Quickly.
At Andersonville, we spent some time at the Civil War POW Camp. That was a nightmare place. Not enough food, bad water, little cover from the elements. Actually, It was just a big field with a palisade wall around it, guards all around, trained to shoot to kill if anyone got within 10 feet of the wall. Young boys with big guns usually guarded it, the men were needed in the war. A creek running through it was the only source of water, and It was quickly contaminated with human waste. Thousands from the north died there.