I thought I would blow through West Virginia like it was nothing. A six hour nothing. I calculated the miles and they added up right but it didn't much seem like I had really gone through it that slow. Maybe I just wanted this part of the trip to last longer.
I have not been through the Appalachians before and maybe I expected more from them than what I ended up getting. Mountains are mountains but these do not seem the same as what I am used to. No snow tipped peaks looming high on the horizon or an endless static sea of gray sky above. Instead deserted winding roads stretching out through seas of trees. Nobody seems to use the highways in West Virginia.
I played a show last night in Bowling Green and I'm on my way to Harrisburg, PA. Another bar show. Sit me up on a stage and watch me sip a beer and strum while those around me chug. The drunken men in the bars will always find solace in a good solo.
I roam from town to town like a carnival. I have setting up and tearing down perfected to an art. I have played most of the bars in this country and have sold out my fare share of shows. I know every line and every chord to every Bob Seger song. I know what it's like to be lonely. I am not rich, or famous, and probably never will be. I have had and have been an opening act. I have never cut a professional album or signed autographs. But I have made people happy and have been made happy in the process.
I suppose that is enough.
Somewhere right past Morgantown, in north West Virginia, I see the first person I've seen on the road all day-- a woman on the edge with a flat tire. I pulled over to the shoulder to see if I could help. I have always figured that for all the miles I have seen out on this highway something like this is bound to happen to me sometime, so I help out every chance I see. Karma.
I had guessed her to be in her mid-thirties so when she told me, in her exact words, she was an old woman, aged 44, all that ran through my mind as I jacked up her rear tire was, I wonder what her secret is.
I'm not an old man. I'm not even seeing the younger years of middle age yet but I look much older. I had a woman tell me it was the smoking and drinking. The piano man himself told me it was years of wondering where the next show was going to be.
By the time I was tightening this woman's lug nuts I wasn't so sure she didn't want to tighten mine. I'm all for being flattered but I'm not that sort of guy. I dusted off my hands on my jacket and refused the money she offered me.
I made a straight-line for my car. I had been good at keeping the conversation to a minimum while spending half an hour with a blown out tire and I wasn't about to ruin it now. I succeeded.
I pulled into a gas station in Harrisburg around three in the morning and got the first food I had eaten on this entire leg of the trip. Horrible gas station rotisserie hot dogs that weren't worth the dollar fifty I was charged. But it was filling and going hungry was one last thing I didn't have to worry about thanks to hat tips in Bowling Green.
I drove down the road to a truck stop and climbed into the back seat. The night has another show at a some smoky bar. A two hour long stay on the stage to make up for a ten hour drive. Maybe tonight I’ll close with one of my own songs or maybe I’ll brake out Bob’s “Turn the Page” Either way in twenty four hours I’ll be back out on the highway heading towards Trenton. I smoke the last cigarette in my pack and fall asleep against the humming of diesel engines.