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Saturday 19 November 2005

6:35 P.M., battened down the hatch for the day. I did more or less what I'd thought I might, the weather was beauti­ful and not cold: after walking Luna on Oak Street — not Little Oak Street like on our first walk, which dead-ends; this is a different street which makes a longish loop and falls back down on Lakeside — I left the house at 10:49, if still even today not completely recovered from this blasted cold (sniffles mostly but occasional feverish feelings), and headed up "the hill": to Pound Gap, along shiny new divided highway.

Almost all of today's walk, per walk, was fairly dull, but here and there there were interesting things to see. Once you get away from Jenkins, the landscape is just empty: this is the New World after all. Trees mostly lost their leaves, highway goes up and up, not a house. The mountain itself, boy I wish I knew geology: if I did, I'm sure I'da found it fascinating; and as it was, it's certainly impressive: this huge mass of strata of varying thickness and rocks, some of them deep vivid purple, others thick fractured light grey with thin bands of ochre that might even be clay; here green, there bright yellow. I've been told by locals, twice, that Pound Gap is wonder­ful to geologists "because the rock layers are upside-down" — of course I couldn't tell and am not sure what this piece of hearsay means, either.

[image ALT: A rock wall something like 100 feet high, formed of a dozen thick sloping stone strata with many clear substrata of varied rocks. It is a partial view of the highway cut at Pound Gap, Kentucky.]
A very partial view of the road cut up to Pound Gap, Kentucky.

Just before the actual pass, four flags stick up on tall poles on the left; approaching, it turns out to be a memorial, just built this year, to Confederate and Union soldiers and various area battles, especially the two battles of Pound Gap: 1862 and 1864, the first a Northern victory, the second a Southern. Among the interesting things I learned from the memorial is that both Lincoln and Davis were born in Kentucky, and Kentucky was in many other ways among the places where the War between the States was the most fratricidal.

[image ALT: A small stone monument engraved with the likenesses of Presidents Lincoln and Davis, two soldiers facing each other presenting arms, and other designs and inscriptions; it is edged by a bit of pavement and a low fence and surrounded by four flagpoles with various flags. It is the Civil War memorial at Pound Gap, Kentucky.]

About 50 yards further on, the Virginia state line, immediately followed, as I knew, by a Sunoco gas station the main attraction of which is that it sells liquor. Wise County, Virginia is wet to Letcher County, Kentucky's dry. About half the store attached to the station is cartons of beer, but there's the usual stuff people need on the road, and a grill. I asked the woman in charge of it what I should eat, then ate it: a cheeseburger; washed down with a Gatorade, sitting at one of three formica tables in the back, chatted with a man of maybe 68, from Bristol, who'd been a driver for an industrial company that took him a lot to Chicago to deliver ball bearings I think it was.

[image ALT: A wall with two larger-than‑life cardboard advertising cutouts of race car drivers, advertising Coca‑Cola and Budweiser; a potted plant hanging from a hook, a clock, a convex mirror, and a small group of notices and plaques. It is the lunch nook in the SUNOCO station at Pound Gap, Virginia.]

NASCAR Country: the lunch nook in the SUNOCO station on the Virginia side of Pound Gap.

From there I decided to go a coupla miles into Virginia, since it seemed unsatisfying to walk to the top of a hill, to a gas station, not even a town; so off to Almira it was. Inquiries at Stateline Station fell quite blank, no one there had so much as heard of the place — not promising when I figured it ought to be about two miles away; still, I had Tory's detailed map of Jefferson National Forest, which showed a little church there, and off I went.

Big swooping descent; and at the very bottom of the hill, i.e., at the first place where the road started to go up again, although not too steeply, a loose knot of maybe a dozen houses to my left in the hollow, no town marker — which is why no one knew of it — although a sign on the highway as I approached, "Home of Francis Gary Powers, U‑2 pilot" (interesting since he is claimed by Jenkins and I think I remember seeing online that Letcher County seat, Whitesburg, has a marker in his honor), then right at the turn-off, another marker honoring a basketball player, "inventor of the jump shot" said to be from here — maybe meaning Pound.

Anyway, Almira nothing much, mostly mobile-home construction on firm cinderblock bases, a beauti­ful old barn on the hill, the Lone Pine Chapel (sign: est. 1938), and the main place of business — the only business other than the church — Pound Veterinary Clinic. I collared a young woman coming out of it and asked her "How do you pronounce the name of this place?" — "Pound." — "Well, yes. . . ." — "Oh! Almira" (As in Albert and Myra) — at the entrance to the hamlet, a wood sign with just "Almira/Est. 1902". A tiny creek on the left, with a rotting wood plank bridge, then alas "private property", else I'd gone into the field and up a knoll 50 yards — a small cemetery, one red granite tomb, and about three other graves that seemed just to be marked by small white wooden crosses.

[image ALT: A weathered wooden structure perched on a small densely wooded ridge. It is a barn, or maybe a small house, in Almira, Virginia.]
What I called a barn — maybe a small house — on the slope just above Almira.

This whole visit of Almira took maybe six or seven minutes — I tested the door to the church, but, reasonably, it was locked — and I walked back home (1:34 P.M.). Still beauti­ful weather, stopped again at the Sunoco Station (2:25 P.M.), this time for a larger Gatorade, and back to Susan's house (3:25 P.M.).

I omitted my visit to the other gas station, a BP: in the hopes I'd find a little bottle of Jack Daniels so's I could have a nightcap back here — the Sunoco's closest approach was Boone's Farm and one 75 cl bottle of decentish Washington State wine; of Jack Daniels' they only had . . . wine coolers . . . ghastly stuff, plus I'm not about to carry more than a small convenient flask for miles thru the countryside. Anyhow, the BP was even more beer, fully 75% of the surface was beer: these gas stations are basically liquor stores —

I also omitted, but not out of forgetfulness, another thing: most of my little 8‑mile walk I was in a good deal of pain; somehow — for what reason I can't even begin to guess — the inside of my thighs chafed so bad that I found, when I got back here, that they'd been bleeding rather badly; walking Luna was painful at 5, she got a shorter walk than she deserved — I was walking as slowly and as bow-legged as I could, and I'm very glad to be back home: even walking from one room to another hurts, although I found some talcum powder. I had to call off walking in to town though to get a few supplies, and tomorrow I'm not sure anything'll be open since it's Sunday; I'll probably try anyway, but otherwise stay home and read, give myself a chance to heal.

Called James (and Brian) at 7 sharp, everything OK. Called Susan's motel in Prescott just a few minutes ago, but they're not in yet. I'm a bit worried about the cats, neither one of whom seems to be eating anything?

I myself had no real dinner: just my old-age pills with some orange juice, and a big slice of birthday cake. Tomorrow I'll have the pork chop Tory bought me; in honor of Sunday.

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