across west virginia and into kentucky


I set out from Seneca Rocks at 8:30 a.m. The West Virginia countryside is beautiful… rolling hills and rocky limestone outcroppings. The fall foliage is in full blossom. I followed Highway 33 westwards through golden and red forests, listening to Beck’s album “Mellow Gold”. My van alternately crawled up and zoomed down mountain roads towards the town of Elkins.

I stopped for breakfast in Elkins at Dory’s Diner. A gentleman who I would guess was in his eighties chatted with me as my biscuits and gravy grew cold. Tom told me that he was a double vet’ran. He’d fought in both World War II and the Korean War, which he called the ‘forgotten war’. He told me that he’d fallen out of favor with the other vet’rans in Elkins for telling folks that Korea and Vet’nam were mistakes and that we didn’t have any business there. When I asked him what he thought about the current election, he told me that he didn’t know which way he was going to vote. He didn’t like our current President, he said, but he also wasn’t sure where Kerry really stood on things.

Tom was getting ready to head south to Florida for the winter, and he was going around town saying goodbye to his girlfriends. He told me that he was trying to convince some of ’em to come down to visit him in Florida. “My wife won’t mind,” he said, “she could use the help!”

“Washing dishes?” I asked innocently. “Well, no.” he said, grinning. “I meant t’other kind.”

As I was paying for my plate of biscuits & gravy, as well as my egg sandwich ($3.65 total), the waitress asked me what my t-shirt said. “Marriage is a Human Right NOT a Heterosexual Privilege” I read to her. She smiled and said “Ahh.” “My husband and I just got married two and a half weeks ago, after 17 years together.” She congratulated me, and I was off, heading west.

About five miles outside of Elkins I realized that I hadn’t left a tip. Normally I would have felt guilty but kept driving. In this case, though, I was the ambassador for the entire Gay Community, so I turned around and returned to Dory’s. The waitress looked up as I walked in. “Forget something?” “Yeah, I forgot to leave a tip!” I said, pressing two dollars into her hand. “Aww, you didn’t need to come back for that.” she said, but I could tell she was pleased.

I picked up a hitchiker, and he kept me company for about 30 miles on I-79 southbound. He told me that he was homeless, and that his troubles had started when he threw away his bibles. I gave him a pep talk about every day being a new opportunity, which I knew probably sounded pretty lame. I do believe it, though.

Shortly after dropping him off, I turned westward again, through Charlottesville. Then I was into Kentucky (“Where Education Pays”). My cell phone started working again, after long stretches of no signal in West Virginia.

I called Dan, who looked up the number of the Gay & Lesbian center of Lexington, and I set the GPS to guide me there. Three women greeted me at the door. “Greetings from the rag-tag remains of the National Marriage Equality Express Caravan!” I said. “Huh?” they asked.

These women, running the Lexington campaign against Kentucky’s anti-marriage amendment, had never heard of the Caravan. When I explained to them what we were doing, they couldn’t believe that we hadn’t come to Kentucky. “Um, well, you guys told us not to come.” I said, sheepishly. “No way! We don’t know anyone who would have said that! Hey, can you help us haul some heavy boxes?”

So like any good field lieutenant, I called Molly and had them speak directly with her. I knew it was too late to do anything, but Alliances Are Good. They spoke for a long time, and I believe that the Kentucky folk attempted to recruit Molly to run a fundraiser for Kentucky. These people were good.

Eventually after assembling about 50 yard signs I was able to extract myself and head to my second stop in Kentucky… David Cohen’s house. I had arranged with David to purchase a Pelikan fountain pen from him, and since he was roughly along my route, I figured I would pick it up directly.

On the way to David’s, I passed a church with a creepy sign reading “When Sin is Full Grown, it Gives Birth to Death” I really am not sure what that means, but it sounds like a Stephen King plot to me.

David lived on a quiet residential block, and he met me at his door. The house smelled amazingly good, and David’s wife appeared to tell me that she was cooking “Bucket Steak”. Whatever it was, I was salivating.

After I asked, David brought out his pen collection to show me. A nice collection focussing on vintage Sheaffers and Parkers, but with some Wahls thrown in. Then he filled the black-and-silver Pelikan M800 for me. It wrote wonderfully, and all-too-soon, I was on my way again, heading south.

I was heading towards my sister’s home in south-central Kentucky, just across the border from Tennessee. Diane lives with her husband Ed near the town of Monticello in Wayne county. They were really worried that the GPS wouldn’t work, so Ed met me in Somerset and led me another hour along tiny back roads to their home. (The only roads were back roads.)

I’ve eaten a home-cooked supper of corn muffins, lemon chicken, garden vegetables, and garlic rice. The meal was capped with an incredible apple crisp. Diane reminds me so much of my mother… the house is filled with homey touches and the food just oozes love. It’s nice to be here.

What do you think?