I’m not sure if the sarcasm in my title is obvious, but if not, take my word for it. Things have been rough. I know I haven’t posted anything in a little over a year, but I miss writing and I think it is why I have been so glum lately.

One of my new colleagues just left our school. Turns out he was very unhappy, had not written a single lesson plan all year, and just couldn’t take it here anymore. I can understand feeling stressed as a teacher at one of the most challenging schools in West Virginia… but unhappy?

I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone handles challenges the same way. When something difficult comes my way (such as lately), I feel the typical stress and tension, anxiety, but I tend to see every challenge as just that… a challenge. For me, it’s much like a hiker standing at the bottom, overwhelmed and intimidated by the height, wondering what he just got himself into. But if he loves to hike, those feelings won’t stop him. One step at a time he will make it to the top. Not easily, of course, but he’ll make it.

I just have to remember that not everyone approaches challenges the same. My colleague might be one who braves the challenge head on and when he fails then that’s it… he’s done. On to a different challenge that might be more suitable to his abilities and potential. I have friends who love to hike, but if the mountain is big enough or the weather poor enough, no chance of them even attempting. Then there would be the attempts… make it halfway… then back down the mountain.

Whatever the case… this has been a tough year even for me… some tragedy, some family conflicts, a big move to a new home (which I will write about eventually). But I am 1/4 of the way up the mountain and I have no plans to go back down until I reach the top.

Until later — There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.

How many of you remember those teachers, or professors, that you would consider to be legendary? The ones who are on your mind for years after you have been in their class. They may not remember you, but you sure remember them. Good and bad, here is my list.

Mrs. Wade — My first grade teacher. I think this woman was my first love. I was a year younger than my classmates, but she never treated me any differently. She had hair the color of autumn leaves, perfect for the beginning of the school year, and was just plump enough to be cute and cuddly. She always greeted us with a smile and a hug, two things I wasn’t so used to seeing on a daily basis. And she always spoke with excitement and enthusiasm, no matter what we were studying.

Mrs. Stone — My second grade teacher. Talk about a wake-up call. She was by far the meanest woman I had ever met, at least at that point. I’m not sure how old she was, but to a six-year-old, gray hair = pretty darn old. She barely smiled, often spoke with a hateful, bitter tone, and just flat out did not like hyper little boys. I can’t hardly remember one single lesson she taught us, but I do remember being told to “Sit down” and “shut up” a few times. I had a weak stomach in second grade and I remember she was reading us a story. I suddenly felt as if I were going to vomit. I begged and pleaded to go to the restroom, or even the trash can, without luck. So, after a few minutes of no longer being able to wait, I walked to the front of the room, turned to Mrs. Stone, and vomited on her shoes. Believe it or not, she didn’t even flinch. She stared at her feet, stared at me, mumbled a bitter-sounding, “Well…” and pointed to the door. I sat in the back of the room near the bathroom for the rest of the year.

Mr. Copley — My fourth grade teacher and the first teacher who became a close friend as I grew up. He was funny, taught class in an interactive and engaging way, and I could really tell he cared about us. He was a portly gentleman with a full beard and an infectious smile. Once, while working on an assignment, I could not settle down. He called me to his desk, wrapped his arms around me tightly, and asked, “Do you know what I’m doing? I’m squeezing the meanness out of you. Is it working?” I smiled and mumbled, “Nope.” We laughed together and when I returned to my seat, I was settled (at least until the next day). Mr. Copley was also the first teacher to inspire me to write. A few years ago, Mr. Copley died in a motorcycle accident. I found out about it well after it happened, so I did not get to say goodbye. Thank you, Mr. Copley, for being the first teacher I could also call “friend”.

Mrs. Priddy — My elementary school phys ed teacher. Though I’ve never been athletic, I have always been fond of exercise if it were fun and active. Mrs. Priddy was the most dynamic phys ed teacher I have ever had, back when phys ed was fun and it was okay to jump around and do your own thing, to make physical activity like a game rather than a sport. In middle school, all we did was play a lot of basketball and do some warm-ups before. In Mrs. Priddy’s class, we jumped through hoops, tossed giant balls back and forth, pretended to me riding horses, spun around in circles, flapped our arms like giant birds, all for the sake of physical activity. I see her often today and I am sure she is proud of me and my unique physical abilities. Thank you, Mrs. Priddy.

Mrs. Racer — My ninth grade English teacher. After two years of misery in junior high, I finally found a teacher I could really enjoy. She incited my love for literature and writing and made me into a devoted fan of Stephen King. She was one of the boldest, most out-of-the-box teachers I have ever known and became one of my good friends after I graduated. I remember she would close her door and read forbidden Stephen King stories to us because they were good literature. She was even brave enough to read most of The Stand to us. I was a depressing mess in ninth grade, often wishing my life could end soon and quickly, and she filled me with confidence every day by giving me a safe place where I knew I could express myself without fear of judgment or humiliation. I came to her room often, crying about whatever was bothering me that day, and she would encourage me to hold strong, chin up. And, of course, my struggles were encouraged to be the topic of my writing. She is my greatest inspiration as a teacher and I strive to be as inspiring to my students as she was to me.

Mr. Miller — My high school Biology teacher. Mr. Miller was a hard-edged, strict science teacher who taught with a slight, old-fashioned, southern African-American accent, in which he said words like “particularily”. He ate grapes on a daily basis because he believed the made you smarter, and took science and learning very seriously. he had a reputation for being the strictest and most difficult teacher in the school. The most exciting aspect of his class, though, was that students had to do 4 dissections. I loved science (still do) and was looking forward to the chance to cut open some animals. Our first dissection was a crayfish. At the beginning of class, trays were on every desk with a crayfish already lying on top, with various dissecting tools next to the tray. Mr. Miller handed out a sheet with squares, and each square was labeled. Our goal was to remove the parts, place them on the correct square, and he would come around with a clipboard and give us a grade. All grades would be posted on the wall with student ID #s the next day. “Be sure to put youh name on youh papuhs,” he said, as we enthusiastically began to cut open the crayfish. I had studied the crayfish’s anatomy extensively and I was ready for this. As I worked, Mr. Miller wandered from desk to desk, mumbling things like, “Good, good,” as he nodded, or he shook his head, frowned, and mumbled, “Mmm, mmm, mmm.” I knew I was going to get a nod and a “good, good.” As he finally reached my desk, he glanced at it briefly, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Huh.” Huh? The next day, grades were posted: 0 out of 200. How? What did I do wrong. I respectfully approached Mr. Miller at the end of class. “Did I get every one wrong or something?” He grinned. “Nope, you actually got them all right. But ye didn’t put youh name on youh papuh.” I was crushed, but I learned a valuable lesson. I passed his class with a “B”, the highest in my class.

Dr. Stuart McGehee — The greatest college history professor I have ever known. Dr. McGehee is one of the most loved and talked about professors at West Virginia State University. With an encyclopedic knowledge of history and a wit unmatched by any other history professor, McGehee’s class is guaranteed to get students back into history again. His primary form of teaching is lecture, but his contagious enthusiasm and excellent speaking skills make it easy to forget you have sat through an hour lecture on the Louisiana Purchase. But don’t let his teaching fool you. McGehee is also a very serious scholar who expects the same from his students. Tardiness is inexcusable. Attendance is mandatory. And his tests? Mostly short answer and essay questions. But my love for history was rekindled during Dr. McGehee’s class.

Dr. Juris Lidaka — By far the funniest and most intelligent professor I have ever had, Dr. Lidaka is a true scholar, with thick-lens glasses and a shiny bald head. He spends his weekends in a library, translating ancient languages and studying various topics related to English history and linguistics. I had never even heard the word “linguist” before I met Dr. Lidaka. I took three classes from Dr. Lidaka and they all began the same. He warned us about his exams, stating that no one would receive an “A” and most of us would not even pass. Then, he proceeded to point out his vision problem, a lazy eye that could be distracting if you were not careful. “Sometimes, you’ll think I’m looking at you, but I’m actually looking over there. And sometimes, you’ll think I’m looking over there, but I am in fact looking at you.” He had the most atrocious hand writing I have seen from any professor, and he addressed this, as well. “If you ask me to translate my handwriting, I will begin to speak to you in an obscure foreign language of my choice, because while my handwriting is messy, it is written in English.” This is also the same professor who, during a discussion about the Venerable Beade, warned us not to refer to him as “Venereal Disease”. While Lidaka’s tests were really difficult and required time in the library, his classes really motivated us to be scholars ourselves.

So that’s it. I’m sorry it’s such a long list. I actually have about three more professors I could write about. There’s just something quirky and eccentric about a the best college professors that makes them so legendary. Thanks for bearing with me.

It occurred to me again that I haven’t been keeping my promises.  But I do have a lot to write about.

Once again, I get the chance to prove my courage by dancing on a stage in front of several hundred people, all for the sake of having fun.  This time… I get to do it Footloose style.

Okay, I see the guys raising their eyebrows, but admit it.  You know you spent a good chunk of your young life, watching Swayze in Dirty Dancing, Travolta in Grease, and, yes, Bacon in Footloose, wishing you could be just like them, because the ladies were loving every dance move.  That’s not why I’m doing it, of course… I’m just shooting down any possible ridicule.  Like last year, I will love every second of it.

That explains the newly purchased Chucks.  I’m not gonna lie.  When I purchased them, I spent a few minutes dancing through Shoe Carnival.  My favorite moves were the shimmy from the Breakfast Club and a few proud leaps that mimicked Kevin Bacon in Footloose.  Okay… so I looked more like Andy Samberg in Hot Rod (“I need to go to my quiet place!”).

In other news, Barry Lane sent me an invite to join his Ning, Discover Writing.  I’m actually friends with some writers and teachers who are legends in the field right now.  I know that’s no big deal to those of you who could care less about writing or teaching, but it is a big deal to me.

Okay, folks, it’s time to sign off.  Night school beckons.  I just hope the kids are a little more mellow than they were last week.  More on that later.

You know those friends you never see, unless someone dies or it’s Christmas?  I’ve tried not to be one of those.  I have 60+ numbers on my cell phone, most of them people I haven’t seen for some time and by chance encounter at Wal-Mart or some place similar, we exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. 

Why can’t I have that same attitude with this blog?  I just realized I haven’t posted anything since September.  It’s not that I haven’t had time, or that I don’t have anything to write about (quite the opposite, actually).  It’s just… like that friend you meant to call, but every time you looked at the number, some mental block kicked in and you put it off until later… and later… and later.  I’ve never been able to explain that.  I love all of my friends and would jump at the opportunity to spend some time with any of them, but for some reason I neglect to call them.  And they must feel the same somehow because they don’t call me either.

Since September, I must have checked my blog several times a week, and I always glanced at the “Write” tab, and then logged off without doing anything.  Why?  Not sure.

Regardless, I’m back, visiting an old friend.  I bought a pair of hiking boots, looking forward to a beautiful summer, and a pair of Converse All Stars, looking forward to some 80s style dance moves this spring (long story).  I’ll do my best to post when I can, to keep from ignoring the “Write” tab, and hope to hear from some readers soon.

I found this little cartoon online and wanted to share it with you.  I think it speaks so true to the theme of my blog, taking “the road less travelled by.”  This is what happens if you take the wrong path and pursue popularity:

Watch Your Step...

There is a poster that hangs on a lot of teacher’s doors:  “What’s popular isn’t always what’s right; what’s right isn’t always what’s popular.”  The life lesson there is obvious, but I also shudder at the truth of such a statement when it comes to education.  There are so many popular trends that administrators feel are important and detrimental for students, but usually they have a one-size-fits-all philosophy that is not only ineffective but also damaging to many students.  I believe in increasing your expectations, because usually students will rise to them and not disappoint.  However, everyone has different expectations that are not necessarily more or less challenging that others, just… different.

So, if I am expected to follow what is popular, I don’t have a problem with that, as long as the method works.  I plan to “watch my step” as I travel, and if taking the right path means deviating from the popular one, then so be it.

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

Even when the rain falls

even when the flood starts rising

even when the storm comes

I am washed by the water…

– needtobreathe, “Washed by the Water”

I know I haven’t posted since August.  As you can imagine, the school year has been kind of demanding.  My Sociology class is turning out to be a tough one, but a great one.  I have a fantastic group of seventh-graders this year, but as before I am running into some problems (personal ones, I guess) with my teaching.  Apparently, I am not difficult enough as a teacher.  My class is not challenging enough.

This judgment was made based on a five-minute observation and a short glance at one test on the writing process and the 6 traits of good writing.  Never mind that my students designed their own mnemonic devices to help them remember the order of the writing process.  Never mind that my students have brainstormed and chosen topics for a narrative essay, completed graphic organizers for this essay, and are now in the process of learning a variety of revision strategies and applying those strategies to their writing.  I wonder if “more challenging” translates to “more work” in some people’s eyes?

The song at the top of this entry is one of my current favorites because the lyrics apply to what I am going through right now.  I have found my way back to what’s more important, renewing my relationship with God and my family.  Things have never been better.  And I see challenges like this one as opportunities to be “washed by the water.”  Even though the assumptions, accusations, and criticism continue to come, I have decided to not let it get me down, to take each experience as a lesson learned.  Maybe my class does need to be a little more challenging, so I am going to find some accessible ways to make that happen.

I have been doing research online to help me write objectives and create activities for my classes that cover all of the higher order skills.  So, let the rains fall, let the flood rise, let the storm come.  I will be washed by the water.

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

I stumbled onto this article written in 2003 titled “It’s Official, Games Can Make You Smarter.”  The article says that action video games can improve your ability to monitor objects in your field of vision faster than people who don’t play those kind of games.  I think a similar argument could also be made about people who hunt.  Here is the article:

It’s Official, Games can make you Smarter…


Source: UN, 9 June 2003
Submitted by Ann Light

Research conducted at the University of Rochester has shown that action video games can give a person the ability to monitor more objects in their visual field and do so faster than a person who doesn’t play such games. The study suggests that in addition to making game players more aware of their surroundings while performing tasks such as driving, action game playing might be a useful tool to rehabilitate visually impaired patients or to train soldiers for combat.

‘Players can process visual information more quickly and can track 30% more objects than nonplayers,” says Daphne Bavelier, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and member of the Center for Visual Science ‘Several game players even achieved perfect scores on tests barely doable for non-game players.’

The link between visual attention and action games was first recognised when a student of Bavelier’s, Shawn Green, demonstrated exceptional proficiency at the visual tests Green and Bavelier were devising. Upon discovering that Green was an avid game player, the two embarked on a line of research to test if playing action games like “Grand Theft Auto3″, “Medal of Honor”, or “Half-Life”, could train the brain to better process certain visual information.

Aficionados of action games (all males since only a single fanatic female gamer could be found on campus) were presented with three tests. One flashed a small object on screen for 1/160th of a second, and the participant would indicate where it flashed. The slightest lack of attention and the brain would miss the appearance of the object completely. Gamers tended to notice the object far more often than non-gamers.

The second test presented one to 12 small objects on screen at once and the subject had to type how many objects they’d seen. Again, gamers saw the correct number of objects more often. The final test flashed black letters in extremely rapid succession. One letter was white, and it may or may not have been followed by a black ‘X’. Gamers again picked out which letter was white and whether or not an ‘X’ followed it better than non-gamers.

To guard against the possibility that their findings were merely the result of more visually attentive people naturally gravitating toward action games, Bavelier and Green tested non-gamers, both men and women this time. They set up nine of the group to play the action game “Medal of Honor” and eight to play “Tetris”, a puzzle-oriented game. After just an hour a day for two weeks, the action players showed a marked increase in their test performances, which the “Tetris” players did not.

‘It’s likely the sense of danger heightens awareness and trains the visual response of the brain, but other aspects might also contribute,’ says Green. ‘On the other hand, the “Tetris” players, while scoring low on our tests, might score well if testing for ability to rotate and organise objects.’

If the brain can be trained to have heightened visual attention as this study indicates, then it might be especially useful for helping patients with neurological visual impairments to see more normally. Often in stroke patients, for instance, a kind of blindness occurs in part of the visual field, but the impairment isn’t physical, it’s a result of the brain’s “inattentiveness” to that area. Current treatments are laborious, taking years for improvement, but Green and Bavelier’s research suggests that video games may provide a much more economical way of bringing the brain’s attentiveness back. If a healthy brain can improve in their tests after just 10 hours of game playing, perhaps similar results could be seen in patients.

Green and Bavelier point out that gaming is no substitute for building other areas of the brain, and that exercises that demand prolonged attention, such as reading or solving maths problems, are likely not helped at all by extensive game-playing.

As a next step in their research, the members of the team would like to design their own action video games that they can modify at will to see just what aspects of gaming allows such efficient learning . With that knowledge, Green and Bavelier would ultimately like to create non-violent action games that could help stroke patients recover their visual awareness.

http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article1121.asp

I agree that constant video game playing doesn’t do much for mathematical skills.  That’s why I love Nintendo for releasing what I call the “smart games” like Brain Age, etc. for the DS.  Game designers are quickly figuring out what players are lacking.  And Wii game designers have caught on to the need for physical activity for young adults.

I have a point, I promise.  For the past five years or so, educators and researchers have been looking into the need for more educational video games.  This is not a new concept (remember Carmen Sandiego or Qwerty?) but it is one that has recently exploded with interest.  I have even read about teachers allowing their students to play brief segments of Final Fantasy games in the classroom to teach character or plot development.  The Medal of Honor games mentioned in the article have also been hailed for their historical accuracy, putting players in the midst of familiar WWII battles, and have even been used by History teachers to present students with an interactive and visual image of historic battles.  In addition, many of the games in the series have documentary clips, as well.  In the hands of trained and responsible educators, these games could have a lasting impact on student learning.

I’ve written before about the future of education and how technology is being used to teach skills that will be needed in order to prosper in a growing society.  Things are changing rapidly, for the better (in most cases) and for the worst (in some cases).  Teachers and researchers are catching on to the demands and growth of society and how school systems need to rise to this.

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

I don’t have a lot of time to write an extensive post about this, but I at least want to update everyone and I think I will feel better after writing about this.

First, a little story.  When I was a senior in high school, by best friend became really angry with me over a girl.  We both met her at the mall and started hanging out with her.  I liked her, and so did he.  Inside, I knew this, but my selfish hope was that she would fall for me and not for him.  After several days of flirting, talking, wandering around the mall as an awkward threesome, he finally confronted me after she had gone home.

“She doesn’t like you, dude, so stop trying.  Leave her alone.”  That was only the beginning of the conversation.  He went on to tell me everything that was wrong with me both as a friend and as a person.  I was selfish, self-centered, I ignored all of the signals that suggested people didn’t want to be around me and assumed that everyone liked me, especially girls, I was inconsiderate, and about two steps away from getting punched in the face.

I stood there, stunned.  If anyone else had just thrown a list of insults at me like parade candy, I would have returned the favor right away.  But I just stood there and whispered, “Okay.”  I wasn’t angry because he was right.  He wasn’t insulting me; he was just telling the truth.

That was how my job interview went today.  I’m not a perfect teacher at all.  I’m lazy, forgetful, an expert procrastinator.  I’ve made mistakes, professional ones, and it’s true what they say about how ignoring your problems doesn’t make them go away.  After asking me a few questions, the principal basically told me what he had learned about me as a teacher and that if I wanted to really be a great teacher, I needed to take a good look at myself, figure out what’s wrong, accept responsibility for it, and fix it.  Stop blaming others, making excuses (which I am also good at), and most of all stop trying to run away from my problems because that doesn’t help at all.

Again, I was stunned.  Not surprised, because everything he said was true, but just stunned.  It was everything I needed to hear.  It wasn’t easy to hear, but it was necessary.  I didn’t get the job because, as he said, changing schools won’t fix the problem.  I needed to get things straight and maybe later think about moving on, if I still wish to do so.  I actually walked out of the school feeling revived, refreshed.  There is a spiritual analogy I like to use about gold and how it has to be refined in fire before it can be precious.  I think I’m going through that fire right now.  It hurts, but it’s necessary.

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

WARNING: I’m trying to get myself back into the educational spirit, so this post will be a bit scholarly. I also just finished reading Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift, so I’m feeling a bit inspired. :-)

It will soon be time for some changes. And I am excited. I have a job interview at South Charleston Middle School tomorrow, which (if I get the job) will put me about ten minutes closer to home and inside one of the county’s most historical school buildings. South Charleston is a growing community that lies somewhere between big city and small town. I’ve heard some of the same complaints about SCMS as I did about Stonewall Jackson Middle: poor discipline, apathetic students, etc. If any of that is true, guess what? It doesn’t hurt my interest in the school; it improves it. I see situations like that as challenges, opportunities to grow as a teacher and, most of all, to help my students grow.

I stopped by WVSU today to pick up my textbooks for my two classes. As proof that I have grown up, I could not contain my enthusiasm and pulled the plastic off of the books while sitting in my car, grinning as I flipped through the pages. I remember just a little less than ten years ago, I hated school. I loved to read, but usually snubbed my nose at college textbooks (unless they were literature anthologies). Now, I am practically drooling at the opportunity to dive into a Geography text, especially one like this that has plenty of online resources and tons of useful information.

Unlike the army of students who brave the almost endless line to sell back their textbooks, I have always thought of the best college texts as those you could keep and use again. The bookshelf next to my teachers’ desk is filled with grammar texts, anthologies, writing manuals, and other variations. And, yes, I use them for my own resources and even in my lesson plans.

Which brings me to the second text I bought: Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Social Issues. The Taking Sides collection is a group of books that present a list of topics and then show works of writing and/or speeches from different people that discuss that topic. The greatest thing about it is that it is written in debate-style and presents two works of writing with each issue: one “for” and one “against”. The benefits of a textbook like this in the hands of a teacher are limitless. I’ve been looking for a great way to liven up persuasive writing. Looking at two different sides of an issue makes students feel a lot like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, weighing the pros and cons of both sides. Now that’s critical thinking at its best.

One of my writing/teaching mentors Gretchen Bernabei says in her book Reviving the Essay, “Many students seem to consider the act of changing their minds equivalent to an act of weakness, or concession, or defeat. This way of viewing thinking is not only immature, it’s also dangerous in a democracy where reasonable, informed voters make decisions for the nation” (12). This kind of book in the hands of a teacher could help students make informed decisions (even if it means changing their minds) as opposed to holding fast to conclusions that are based only on personal prejudices.

So, regardless of where I teach this year, it will definitely be a year of change, both with my attitude, my teaching, and my circumstances. The great thing is that all of these are things I can control.

I’ll close out with a few lines from Andy Andrews’ excellent novel about a down-on-his luck businessman who travels through time and meets important historic figures who all give him advice for personal success, The Traveler’s Gift: “Circumstances do not push or pull. They are daily lessons to be studied and gleaned for new knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom that is applied will bring about a brighter tomorrow (155).”

Well said, Mr. Andrews.

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

Yours truly bragging about Gretchen’s book, Reviving the Essay:

I must tell you this.

Sunday, my brother whom I haven’t seen since last summer drove from Lincoln County to spend time with me. And how do two long-time apart brothers spend time? Watch a football game? Go to a summer blockbuster movie? No. None of those will do. Not my brother and me. We plopped two department store inner tubes into the Coal River at about 3:00 p.m., starting at Upper Falls in Tornado, and rode without paddles for almost six hours until we finally crawled onto shore at Lower Falls in St. Albans.

I’m going to try to post a map of the area we traveled. It really isn’t that far, a few miles. In fact, you can drive from Upper Falls to Lower Falls in about fifteen minutes. But since we were floating in a mostly still river without paddles, only our arm strength to push us along, it took a little less than six hours.

I knew it would be great. The Coal River is an underrated river because it is dirty and I know there was a serious problem for a while with a lot of harmful bacteria due to pollution. However, a group known as The Coal River Group has been working hard for years to clean up the river and has finally succeeded in turning the river into a water trail, calling it the Walhonde Trail. The entire trail is 88 miles, stretching across the Big Coal River, Little Coal River, and the Coal River, through three different counties. It’s probably impossible to travel the entire trail in one day, so the Coal River Group and the DNR have broken the trail into recommended “trips.” I happen to know that we took Trip C-2.

During our trip, they sky stayed a clear blue with a few clouds that made laying back on the inner tube so amazing. Since a lot of the river is shaded by trees, I didn’t get much of a sunburn. And if you’ve never been on a river as the sun goes down, I highly recommend it. This trip also gave plenty of time for my brother and I to talk, about his new relationship, about his future plans, and (of course) about our father.

Cheese Warning: While my arms regretted the trip, my heart, mind and soul did not. Seriously, it was nice to just float on the river, relax, and basically give myself up to nature. The only tension I remember was when I decided to roll over on the inner tube and had to keep from tipping over in deep water.

I can honestly say now that putting an inner tube on a river without paddles to travel about five miles is a wonderfully foolish decision. If you’re a nature lover, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself, to let the river take you and to enjoy the wildlife. We saw deer, herons, ducks, all kinds of fish.

Below are two maps. Let’s hope they work. The first is the official map for the Walhonde Trail. As I said, my brother and I took Trip C-2, so you can find it near the top of the map. This map is upside down for the flow of the rivers. The Big Coal and the Little Coal flow into the Coal, and the Coal flows into the Kanawha River at the top of the map.

The other map is the official Google Maps view of the area. You can zoom in (I think) and take a closer look at the river. We started just above Upper Falls Road. There are some interesting little islands close to Lower Falls that I think have some history with the logging industry.

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View Larger Map

Until later — “There’s no turning back now that you opened up to your mind.”

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