When people ask me why I decided to move from San Francisco to WV, I tell them about the time I rode a double century (200 miles) from White Sulphur Springs to Snowshoe Mountain Resort and back in a day. The bike riding in WV blew my mind; it was amazing. We rode backcountry, paved, and dirt roads, and hardly saw any cars, or people for that matter! The mountain topography reminded me of riding in the Bay Area (without the ocean, but still lots of water – rivers, lakes, streams) with similar amazing, and seemingly endless, mountain vistas. At the time of the double century, my one and only to date, I was doing work for a company in Morgantown and commuting there from SF every week. It was a lot of travel, but I found a like-minded set of client co-worker bike friends there who invited me on the weekly local ride and got me into the Morgantown cyclocross scene. Once the project ended, I packed up my bike, headed home to SF, and didn’t think much about WV after that.
All that changed seven years later when I saw a posting for the Ascend WV remote worker program; I was excited to apply. The memories from my time spent working in Morgantown and riding in WV came back. I had been living in the Bay Area for 11 years and loved it, but was ready for a new adventure. I was working remotely with mostly East Coast and European co-workers and clients and was ready to get back onto a more normal schedule (4a alarm never felt like a sustainable routine). I told myself that if I got into Ascend, I would try out the program and WV for the adventure of doing something different and new, and if it didn’t work out or seem right, I’d just move back in a year.
It’s been a year and a half and I’m more committed and passionate about living in WV than I ever imagined. My partner and I even bought a house - something I never thought I would do. I’ve moved often and only lived in big (expensive) cities for the past 20 years, so owning a home was never on my radar. But living in a small town where home ownership, and quite frankly safety, is more universally accessible, changed my perception on it. The other aspect of the Greenbrier Valley that has really anchored me is the cycling community here. I met the owner of the local bike shop serendipitously at a party in my neighborhood. The party host, whom I met through pilates classes, and I started talking after class one day and realized we lived down the street from each other. At the party, the shop owner told me he was going to pre-ride the course for one of the races in the WV enduro series the next day. I raced on an Enduro Team in California but hadn’t met anyone or been to any races since moving. I jumped at the opportunity to ride. I got introduced to a bunch of new friends that day and we’ve been riding regularly together ever since.
My partner and I have also gotten more involved in the local biking scene beyond just group rides and racing. We both help coach the local NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association/ High School) mountain bike team and started a First Friday community bike ride (based upon the concept of Critical Mass – which is getting folks together to ride the streets of their city to help normalize cycling and riding for fun, transportation, and fitness). It’s been a positive experience to meet such amazing people in our community and discuss ways we can enhance cycling in an area that has so much to offer both local bikers and visitors. I’ve also joined the local IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) Board as the team here has recently founded a new chapter in the Greenbrier Valley. One of our goals is to utilize the great parks and terrain we already have to expand the trail network.
Sixteen months into this wild adventure and we’re loving every bit of it. The program and the community are fantastic, and we are both looking forward to what’s to come!