From Pittsburgh I am headed west ultimately to Minnesota where I have a long-awaited visit planned with a bike-riding buddy. This piece of travel is going to be moderately-quickly paced, but I made time for Moundsville, WV, site of the Grave Creek Mound, an earthen mound some 69 feet high (as measured in 1838; it has sunk somewhat) dated from 250-150 BC. The Adena people constructed this mound by hand, hauling basketloads of earth: it is estimated that some 3 million basketloads were required.

If you think a big pile of dirt sounds a little boring, it’s quite impressive in person; the sides are much steeper than I expected (and steeper than pictures can show). I got to climb it, via a stone pathway with steps curving around the mound (please stay on the pathway to preserve the mound!). It’s a lovely walk and vista from the top – on one long side, of another very ornate jail, in this case a West Virginia State Penitentiary (tours were offered, but Hops was already tied to a fence while I was on the dog-free mound, so I stopped there).

such pretty jails they have in these parts

I spent some time in the adjacent museum, and if it weren’t for the dog (a refrain), I would have stayed longer. There were exhibits for Ron Hinkle Glass and Homer Laughlin China (as in, Fiesta ware), as well as information about the Adena and the mound, which has housed a museum (in one of the burial chambers) and a saloon (on top) since us white folks starting poking around in it.

mound with pathway

This is a place I wouldn’t mind visiting again – maybe when I live in the area!

Elkins & Buckhannon, WV

I am feeling very much at home in West Virginia – and also feeling how far I have to come before I can claim a home here, too, because I respect people’s earning of their homelands. But I have high hopes for this place. I love the people whom I know here.

I visited with my friends Doug and Melissa at their home. Hops got to know their Italian greyhound, Geno – Hops’s curmudgeonliness in full effect, but they did soften up at the very end there.

not quite touching though (photo courtesy of Doug)

It is such a treat to be with Doug, always. He was one of my earliest, best friends in this state, and I’m so excited that we’ll soon be neighbors (more or less). He’s also my official teaching mentor for the coming year. I’m a lucky woman, again.

One of my nights in town, I attended a fundraising event for the Nikki Giovanni Scholarship at the Hindman Settlement School. We enjoyed readings by Doug Van Gundy, Ann Pancake, Crystal Good, Glenn Taylor, Bill King, and Jowhor Ile, and music by the duo Born Old (which is my buddy Doug again with his friend Paul). I also got to see Vince Trimboli, whose new book The Book of Rabbits is fresh out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Finally, on my way out of town, I stopped to look at a home I hope to rent, very near the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College where I’ll be teaching. Fingers crossed!

Somehow I did all of this with no pictures for you. Sorry! More to come as I head north to Pittsburgh. Pictures, promise.

West Virginia, part 1 of ?

I’m loving my early days in West Virginia. Hops and I have had a lovely visit at a park in Davis, where Ritchey’s ashes joined the Blackwater River.

In the Monongahela National Forest, we found a great campsite, and hiked a little bit of Allegheny Trail No. 701.

Moving on the next day, I stopped to visit (from a safe distance) this gnarly prehistoric-looking snapping turtle. What an impressive creature! And some beautiful scenery, always.

Then I met up with a dear friend for a little visit and some beers at a brewery I’ve appreciated before. It felt like coming home.

I’m glad I will be spending more time in these parts.

take me home

“Almost heaven,” they say.

Monongahela National Forest

This week I mark six months of living in the van. This week as well, I entered West Virginia, the 12th state of this trip (and right around 10,000 miles to boot). I’m not stopping yet: I still have some months and some states to go. But when I do stop, it will be in West Virginia, just a few miles from where I type these words. I’ve been lucky to make some great friends in this state – like those whose driveway I’m parked in now. I’m lucky to have a job here starting in August. In some ways, of course, I’m always at home when I’m in the van. In some ways, I’ve just now come home, to West Virginia: almost heaven.

an announcement

And now time for the big news! I got word recently that I am the recipient of one of two Irene McKinney Fellowships for the 2019-2020 school year. I will begin teaching writing composition classes this fall (with the possible addition of a literature section in the spring) as part of a nine-month teaching appointment at my MFA alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College.

there will be winter!

Because I was already slated to serve as residency advisor there in July (within the low-residency MFA program I’ve recently graduated from), my van travels will be pausing in July to get moved in and ready for this next adventure. I say pausing, because the fellowship lasts just nine months, and I imagine I’ll be restarting again in May of 2020 when my West Virginia sojourn adjourns. Things could always change.

I am already, in April, mourning the end of the traveling life; but teaching will be a great challenge and adventure that I am looking forward to. And I guess it gives me some peace to know the shape of things. I can now see my next few months forming: I know there are a few places I need to see before July, so my itinerary starts to round out in my head. And I’m already thinking about what I may have to offer my students in August. It’s an exciting world.

For now, nothing much changes in the day-to-day, except that I have textbook selection to do! I’ll still be posting pictures of breweries, trails and vistas, reading books and visiting friends. For now: onward down the road.

flashback to Padre Island, last December

catching up with my time away from Foxy

I have neglected this site as I have neglected my van and my dog.

On Christmas morning, I was with three generations of old family friends; by Christmas night, I was with my friend Abby’s family, none of whom had met me before but who welcomed me nonetheless. Meanwhile a dear family of friends watched over Hops and Foxy for me. I feel lucky.

I left Foxy and Hops in the Texas Hill Country. I traveled to Houston, to fly to Atlanta, to join Abby there. We drove up into West Virginia together, to West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, where we are both in the MFA program. I graduated; she has a little time left still. We spent 10 days or so there, then backtracked (with a stop at a state park a little out of the way), through Charleston, WV, to Atlanta, on for me to Houston and back to the Texas Hill Country to rejoin dog and van. Whew.

Here are a few photos to tide us all over til I’m back in the van.

Not pictured: at Abby’s we saw three coyotes trotting down the dark road behind her house; when we got back, we saw a group of four or five eastern bluebirds (my first!) AND a blue jay, who kindly appeared to show us the contrast. On our trip home, we stopped at the lovely Taylor Books in Charleston, where we squealed over the books of our friends like Mesha Maren, Jessie van Eerden, Katie Fallon and Doug Van Gundy. I swore I would buy no books and then bought two books.

I’ll be back with regularly scheduled programming eventually, I promise. In the meantime, we follow the twisting road. Thanks for your patience.