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Bob Barnes, the New York man who is bicycling to all 50 U.S. state capitals, experienced a shaky arrival in the state of West Virginia as he encountered its people and additional close calls on roadways.
Yet he encountered more than he anticipated in the place known for its mountain scenery and kind inhabitants.
“People in West Virginia just make it very clear that they are their own state.”
Barnes has been describing his biking adventures — and in some cases, misadventures — to Fox News Digital throughout his American cross-country bike ride, which he started last August. Read on for his personal triumphs, close calls and unexpected encounters.
‘Handled it like a champ’
Between his 33rd capital — Columbia, South Carolina — and his 34th capital of Charleston, Barnes had to go back through North Carolina and Virginia, two states he visited on his first “switchback” of the country.
Though North Carolina “looked the same as it did the first time I went through,” Barnes told Fox News Digital he didn’t really remember what Virginia was like when he went through it the first time.
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One of the most vivid portions of North Carolina for Barnes was his “crossover” point in Yadkinville, N.C. That point is the only place on Barnes’ trip that will overlap.
“I didn’t expect it to be so vivid,” Barnes said. “I just remember every single little bit of when I was there the first time. That was pretty incredible.”
“It was an accomplishment because it was 9,000 miles after I was there the first time,” Barnes added.
Barnes also had a big win in Virginia, where he was able to pedal all the way up Fancy Gap, a steep mountain slope just north of the North Carolina border.
“I didn’t expect it to be so vivid. I just remember every single little bit of when I was there the first time. That was pretty incredible.”
“It was a confidence booster for me because my knees were a little [creaky] coming up through that point,” Barnes said.
“This was the real deal, there’s no turning back, there’s only one way over.”
“But I handled it like a champ,” Barnes added. “It really boosted my confidence once I got to the top.”
However, he was escorted to the top by police because a “concerned citizen” had called 911.
At the top of Fancy Gap, Barnes said the officer checked his ID and the two had a nice conversation about how the officer is also a regular blood donor, as is Barnes.
The biking man from New York has made it a point to donate blood whenever he’s been able to along his journey, doing his best to raise awareness about the need for this.
A hit and another ‘close call’
Barnes’ second trip through North Carolina and Virginia wasn’t all pleasant.
In North Carolina, Barnes’ bicycle trailer was hit by a car and in Virginia, he had another “close call” with a car.
Barnes said that when his trailer was hit, fortunately it was “just a tap.”
While he was in Virginia, Barnes said he wasn’t hit but he had another close call, similar to an incident in Georgia.
The Virginia incident happened on a four-lane road, Barnes said.
“The guy had a whole other lane, and he didn’t move over,” Barnes said. “I had to ditch it, again.”
“It was so close … when I ditched, they swerved over to the other lane, they put on their brakes, they almost came to a stop and they were looking back to see if I was OK,” Barnes added. “And then they slowly pulled off.”
Barnes said the driver did not come back to check on him. Thankfully, Barnes was OK.
‘Off to a rocky start’
Once he arrived in West Virginia on April 5, Barnes said he “got off to a rocky start” with the people of the state.
On his first night in the Mountain State, Barnes slept in his tent at a rest stop. However, police officers woke him up the next morning.
“[People] actually called the police on me to have me removed, the employees of the rest area … without even speaking to me first,” Barnes said.
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Once again, officers checked Barnes’ ID and allowed him to finish his coffee before he hit the road again.
“Every day it just seemed like something new was coming at me and made me learn more about West Virginia.”
As he continued to pedal through West Virginia and learned more about the state, Barnes felt better about the incident.
“They talk openly about drug problems in West Virginia and so that’s where that whole thing fits in,” Barnes said.
“And I guess they want to nip it in the bud before it turns into anything else.”
“By the time I got out of West Virginia, everything was awesome and I understood everything. I actually felt privileged that I got that experience from this perspective to go through West Virginia, because it’s a very unique state,” he added.
‘Very clear that they are their own state’
A memorable bit of info Barnes learned while in West Virginia was how explicit everyone was about the Mountain State’s identity.
“People in West Virginia just make it very clear that they are their own state,” he said.
Barnes said that of all the states he’s been through, he’s learned the most about West Virginia.
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“It seemed like every day something new was going on,” Barnes said.
“I didn’t know that West Virginia was so scenic and had all those rivers and streams,” Barnes said.
“It was very different than any other state.”
“By the end, I have to say that [West Virginians] are exceedingly nice. They’re family-oriented and they have a strong faith.”
Barnes said there were also plenty of historical signs and markers throughout the state, as in some of the other states he’d biked through.
“Every day it just seemed like something new was coming at me and made me learn more about West Virginia,” Barnes said.
Barnes also learned a lot during his visit to Charleston, the state’s capital, on April 8, where he met with West Virginia State Rep. Dana Ferrell.
Barnes said Ferrell gave him a tour of the capitol building, including “places the public doesn’t get to see,” Barnes said.
‘I like to try to inspire other people’
After he visited Charleston, Barnes went on to donate blood for the fourth time on his trip.
One of his Facebook followers even met Barnes at the Red Cross in Liberty, West Virginia, and they gave blood together.
“It was a great experience,” Barnes said. “But that day was a really tough ride after I gave blood.”
Barnes explained that after giving blood, he doesn’t take any time to recover and just continues on his way.
“I don’t talk about it much, but it gets kind of ugly when I pedal after I give blood for the first few hours,” Barnes said.
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Along the way, Barnes has been encouraging his Facebook followers to donate blood if they can. He said he’s noticed that more of his followers are talking about donating blood online.
“It feels like an achievement,” Barnes said. “I like to try to inspire other people because … I don’t have a lot to give, but I can do this. It doesn’t cost me anything except to go out and do it myself and try to lead by example. So it’s a nice feeling.”
‘The steepest hills I’ve ever had to go up’
Though there were plenty of shoulders on the road for Barnes to ride on, one of his biggest challenges in West Virginia was the “short, steep hills.”
“West Virginia has the steepest hills I’ve ever had to go up,” Barnes said. “I couldn’t even pedal up the hills, I had to walk. And I had trouble walking.”
“It was really, really that steep,” Barnes added. “It might sound like I’m exaggerating, but no, they were steep hills.”
Barnes said that while he had to walk up hills “a lot” in West Virginia, he hadn’t had to walk up hills in any other state.
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Despite the challenge of the hills, Barnes said he did enjoy West Virginia’s scenery.
His favorite place, he said, was the Paint Creek Scenic Trail.
“I spent a full day coming down there and it never got old,” Barnes said. “Seeing the rapids and the trees and the cliffs … it never got old.”
Faith and family
Though he had a rough start in West Virginia, Bob said he had an overall pleasant experience in the state.
“By the end, I have to say that [West Virginians] are exceedingly nice,” Barnes said. “They’re family-oriented and they have a strong faith.”
Barnes added that West Virginia is the “most family-oriented state” he’s been through.
“You see people, they’re holding hands, they’re sitting down, they’re talking,” Barnes said.
Barnes said that whenever he visited a restaurant, “it was filled with families at the tables and everybody was happy and having a good time.”
Next stop: Ohio
After leaving West Virginia, Barnes headed to his 35th capital: Columbus, Ohio.
Stay tuned for more of his “biking across America” adventures!
Fox News Digital has been following Barnes’ journey across America and detailing it for readers in this unique Lifestyle series. To catch up on — or enjoy once more — his previous three trips before the one described here, read more below:
NY man cycling across America hits SC, reveals the one religious symbol he’s seen nationwide
NY man cycling across US reveals ‘close call’ in Georgia as he reaches 10K-mile mark
NY man cycling to all 50 states reaches Florida, loses 30 pounds, inspires others