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Old 08-03-2009, 04:56 PM   #1
Garry OP
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Location: Murrysville, PA
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Three Suzis Do Seneca (WV)

My buddy Doug from Morgantown organized the second annual "WV Dual Sport Weekend" for July 31 - Aug 2. This year the plan was to stay at the Forest Service campground at Seneca Rocks ("Seneca Shadows"). A wide variety of things conspired together to limit turnout from the unusual (stolen motorcycle) to the typical (weather, work, etc). It looked like the crew was going to be just myself, R Doug and a new face on STN, DuckWV (Mike) with one of Doug's friends (RideWV / James) meeting us on Saturday morning.

My 2004 DRZ400S got a lot of TLC the previous week: new rear tire, new chain and sprockets and a new FCR39 carb. I had the bike packed on Thursday night so it would be ready to go as soon as I got home from work. Dirt Bagz work great on dual-sports, but aren't waterproof, so I had to make a trip to the local outdoors shop for some dry bags. The ride down looked to be wet and I didn't want to get there with a wet sleeping bag and wet clothes. I packed the tent/etc on the rear rack and was good to go.

I hoped to leave work at lunch on Friday and do some exploring on the way to Seneca. A huge storm was dumping a ton of rain on the region Friday morning, so I waited until it was just east of my route and left the house about 2pm. My "direct" route was 160 miles of back roads, so I figured that I should arrive at Seneca by 6pm or so. Plenty of time to set up camp and get dinner.

I took the usual suspects to escape PA and found myself near Bruceton Mills under threatening skies. Roads were wet but I wasn't getting rained on aside from a light shower near Ohiopyle in PA. Here's a photo looking west (still pretty dark) from Brandonville Pike:



I continued down Brandonville Pike to Terra Alta then rode south on Aurora Pike, which would take me to route 50 in Aurora. The weather was improving. Lighter skies to my right (west) and the dark stuff to my left (east).



When I got to Aurora, I decided to improvise and add the scenic Stemple Ridge Rd to the dance card and then do some exploring on the way to Parsons. Some views from Stemple Ridge:







I took Location Rd from Stemple Ridge down to St Georges (north of Parsons). It was a very pleasant surprise: kind of like Smoke Hole Rd with very good pavement, narrow, occasionally dirty corners and some nice views. Here are a couple photos from Location Rd:





Once I reached St Georges I took Holly Meadows Rd to route 72 just outside of Parsons. Gotta love fresh asphalt!







I gassed up at the Sheetz in Parsons, then took route 72 over to route 32. This section has a reputation for being quite remote and beat-up. It's been several years since I've done this road, but I heard that they fixed it up a bit, so I decided to give it a shot. Turns out they did fix the worst of it and it's not bad now. Still a little bumpy and dirty in spots, but much better than it was.



I guess this part of 72 is still a "cow path":



Nice scenery in the boonies...



Once I hit 32 (just south of Canaan Valley), I took 32 south to Harmon, then 33 east to Seneca Rocks. I got to the campground about 6:15, found Doug, and quickly set up camp. I used to rock climb at Seneca a lot in the 80s and 90s, but this photo is one of the best I've ever taken of it. I guess the late afternoon light was nice and the camera nailed the exposure.



Home for the next couple days. Great view...



Doug and I walked down to the Front Porch restaurant above Harpers general store for dinner. There aren't many dining choices now that the 4-U restaurant is closed (for sale). Good thing the Front Porch has decent food as it's the only game in town. You do get a great view of the rocks and the parking lot (usually full of bikes).

We wandered back to our tents with a six pack in tow, but we forgot to secure any kindling or paper to start the fire with. Everything around was soaked from the rain earlier in the day, so we just hung out for a bit and had a beer.

Daylight was fading fast when we heard a thumper coming up the road. DuckWV (Mike) had arrived. His bike wouldn't start that afternoon, so he got a late start after finding out his rectifier was dead. So it was bump start city until he could get somewhere to charge his battery (using the battery charger he had with him). He set up camp, then brought his battery and charger over to the camp office where they would let it charge overnight. We BS'd for a bit after getting Mike set up then retired for the night.
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Old 08-03-2009, 04:56 PM   #2
Garry OP
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Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. After getting Mike's DR ready to go (unplug headlight and tailight to save the battery for electric starts only), we had a short back roads ride to breakfast at the Gateway Family Restaurant in Riverton. There were a bunch of bikes in the parking lot. Turns out there was some kind of motorcycle rally ("Mountainman 2009????") happening in Circleville:



Captain K? Super K? K-Man? at the Gateway restaurant:



Doug's friend James never showed up at breakfast, so it was just the three of us. Our first stop was Spruce Knob. I'd never been up there before, so I was quite happy it was a nice day. I took a bunch of photos while I had the opportunity:













Some nice wildflowers up there as well:







Now the dirt portion of the ride started as we headed north up the west side of Spruce Knob. Our goal was to reach Canaan Valley via dirt roads, then head north to Davis to explore the Blackwater Falls area. The route ran pretty much straight north, but the road names on the GPS kept changing. I'm glad Doug knew he was going. A really fun (and easy) bit of riding.



















As we were getting close to Canaan Valley, a few sheep crawled under the fence just ahead of us:



The three of them took off down the road just ahead of Doug. I don't know if he is "Running with the Sheep" or if the sheep are just scared. This IS West Virginia after all...



One of the big attractions of the route was Public Road 13 (PR-13), also known as the Canaan Loop. The southern section is a nice dirt road that can be ridden quite fast. Then it gets wet and rocky and tight on the north end. Like riding through a tunnel of rhododendrons at times. When we did this last year, it was covered in snow and ice, so it was a lot more fun this time around:









We stopped for lunch at the Blackwater Brewery in Davis. It was nothing special. Next time I'll be sure to return to Hellbender Burritos. A short hop down 32 and soon we were on our way through the Dolly Sods area. I'd never been there before either, so it was nice to see the unique landscape, even if it was in 5th gear:





The road through Dollys Sods took us to Jordan Run Rd which runs up a scenic valley:



We followed a great dirt road up the back side of Scherr Mtn, but it was gated off near the top by a hunting club of some sort. So we turned around and took a different route back to Petersburg for gas. It was a fun ride up the mountain regardless and we got see this new view of the valley:



After gassing up in Petersburg, we took 28/55 toward Seneca Rocks, then headed west to catch Smith Mtn Rd. The road runs through a free-range area for cattle, so you have open/close a couple gates. You also have to be on the lookout for cattle and try to go past them with as little noise/disruption as possible.







Nice view as we're almost to route 33:



A unique view of Seneca Rocks in the distance:



It was about 7pm when we got back to Seneca, so we headed directly to the Front Porch (again) for dinner. Tasty adult beverages were purchased, plus we remembered to get some newspaper to start the fire with. We managed to get a nice fire going and had a pleasant evening drinking beers around the campfire while watching lightning off in the distance...

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Old 08-03-2009, 04:57 PM   #3
Garry OP
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Sunday started very early when I woke to the sound of rain on my tent. I figured it was the wee hours of the morning and hoped it was just a passing shower. Then it rained harder. And there was thunder in the distance. A few hours of steady rain later (guestimate), I crawled out of the tent and ran to my bike to get my rain gear. I figured I could get totally dressed in my riding gear (inside the tent), pack up my clothes and sleeping bag, then put on my rain gear to stay dry while packing the tent itself. The plan mostly worked, but I was so hot and sweaty from breaking camp with all my gear on that I was cooking from the inside.

The three Suzis (one DRZ400S, two DR650s):



Soggy start to the day. R Doug packing up:



Doug and I left the campground around 8am. Mike had fetched his freshly charged battery from the camp office and was still breaking camp. He was taking a different way home, so there was no need to wait for him to finish. We rode through a steady rain to Davis where we stopped for gas and coffee and to discuss our route options. I purchased a pair of kayak gloves at the outdoor store for this trip and they worked great for the ride to Davis in the rain, letting me keep my leather gloves tucked away in the dry bag.

I was concerned about our 50/50 dual-sport tires getting packed with mud if we got into anything sticky. We decided to let discretion be the better part of valor and just take paved back roads home. So we finished our coffee and wandered outside to see the rain had stopped and the sky was somewhat lighter. As we rode up 219 and went past Fairfax stone, we saw the sign for Leadmine Mtn Rd. It looked nicely paved, so we turned around. After taking some photos of the fog in the valley, we decided to take our chances on the dual-sport route Doug originally mapped out. We figured if things got sketchy we could retreat to paved roads.







Leadmine Mtn Rd is very twisty and has great pavement, but some of the corners are polluted with gravel. Be careful! Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, Leadmine becomes a fun dirt road with some technical challenge in places. Not to be missed. There was enough gravel in the dirt surface to offer good drainage, so traction was never an issue.





Our route took us back to the always scenic Stemple Ridge Rd, and I had to take another photo:



Snake Rd took us from Stemple Ridge down to route 50. Here's a photo somewhere along Snake Rd:



Once on route 50, Doug showed me a back way to Rowlesburg called Lantz Ridge Rd. Very cool! Another keeper. I think this photo is from that section:



We continued on a bunch of fun dirt roads between Kingwood and Morgantown. Calvert-Shaver Rd has an interesting rocky section that you have to pick your way through. Good fun. Eventually we hit civilization again and Doug split off for home while I continued north toward PA. I decided to follow my dual-sport route that wandered around just south of the PA border. Evidently Doug knows these roads, but they were all new to me.

I wasn't a quarter mile down the first one when I came up on this:



A mom with a van full of rugrats must live up this road and called hubby to come down get the tree out of the way. So I helped him move the huge logs off the road after he cut them. Then I was on my way. If you're ever in the area, CR-2/3 is big fun. They call it a county "road", but it was just a trail through the woods. I didn't take any photos of the mud bogs or rocky stream bed that passes for a "road", but it was certainly the most technical thing I rode all weekend. Goes for about 3.5 miles of picking your way along in first gear. I was being especially careful since I was riding solo in unknown territory, but had a great time. Another winner!





I eventually wound my way north into PA on Skyline Drive. Nice view looking west from the PA/WV border:



I was back on home turf (mostly paved), but decided to check out a road that I suspected turned to dirt and found a winner. Gettamy Rd turns into a forest road then pops out on Harding Hill Rd on the way to Dunbar. I saw other interesting roads and trails back there that I need to explore on my next visit. Much of that area is off-limits to vehicle traffic (state game lands) but this particular area seems to be legal.



I got home about 3pm. I never stopped for lunch or a break. I was on the DRZ from 8am to 3pm and didn't feel too bad other than being really hot. I guess the Rick Mayer seat I got over the winter worked really well. I kept my rain gear on the whole time because it is a real PITA to put on and pack, so I didn't want to take it off once it was on. Hosed the bike off, set up the tent and fly to dry in the yard and got something to eat.

I had a great time this weekend. Managed to log 566 miles on back roads and dirt roads. I would say the entire route is big bike friendly if you have crash bars, a skid plate and some skills, so it would make a good candidate for a DS ride at next years National. Much of it could be done on a regular street bike if you took your time on the rough sections. I have to head back there in the fall for another long weekend of dirty fun when the leaves are changing. There are so many dirt roads that branched off our route waiting to be explored.
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Old 08-03-2009, 07:58 PM   #4
tommyg
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excellent photos, thanks for sharing
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