After that negative start the day got much better. We rode up the Elk River for 30 or so miles and the traffic was relatively light and increasingly polite the further we got from Charleston. We turned away from the river at Ivydale, heading for the Williams River Road some 40 more miles away. The first hill should have been a hint of things to come. It was a mile long and steeper than anything we had climbed to date. And it was hot and humid as usual.
We made it up and were expecting to find a high long ridge run as our reward, as we did so often in Kentucky. Wrong. Steep downhill and a repeat of the last hill. Over and over and over again for another 20 miles.
The landscape became richly green, fecund to an absurd degree, and laced with heavy wild grapevines. The sweat in our eyes made it more exotic. I imagine the wild turkeys are thick in that area. The sun began to sink and we began to wilt. There was no camping to be found and we were low on water.
As we started up another steep hill, we heard a voice from below. “You’all got enough water.” We looked down to see a man standing in his yard. We stopped and waved and considered. I didn’t want to go back down the hill, only to have to climb it again, short on water or not. Then I decided to ask him if he knew any camping. He shook his head in the negative and said, “But, you can camp in my yard.” It didn’t take long to decide yes.
Silas Sattler lives with his wife and four children in one of the most remote parts of West Virginia. His views are of trees and hills fading into the humidity. First he offered us cold spring water and then allowed as how he would hook up the electricity to his motor home so we could sleep in air conditioning instead of our tent. While we were waiting his wife to come home, Silas moved the motor home and ran an extension cord to the air conditioner.
Priscilla, came home with the two girls, Sonya and Sophia, and we were offered supper (not dinner, dinner is the noon meal in this part of the country).
Silas said he needed to check on his spring up on the mountain and asked if I’d like to come along.
He drove their compact car up a vague rutted track up the mountainside like it was a high clearance four-wheel-drive. Deep in a darkening wood the headlights found one of the largest deciduous trees I’ve ever seen. I believe it was an oak, and its canopy covered maybe half an acre. Between massive roots lay a still and crystal pool. Patches of twilight danced there on the burnished surface. I would not have been surprised to see a fairy or a hobbit.
Nearby Silas has built an ingenious collector. From there the water was piped a thousand feet down the mountain to his house where it is kept in a cistern. He runs it through a filter before it goes into the house. The family also designed and built the house which was a very intelligent layout very open and spacious feeling without being costly.
Supper was: canned deer meat (he kills six or so each year) home-made biscuits, sweet corn, tomatoes and fried potatoes and fresh hot-apples (fresh-made hot apple sauce).
Oldest son, Sike Sattler, was fascinated with Zippy and our trip. He talked non-stop and followed us around all evening asking bicycle related questions. Great kid. He loves to ride his BMX bike like a mountain bike all over the homestead. I told him all about mountain bike racing and he was bug-eyed. Before bed he came and gave me a hug. The children were all warm and open with us, making us feel at home as much as their parents. Good kids, and rewarding to their parents.
Sonya is 15, sweet and nubile, cute and lovely all at the same time. She is on the cusp of some of life’s most important choices. She really took to Claire. Between her mother and Claire she couldn’t go wrong for role-models.
I hope we are able to keep in touch with them. I want to know how they turn out, what hands they are dealt and what they do with them.
We stayed up late and talked, then slept soundly.
For breakfast (they assumed we would eat with them again) we had deer sausage, biscuits slathered with butter and hot-jam (blackberry gravy). Oh my! These people know how to live.
There are people in this country who would perhaps think the Satlers poor. What a narrow view of wealth they have. The Satlers are deservedly wealthy in all the things that count.
We took pictures, waved good-by and finished that hill beside their house, and several more over the next 20 miles. We found the Williams River Road, gravel, but an even easy river grade through the mountains. The river bed is a warm mauve and gray sandstone, polished and rounded by the crystal clear water, first clear water since Colorado.