Our new friend, the Mayor, was a feller by the name of Bill, so when it came to naming his combo eating establishment, beer joint, pool hall, and fair weather biker club house, he called it…I’ll pause a sec while you put on your freakin’ nuclear physicist hat…Bill’s Place, not to be confused with any other establishments in metro Orleans, ‘cause there ain’t none. Bill had a big time monopoly machine workin’, lucky for us he took a shine to our sparkling personalities right off the bat, ‘course it helped quite a bit that I knew a thing or two about squirrel huntin’. Officially, he was closed, but decided to reopen on our account, and that’s how we were invited to lunch with the Mayor.
I was parked in front, the logical place…
Monsieur Nix wanted to park at a location where he could capture a damn pretty girl and the DR in the same photo…
Heck, I couldn’t blame him for taking the opportunity, he already knew it would never happen in real life without the use of a firearm and handcuffs.
Bill had locked the door when we rode up, and was equipped for a squirrel hunting expedition with his grandson, very steady and mature at age 14.
“Ain’t going to fire up the grill, but if ya want a ham ‘n cheese sandwich, c’mon in”.
Usually when I eat at these places I just say “Fry something for me”, ten minutes later ya got a whole big plate of fried something in front of you, usually pretty good too. Got a friend who I think would eat a deep fried cow pie without blinking as long as he had his favorite hot sauce handy, fried is big time around here.
“What y’all want on the sandwich?”, and when I replied “Everything ya got”, dljocky said “Make it two”.
We were hardly into a running conversation on roads, bikes, deer hunting, squirrel hunting, black powder, and the mindset of average kids his grandson’s age, when our sandwiches showed up on the bar, no ordinary ham and cheese, no sir, these things were all of 4” thick, the ultra premium version. We knew they wanted to get out in the woods, so we didn’t waste any time, besides we were hungry. Actually, I don’t think a black bear could have gone through those sandwiches any quicker. The kid rang up the register, a ridiculously small amount for what we got, and when he started to hand us the change, I shook my head no, and said “Ammo”. That got a crooked smile, and “Thanks”.
Much grass to the Mayor and his grandson, it pays for moto travelers to be nice, and we were back on the bikes, apprehensive of finally finding mud after the previous day’s rain, way behind after a slow advance, and about to make a defining turn back south in not too many miles if we could only get there first.
The Mayor had given us a copy machine version of the Green Ridge road map, and we also discussed some roads across the border in West Virginia, provoking a grimace from Monsieur Nix, the memories still fresh, and I got a pretty good feel for the location of some of the roads he mentioned, some I thought were already on the route. Could have been wrong at this point, but if destiny had dealt us a hand in Texas hold ‘em, how were we supposed to know that we would bust, literally, at that ol’ river card.
We started out generally west on Old Orleans, paved, crossed Fifteen Mile Creek, started another climb on another mountain, transitioning back to gravel. There were a couple commercial campgrounds fairly close to Orleans with what looked like a bunch of permanent trailers, but once into the Green Ridge, only primitive camping spots, some very nicely situated.
When the sun was able to poke through, man, the scenery lit right up.
We turned north at Dughill and were immediately on a roughly graded road, wet, but no deep mud and very rideable. In contrast to just about all the gravel roads we had been on so far, this road was not top dressed, and might be a handful in very wet weather.
Our first turn northwest was supposed to be on Stafford, but when I slowed down for the turn, there was a pickup parked in the road entrance, a closed gate behind it. I wouldn’t have minded too much if this road wasn’t the key to getting farther west to another road network, damn, I never stopped, let the GPS do it’s thing, recalculate, recalculate…freakin’ broken record, where’s my BFH.
If we were going to get all screwed up on the road network, there were worse places to have that happen, the riding was great. Plenty of hunter camps along the road, almost no vehicles on the road itself, and we continued northeast, our turn south was going to happen farther north than expected.
Dughill turned northwest, and I guessed we were less than a mile above the original route road, one of the several north/south roads in Green Ridge. Another north/south road was farther west, I knew we would intersect that one eventually. The roads were in good shape, and we were motoring along.
I knew where we were when we crossed the creek at Deep Run on the Fifteen Mile Creek road, getting closer.
They may have graded the roads for hunting season, we could really run if we wanted to get racy.
When we hit the intersection with Green Ridge, man, it was a super highway compared to what we had been riding, still gravel, but smooth and fast. We had made the defining turn, now we were southbound.
Green Ridge is gravel, chip, and macadam, another road we may find paved the next time. The original route could have been accessed again off Mertens, oops, several groups of hunters blocking the road this time, and another gate beyond. That makes two, the ominous beginning of a trend.
We had been pushing along at a good pace again, time for a break, and we stopped at the overlook near Kirk.
Monsieur Nix was trying to unwind his back, a victim of his poorly trained DR, and I thought about telling him he could probably find one of them massage places once we cross back into West Virginia, nah, better not mention it.
The view to the west overlooking Town Creek, 180 degrees of spectacular. From this location one hundred years ago, saw logs were rolled down the mountain to the creek, then rafted to the Potomac.
I wasn’t sure what this sign meant, either we were on the official “Leaf-Looker” trail, or there was a whole gang of renegade Canuckistanians ahead.
We rode Green Ridge to Dailey, mostly gravel, then down to MD51, jogged around a little, but generally east, and crossed the Potomac River into West Virginia…
Dljocky concerned that his photo might already be on the bulletin board in the Paw Paw Post Office, under a heading that said “WANTED”.
Dave - that was JUST directions to Canada for the directionally challenged....
By the way - did you get to that Nov 2 Engledink Birdhumper concert...?
Canuckistanians migrating north for winter?...seems contrary to the laws of nature.
that concert, oh yeah, Engelbert was fantastic, but people were yelling and screaming, going freakin' nuts...it was either the bath salts, or they were trying to get out, heck of a stampede for the doors, they should have stayed...at least for his second song.
Location: Kelowna, BC - summer; Florence, AZ - winter
Originally Posted by fasteddiecopeman
Dave - that was JUST directions to Canada for the directionally challenged....
Not the Canucks who are directionally challenged....
Originally Posted by jdrocks
Canuckistanians migrating north for winter?...seems contrary to the laws of nature....
Dave - AIN'T us Canucks migrating north - the sign is more-than-likely for guys that sit on the porch, starin' into space, playin' banjos.... Seems like you were in the right area for that, weren't you?
Not the Canucks who are directionally challenged....
Dave - AIN'T us Canucks migrating north - the sign is more-than-likely for guys that sit on the porch, starin' into space, playin' banjos.... Seems like you were in the right area for that, weren't you?
no, that's way southwest of the route, but i can understand the confusion as dry heat has a tendency to disrupt important logic circuits.
...my advice, you should start wearing a hat, maybe something extra big like a sombrero, otherwise ya won't be able to find your way home in the spring.
The Post Office was on the main drag, dljocky snuck by at 10MPH, no good Monsieur, we had to stop for fuel anyway. Fueled, and I didn’t catch dljocky until 3 miles south on WV9, I guess he wanted to get away from Paw Paw, and was runnin’ that muddy DR for all it was worth, a fourth gear lope on the rat bike. From WV9 where we had turned east, I had a nice little gravel section planned to run over the mountain and connect back up with WV29, but no, after riding in there, the first leg of the road route just flat out disappeared, no matter the map, while we were stopped on the alternate road by a gate.
That’s right, someone had thrown a locked gate across a county road. Back around the corner to WV29 and south, we’ll have to try the next section, four blocked or phantom roads so far.
West on WV9, WV29 south, and I saw what appeared to be the exit for our missing road, but it seemed impossible that the two sections could connect. Distracted by this thought, I ran right by Cabin Run which angled southeast, a circular wave to dljocky, and he knew to turn around. I swear, walking speed is enough to outrun the refresh rate on the GPS.
Cabin Run was gravel, rocky surface in places, but fine for motos, and with the road well used it sure looked like this one had to go somewhere. By 2012, 87% of the land in the Mid-Atlantic had been reforested to the extent found hundreds of years earlier, another reason old farm houses are found in present day woodlots.
Cabin Run transitioned to macadam on the ridge, great views west, skies clearing again, maybe for good.
No hooligan stoppie this time, dljocky was steady enough to get a mirror shot…
Owl Hollow put us back on gravel, and we were soon down to WV127.
Of all the miles on the gravel so far, we had found only a small handful of vehicles, no motos.
West on WV127 pavement back towards the WV29 intersection, then south on North River Road, another important connecting road to points south, and followed along the edge of the river bottom, in good shape and seemingly well used.
These back roads are full of hazards, and I had to get Monsieur Nix to hold off a big rock slide until I was able to get past.
When we got to the North River, I was expecting a low water bridge, or anything other than what we found. You might be able to cross with a tricked out jeep or even a smaller bike, but we weren’t going to try it, too far from home, too far back in the woods.
The channel was on the south side, and the road landing visible, but we estimated at least 24” of water over there with a strong flow, no good.
The adjacent property owner had cleared a nice camping compound, then built a small rock dam which backed up the river water into a pool to the west.
Nice place, but not for us, we had to backtrack, the fifth blocked road.
You could say we knew the way back out, and we were in full flight when I saw headlights coming our way, didn’t notice the low profile light bar until the truck was much closer. Oh, oh, no camping for dljocky, he was going to be a guest at the Hardy County Hotel, might even get free flip flops.
Luckily, he was satisfied with talking to me, an obviously upstanding citizen. He wasn’t on a manhunt, but prowling for poachers, meth cookers, dope farmers, moonshiners, and any other miscreants he happened upon…hmmmm, that ruled us out, but everyone else we had seen out here recently could have been somewhere on that list. I did find out that the low water bridge that was supposed to be there was washed out 15 years ago, never replaced. We talked about his job some, and he was well aware that the folks on his list would rather shoot than run these days. Be safe officer, and we were on our way. When I saw the churned up gravel his truck had made on the way in, I no longer thought his appearance was as random as he made it sound. Someone, somehow, and for some reason, had dropped a dime.
West on Haines, and we were back out to WV29, then south, we needed another way through, and with the turn southeast on CR45, well, let’s just say it was a turn for the worse. Everyone’s heard of those corn mazes that farmers have in the fall, and that kinda explains our situation in terms that are easy to visualize. It was October, we were stuck in the backroad equivalent of a freakin’ corn maze.
We were way off the route, I could see the waypoints on the screen, and turned southwest on CR4, lets try this one, it was heading the direction we wanted to go. The road started out fine, then got progressively narrow the farther south we rode, never good, and when it got down to two track, I saw headlights in the distance, way too far off the ground to be our Officer friend. In fact, it was a tractor trailer rig, I couldn’t believe it, and it was blocking the entire road.
The driver saw us, but something was being unloaded with a farm tractor from the trailer, so we sat there…impatiently. Done, and the driver edged the cab over enough for dljocky to drop into the ditch and squeeze by, sorry, not me. The driver jogged around a little more, ran slam into a tree, and I got by on the left, good. The guy with the farm tractor said he had unloaded a sewing machine, I wonder, the box was as big as a damn refrigerator, might have been lab equipment. Anyway, when I asked him about the road ahead, he said it was all overgrown, nothing could get through anymore. WTF?, the guy watched us struggle past the big rig, then tells us the road ahead is blocked. He did mention that the road angling south that we had just passed had a deep water crossing, and we wouldn’t be able to go through there either. Another backtrack, we needed no urging, I did say it was a maze.
Now west on CR4, and we crossed some high pasture, great views, no stops, we were anxious to get south. CR4 eventually turned south, and we connected to CR45, running southeast. The road was getting smaller again, so when we made another turn south on a CR4 series road that abruptly stopped behind someone’s shack, we shouldn’t have been surprised. The road definitely had been there at one time, showed on the maps as running through to the south, but had done disappeared. No, we weren’t lost, the GPS track icon was lying square on this phantom road. Another backtrack, short this time, and we were on CR4, running southeast, not a good decision, I should have looked a little closer at the GPS.
We were flying on this muddy gravel road, every indication was that there had to be a big problem ahead of us, we should have turned around but didn’t, and then we found kinda what we expected.
Didn’t take too much scouting…
before Monsieur Nix waved off any attempt, the water way too deep for us.
When I wiped the road dust off the GPS screen and saw the track from earlier this afternoon and many miles back, oh boy, if we had crossed the water here, we could have helped that guy unpack his 600 pound sewing machine, or whatever the heck was in that mystery box. We had engaged in a running battle with the North River in an effort to get south, all the low water bridges, and sometimes the roads themselves, were gone. The biggest mistake was missing a promising turn about four roads back, so I picked a waypoint over on WV29 clear of the river, hit the “GOTO” button, and we negotiated our way back out, goodbye maze. Let’s go camping, and we were riding south again.
The ride south on the WV29 pavement was uneventful, need I say fast, we were off route again, although “route” probably wasn’t the best description for all the road snafus. Between the gates, too deep watercrossings, and phantom roads, the route had been blocked eight times, the advance south painfully slow, and if we kept this up we would run out of daylight.
When we slowed for the turn east on WV50, two older KLRs pass northbound on 29, the first bikes we had seen, no luggage, just out for a ride. East to Capon Bridge, and the intersection with our ill fated route coming down from the north, I flew past our turn south on Cacapon River Road, had to detour through a freshly graveled church parking lot carrying way too much speed for the 15% slope, and when I tapped the brakes all the bike did was skid south in the gravel, pointing me at a big freakin’ ditch. I rolled into the ditch, hooked the front wheel, used all 12” of suspension, on the gas and I miraculously popped back out, riding over to where Monsieur Nix was waiting. He didn’t ask, but I had a fantastic hero story all worked out in case he did.
The Cacapon River Road is paved, but still a nice ride, with the river on the left, valley pasture or foothills on the right.
We weren’t scheduled to be on this road long before crossing the river on roads running southeast, then south. When I got to the waypoint marking the road and the bridge, nada, no road, no bridge, and I’m not making this up this story, the GPS showed a road running directly across the river. There might have been some sort or crossing there 100 years ago, but not in 2012…so that makes nine.
We couldn’t cross the Cacapon, and with no back way down to WV259, we stayed on River Road, then east on WV259, once again connecting to the lost southbound road segments, back on route. South on Back Creek, we had made up some time, and now we weren’t all that far from a possible spot to camp in the George Washington, but at this point, I wasn’t ready to double down on how that would work out.
Kump and Milk, both paved and southbound, no traffic, then reconnecting to Back Creek, also south, and we found ourselves in metro Capon Springs. We looked briefly for a convenience store, Monsieur Nix desiring a beer chaser with his tortellini if available, didn’t find anything close, and we were south on Capon Springs Road, running headlong into Capon Springs…the other one, the old time resort, and man, were they ever glad to see us, the freakin’ Hells Angels, and that’s the one and only time I’ve ever seen people mistake a DR for a chopper.
A big wet fart in the middle of the PTA meeting wouldn’t have caused more commotion, people were grabbing the kids, herding the women, and in general, runnin’ for safety, except for the teenage kids, and everyone knows they wholeheartedly admire depravity. We were bad dudes, as in whacked out dangerous…and that’s when I locked up the brakes, nearly ran over a loaf of white bread wearing an argyle sweater and knee socks with brogues, the spittin’ image of J. Edgar shortly before he beheld the pale horse, ya know, croaked.
I wanted to stop for a few vodka martinis and a Cohiba Black, but doggone, Monsieur Nix hadn’t packed any resort wear in those Wolfman bags, no embroidered ponies, no plaid pants, nuthin’. Damn, with embroidered pony and alligator resort wear we could have passed for Ivy Leaguers, slurped down the martinis, smoked the Dominicans, talked ETFs and derivatives, Buffet and Gates, debated estate planning, tax strategy and such…all before adjourning for the Caponchase. Can’t miss that one, I’m awesomely good at that there code cracking.
OUR RATES INCLUDE:
Your lodging, THREE family-style “all-you-can-eat” meals daily, before breakfast and after dinner coffee, before dinner and evening snacks. Sports such as badminton, basketball, croquet, fishing, hiking, horseshoes, indoor puzzles, cards and games, ping-pong, shuffleboard, swimming, tennis and volleyball. The Caponchase adventure– a code cracking treasure hunt! Evening activities including Bingo, concerts, campfire sing-a-longs, movies, instructional programs, dances and talent shows. There is NO CHARGE for use of the laundry or most of the meeting facilities.
We could have had it all for $160 each, plus tax and gratuity, but when I saw their security team mobilizing, camping came back into play, after all, who wants to get tazed, gotta go, and that’s when Monsieur Nix said “Do you think they would mind if we came back for the Bingo and talent show tonight, man, I love Bingo…I can sing a real mean Free Bird too”. Sure, I can sing “Don’t taze me, bro”, but I’d rather go camping, and we were back on gravel, climbing the mountain, riding south in low sun, ready to stop.
Back in the George Washington, and I knew there was a campground on the ridge, never tried it, didn’t know what to expect, but we headed there anyway. We found an unused campground, roads and picnic tables buried in fallen leaves, deserted, and unexpectedly free, no fee to camp.
We rode through, rode through again, picked a spot, and set the tents in the parking area, the most level ground, and we wouldn’t have to carry our gear down and back.
I hadn’t noticed it when we rode through, but there was a good supply of sawn oak firewood left under the leaves at the base of a stone wall, even included a can of Boy Scout helper, nice to have for wet wood, a big campfire planned.
I got things organized, started the campfire, easy enough with a pint of lighter fluid, sorry, no bragging on that one match fire. Dljocky was firing up the Jetboil, tortellini on the menu.
Monsieur Nix got out his camera, and I rummaged in the Wolfmans for a couple of cinnamon bourbon miniatures, let’s get a photo before dark…
The shutter clicked, I took a half step towards the fire, and Monsieur Nix said “Got any more?”, that’s right, his bourbon was gone in .0001 seconds, 1000 times faster than it took to get the cap off the bottle, call Guinness, we have a new world record holder. They need to change the advertising for that stuff, delete all reference to sipping, think of some other marketing ploy.
We dragged the picnic table over near the fire, now blazing, ate our dinner, soaking up the heat from the fire, the temp had dropped to 40 on the mountain. Talking over the day, we had been riding at a good clip for almost 12 hours, few breaks, in some wonderful country. Full dark, the fire burning down, it didn’t take much convincing to head for the tents. We were still in one piece, the bikes were performing well, but the best part, we get to ride the rollercoaster again tomorrow. Goodnight, and according to Monsieur Nix, I was asleep in 7 seconds flat, plumb out of lucid thoughts, …hope someone turned out the lights.
When I heard Monsieur Nix rummaging at 4AM, that pretty much settled any argument, the Homo Sapiens clan had indeed evolved through a branch of giant bird ancestry, and I had a perfect genetic metaphor at hand. Monsieur Nix did, indeed, possess a genetic soup of both Night Owl and Early Bird genes. Any academic type performing research in this field should take note when, during the field observation phase, they document him purchasing a freakin’ boatload of extra batteries for his LED headlamp. It’s a big clue in evolutionary behavior, insightful, truly dissertation material in the academic sense, although for the rest of us humans, it’s a reminder to deploy the earplugs until “dawn’s early light”, a concept I thought was engrained in most USA citizens since early childhood, like kindergarten, at the latest.
I was wrong, there are exceptions. That was alright, I couldn’t say early risers bother me on an adventure, while late risers always do, besides, Monsieur Nix is invariably of good cheer despite the hour, bouncing around, ready to ride somewhere, anywhere. This mourning he was bouncing a little higher after I gave him a matched pair of those Aleve pills from my kit, taming his back pain from yesterday’s spill. I think you’re still allowed to operate heavy machinery after a few of those.
I had a hearty breakfast, complete with Columbian press coffee, while Monsieur Nix was trying to survive on some birdseed bar chased with that coffee like stuff that comes in a plastic tube, might be sold at Starbucks. Don’t criticize, he’s an admittedly novice camper, so one day I’d expect him to bring real coffee.
We were packed up quickly, doesn’t take long when you don’t bring an extra big pile of junk, and it looked like a fantastic morning to ride.
Another group had come in late, and a few vehicles had cruised through this very out of the way spot after midnight, I always wonder what they’re up to at that hour. It also makes me wonder whether I should have packed that bear gun.
The road at the campground on the ridge runs northwest for at least another mile, and I figured we should check it out before heading south just in case there was something interesting we should know about, like a watercrossing or an interesting place to camp. Nothing out there, but man, it was a beautiful morning for an early start, Monsieur Nix getting a look easterly when the road curved, freshly minted sunshine filtering through the trees.
Back at the intersection with FS502, we were riding southwest, a few hunters out, no other civilian vehicles, and we could roll on this well graded gravel.
At WV55, we turned west, then in a mile turned west again on CR5 towards Wardensville. I had been past a stone house where Waites Run crosses the road, but had never stopped to see what was inscribed on one of the cornerstones, but this time I did.
Early settlers didn’t have the time or means to dig a well through solid rock, so every creek with reliable year round flow became the location of the early homes.
We rode through Wardensville, quite a few people out early, and I tried to get Monsieur to stop at the Mercantile for Belgium waffles, no sale, the kid must not be hungry. It was hard to ride by, the kitchen exhaust was blowing waffle molecules out into the road, the moto equivalent of a gill net, and sadly, we were able to bust through.
West on WV259, and we made the turn south on the FS344 gravel. This is another cool road, usually well graded, and I had been in here before, but not Monsieur Nix. This road had more hunter activity than we had seen previously, the vehicles mostly parked, and that’s when we ran up on a group of hunters coming out of the woods. As soon as I saw them I was on the brakes, I absolutely needed to talk with these guys…about their squirrel dog.
There might be more of these little dogs around than I’m aware of, but I’d never seen one outside of a magazine article. Highly effective once trained, if ya want a bushel of squirrels, get one. The guys couldn’t understand why we stopped at first, but once they found out we were interested in their dog, they warmed right up, all smiles, and we left with a PhD in squirrel dog. When ya find an educational opportunity, ya gotta take it.
This road twists and winds it’s way south, another reminder of why we came out to ride this area near the height of color.
When we get a peek west through the trees, it looks like we have lost that bright sunshine we started with, at least temporarily. Without the sun, and with the wind rising, it looks a lot different. We might find a taste of winter somewhere out here.
FS344 took us down to Mill Gap, and I missed the turn to Trout Pond, not exactly on our route, but I wanted to take a look anyway, and while I had that thought fresh in my mind, two new pickups chasing each other ran me to the shoulder on a blind curve. If I had been in any kind of four wheel vehicle, the lead truck would have hit me. Maintaining lane discipline on the moto, both gravel and paved, is so important out here on these roads, well, let me put it this way, if ya don’t, you’re a goner.
We made it down to WV259, and Monsieur Nix took a break for a minute while I backtracked up Mill Gap a short distance, I’d missed a photo or two of some…rocks. With the leaves falling, you can finally see what’s in the background.
At the WV259, instead of turning southwest, the more direct route to where we were headed, we made a short jog northeast to Dove Hollow, where we would climb up to the ridges, and ride those west and south instead. Good decision on the route this time, little traffic, plenty to look at, and you know when you see this sign, it’s time to make a turn.
Another turn, hey, more rocks, gotta stop, and Monsieur Nix was riding the brakes by now every time he saw rocks ahead.
The I system has all those rest areas, sometimes with a Burger King and Starbucks, while the rest areas out this way are somewhat less formal, although the seating is comfortable, and I needed a break anyway.
There are two parks in the area, Howard’s Lick and Lost River, almost adjacent to each other, with one of the connecting roads being CR12 running generally east/west on the ridge, before dropping south off the mountain to Lost River.
With occasional pasture along this road, we could look out to the ridges to the north, very much worth it.
I had a lunch stop in mind, no, let me rephrase that…I had lunch in mind, didn’t care where we stopped. Actually, there’s only one place, about 15 miles, and the wind was just right, I could smell the hamburgers on the grill, sort of, ya know, in my mind. So we didn’t waste any more time, running down through Lost River, almost nobody there, and that’s where I nearly tagged the only car on the road, some compact POS that made a tire smoking stop in the middle of the road so that the driver could get a photo of an orange leafed tree. I bet Monsieur Nix is glad I don’t make stops like that one.
From the Lost River road, we were riding generally southwest cross country on a series of roads, mostly paved, some gravel, and we found ourselves at the little country store I was aiming for, oh boy, food.
As I was getting the gear off, a local couple walked by, maybe mid thirties, and well into a knockdown argument about some unknown subject, and I heard her say as she passed…
“You’re damn sassy this morning for someone who’s hung like a freakin’ chipmunk”, proving without doubt, all is fair in love and war, especially war.
Welcome to metropolitan Bergton, sing along now…“Point me to them cheeseburgers, and pass me that Mountain Dew”.
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.
The middle aged couple with the trailer parked across from us were out for a walk when we rolled in, but Jerry, a West Virginia deep rock coal miner, came right over to visit when they got back. This brand of Mountaineer is hard not to like, squared away, tough as freakin’ seasoned hickory although cordial and friendly with us, disdainful of those both idle in mind and slow to action, and I’m guessing more than capable in most ventures…can’t forget, a twinkle of humor in his eyes as he was trying to figure out what the heck a couple flatlanders were all about.
When he found out we had come down from western Maryland on mostly gravel roads, mountain top to mountain top, he must have decided we weren’t exactly city boy Virginians, cuff-linked Cavaliers, no fancy hair cuts, no girlie jewelry, and so that’s when he started to talk. A soft spoken nature in seeming contrast to his day job 800’ underground, they lived less that two hours away and came over to camp at Laurel Fork several times a year, having the place to themselves on most days.
His wife Brenda also stopped over, delivering some disturbing news regarding a meth lab bust out in the woods just up the road. Man, the Officer we met up there near Paw Paw wasn’t kidding when he said to be careful around the oddball folks we’ve found prowling the gravel. Then she dropped the bombshell…
“Ya got about an hour of daylight, you boys should go explore the cave that’s up the road.”
Lordy, those words were no sooner out of her mouth when Monsieur Nix went off like one of them big bottle rockets, freakin’ log chains couldn’t have held him down. Best buckle my boots, new mission, damn, now we’re going spelunking.
I got out my big arborist saw, and when Jerry asked what it was for, I mentioned we planned to find some firewood on the way back. I looked at the saw, looked at the low sun, the heck with it, put the saw away, and we were on the bikes, gone caving.
We were looking for the Sinks of Gandy, and frankly, as many times as I’ve been in the area, I never realized this feature was so close. Directions were a little vague, landmarks a little off, but we finally narrowed down the possibilities. In the recorded history of all significant endeavors involving exploration, someone was always left behind to hold the horses…so I stayed with the bikes, Monsieur Nix set off on foot to locate our cave. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the bikes unattended on this road, I’ll do the cave the next time.
This location has a somewhat unique look for the general area, and it tends to remind me of other rides, other places, sometimes far away places.
I’ll say this much, Monsieur Nix was gone a long time, so long, in fact, that I thought that the Great Pyrenees protecting the livestock on both sides of the road probably ate him, the whole damn works…now there would be big piles of HIVIZ dog poop all over the pasture.
Finally, Monsieur Spelunker reappeared, all worn out from caving, and he had bagged his trophy photo as proof of his exploit.
The small creek running through the pasture had scoured the rock formation for however many million years it took to cut it’s way through to the other side, go ahead and crawl through, but you’ll get wet…then there’s the bats, can’t forget about that bat fungus either.
We both were ready to quit, back on the bikes and hard on the gas, gravel flying, cattle giving us that blank stare they do so well, tired, but man, I do love these roads.
The lower road into Laurel Fork crosses a near new small bridge at the entrance to the campground, and as soon as we crossed, I could see our tents…and a big split log fire going in our fire ring, a certain Mountaineer had done us one heck of a favor. It pays to be nice, sometimes the rewards are almost immediate.
We went over to thank Jerry and Brenda, West Virginia gracious, had a long talk, sometimes about things that actually mattered, and put it this way, there was going to be a huge election turnout in the West Virginia coal fields. No contest among the coal miners, a done deal.
Thanks again to our friends, we needed to cook up some dinner, drink up some whiskey, ok, I just lied a little, drink up some whiskey, then cook, if able.
Jerry had left us plenty of extra firewood, it was 38 degrees, and we fed the fire way past the time we should have sacked out. I do remember crawling in the tent, that sleeping bag felt really good, but I’m kinda hazy beyond that moment, half asleep already, then gone, in layered dreams of places and people.
It’s not like half the annual production of Lynchburg, Tennessee was consumed the previous evening, that would be a gross exaggeration, I swear it was not a drop more than about 25%, I think, but heck, don’t be puttin’ me under oath or anything, hand on the Bible and such, could provoke a big sizzling lightning strike. Whatever happened, Monsieur Big Bird was in a coma, it was a quiet night for a change.
A gray morning at Laurel Fork, but that doesn’t mean much for weather forecasting here. Cool and dry, no frost, the second day in a row we could pack the tents away without them being soaking wet with dew.
Another Jetboil breakfast…
and we packed up the bikes, routine and fast. Mountaineer Jerry came over, and we thanked him again for his hospitality, they were leaving in the early afternoon. On the bikes and up the hill, we were going out the opposite of the way we rode in, southwest, a nice crisp day to start, warming quickly.
We were able to get a good look southeast across the mountains, hardly any color, a few miles and some elevation making all the difference. Just twenty miles away and much lower, we had ridden past trees with green leaves.
We were heading down off the mountain to WV250, rather than going out to WV28, and chose the gravel road system that would take us to Durban, passing only one vehicle on this long run down. We rode past the fuel stop at Bartow, the scene of the beer festival from the previous report, very quiet this morning, and I wasn’t ready to see the beer people this early anyway…they’re scary looking enough in the afternoon.
Monsieur Nix had some family obligations early Sunday afternoon, we planned to split at the WV250/28 intersection so he could highball 250 over to I64 and points east. I wasn’t done with the gravel, and was riding south on WV28 to pick up a gravel road that would take me east over the mountain and back into Virginia. A big wave at the intersection, see ya my Parisian friend, safe travels, and I was solo just like that.
It’s different riding gravel when solo, especially unfamiliar roads, but I’d done it before many times, and I turned up the situational awareness to survival mode. Just because these roads are in the mid Atlantic doesn’t mean that you will never find yourself in a difficult position, and I found that out first hand with my leg trapped under the bike in the middle of a creek this past spring. Danger better be somewhere in the calculations.
The usual route over the mountain would be Old Pike, and I had ridden that gravel road many times. Today I was picking up a gravel road below Boyer that would take me northeast up and over the mountain back down to WV250 near the Virginia border.
I found the big farm property below Boyer that I had always admired with a “For Sale” sign posted, man, a person can always dream, no harm there.
I was thinking about that farm, ran past my turn, backtracked, turned east, then followed a combination of paved roads before picking up Buffalo Mountain, another “buffalo” reference going back centuries to a time when buffalo weren’t exclusive to lands west of the Mississippi.
This road is marked with a “No Through Traffic” sign, a strange admonition for this rough and twisting gravel road of very different character than the more heavily used Old Pike, although half a dozen vehicles per day means “heavy” is a relative term. Good moto road, not so good in the family sedan, and nobody on this road except me. Land along this road transitions to pasture at the ridge, like so many others, the only topography level enough for hay or stock.
Across the top and down to WV250, shortly VA250, now into Virginia, the sun shining through high clouds. I find it difficult going from mile after mile of gravel road to fast mountain pavement, the same this morning, and it took a little warmup time to find the groove in tight corners and switchbacks, finally settling in the saddle, smoothing out the ride.
East on VA250, fuel in Monterey, where the Harley boys were also fueling, and no, they didn’t wave this time either from the other side of the cultural divide, ain’t got the chrome on this side of the chasm.
Continuing generally east, this road takes so many turns that your bearing goes a full 360, and I’m down to 614, then northeast up this pleasant valley, running parallel to the creek sized Cowpasture River.
Plenty of subject material, frequent stops, but man, what a setting.
A quarter mile before the West Virginia border, and I turned east on 620, jog north, and now I crossed the border on this road. Shenandoah Mountain runs southeast on gravel, then I’m running northeast on CR61. The start of this road from the south is unimposing, it almost looks like a two track that doesn’t go anywhere, little used, but it’s a long gravel road that seems to get wider and more open in the center section. Rough in parts, but very ridable, and is a good moto alternate for the more common gravel route running north from Braley Pond off VA250.
There’s a wide spot in the road, beautiful day, not a soul out here, and I stopped for some water.
There are many places on this road that would become small water crossings in wet weather, not today, and I was up to CR25, or Moyers Gap, the north end of this road doesn’t look like much either. Moyers Gap was paved this spring, and either put more, or less, fun in the road depending on what you are riding. Myself, I wished it had stayed gravel.
The top of this road intersects with the road up to Reddish Knob, what the heck, I hadn’t been up there in the last few trips in the area, let’s go, and after three days of travel, this small decision was almost my undoing.
Nobody at the top when I first got up there, but knowing it was a favorite Mennonite picnic location for the younger set, it didn’t surprise me when two van loads pulled up, welcome, have fun, enjoy the view.
The access road to the top of this knob is paved, but one narrow lane wide, and I was riding cautiously down off the mountain when I met a beat up Jeep coming uphill, crazed 20ish driver showing off for his girlfriend, speeding, using the whole road in a blind right hander, and he was so close I could look down and see the beer bottle parked in his crotch, the startled look in his girlfriend’s eyes, a smokin’ hot mess of a young thing, looked to have her very own Victoria’s Secret credit card. That’s close, he never slowed, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, these yoyos are known to run in packs.
I don’t know why she would choose to ride around with a lame ass dope who was drinking while driving and looked to be using the tranquilizers the vet prescribed for his cat, but I did know that those Mennonite boys up top were going to have a freakin’ heart attack when they laid eyes on her, or maybe go blind from staring at that weird thing stuck in her belly button. Know any Mennonite prayers with an anti sorcery flavor?
When I got back to the intersection of Moyers Gap and Briery Branch, then turned 100’ east, I had just rolled over the border into Virginia for the final time, a defining moment. From here I was going to ramp up the V649 reactor and flash east, only a fuel stop between Reddish Knob and the jdrocks atelier.
Before packing away the camera, I couldn’t resist, just one more time… Au revoir.
when i said the OEM fender assembly isn't up to the pounding it gets on rough gravel roads, here's why.
the left and right seat covers are connected to the tail light with plastic dowel tabs that slide into rubber grommets on each side of the tail light. these eventually shear off because the assembly flexes too much.
the dowels are supposed to slide into these grommets.
when the dowels break, pairs of plastic tabs on the bottom of the seat covers have to carry more load, and eventually these break too.
broken tab on the seat cover
all the plastic pieces around the tail light have to be securely anchored so that the plastic trim piece over the top of the tail light aligns with it's own tabs, impossible with all the other broken tabs and dowels.
so the dowels break, the tabs break, the trim won't fit, and the whole freakin' mess starts lookin' like it's going to crack in half after just one more rough road.