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Day 7, Saturday 8 August 1998

Because I had originally planned to drive to Cincinnati, OH from Louisville, KY today, but changed the starting point to Dayton, OH when I couldn't get a room in Louisville, this was a short day's drive, the first one of the journey under 300 miles. I actually got in to Charleston, WV an hour and a half ahead of schedule! I hope I'm so lucky on the remaining days...

Cincinnati Gas & Electric Station

I don't have a fuelcard for the Cincinnati Gas & Electric station where I stopped, but Dan Staud of CG&E told me that their cardreader was broken, so they had just bypassed it and I could drive by and fill up for free. Can't beat that with a stick! It's not routine for compressed natural gas stations to do this, but in some California and Arizona cities there are lots of public electric-vehicle charging stations that you can use for free. The refueling station I used was at a vehicle conversion shop, where gasoline cars and trucks are outfitted to use CNG. It looks like the shop was itself a conversion; the layout, with service bays and pump island, looked like it had been built into a former gasoline station. This is auspicious for Cincinnati, as when I was driving through there I saw lots of lightboard signs saying "SMOG ALERT IN EFFECT", both on Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The drive from Cincinnati, OH to Charleston, WV was the first on this trip that wasn't mostly via the Interstate highway system. I took Ohio Route 32, then US Highway 35, before entering Charleston on I-64. Ohio 32 is a four-lane divided highway, albeit with some crossroads, but US 35 is one of the "Blue Highways" that William Least Heat Moon traveled, as described in his book of that name: a two-lane road through rural areas, which were colored blue on a widely used series of maps. I made pretty good speed, though, and the route was more direct than the Interstate route (which would have had me go south to Lexington, KY), so I arrived well ahead of schedule.

Uh, my idea of photographing the van next to state welcome signs may not be practical in the east; out west, where a border is pretty much an arbitrary line, there's usually somewhere to stop next to the sign, but a lot of eastern states have rivers for borders, and you can't stop for a photo in the middle of a bridge! (Kris Trexler, in his Charge Across America web diary, had the same problem; I should have expected it.) So I had to skip West Virginia's welcome sign too, and I may be intermittent for a while with those pictures...

The Herholdts

Jeff Herholdt of the West Virginia Development Office (and Coordinator of the West Virginia Clean Cities Coalition), who arranged this visit (and also facilitated the one in Morgantown, WV tomorrow), was there with his family to greet me; from left to right, that's his wife Nancy, daughters Amy and Kelsey, and Jeff. Howdy again! Jeff presented me with a WVDO pin and a beautiful wooden pen made by Jerome Valencourt, who also works in the CNG vehicle business. John Pope, Jr., of Mountaineer Gas (the local utility company) was there to shoot some photos, and...

CNG Ford Fairlane

... Carson Birchfield of the Natural Gas Transportation Company (1stnatural Network), who manages the station, was there with his CNG-powered 1968 Ford Fairlane. Yesterday I wrote a little about high-performance CNG cars--well, here's one that I'd like to emulate with my ol' 1970 Chevy Caprice!

West Virginia was the first state to join the Clean Cities program as a whole. I had been to the state only once before, as a Missouri delegate to the National Youth Science Camp in 1981 between high school and college, and I remember taking a tour of a coal mine (just the upper reaches!) and a coal-fired power plant (being in the cooling tower was like standing in an upward-moving monsoon). However, in addition to its coal resources, West Virginia is also the biggest natural-gas producer east of the Mississippi River; thus CNG is a perfect fit, and in fact a glance at a map of refueling stations across the nation will confirm that this state has the largest number of stations per capita.

WCHS TV

In addition to Mr. Pope taking photos for company publicity, a crew from WCHS TV channel 8 was there. I am posting this page to the website before the 11 o'clock news, when their segment will air, and I don't know if I can stay up late to catch it because I have to hit the road really early tomorrow, but I certainly hope the publicity is beneficial to the impressive efforts that West Virginia has already made to clear the air!

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new 8 August 1998, revised 10 August 1998