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Old 09-06-2013, 04:35 PM   #1
jlovett11211 OP
Joined: Jun 2011
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Oddometer: 10
V-Strom in the Laurel Highlands

x-posted @ Stromtrooper Forum

Last weekend was the 4 year anniversary of my marriage and 8 year anniversary of meeting my wife Marit. With my new DL650 we decided to go on an anniversary ride around the Laurel Highlands, the South end of the Allegheny Mountains and the Western edge of the Susquehanna River Valley. I spent the week prior working on basecamp to plan out a route with some twisty mountain roads and some back woods gravel.

We left Wilkinsburg on 376 headed east. I’m still so impressed how well this 650cc bike handles at highway speeds 2 up. We headed north on the Golden Mile highway to catch Hwy 266. It was still early and cool and the traffic was light. The road to Saltsburg was smooth and curvy.


It was great to have Marit on the back. It turns out she’s a natural riding photographer!


She picked up a new Bilt helmet at Cycle Gear. It was certainly better than her old one but ended up being a bit too small. We exchanged it later that day. Hopefully we can give the newest one a try this weekend. I have to say I like the Hi-Vis and I really think it makes a difference.
Where HWY 266 crosses HWY 66 the bridge was out and the road was closed. It was a good chance to work on my off route navigating abilities with the GPS. There was a go-around that only took a few minutes.


On the other side of the closed bridge we cruised down and crossed the Beaver Run Reservoir.


After the reservoir, the road surface became chip-seal. It was a little squirrelly, but not too bad for riding and totally worth it for the “Do not pass fresh oil and chips” signs. It was making me want a fish sandwich!


We cruised into Saltsburg for our first break about 45 minutes in to the ride. They have a nice little river overlook park on the edge of town. It was a good chance to stretch our legs, work out some bugs in the GPS settings and have some coffee.





Leaving Saltsburg was all chip-seal until we turned off on some nice actual gravel.




Then we came across my first experience with deep gravel. We were following a pickup and trailer but as soon as we hit the deep gravel I fell back and cruised at a pretty slow pace. I tried to keep my weight back and a light grip on the bars. After a mile or so it felt pretty good. I think a set of tires with some more aggressive treads would really make a difference in this stuff.


After the gravel we saw plenty of “road snakes”


It was still overcast but the landscape was refreshing.


Back on solid pavement we cruised down through Keystone State Park into Derry for our second break, just a couple minutes to stretch and have some coffee.


After shaking the kinks out, we took Ridge Road on the way out of Derry. This is a road I stumbled across last fall when the leaves were changing. It’s still a pretty great ride for a late summer morning. Not too far up the road we saw a good looking 6 or 8 point buck bounding through the woods alongside us. He was veering away so it was fun to watch him leaping along through the trees. This road is a nice shortcut over the mountains to the first valley and Ligonier.


In just a few miles you pick up a little over a thousand feet. That’s not so dramatic by the Great American West standards, but it’s nice to pick up some altitude; just enough to feel the temperature drop and it makes for a great view from the top.


When we hit the valley we headed south towards Ligonier. The roads were nice maintained gravel / pavement.


As we approached the Latrobe Reservoir, we started seeing more recreational types, bicyclers, joggers, etc. The houses really covered the spectrum they ranged from falling down barns to well manicured “hobby” farms.



While pulling in to town we came upon a pretty large farmers market and decided to stop.


The parking situation was crowded but I spotted a couple on a R1200RT backing in to a spot. The guy waved me over and asked if I wanted to share the parking space with them. When we got off he and his wife introduced themselves. (I pretty much immediately forgot their names, it’s embarrassing.) He said that they were down from Cleveland for the weekend. After exchanging pleasantries, he mentioned that he had just purchased a black 2012 DL650, the same bike as mine. He seemed really excited to see someone riding around on one and it made me feel good to know that someone with the money for a big bad Beemer would pick a V-Strom.


We didn't have any cash with us so we left the market empty handed and stopped off at the Giant Eagle for some lunch provisions. Leaving the town and working our way up the valley on the route I had planned was great fun. Programming a route ahead of time is the way to go as far as I’m concerned. The only other times I’ve gone exploring in that area, I just ended up on the same main roads over and over again, but this time we zipped off the main road on to smaller and smaller back roads zig-zagging our way north.





I was able to push on with confidence when we hit some smaller dirt roads. I’m glad it wasn’t muddy I don’t think we could have made it.


Looking back:


We jumped back on Hwy 259 heading north. The scenery was pretty amazing in the valley.




The turn on to Girl Scout Camp Rd. was a real no brainer!


and the road didn’t disappoint.





The sun started to come out as we worked our way up to Bolivar, PA so I started looking for a nice cool place to stop for lunch.


For a town on the river, there was no real place to sit down and enjoy the view so we headed on down the road.


Fortunately the GPS was leading us in the right direction .



After we got off Climax Rd. we followed the river towards some smoke stacks on the horizon.



I deviated from our planned route in the hopes of finding the shady park on the river in the town of New Florence PA. It was a cute town, but still there was nowhere with a view to sit.


So, back on route I was just looking for anywhere because my belly was a rumblin’. That’s when we fell on to the sweetest little construction site for a nice romantic anniversary lunch.


Ritz it up indeed:



About 10 minutes after lunch we were cruising up Hwy 259 at around 50mph when a fawn scrambled out into the road in front of us. I didn’t see him until he was coming out of the ditch and up onto the road. He was young and still had his spots. I applied full on emergency breaking technique (grab / stomp those brakes as hard as possible and squeeze with my knees) Marit instinctively grabbed me around the waist with her arm and held on tight. The ABS activated on the front and rear brakes and I had no trouble maintaining complete control of the bike as we bled speed down to about 15mph. We passed right behind him. I could see his mouth making the terrified / terrifying Mr. Ed lips and I could hear his hooves scraping on the asphalt as he squirmed for traction. Marit couldn’t even see him until he was nearly past us because my body was blocking the view.

I am truly sold on ABS for bikes it was a legitimate emergency situation and the bike (with a passenger) preformed better than anything I have ever driven / ridden.

My adrenaline was still pumping as we worked our way out of the mountains and in to the foothills. We passed 22 and could have just cut out on the highway back home, but Marit was still good to go and I wouldn’t be deterred!

We got off the paved road and the valley flowers were absolutely incredible!



More smoke stacks beckoning.


We were able to ride up to and right through the Homer City Generating Station. I’m not sure if we were trespassing or not. We got some funny looks but just trucked on through. I have a real love / hate relationship with coal fired power plants.





I was impressed and excited that I still had a very enthusiastic passenger on the back after 95 miles and three hours of bumpy twisty back roads with a near deer strike. A real bad ass and ever the diligent photographer… I do love my wife!


The roads straightened out and the views became more expansive.




We took several gravel roads and I was feeling a bit more comfortable although still cruising at pretty slow speeds.




The hills picked up again and as we dipped into the woods we passed an impromptu shooting range.



We had to reroute around a closed road that, had it been open, I wouldn’t have had the skills to navigate and cruised on around to Lewisville Rd. just north of Blairsville for our last stop of the day. My butt was getting a little sore and I was starting to warm up. I knew that we had some slab or suburban roads ahead of us before we got back, so it was nice to take a few minutes and walk around in the shade by the creek.



I’m not sure what was wrong with the water in the creek, but I have a hunch that it has something to do with acid mine drainage.


It was turning out to be a pretty amazing ride.


We passed through some beautiful country roads remarkably close to the city.



We kept to back roads as much as possible but after we crossed this bridge, we had to give it up for stoplights and traffic. It was a great day for a ride and better than any anniversary present.



Anniversary Ride Map


Anniversary Ride Summary


Anniversary Ride Graph
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Old 09-06-2013, 06:58 PM   #2
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Great shots, thanks!
74 TY250 89 GB500 97 XR650L 03 KDX220 06 DRZ400 08 DL1000 09 XR1200
If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

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Old 09-07-2013, 03:27 AM   #3
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Nice report & pics! And yes, the wee strom is an amazing machine for its size!
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:19 AM   #4
Joined: Dec 2006
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well done

Nice report.I want one of those bikes.
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:44 AM   #5
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Congratulations on 4 years.
Looks like a great ride & it has to be bonus to have a photog / wife along.
I bought the same jacket, from Cyclegear, that Marit has. I really like it for summer riding & the rain liner seems to actually be waterproof. If I don't stay clean shavin the neck material will snag...guessing she doesn't have that problem
"Looking at the cake is like looking at the future. Until you've tasted it what do you really know. And then of's too late."
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Old 09-13-2013, 04:41 PM   #6
Prime Mover
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Dude, you wouldn't happen to be the Storm rider I saw in downtown Pittsburgh about a week ago, woud you? Right at the Convention Center. I was on a silver 2009 Wee. Nice RR.
"Better to live alone in the desert than with a nagging wife" - Proverbs 21:19
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Old 09-13-2013, 04:53 PM   #7
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Nice boots.
2014 DL650 Vstrom
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Old 09-13-2013, 05:24 PM   #8
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Very nice ride with your lovely wife. I grew up in Pittsburgh and spent lots of time on the Laurel Highlands hiking trail.

Thanks for your post.

RedRockRider - WR250R, TW200, Versys, Vulcan 900 LT, Zuma 125

Southwest Utah: Dual Sport Riding from St. George
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Old 09-13-2013, 07:47 PM   #9
Gadget Man
Out in the Garage...
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Joined: Feb 2010
Location: Central Minnesota
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Great photos.
Looking at all your photos, it was just like I was riding along with you.

I like the high vis helmets. I think I'll start with the vest.

Thanks for sharing

Gadget Man
My Kids May Be Smarter Than Me, But I Know More.

Current bike.
2013 V-Strom 650 Adventure
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Old 09-15-2013, 10:42 AM   #10
jlovett11211 OP
Joined: Jun 2011
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Oddometer: 10
Originally Posted by Prime Mover View Post
Dude, you wouldn't happen to be the Storm rider I saw in downtown Pittsburgh about a week ago, woud you? Right at the Convention Center. I was on a silver 2009 Wee. Nice RR.
That wasn't me, I haven't been down that way in a while. I have seen someone else around with the same bike over by Point Breeze.

Thanks to everyone for reading forums here. It feels nice to contribute some back. I can't wait to take a longer trip to write about.
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Old 09-15-2013, 12:06 PM   #11
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Great Ride Report
What a wonderful anniversary ride. Your wife seems to be a real trooper!
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