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Old 10-25-2012, 01:03 PM   #1
max384 OP
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Three days in Appalachia

Let me start off by saying that this writeup will accomplish two goals. The first goal will be to write a ride report about my trip. Secondly, and most important, will be to explain to you the extent to which both the iPhone and especially the Navigon app fucking suck. So, if you’re either an iPhone or Navigon fanboy (or girl) you may want to stop reading now… Because the truth hurts!

Earlier Sunday as I was riding home from drills, I decided it would be a good idea to take a little three-day trip to WV… So, as any diligent traveler would when preparing for a last-minute trip, I put off packing and instead had a couple friends over for some beers. After all, I had to get up early. By midnight, my friends had gone home and I was packed up and ready to go. I had the alarm set to go off at 4:00am, with a backup to go off at 4:30… and another for 4:45.

I rolled out of bed around 5:00am after much internal debate and many snooze button smashes. I grabbed a quick bite to eat, had a small cup of coffee, took the dog out and fed him, got my gear on, and hit the road by about 5:30am. It was chilly! My thermometer at the house said 38° F. I had layers on and heated gloves, so the cold wasn’t too much of a problem.

The plan was to take the interstate down until I got close to Morgantown, WV. From there, I’d decide the rest of the route. Speaking of, my general game plan was to go to Morgantown and visit an old house and the old elementary school I went to kindergarten in. I had heard it was closed down years ago, so I was hoping to do some exploring if it wasn’t torn down. From there I was going to see the New River Gorge bridge and Thurmond, WV, an old ghost town. Then I was going to ride into eastern KY and head north into Ohio and back through PA.

There was a fun two-mile stretch of road in southern PA or maybe northern MD. It was so fun in fact that I stopped, turned around and rode it again, then came back through.


(the picture doesn’t really do it justice)

At the end of the road, I stopped and had a peek inside this old house.







My first real stop was in Booth, WV to see my old house I lived in for a couple years. It was old, dilapidated, and depressing. I took a picture… then left (btw, it looks better in the picture than in real life). Not much else to do there.



I actually had no idea how to get to my school. I only had the memory of taking a right off of my street on the school bus as a kindergartener 25 years ago… So, I took a right and figured I’d look for it. If I didn’t find it, I’d ask a local where it was. It turns out that if you take a right, it’s about two miles down the road on the right hand side! Didn’t even need to ask for directions… My manhood is intact.





Everything was boarded up except the front door which was actually wide open. There weren’t even any ‘no trespassing’ signs. It’s like they rolled out the red carpet for me!
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Old 10-25-2012, 01:03 PM   #2
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(a little blurry… But it’s the only picture I took)


Cafeteria:


Front Office:


















Creepy Basement (I didn’t even know there was a basement here):



My kindergarten classroom:





I remember getting yelled at for not washing my hands here…


Okay, so this place was pretty creepy to begin with, and I had literally just watched the movie ‘The Chernobyl Diaries’ two night prior, so I was a bit creeped out by going into the basement… But scaring yourself is half the fun of ‘touring’ abandoned places!







I made it out of here without falling through the rotting floors or being eaten alive by zombies! Next stop: New River Gorge bridge!
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Old 10-25-2012, 01:04 PM   #3
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The roads in West Virginia are fantastic! There is no such thing as a boring road here it seems. The best part is that nearly every road with a painted center line is 55mph. Most of the time I feel like I’m riding a spirited pace, even though I’m traveling below the speed limit. Riding to the New River Gorge I took a mix of random country twisty roads at first, then realized that I needed to find a highway to make a bit better time. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the speed limit on most of the highway was 70mph… And they were actually pretty twisty! (well… In comparison to highways back home anyhow).

A pic along the way:



There were lots of other good picture opportunities, but I wanted to make it to the New River Gorge and Thurmond by nightfall, so I pretty much rode straight until I got there.



There is small visitor center and a trail that leads to a lookout on the north side of the gorge.









After taking a few pictures and looking around the visitor center, I decided to ride the canyon roads that lead to the bottom of the gorge. There were too other guys, one on BMW RT1150 and another on a Concours that were from Tennessee. I talked with them for a bit, and it turns out they were going down the canyon roads as well. We chatted for a while and then they took off a couple minutes ahead of me.

It immediately became clear that the canyon roads were just a bunch of extremely thin switchbacks and very tight turns. The road was paved, but was barely wide enough to fit a car in many places… Let alone allow for any passing. There were a ton of blind curves that I was creeping around, scared to death of getting flattened by oncoming traffic. I pulled over in a small pulloff to take a few pictures. It was there that I noticed the ‘one way’ sign! Whew, that made me feel a lot better. I was able to enjoy myself now knowing that the road was one way so I could feel reasonably safe from oncoming traffic.





Once I made it to the bottom of the canyon, I passed the two other guys I was talking to ealier, who had pulled over to take some pictures. I rode down to the river’s edge to look around and take some pictures.





I then made my way up the canyon on the other side. I pulled over to set my Navigon GPS to go to Thurmond. I knew it was pretty close to the gorge, so I was hopeful I would make it there before dark. I figured it would be pretty easy to find a place to camp somewhere around there. I was surprised to see that I was about 40 miles, and an hour and a half away. I didn’t have a large enough paper map with me that had Thurmond listed for me to cross-reference... So I blindly followed my GPS (more to follow on this).

It was starting to get dark and I was still about 25 miles from Thurmond, so I decided to start looking for a place to camp. I was planning to find a dirt road and follow that until a suitable place to throw down a tent presented itself. However, it was quickly getting dark and I happened to ride right through Babcock State Park, which had camping. State park camping it was!

The mileage at the end of the day was 440 miles.

I got my tent up and gathered some wood right as it was getting dark.



There is no alcohol allowed at WV state parks… But it’s not like I was gonna be getting rowdy and drunk tonight… Well, at least not rowdy.

24 oz pounders!


My ghetto-fabbed camping lantern…


Dinner!


I quickly (too quickly) finished up all my beer and was ready for bed!

Me before bed:


For those who happen to be sober while reading and need a translation:


I woke up in the middle of the night to take a leak and down a liter of water to keep me from waking up with a headache. It did the trick because I somehow woke up the next morning feel quite refreshed. It must be because I slept close to 10 hours!

I got up and around pretty slowly. I burnt all my wood last night, so I scrounged for a bit for firewood to warm me up. I then made the closest thing I had to breakfast food…



I made some coffee


And I warmed my boots by the fire.


A better picture of the campsite, since the last one was pretty dark:


I got everything packed up and got ready to hit the road to Thurmond! I put the destination into the Navigon app and it told me I was only 15 miles away. This was good to hear… But I know for a fact that it told me I was 25 miles away last night when I stopped here. No worries though, closer is better!
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Old 10-25-2012, 01:15 PM   #4
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Nice. I just recently went to my old high school, which was built by Charles Schwab. He married a girl from my home town and decided that the school needed an upgrade. It's in roughly the same state as your old school.
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Old 10-25-2012, 01:24 PM   #5
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I was born in WV and was scheduled to take a tour of the relevant areas this month, but it just didn't happen. I will do it next year on my way down to the RA rally. I am sad and dismayed that there is a no alcohol rule in WV State Parks. I guess I too will become a criminal.

Thanks for posting!
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaston Gagne View Post
Nice. I just recently went to my old high school, which was built by Charles Schwab. He married a girl from my home town and decided that the school needed an upgrade. It's in roughly the same state as your old school.
Yeah... Time has not been kind to my old school.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin III View Post
I was born in WV and was scheduled to take a tour of the relevant areas this month, but it just didn't happen. I will do it next year on my way down to the RA rally. I am sad and dismayed that there is a no alcohol rule in WV State Parks. I guess I too will become a criminal.

Thanks for posting!
Sucks how life sometimes gets in the way of our plans, doesn't it? I was planning a week-long trip up to Radisson, QC late this past summer, but it never materialized.

I'm not sure what the penalty is if you're caught drinking... I figured I just would just make it a point not to get caught!
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:27 PM   #7
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I made it a couple of miles down a nice, twisty, paved road when Navigon told me to turn right onto a small dirt/gravel road. It went from being a road to more of an ATV trail after a mile or two.





The GPS said that my next turn was coming up in a couple of miles. I was really hoping that it would be onto a paved road. The pictures I posted were the mild parts of the road. It got really bumpy with golf ball-sized gravel for a large portion of it. I recently resprung my front suspension with stiffer springs and put a stiffer rear shock on my bike. It handles much, much better on paved roads… But on these gravel roads, the stiffer suspension was killing me. I was really only able to go about 10-15mph, so progress was slow. I came to the next ‘road’ I needed to make a left on… This was actually just an even smaller, less maintained trail. It told me I had two miles to go on this road. I made it a mile down the road and came to a gate… Damn it. Time to turn around.



Navigon rerouted me to continue down the first ‘road’ I was on for 6.5 more miles. It was slow going, my wrists were sore, hands going numb, and my back was getting sore from all the jarring with my stiff suspension and clip-ons down this bumpy road. I was averaging about 10mph at this point. When I got about a mile from my next turn according to the gps, I run into this sign:



I stopped and checked the gps. It turns out that I was supposed to make a u-turn in 6.5 miles. This is one thing I really, really hate about Navigon. Instead of just telling me to make a u-turn, it will show a route with an upcoming turn, but it won’t tell you what the next turn is until you get within a mile of the turn. So, I traveled for about 5.5 miles down this road before realizing that it told me to travel all this way just to make a u-turn. Who in the hell needs a gps to tell them how far to go to make a u-turn?? Just tell me to make one and I’ll figure it out! So, I took a break, grabbed a drink of water and swore at my phone.

At this point I decided to just backtrack until I got back to the paved road and then reroute with the option of avoiding dirt roads. By the time I made it back to the paved road, I had traveled 20 miles on these trails and taken about 2 hours to do it, including taking a break. I tried to find the option to avoid dirt roads… and found out there isn’t one. There is an option to avoid toll roads, highways, and ferries, but no dirt/gravel road option. Every other gps I used had this feature, so I assumed it would be standard. Anyhow, I just rode in the general direction of Thurmond and asked a guy working on his car how to get to Thurmond. He pointed me down a road and told me take a right down a dirt road. I made it to the road and saw that my gps said it was 15 miles away. The road looked about like the trails I had just come from. No thanks. I wasn’t in a hurry to do that again.

I was pretty sure there was a closer way not far from Fayetteville (right next to the New River Gorge bridge) that I remember seeing on the internet. I turned around and went in that direction. I crossed the bridge and went down that road for about two or three miles and saw a giant sign that said Thurmond was to the left. I made the left and followed a few signs and was riding down a beautiful twisty paved road to Thurmond. I glanced down at my phone and noticed that Navigon was now hot on Thurmond’s trail… Only five miles to go. Thanks Navigon… Where were you last night when I was leaving the bridge??





Well, I made it to Thurmond, a roaring coal/railroad town in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that now has an official population of 7. I came here a few times with my dad as a kid growing up in WV. I remember it as a really cool dilapidated ghost town. While it is pretty cool. It’s been restored and is now a tourist attraction, so that abandoned ghost town feel is pretty much lost. It is, however, still cool to see. And, I had the whole town to myself right up until I was getting ready to leave when a couple pulled in to look around.

Downtown on the main street.




The main road continues up the side of the mountain and makes a hairpin to turn to reveal another main street on the mountain.


This looks to be the dirt road that leads into Thurmond from the other side of the river (where I spent all that time bouncing around on the trails earlier in the day).
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:28 PM   #8
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View from the top street down into town:








It was right about this time that I looked down and realized I left my keys in my top box since I left the campsite earlier in the morning. I was definitely lucky they stayed in there!



A couple of the steep switchbacks on the main street:




I had decided earlier in the day that I would ride up to Charleston (another place I used to live) and then head into Kentucky and Ohio.

Leaving Thurmond:
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:33 PM   #9
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Lot of great pix!
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:42 PM   #10
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I was running pretty far behind to make it into KY and OH and make it back to western PA for camp that night. In hindsight, I should have just skipped KY and OH and stuck around the New River gorge area exploring… Next time.

I spent the next few hours slabbing it down the highway. Now, this isn’t as bad as it may sound though. The highways in WV are even kind of fun. The speed limit is 70 and they’re twisty too. Not the fun backroad kind of twisty, but they’re not a boring straight line like the ones back home.

I made it into KY… boring KY picture:

From KY I crossed over into OH and decided to ride up through southeastern Ohio and cross though West Virginia around Wheeling and then find a place to camp somewhere south of Pittsburgh… Well Ohio is BORING! As soon as I crossed into Ohio the speed limits got slower and the roads got flatter, straighter, and more boring. WTF!? I instead decided to head back into WV around Parkersburg and find a place to camp a little bit east of there.

A couple of pictures along the way:





It took me a lot longer that I thought, and it was getting dark around the time I crossed back into West Virginia. Since it was already dark and I missed out on finding a campsite while it was still light, I figured I could put some miles behind me on the highway so that I didn’t have as many miles to travel back home the next day.

I never really found an exit I wanted to take, so I just kept on riding down route 50, making pretty good time. At Clarksburg, route 50 turned from a four lane divided highway to a two lane rural road. The speed limit was 55, but with the unfamiliar twisty roads and the deer, I was averaging about 40mph.

It sucks looking for a free spot to throw your tent after dark. That is a task best completed before dusk. With this in mind, I decided to just find a campground to stay at. I stopped at two along the way, but they were both closed for the season. Time was dragging along and I was slowly chewing through the miles. I should also mention that Navigon had originally set an all-highway route, which I was fine with because I wanted to make time and rural roads suck in the dark. Somewhere along the way that changed. I could have turned around and taken the highway north at Clarksburg, but I decided to just stick with route 50. This road was actually a fantastic road. I really should have stopped so that I could enjoy it during the day. At night it just sucked.

At about 11pm I was exhausted and ready to sleep for the night. I pulled into a country store mega gift shop kind of place that was still open. I asked the women working behind the counter if she knew of a place to camp. She was nice enough to call a local campground to see if I could throw my tent down there. She then gave me (very vague and confusing) directions. I was pretty sure I could find it though. I took the route she told me to and never did find this place. She said it was a ‘few miles,’ but she never could give me a more definitely distance. I made it about ten miles down the road before figuring that I had definitely passed it at that point. I could turn around and continue looking, but I was making slow progress, and it would really put me out of my way… So I just kept on going. I felt bad that the nice woman had called down to the campground and that they were expecting me… But at some point I just had to cut my losses. Besides, I was tired and grumpy at this point. I kept going until the country road I was on intersected with I-68. I went east and decided to just grab a hotel for the night. This was the first hotel I’ve payed for in several years, and the first time I’ve ever stayed in one on a bike trip. Though at only $60 for the night, I was pretty pleased… But I felt a bit defeated that I had to give in and stay in a hotel. Oh well.

My room:
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:15 PM   #11
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Okay, now for anyone reading who doesn’t want to hear a detailed breakdown of why Navigon sucks, suffice it to say that I made it home safely and no pictures were taken on the boring ride back. End of story. For anyone who for some reason wants to listen to my rant, continue on:

I woke up, got ready, and hit the road. I input my destination and took off. Immediately, I saw that the phone was directing me away from the highway. I ignored it and jumped on the highway right next to the hotel. As soon as I did, it rerouted itself and by me ignoring the directions, it knocked 30 minutes and 18 miles off of the route. Now, I have the settings set at ‘fastest route.’ There is absolutely no reason why the route that it suggested was longer in both distance and time. Navigon really is terrible.

After an hour or so on the highway, I stopped for some gas and breakfast. Navigon again rerouted me. It was telling me to get back on the highway, which made sense… But somehow the total time had increased by almost 40 minutes and about 10 miles. I am dumbfounded how I can get off of the route and jump right back on at the same spot and have a different, and longer, route planned… When I’m set for ‘fastest route.’ I really hate Navigon.

As I am traveling up 220/I-99, the phone tells me to take the next exit. I never know what I have to do next, because it doesn’t display it. Once I take the exit, it tells me to go straight onto the onramp… Right back onto the highway I just exited from. It did this two more times over the next 50 miles. The last time that it took me off of the highway only to put me right back on, it rerouted itself… This time took of 10 minutes from the route. At least it’s putting me on a faster route… But I should have already been on the fastest route. Navigon is truly awful.

I get to State College and take 80 east. I’ve already known the route to get home for some time, but I keep the navigon on just to see how far I’ve got to go. As I’m heading down I-80 east, it tells me to take an exit that will take me through many small towns to get back home. I obviously know this is nowhere close to being the fastest or shortest route. I pull over and cancel the route and set a new one just to see what it will do. If it is functioning properly, it will set the same route… Because that is the fastest one. Well… It doesn’t. Navigon gives you up to three route choices whenever a new route is planned. Not only was the previous route not the ‘first choice’ route… It wasn’t an available route at all. This makes sense because it’s nowhere close to being a fast route home. By skipping the original route, the new route saves 12 miles and 27 minutes. Navigon is really pissing me off.

I continue down route 80 and notice that I have another exit coming up. I’m within 30 miles of home now so I know the fastest route to get home. I skip the exit and notice that the phone reroutes itself. By skipping the exist, I saved 16 minutes. Fuck you Navigon.

Now for anyone at home keeping track, all of these route screw-ups combined add up to an extra 1 hour and 43 minutes onto a trip of only about 260 miles… Not including the wasted time of taking exits on the highway just to be directed back onto the same highway.

Also, since I forgot to mention it earlier, the mileage on day two was 510 miles, the mileage on day three was 256 miles, and the total mileage for the trip was 1206 miles.

Lesson learned: Bring a decent paper map…
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Old 10-26-2012, 12:40 PM   #12
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Interesting trip. You seem to have caught the leaves at their peak colors. What kind of camera were you using?
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:45 AM   #13
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Navigon nightmares aside, a pretty cool trip. I'm looking forward to exploring that region myself. As a railroad history buff, that region has a lot to offer. A little comparison to one of your pictures:

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Old 10-27-2012, 06:03 AM   #14
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very nice trip - wish those roads were closer!
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Old 10-27-2012, 06:37 AM   #15
flyingz06
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always amazed by the beauty of WV, but even more amazed by the poverty of WV.
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