Day 3 – Big Storms Coming!

I slept well during the night. Back straightened out, muscles stretched by doing PT exercises that I learned in physical therapy over the years. I woke with the sun and got the boat packed.  The fishermen I had met the night before had left.  I hope they were successful with their catching that night. I think night fishing is more an excuse to just be able to sit all night, drinking beer with a friend or two around a campfire, relaxing and being one with nature.

The river was clear and low, and slow moving. I paddled hard and made good time.  The weather was cool, calm, and clear but rain was expected by noon.  I had my rain gear handy to put on when needed. I was armed with plenty of food and water. Looking over to the side of the river, I noticed a white basketball, half inflated, and with the name Spalding on it. I had been looking for a friend like Tom Hanks’s friend in Castaway.  So Spalding and I became fast friends. 

The rains started around noon. I would put my rain gear on after it started raining and as soon as I would put it on the rain would stop. Then I would take the rain gear off and it would start raining again. This routine was coming rather tedious. There was lots of pretty places along the bank and lots of waterfowl. I did not have chance to get pictures of many of the birds because by the time I got my camera out they had flown away. I did see a merganser and her babies, and several different kinds of ducks.

It was #2 time and I found what I thought was a good place to do it. After I was done, I noticed these three leaf plants, took pictures and asked the facebook group if I had possibly sat in poison Ivy. Never did get a clear answer, but no matter, cause never did get any rash either.

I was coming up to Steubenville Ohio and I texted one of our Paddle for Heroes friends who was on the police department there. He had gone with us on the last years Marietta trip and was with us at Paddle fest in Cincinnati last year. I told him do not come and arrest me if I had to go to the bathroom along the bank in Steubenville. Just saying as I enter town I see a boat with a blue light flashing and another boat with a red light flashing in the middle of the river. I thought that was a little overkill poor guy who just peed along the bank of the river. I got closer in the boats directing me to the middle of the river. Apparently they were diving for cars that were in the river and pulling them out. As I floated by the boats caught back up with me ask me about my trip and directed me to pull over and have some meatballs and pasta and some water. I talked to several of the deputies and firemen passed out a few pamphlets and told them about my trip. After lots of well wishes I was on my way. I can’t help but think that that great reception was for me and my wonderful trip! I was not too disappointed knowing that people had jobs to do that were much more important than what I was doing.

I had figured out that day how to put my location on the map so people could follow me. This was a blessing and a curse in some ways which I will explain later. I also had people that were monitoring the weather and my location and telling me what the weather was like and they were 100 miles away. Today’s technology is amazing. I received a text from Scott  Freesee who told me that there was a huge bad storm coming my way and I could get off the river. There was a ramp in Wellsburg West Virginia which was right across the river so I headed that way. I got my boat tied up on the ramp some of my equipment out and under the picnic shelter that was next to the ramp. There were charcoals lit in the grill that was next to the picnic shelter but I did not know why. I assumed that someone had been having a picnic and seen the storm coming and use their heads and said “I think I should go home.”

I come to find out that a man named John Write, who was the water department director and Fire Department President was going to cook his supper on the coals. He asked me if I was interested in eating some farm raised steak that he had only butchered a few weeks prior.  I of course said yes.  He put the steaks on and then had to run to the firehouse to check with the coast guard for any alerts.  Returning, he checked the steaks, which he had cooked a different way than I had ever seen, he covered them with a cookie sheet which kept them and the coals dry and cooking nicely. We both collected our things a few times as they flew out from under the shelter in the storm.  The rain poured in from the sides of the shelter, we had little protection.  It was a good thing I had gotten my rain suit on. Without any utensils we ate steak “caveman” style, enjoying every bite.

John and I did not totally agree on anything to do with politics, but as Americans we had more in common than differences. We both agreed that people were hurting, that good jobs were few, and benefits of those jobs were disappearing. We spoke about the reduction in the spirt of volunteerism we are experiencing in America that has affected his ability to run a Fire Department. There were no solutions that we came up with, but even with different politics we both could as Americans have a civil conversation and leave lifelong friends.  John was a proud man, who loves his community.  He and I both are still experiencing shock from the trauma of the COVID pandemic. 

After the rain slowed down, John and I parted, he gave a donation to Paddle for Heroes, and we shook hands.  What a great man I had just spent time with. He reaffirmed my belief that America is a great place.  I repacked my boat and headed to my campsite which was about two miles downriver.

I found Buffalo Creek and started paddling back to the camping area.  It was like going into the deep Amazon.  I slowly paddled looking for a suitable campsite.  I drizzled rain, and anytime I expected a flash flood to sweep down the creek at me. I had looked at the map wrong and expected the camping area to be on the right when it actually was on the left.  I found a long muddy fishing bank to land on and started scouting a camping location.  Everywhere I looked I was stepping in water. I considered setting up on the asphalt parking lot, but water was washing across it too.  I finally found a place to set up that wasn’t a puddle of mud or water.

Got my tent set up, all my gear in a pile outside, the boat tied off to a huge tree so if a flash flood came maybe I would have it in the morning, and then settled in for some sleep.  Just dozing off, all of a sudden there are bright lights illuminating my tent and car tires squealing. I open the tent to see three West Virginia Deputy Sheriff’s standing there asking questions.  Who was I, why was I camping there, etc, etc.  I heard one say over the radio, “It’s not him.”  I got some stress reduction from that, but who was him?  I told them about my permit to camp there from the River Refuge project, and gave them my information.  The deputy informed me that a fugitive was seen in the area and they had to make sure it was not me. I attempted to go back to sleep. I decided not to inform everyone on my blog about the fugitive so there would be no worry except in my own head.  I did sleep until about 1am.  I heard noise, being very quiet, I eventually figured out that it was the deputies checking on me. 

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