Joined: Jul 2007
A few people were hanging around the store, the usual geezer suspects, and we had to wait for a few minutes for our cheeseburgers to get cooked, the teen girls who usually cook on the weekend were missing.
“Where’s your help?”
“Yeah, they went to the game last night, now they’re all over at the house gettin’ set for the dance, and believe you me, those girls will take the whole darn day, never seen the like.”
Big city or very rural Virginia, some things are universal. Yes, I did say Virginia, we had crossed the state line a couple miles back, not that we could tell.
I ate my cheeseburgers while sitting on the duffers bench, relaxing, the sky now partly cloudy, temperature up a little.
I was thinking about that plaque fixed to the wall on the inside of the store, never noticed it before, probably because the store is usually much more crowded.
From that benchmark, it looked like there had to be over 8’ of floodwater above the road, and that meant that every single thing in this valley was under water. Crab Run and a few other creeks meet the German River and the North Fork of the Shenandoah in this vicinity, had to have been perfect conditions for a flood this big.
One of the old boys shuffled across the road to the mailbox, brought back a handful of mail and fliers, and when he got to the porch I said “Anything for me?”, that stopped him in his tracks, staring, gears turning slowly. It was as if he had turned to stone, but after several long minutes, during which I was checking his overall pockets for handgun shaped bulges, he finally said “No”, but with a certain finality.
Now that I’d broken the ice, I asked “How did ya make out in that big flood back in the eighties?”, and with another long pause that seemed like an hour and a half, he said “Didn’t”, and walked through the store door. Hmmmm, ya see, in my mind we had sorta bonded right there after just two words, him being a little stingy in the elocution department, but just in case he was not of the same mind, and was instead reaching for that old pick handle leaning in the corner, I figured it would be a good time to see what was on the other side of the mountain. So long, my friend, it’s been cosmic.
Monsieur Nix was jumpin’ around, ready to ride, especially with some gravel ahead, so when he asked “Are we leaving?”, I waited a few minutes while pondering whether he was speaking rhetorically, then responded with “Yes”, man, this singular free morpheme speech pattern thing is downright addictive. The only interesting alternative I could think of would be to start speaking Klingon. I shouldn’t have been funnin’ with these stoic old timers, eventually I’ll find one who’ll shoot. Lucky I’m damn fleet of foot, at least in comparison to Monsieur Nix, and that’s what counts.
We were soon gone, with the next stop being the big valley to the west. I had been on this upcoming series of roads several times, and Monsieur Nix had been in this area early this spring, but not on this road. Criders is paved from the Bergton intersection, but changes to gravel almost at the first up hill grade. The road was in good shape, a cathedral of color in some sections.
There was no question about stopping, we had to try to capture this scene.
Some pasture in any of the locations flat enough to cut hay, but I’ve never seen any of that activity taking place.
At the top of the mountain, we crossed the border back into West Virginia, now on Camp Run, or CR3/1, much rougher, but not a problem for us. The two water crossings that are normally found on the road were dry, although I have seen those and a third running pretty fast and full, a different deal. When we got towards the bottom, we rode through the small state campground just to take a look, two groups of hunters were the only ones there.
Sweedlin Valley Road runs through the big north/south valley of the same name, and we turned northeast here for a short run on CR3, paved, but another scenic stretch.
This road takes us up to the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac, say that again, and I’m always surprised to find these small feeder creeks with the same name as the bigger river. This signals a turn southwest on CR7/3, and we’re climbing again. This is an interesting road, but can be a handful depending on what you’re riding, and even got a “Holy crap!” or two out of Monsieur DR, it ain’t for the faint hearted riding some big heavy iron, all others should be good.
Some of the high meadows and naked hillsides remind me of the western states, or western Canuckistan.
Still climbing, the road narrows…
and we blew past a waypoint marking a turn on a road I intended to try, except the road looked little used, alarm bells going off, we had been on all kinds of those roads yesterday that were gated or impassible. Forget it, not today, we still had some miles ahead of us before camp.
Instead, we climbed up to the ridge at Greenwaldt Gap, continuing southwest on gravel, we passed another waypoint marking the intersection with South Fork Mountain, and…no road, another phantom, glad we never went in there. Only people we had seen since coming up from CR3 were a father and his very wiggly and wobbly young son, both on unplated Honda dirt bikes.
Still southwest on a slow descent, we transitioned back to macadam near Kiser Gap, then onto pavement at Schmucker, plenty to see…
then down to WV220, a short jog south, then southwest again on Reed’s Creek, and into the Seneca Rocks Recreation Area. Southeast on Hammer Run, then southwest on Wyatt Run, all paved, and we were rolling.
I think I had ridden past this location last year, but never noticed this old derelict under shot mill.
Old, but not ancient, it was probably concealed under brush and vines earlier. The water flow in the tiny creek supplying the power seems impossibly small until you consider the diameter of the wheel and the additional gearing. The mill must have been impressive back in the day.
Another roadside discovery, I’d take it home for the right price.
It’s a tradition, or superstition, to leave the old chimney standing long after the home is gone, and we had seen a number of these are on our ride.
Back onto Reeds Creek…
and we were quickly down to WV33, traffic not too bad, and after a very fast run north and west, we made the turn on Briery Gap, the main road into Spruce Knob from the north. It wasn’t long ago that this road was gravel all the way into Spruce Knob and Spruce Knob Lake, but it has been paved in sections, and today we found it paved all the way in.
We planned to ride up to the lookout area on Spruce Knob, but I don’t think there were any leaves on the trees above 2500-3000’, besides it was starting to look like winter, felt like it might snow. It was truly a winter scene, the opposite of what we had been riding through until now, sound the retreat, let’s get the heck outta here.
Past Spruce Knob, the roads reverted to gravel, more typical in this area, and after being in and out of the George Washington over the last two days, now we were in the Monongahela. I had been in here numerous times, and Monsieur Nix had been on some of the roads earlier this season. We were headed to Laurel Fork, our familiar haunt, no time wasted, except near Oceola, when I had to stop for a photo of some high pasture, the weather closing in.
A half mile down the road and running hard, we found jailbreak cattle, a first for me here. I hate loose cattle, an animal so pea brained they will run to danger instead of away. We got past, then on the gas again, arriving at Laurel Fork to find only one campsite occupied, a WV pickup and travel trailer. Monsieur Nix chose a spot, coincidently the same one Dave Hiller had selected two years earlier, and we had camp set up in no time.
Like yesterday, we had been riding hard, a headlong charge down the route, squeezing every drop of adventure out of the country encountered, the organic freedom of men on a march, a gleam in our eyes the day long. Camp was set up, I was about to tap the bourbon, and as I was starting to unbuckle my boots, we had a visitor…and that’s when we found out our riding day wasn’t over, we had a sudden change of mission.
(to be continued…)