There are certain places in the world that give you the feeling of a warm hug, This is one of them. Don and Tracy are two motorcycling friends of mine I've had the honor of getting to know better throughout the years of travel. The direction of their lives has long revolved around a close proximity to animals, hard work and the land. In years past you may have found them leading pack trips with their string of horses, travelling with animals in Oklahoma or making hay in Highland County. Here in Tazewell County, VA they live on a bucolic 80 acre farm spanning up Rich Mountain. Inside their fences dwell 7 horses and 12 longhorn except when they cattle go "walkabout" to one of the neighboring parcels through holes in the aged fence. Each year Tracy's large garden provides a crop of tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, cukes and much much more. They keep over a year's worth of canned and preserved vegetables, fruits, pies and baked goods in the store room and deep freezer, all of it freshly prepared with natural methods and no "x and y" additives. I've had her jam before but there is nothing compared to a slice of her homemade pies with apples or cherries harvested on the property. The variety of whole wheat and all natural breads and crusts here is mouthwatering. I've never had a better eggplant parmesan and that is saying a lot. I've been to Queens...
Up in the mountains of VA, the growing season starts later and the first frost date is pushed back on account of the latitude and elevation around 3500 ft. Exiting the flowering and greening lowlands of NC and SC, the foliage reverted to winter until I made it here and noticed few green nubs or buds on then trees. The last week has allowed me to slowly observe the rain and sunshine required to bring about the coming spring. Daffodils, blood root, azaleas and tulips pop up in the garden and around the forest floor.
The neighboring fence line to Jason's had seen a long life with many patches and repaired sections absorbed into the aging bark of choke cherry and oaks growing through. Over Easter weekend's window of beautiful 60 degree sunny weather, Don, Tracy and I set about replacing the aging fence with new posts and fresh wire. The first step was driving in new posts with a pneumatic driver attached to a JD tractor. My main task of the day was setting the measuring stick 10ft apart and driving in 30-35 posts along the line. It was a fun task and a new tool I can use in the future if the occasion presents itself. The next day saw us removing the old fence then stringing up the new wire with a Rancher ATV. Once taut, it was stapled in by hand at each post to assure the longhorn don't trample it and get into Jason's hay field.
During the course of my short visit, the bonds of our friendship have strengthened like a wet rope left to dry. There have existed few moments of silence as each day is full of conversation about life, travel, animals, equipment and dreams. It is fun to share my stories but more valuable to collect the perspectives and lives of my close friends who have seen and done way more than I in my short time on earth. There is much more for me to learn and I consider it a true gift of the universe to call Don and Tracy my friends.
Passing the familiar towns and sights of SW VA, I felt as if I was getting closer to "home". The cold hollow's embrace my soul, ample sunlight warmed my head and chilled springs quenched my thirst. It wasn't that long until I crossed I-81 in Marion, recognizing the same work zone and roadway I had passed 11 months ago. The coincidence that I'd end up on that same road without purposefully pointing toward it on the GPS continues to surprise me.
The weather was clear and warm as I cruised east across North Carolina toward Charlotte. I spent a few days visiting with my younger brother Erik and friends John and Ellen. We ate well, visited a local brewery and played disc golf on the same Plantation Course we played nearly a year ago. Although it was a fun visit in the city, I was feeling the call of Virginia. Heading in a northward direction, I soon found myself camped up near the VA border by a beautiful mountain brook. The forecast low was wrong as temps dipped below freezing, evidenced by the frost on my hammock. Pushing the scooter over into the sunshine, I warmed myself with a cup of coffee and finally got on the road. In less than an hour, a large red heart appeared on a sign ahead. Virginia is indeed for lovers.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 69'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.