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Old 04-30-2015, 11:20 AM   #1
CaptnSlo OP
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Wild and Wonderful with a Tiger 800XC and an F800GS



It is truly unforgivable that I have spent such little time in West Virginia. I'm only a few hours away, so I always feel like an idiot when I hear old guys giggling like schoolgirls about how it's the best place ever to ride and I haven't done more than a day or two in the state. I should just torch all the Touratech and toss the keys in the toilet. Not wanting to keep up this painful charade as a rider, I decided to tack on a few extra days to my trip out west for the “Spring Frolic in the Forest” at the Laurel Fork Campground to see what exactly everyone was raving about. I looked at a map, picked out the curvy roads, read some suggestions here, and plotted out some routes. Hopefully the drivel I've written below will be of some use for anyone planning a similar trip.

Oldtownduc and I began our Grand Tour on a clear Friday morning. All trips heading west are obligated to include a stop at Southern Kitchen in New Market, VA. I always get the fried chicken because I dream about it at night.





Refueled, we made our way to the campground in the afternoon. The roads quickly became hugely more fun to ride as the scenery tripled in beauty.
As I had expected, the party had started long before, so I had to force myself to drink some of my bourbon in order to catch up. I grilled up some steaks, incinerated Beantop's sausages, met new faces, and hovered around various fires because it was getting damn cold. The weather forecast was absolute crap and I take all of the blame since I'm the one who planned a vacation and thusly angered the weather gods. A huge storm front was expected to sweep in sometime the following afternoon and dump water on the area until Sunday morning. Well, after dipping down into what felt like the low 30s overnight, it started pelting ice on Saturday morning. Everyone, save a few brave souls, packed up and bolted. I couldn't blame them – I didn't feel like sitting in a cold tent getting iced on and then rained on in the middle of nowhere either. Plus, the site was out of TP. So I decided to get an early start on my trip. I wanted to check out some of the roads near the campground that would take me a few hours to do, so I made nearby Thomas, WV my stop for the night.



Inmate and road guru WayneJ had posted a route from the campground to Dolly Sods that I followed – see here: http://advrider.com/forums/showpost....&postcount=766.

If you're not coming from the campground, you can start the route on Route 33 – you jump on Smith Mountain Road (5/2) from there, ride that to Dolly Town Road (28/1), then take 28 to Jordan Run Road, and then to gravel FR 75 on the left. Then you take gravel 19, to paved 45/4, which spits you out on Route 32, which gets you in the vicinity of the towns of Davis and Thomas.

Smith Mountain Road was a really fun ride. I climbed up and around a mountain on a gravel and dirt road that was rocky in places and had some ruts to keep it interesting. As the road wound around the mountain, I crossed about 7 or 8 small streams, and ambled by several farms and relatedly, over multiple cattle grids. I imagine the metal grids could be a handful if wet, but I lucked out as it hadn't started raining yet. It was advised that there could be some closed gates blocking the way, but all were open for me. It was a really beautiful road adorned with wildflowers along its edges - definitely a worthwhile way to get from 33 over near the Dolly Sods area.



Dolly Sods is a huge, flat, otherworldly mountain plateau in the Monongahela National Forest. Loggers in the 1800s-early 1900s chopped down all of the trees on it and fires burned what was remaining away. The ground today is a blend of rocks and heath barren, and the harsh wind sweeping across the vast area has caused the spruce trees growing on the sides of the mountain to look like my hair on a windy day. I've heard there's a lot of good hiking out there, particularly from the plateau to Red Creek below. The roads up through Dolly Sods and down (FR 75 and 19) were easy gravel with a number of easily avoidable potholes. Dolly Sods is worth making a stop for – there's a stunning view of the mountains from the top and riding on it made me feel like Spaceman Spiff exploring Mars.



Fortunately for me, the rain held off until after I left Dolly Sods. It drilled down pretty good and the thermometer on Oldtownduc's F800GS read 37 degrees - quite balmy. We made haste to Thomas to find a place to stay for the evening.


Thomas, WV

Some inmates at the campground had recommended the Purple Fiddle, a music venue that also has a cafe and a hostel upstairs. We got our own room there and relished in being dry and warm. I will say this about the Purple Fiddle – if you need peace and quiet to sleep, I would not recommend this place to you. Not only do you hear the live music from downstairs, the hostel has all the sounds and smells of a college dorm on a Saturday night (quiet time starts at 3 am btw). I didn't stick around for the sights b/c when I walked in, all of the 20-somethings playing pool glared at us and one guy quipped, “looks like the SWAT team's here.” But it sure beat being wet and cold.




The hostel's resident cat.

While the rain fell, I had some tea and a pepperoni roll (a local delicacy) in town, drank some beers and gorged myself on hummus and olives and a turkey wrap at the Purple Fiddle, then passed out embarrassingly early, as typically happens whenever I wind up riding in the rain.


Frou-frou pepperoni roll. I also bent my general rule about avoiding gas station food when I bought a pepperoni roll from one. It was pretty good, but not as fancy pants as this one.


Dinner at the Purple Fiddle


Zzz...

Over the course of the evening, I'd wake and hear over the rain drumming on the windows the most raucous game of billiards ever played, and at some point, it sounded as if a group of people who had never played a musical instrument before had decided to hold a several hour jam session in the hostel living room to compete with the bands playing downstairs. Oldtownduc put in the ear plugs he wears on his bike, but I found the sounds too amusing to ignore.

Side note – while I was unpacking my bike, two ladies started chatting with me. They both rode (one had an F800GS and the other had a Bandit 1200) and the Bandit rider had written the book, Girls Don't Ride Motorbikes. Her father had instructed her never to ride one, so she rode 7,000 miles solo across the United States (as a foreigner) and eventually traveled on her own around the world, all documented in the book. The two were in town to see a Mongolian throat singing group that was playing at the Purple Fiddle that evening. I was mildly intrigued to see this group, but fell asleep before they came on. When I awoke to some of the oddest sounds I had ever heard, I stared at the ceiling with my eyes wide... until I remembered my conversation with those ladies.

CaptnSlo screwed with this post 04-30-2015 at 06:26 PM
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Old 04-30-2015, 12:01 PM   #2
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The next day, I woke up and tried to sneak outside without waking the hostel. A flight of creaky wooden stairs and motorcycle boots – I'm sure I wasn't successful, but I tried. I walked around Thomas for a bit as it had finally stopped raining.


Remnants of last night's festivities.


I don't know what they're selling, but take my money!




I ate a tasty breakfast of fresh out of the oven biscuits and gravy at the Flying Pig, and then set out for the next stop – Fayetteville.



I don't want to bore you with a list of the roads we took, so here are some pretty pictures that lay it all out. As you can see, I didn't pick the most direct route to Fayetteville – for good reason.








The day didn't feel that long since most of the roads (all paved today) were super fun. The rain had finally ended and as we made our way south, the clouds and frigid air eased up. The blue sky snuck through, allowing the sun to shine brightly on the beautiful red bud trees and spring greenery that lined the roads.




Seneca Rocks






Several of the roads were fantastic – 66 from Green Bank to 219/55 was a twisty sprint through the mountains.

The Green Bank location of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Home of the Green Bank Telescope.


Cass - home of the Cass Scenic Railroad and a former company town known for timber processing.



Cass

I was really looking forward to the Highland Scenic Highway (150) – which some have described as being similar to the Cherohala Skyway – but, as you can see, it wasn't all that scenic when I visited.




Off the Highland Scenic Highway, we hopped on the Williams River Backway (86) - a narrow road that runs along the Williams River. We shared it only with innumerable fishermen who were also out enjoying the day. Although this photo makes it look rather nondescript, I thought it was a great road and fun to ride.




4 and 16 were wonderfully twisty roads – a total hoot – plus the beautiful mountain scenery couldn't be beat. We also passed a group of strangely happy people who appeared to be in the process of burning down their home, so, uh, it was scenic in more ways than one.


Cowen








Just make sure to watch your speed when heading toward Fayetteville. I kept it within the speed limits and was glad that I did.

We spent the next two nights at the Morris Harvey House B&B in Fayetteville. It's a nice place – hot shower, clean, comfortable, and not sickeningly twee as B&Bs tend to be. Although I'm generally loath to chat with anything human first thing in the morning, I did meet some very interesting people there over breakfast. Fayetteville is a very small town, notably packed with law offices that lined the main street. We were lucky that of the few restaurants, the two closest had excellent food and beer selections – Pies and Pints and Secret Sandwich Society.


Fayetteville

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Old 04-30-2015, 12:45 PM   #3
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The following day, we had some interesting gravel roads planned. Here's a map of our route:


We made our first chilly morning stop the New River Gorge Bridge – one of the largest steel arch span bridges in the world. Riding over it on 19, it doesn't seem like a big deal. You can't really tell how impressive it is until you get below it. So we rode to the visitors center, and from there we took CR-82 – a very narrow, somewhat rough, paved road with a few switchbacks, that runs down and below the bridge. There's a smaller bridge crossing the New River for CR-82 that provides a good vantage point for photos of the much larger bridge.



CR-82


New River Gorge Bridge



From there, we took 19 south to 61 south, to Thurmond Road (25), which was a fun road to ride along as it's narrow and snakes along the New River with little water falls gushing from the hills at its side. That brought us to Thurmond, a practically abandoned railroad town that was pretty freaking cool. The town was only accessible by train – there were no roads. It used to be a major freight station for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad during the coal boom and had a bank, stores and multiple hotels (apparently one hosted a 14-year long poker game that ended because it burned down). But a fire, the Depression, and the switch to diesel locomotives pretty much wiped out the town's fortunes and now only about 7 people live there and the town buildings remaining are owned by the National Park Service. No one was around when we showed up, so we spent some time looking around.










There's a small road running through Thurmond. We followed it to Beury Mountain Road. That road quickly turned to mud, rocks and gravel, and I may have added some patina to my bike after being taken by surprise by an extremely steep, muddy switchback at the start of the road.





Beury Mountain Road was really rocky in places and there was a pretty steep downhill section covered in loose babyhead rocks with a deep, evil looking rut that ran through the road. I also remember a lot of mud and mud holes. It was quite unlike the gravel stuff I do back at home and I appreciated the challenge, though a bit more in retrospect

Oldtownduc never complained about all of the yelling coming in through the intercom, so I'd like to say it wasn't that bad, but it's just that he's really patient.







From the end of Beury Mountain Road, we rode to Meadow Bridge, and then Backus Mountain Road (all paved).





Backus Mountain Road was a neat little narrow road that ran past farms, angry dogs, small neighborhoods, and the occasional tire pile and Chevy Cavalier. After that, we got on Stanaford Road and took that to McKendree Road (25).


Backus Mountain Road






Whoever deemed McKendree a road had one hell of an imagination or an interesting sense of humor. When it wasn't a pile of rocks, it was a cavernous mud hole or a rut leading straight to hell. Judging by a fallen tree covering most of the road, no one had been there in quite some time. It was very beautiful and remote, and I wound up enjoying exploring on my bike through what seemed like long untouched land. I really felt like I had accomplished something after I completed the road.






As McKendree Road approaches what I believe is the town of Thayer, it suddenly becomes super fine gravel. It eventually took us back to Thurmond.



From there, we retraced our steps and returned to Fayetteville. I felt like I deserved a few beers that day We had an awesome meal of pimento and jalapeno cheese fries, mac 'n cheese, and hearty sandwiches at Secret Sandwich Society. I was out like a light soon after.

Oh at some point earlier in the day, I kept smelling what I thought was paint. I found out my pants had melted onto my exhaust. Boo.

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Old 04-30-2015, 01:13 PM   #4
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The next morning, we left Fayetteville for a long day of riding to Berkeley Springs, WV. We've wanted to check it out and it's on the way home, so we made that our final stop of the trip.




On the way, we stopped at a favorite lunch spot for many inmates – Rella's Roadside Cafe.







Rella is about the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had a Santa Claus-sized sack of ramps that she was about to clean when we walked in, and she quickly set about making us lunch and getting to know us, asking where we were from, where we were going, telling us about the price of morels, how she likes to prepare ramps, how her daughter teaches near our home, and how one of you makes a beeline for her pie refrigerator as soon as you walk through the door. Speaking of, we split a slice of the coconut cream and were thankful we didn't overlook the pie. I also had meatloaf and Oldtownduc had a cheeseburger, and we were both nodding to each other as we ate in agreement over how much we enjoyed the food. So if you're ever in Hacker Valley, don't miss out on a good meal. You have no excuse to miss it either - the roads through there – 15 and 20 - were fun as hell.

For a while, we were on 219. We got stuck behind some trucks after the highway turned into a two-lane road, then needed gas, so I thought it might be fun to head up 72 for gas at the Cool Springs Park in Rowlesburg.



We blasted up 72 - a great road – very beautiful, scenic, and full of twisties. And hardly anyone on it either. We hung a left on 50 for 2 miles and pulled into the Cool Springs Park.



This place had a bunch of interesting knick knacks. While staring at some weird hams in a bag, I talked to a gentleman who had admired our bikes – he said he had a Harley that served as a lawn ornament and a Honda dirt bike that he enjoyed. He warned me to be paranoid of WV drivers and then told me how J. Edgar Hoover had first instilled his paranoia in him, and reminded me that the NSA was tracking Facebook. Somewhat unsettled, I set off east on 50 toward Romney.

50 is a terrific road. I guess the problem with all the routes I picked is that so many of them are so wonderful to ride that the fun becomes rote. Ah ok another twisty, beautiful road in the mountains *yawn*

We hit a little construction traffic on the way, but we were moving without too much delay. From Romney, we took 28 north to Green Spring, WV. The only reason why I went this way was to take the Oldtown Historic Toll Bridge, one of the country's few privately-owned toll bridges. It's a rickety little thing, running across the North Branch of the Potomac from Green Spring, WV to Oldtown, MD. $0.50/bike. It wasn't a mind-blowing toll bridge experience, but I thought it was pretty neat.




From Oldtown, we took 51 east, which becomes 9 once it crosses back into WV at Paw Paw. Along the way is an overlook that provides a breathtaking view of WV, MD and PA. I didn't stop because I was dying to get off my bike, but if you're ever in the area, definitely check it out. Also, everyone recommended a restaurant at the overlook called Panorama on the Peak. It was closed the day I was out there, unfortunately (it's open on odd days), so another place to visit if you find yourself out in Berkeley Springs.

Not far from the overlook on 9 is Berkeley Springs.



Berkeley Springs is another small town, but it has an interesting feature – the mineral waters that flow from its springs have soothed weary travelers for centuries.







There are spas everywhere in town, capitalizing on the back spasms and hunched shoulders of DC desk jockeys. Even the state park has a spa – I wanted desperately to go after spending 8 hours in the saddle, but it had closed for the day by the time we arrived. We settled in at the Country Inn. It was an old hotel and our room had a bed that creaked so badly, I would wake up from the sound if I moved an inch. BUT it had a fantastic shower with a jacuzzi tub that I almost fell asleep inside. Dinner was at Tari's Cafe and it was excellent. We had a bottle of wine, crab bisque, I had a wonderful seafood linguine and he had a rack of lamb. It was a good way to end a long day.



Downtown Berkeley Springs

But wait – we had to get in a soak before we left for home. I wanted to get the state park spa experience as I'm sure it's the only one to be had in the US. Photos I found online made it seem like a cross between a morgue and a YMCA. I was pleasantly surprised when the next morning we were offered our own Roman Bath. The hot water soothed our aching muscles and made for an unusually relaxed ride home, even on I-270.




Overall, it was a very fun trip. If you have any questions about any of the routes I picked, give a holler. Hope you enjoyed reading this.

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Old 04-30-2015, 01:44 PM   #5
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Nice RR Capt , I see you've pretty well mastered the Tiger, so I assume you are happy with that purchase decision
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Old 04-30-2015, 01:46 PM   #6
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Nice @!! Fun looking tour.

I guess I was wrong about the cloud cover up on Dolly Sodds!! Happy to be wrong.
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Old 04-30-2015, 02:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCrider View Post
Nice RR Capt , I see you've pretty well mastered the Tiger, so I assume you are happy with that purchase decision
Thanks! Oh yeah taking Tigger through the twisties reaffirmed my purchase decision many times over. I love that bike.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JaxObsessed View Post
Nice @!! Fun looking tour.

I guess I was wrong about the cloud cover up on Dolly Sodds!! Happy to be wrong.
Thanks Jax. We had quite a stunning view from Dolly Sods. What a neat area. I definitely need to return to do some hikes up there.

Ugh I can't edit my report for some reason and a spelling error is driving me nuts. So frustrating...
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Old 04-30-2015, 02:40 PM   #8
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One of the better ride reports I've seen from the Mountain State.....
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Old 04-30-2015, 02:56 PM   #9
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Nice report Slo
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Old 04-30-2015, 03:26 PM   #10
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awesome adventure
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Old 04-30-2015, 03:41 PM   #11
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Great ride report! It's a little thing, but I appreciate you using the full, correct name for things like cafes and towns -- all I have to do is highlight something that looks interesting, and select the "Search Google for..." option with the right mouse button. It only works if the author took the time to get the names right!
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Old 04-30-2015, 03:55 PM   #12
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Really enjoyed this one! It has it all. I can appreciate the way you seek out the local dives. Bet I would never catch you two in a T.G.I. Fridays?
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Old 04-30-2015, 04:27 PM   #13
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You two sampled "some" of the best WV has to offer!

Not motorcycle related... Canaan valley averages 150" of snow each winter. Dolly sods has some great back country Telemark skiing and it's easy to access!
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Old 04-30-2015, 04:38 PM   #14
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Nice blixa. I've been wanting to do the Thurmond loop for awhile, but life just never lets me. Going to have to remember Berkeley springs too.
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Old 04-30-2015, 04:45 PM   #15
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Nice RR.

This is the mayor of Thomas, and JeffB's bedmate at the Fiddle.


You rode by my house, I live in Rowlesburg on 72.
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