Ride Report - A Mixed Blessing

Discussion in 'Trips & Events' started by michael, Jan 29, 2006.

  1. michael

    michael Administrator Staff Member

    United States
    Dec 18, 2005
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    Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
    I had so much fun at WDGAH I just knew I had to have one more ride before the winter doldrums set in. After three rainy weekends in October, I finally got the chance to hit the road for a COTU rehearsal. Well, almost.

    Some friends were having a little get-together in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, October 30 so with excuse in hand I set out for a four day ride with Columbus as my turn around point. I'd made the back road trip through West Virginia to Columbus many times over the years but only once on two wheels and that was my trusty Norton Commando (1000 miles on a Commando without a chase vehicle?!!).

    So off I went Saturday morning with a new BT014 on the front and about half left on the rear. Temp of 45 degrees, heading for the mountains of WV with not much prospect of a warm up all day. At least it was sunny.

    The quickest escape from hell was found around DC on the Beltway and out I-66. This rolling parking lot sucks muddy swamp at the best of times but when you first set out for a long(ish) distance ride the process of breaking out of the urban prison can be very uplifting. So I nudged a little here and squeaked through there, knowing all the while that riding bliss was but an hour away. Once clear of the mess I slipped off the slab and picked up VA 55. The old girl's humming contentedly now surfing the Piedmont between 60 and 90. Elevation builds and soon VA 55 becomes WV 55. Heaven!

    The West Virginia porkers (or is it the Byrds?) have made considerable progress on their new super highway to nowhere (Corridor H?) which now parallels most of 55 between Wardensville and Moorefield. This is actually a blessing for apex carvers because trucks and cages get on the new slab leaving the old twisty virtually deserted. On the other hand the old road was so disused that there were leaves, debris and gravel all over the place making it difficult to get the grip down reliably. But I tried.

    Just before Moorefield I bear off onto Cunningham Rd, cut over to US 220 and up to Oldfields. There I hang a left on County Rd 1 and I'm now in a different world. This section is paved but very narrow, no white lines, center or edge, and...no traffic. I zip and dive through the woods without a hint of urban intrusion. County 1 heads west over ridge and through valley for about 15 miles then hooks up with Greenland Gap Road. There's a nice pull off so I take a break to stretch by the fast moving stream that's patiently sawn this sandstone kerf through the mountain.

    Out of the Gap I head up the fantastic sweepers of WV 42 to the top of the Appalachian Plateau at Bismarck. This road is perfectly paved with wide shoulders and just the right amount of positive camber to help the rubber really bite. At the top I hang a left on WV 93.

    Now I'm up on the windswept Plateau, Dolly Sods off to the south, sharing the road with the occasional 18 wheel coal truck hauling its grimy payload from the nearby surface mine to the ghostly generating station just off the highway, vapors rising off its cooling reservoir (Mount Storm Lake) like a scene at the gates of Hades.

    Cold now. Four day old snow still hard on the edge of the road. eVest turned up high. Long johns under my thinsulate liners, top and bottom. I'm snug.

    Soon 93 ends at WV 32. A right takes me into Thomas, a gritty former mining and logging town hugging the side of the mountain and now masquerading as a tawdry example of WV tourism. Through town heading north I pass over Backbone Mountain, spittin' distance from the Fairfax Stone which marks the source of the Potomac River.

    A row of huge wind generators has been erected up here since my last time through. There's a stark beauty to these slow turning white giants. I decide they fit the landscape better than the old coal burner (but apparently the folks over the line in Western Maryland have some misgivings about erecting 'em on their part of Backbone).

    A few miles north of Thomas, I take a left onto the road to Lead Mine. This narrow gem glides through a tree cathedral for six or seven miles down into the tight valley of the Horseshoe Run, past the national forest camp ground with its towering Hemlocks and out at St. George on the Cheat River. There I Pick up WV 38 and continue to bend and swoop for thirty miles through the Monongahela, past Valley Furnace and over to Nestorville.

    Now more snow on the roadside. I head a few miles north up to Moatville road which follows down to the dramatic white water of the Tygart Valley River where some hard cores are out in their kayaks enjoying a chilly but colorful wetsuited (drysuited?) ride. Haven't passed another vehicle coming or going now for 30 miles. Finally, I roll into Philippi over its historic (rebuilt) covered bridge right at dusk and find a warm welcome at the Philippi Lodge.

    Right next door sits the Philippi Cafe so I walk over to have a "home cooked" dinner of chicken and dumplings (more dumplings than chicken) and catch up on the news of Barbour County. Seems the snow storm came suddenly while the trees were still in leaf causing much breaking of limbs and the power lines underneath. Power was just now coming back on after almost five days. So my timing was good and there was plenty of hot water.

    Next morning was bright and clear but cold. I rolled the bike into the sun to melt the frost off the seat and went over to have breakfast. By the time rider and bike were fueled up, the day was warming nicely and I rolled off in search of the Ohio River. Jumped on the US 50 slab for about twenty miles to clear Clarksburg. Exit at WV 23 and into the dismal hollows.

    The west slope of the Appalachian is a wrinkled landscape as it makes it way toward central Ohio farmland. As COTU veterans surely know, these "hollers" make for some challenging riding. Bends and kinks come short and tight along with limited line of sight. Warm sunny morning, good road surface, little traffic...whoops blind decreasing radius. Glad nothing coming the other way!

    By noon I make it to Sistersville where the ferry awaits to take me across the Ohio. Not too long ago this little ferry was pushed by a clanking old paddle wheeler. Now there's a pair of 6-71s down below turning modern screws making navigation more predictable.

    The river valley is blazing with fall color as I wager with Charon while waiting for the coal barges to pass down river so he can deliver me safely over to the other side. As I'm getting off, a couple of BMW RTs get on. Out for a day trip all the way from Columbus. We exchange greetings then I'm off to the roadside picnic area to eat the still warm chicken breast I'd picked up at the grocery deli back over in Middlebourne.

    Refreshed, its time for the final push to Columbus. Instead of the usual OH 800. I head down river a couple of miles to OH 260 since I had never been that way. 260 wiggles and writhes up and over the ridge to OH 26 which in turn swoops up to Woodfields. There I pick up OH 78 which gracefully slices its way through the widening valley until it reaches Caldwell where it tightens up again and becomes a roller coaster of quick elevation changes and fast sweepers.

    I pass three riders heading in the opposite direction. I could swear that's an old VF 750 bellowing out in front of a yellow 5th gen with a red v-tech in tow. That's one for the oldsters, zero for the high techies. The prevailing G forces being what they are, none of us dare let go of a grip to raise a wave. Still, we acknowledge each other.

    Now 78 carries me to OH 83 which slashes north through reclaimed (and active) surface coal mines before reluctantly spitting me out on the I-70 slab. Damn, I Love those BT014s.

    From here its a sixty mile dash into Columbus where I great my hosts as the sun sets.


    After some socializing and a good night's rest I head east again next morning. This time heading out OH 16. Past Newark and the road opens up. I fly down OH 146 toward Zanesville and pass a county sheriff going the other way. No brake lights and it's all good.

    Past Zanesville and once again I'm into the wrinkled Southeast Quadrant. So as not to back track down 83 I turn south on OH 284 and ride the ridgetop back down to 78. This ridge runner makes for fine play as it soars above the valleys on each side, great views ahead and to the left and right.

    I retrace 78 back through Caldwell then quickly get on the west end of 260 which sweeps southeast to 26. This time I go south on 26 toward Marietta stopping for a stretch and a snack at the little National Forest campground in the shadow of the Hune Covered Bridge.

    According to the historical marker, these tight valleys were the scene of the first oil "boom" in the country in the early 19th century when the locals worked the seeps for medicinal purposes even before "Colonel" Drake punched his well in Titusville. Rocking horse pumps still swing back and forth here slowly bringing up Pennsylvania crude to pay the farmer's rent. The 20th century aroma fills hydrocarbon man's lid as he hustles his way along. A little further on I find Bear Claw Road and pop over the ridge and down to the River at St. Mary's. No ferry this time but a steel span back into WV.

    I head south on WV 16. My goal for this day's ride is Richwood at the southern end of the Monongahela and the rustic little Four Seasons Lodge just east of town overlooking Randolph Falls on the fast running Cherry River. I can make it easy by just remembering two numbers: 16 south and 39 east.

    16 is mostly a ridge runner, well paved with plenty of open sweepers. Through one particularly memorable right hander I get my peg down hard and think I might have crunched the exhaust can too. Later inspection proves this was just a misty-eyed fantasy.

    With the oaks, maples and poplars displaying their fall finery, I twist my way south encountering a bit more traffic than back up in the Ohio creases. Needless to say I ignore the double yellow on a number of occasions, not wanting to be grouped with the lowest common denominator.

    Now please don't scold, Dear Rider. You know the traffic safety authorities, at least in the East, have now cast aside all individual discretion in these matters. And anyway, as you will see, I'll get my just rewards the next day as I try to sneak home unscathed.

    But this day as the late afternoon sun plays off the sides of the valleys, I merrily wheel southward to 39 then east through the Gauley National Rec Area, along that beautiful river and on toward Richwood and my welcoming knotty pine accommodations. I arrive just at dark and can hear the Cherry River crashing down past the motel. Chilly now, in the 30s. But who cares. My tariff includes nice quiet floor register fed heat (not the noying wall unit cycling of the box motels) and all the hot water the bath tub will hold. A Chinese carry out down the road provides a fine General Tso to add additional warmth.

    In the morning I head into town for breakfast at TC's Cafe on Main Street where the old mill hands while away their coffees dreaming of fat logs and the piss sour smell of fresh sawn oak.

    After filing myself with the four egg omelet, I head over to fill the Vif with the local 87 octane brew. Funny smelling stuff. Not the nostril searing interstate nuveau vintage but almost like it's cut with fuel oil. I start to worry that the tanker jockey might have dumped a load of diesel down the wrong hole. But the motel guy says there's never been a problem at that pump so I head east up the mountain on the Highland Scenic Highway (55/39 East) toward Marlinton and the Va border.

    There's still quite a bit of snow on the roadside but the sun's shining, my vest is soaking up plenty of electrons and after thirty miles the old girl hasn't gagged on any excessively sulfurous hydrocarbons. So I'm happy as I start to glide down the eastern slope of the mountain only to encounter a few locals dutifully hewing to mind numbingly slow speeds as they go about their Tuesday morning business.

    Not wishing to intimidate any law abiding citizens by crowding their rearview mirrors, I take the first legal opportunity to make my way past. But, damn, I can't get back in before the solid yellow comes up again. Oh, well. I'm back in without incident and flip-flopping down the slinky blacktop toward the valley floor when...what the...? Two flashing blue lights behind the tinted windshield of an absolutely civilian appearing Dodge Durango. The one I'd just passed!

    Those WV LEOs are a wily lot and soon I'm standing beside the road fiddling in my wallet for license and registration. "Improper pass and crossing the center line on the descent." Well shucks, the pass was really ok but I was using a liberal portion of the road after I was out in front. He let the "improper pass" go but wrote me up on the center line infraction and I was back on my way. Needless to say feeling burned and now keenly on the lookout for anything remotely resembling a state or local revenue enhancement vehicle.

    A word to the wary. Over the years, I've been pulled more times in WV than in any other jurisdiction. These folks apparently depend on the cash flow and take their speed limits seriously. So, suitably cut down a notch or two I proceed gently through Marlinton and on toward Virginia, still on 39, a constant eye on the mirrors.

    Now you might think that I'd be happy to have escaped with a one pointer and thereafter be content to make my way across the Old Dominion at a socially acceptable pace, glad to be headed home with minimal fiscal damage and hopefully my good driver insurance premium still intact. Well, Gentle Rider, you would be wrong.

    Less than forty-five minutes later as I'm headed over the wide open valley floor of Bass County, not a soul in sight, one of Virginia State's Finest comes around the bend toward me with his zapper on. I ease right off but as he goes by I see his brake lights in my mirrors and watch him pull the fastest Uey I've ever seen. Damn red crotch rockets. Not much to do but look for a place to pull over. He's sitting behind me by the time my side stand's down. I'm pulling off my lid and balaclava hoping that when he sees the gray hair he'll realize I'm not a squid (or am I?) and go easy on me. 73 in a 55. Well, thank god he hadn't come around that bend five seconds sooner. I know I wouldn't like bread and water.

    He's real nice though. Says he can't give me a warning because it's against the local constabulary's policy. Apparently some local yuufs have recently failed to yield for trees on Saturday nights. Not funny! He explains the local judge's practice of dropping the charges upon payment of court costs and receipt of a diploma from driver improvement university. So it looks like I might be going back to school. Thank god you can do it online now.

    I'm soon back on my way, much chastened, feeling quite like the misanthrope that apparently I am. But the sun's still shining and I have at least five hours to home.

    I stop for gas and chat with the store clerk, telling her of my bad luck. She laughs and says I actually was lucky because the practice around there now is to arrest speeders when they exceed by twenty over.

    Oh my! So now I'm really conflicted. I want to get home quickly but a third strike in one day and I'd be condemned to putting D207s back on the Vif! That'll slow ya down, old son.

    I find the turn off for VA 56 at Steele's Tavern and climb it up and over the Blue Ridge. Not likely to be a target enforcement area up on this skinny snake so I calm down and start enjoying myself a little, all the while determined to be a good boy for the rest of the day. Down the other side now and 56 becomes a wonderfully open fast sweeping piece of high quality asphalt as it makes its way through the tree farms of the Piedmont toward Richmond.

    But I get off early not wanting to deal with those urban trials and tribulations and criss-cross my way diagonally up toward Fredericksburg as the topo becomes quite level and the smudgy aura of the Central Atlantic Megalopolis begins to loom large. Through Fredericksburg now and on out the entertaining VA 218 toward US 301. Too bad the 'burbs are starting to fill in along this forested slinky making spirited riding here now a little more difficult.

    Now it's up and over the Lower Potomac on the great Harry Nice Bridge as I muse that I've been at both ends the River on my little ride: Out past its source at the Fairfax Stone on Backbone Mountain and back almost to its mouth at Point Lookout on the Chesapeake. Not a bad four day geography lesson. Its dark as I take the back way up through St. Mary's and Calvert Counties. These are my local stomping grounds now and what pass for good motorcycle roads 'round here.

    I can't help feeling a little blue as I approach home with a worn out hoop on the rear and two authoritarian demands for redress in my tank bag.

    The leaves will soon be off the trees and the Vif will sleep.

    But not a deep sleep. A restless sleep with dreams of warm sunny days and a new rear shock and a world where tires are sticky but never wear out and all traffic citations are warnings. And of course the real COTU when the days lengthen into the spring.

    Y'all be safe, and (mostly) law abidin', out there!

    Richard Ronay
    Southern Maryland
    '90 VFR resting for now

    1500 beautiful, sunny, colorful miles but still my jones ain't fixed.
  2. mrae

    mrae New Member

    Apr 21, 2006
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    Montana and Thailand
    richard-- i enjoyed your ride story-especially the gray hair.... I am a "mature" female rider. Last year i got stopped on a rural Montana road about 150 miles from home. I about panicked because I thought uh-oh if this road is a 55mph, I'm had. so I politely asked the officer- "what is the speed limit on this road, because i didn't think i was speeding."he said it was 70 and I said, oh, then did you stop me for something else??? he asked if I know how fast I was going. Since one doesn't want to admit that "uh, as fast as possible?" or "heck no, who ever looks in Montana??" i said, well , gee, maybe about 72 or 3 ???? He says 84mph. I said "oh this old bike wont do that, I don't think? " ( an '83 GL650 ). So we talk bikes for awhile.... he ended up giving me a "warning" ticket for $20. cash on the spot, which left me $4. for lunch and a credit card for fuel....
    In cars and on the bike, when stopped by officers, I am always very polite and don't argue-- but try to find " another way of looking at it". I got off a speed rap in my van because it has oversize tires and i said the speedo is incorrect.... etc.etc. I thought I was pretty clever, then I read a book called "Uneasy Rider" and a Texas patrolman gives all these as excuses he's heard!!! nuthin new in the world....

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