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Blue Ride Day 2 September 10, 2010

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Day 2 proved to be an exhausting day, though not from anything in particular.  I didn’t sleep well with the 3rd Base Sports Bar conqueso giving me a case of heartburn.  I woke at 6:00AM and stepped outside to check the weather: chilly bordering on cold.  I was regretting not bringing better gloves; but had awoken so fatigued, I wasn’t in a hurry to get out anyway.  After a few cups of lobby coffee, and three and a half hours of dawdling, I was on the road, glad to have chaps with the temperature still just flirting with 60 degrees.

I headed south accomplishing one of my main objectives: simply to ride US-220.  The crisp air was rousing and I was immediately reminded of how much I love West Virgina roads.  US-220 twists along streams and mountains yet provides a fast, lightly trafficked ride.  I was wondering about the approach of the civil engineers responsible for designing the roads of WV.  Many other states are predominantly plains or rolling hills, or thay have tamed the landscape to cut & fill the terrain to create roads that are more or less straight, saving the real twisties for small patches of rough mountainous terrain requiring lots of tight switchbacks.  The result is a choice of boring speed or slow nail-biting curves.  Even looking in south central Pennsylvania, most all the highways between I-81 and 99 lazily follow the natural ridges and valleys of the Appalacian and Tuscarora ranges, sweeping out large smooth arcs running a northeast line across a third of the state intersected periodically by slower switchbacked roads running northwest.  But WV seems to have neither plains nor natural “easy” routes, but still has a need to get people and cargo from town to town with a decent amount of speed.  The result are the most incredible (reasonably) well-maintained high-speed twists and sweeps connecting the population hubs.  Yes there are stressful switchbacks and the occassional prosaic valley road, but so much of WV posesses the most gloriously swift curves urging the rider to swoop through the mountains, providing a wonderful combination of riding titillation and sublime scenery.

I also really appreciate how the WV curves are (generally) so reliably marked with a (generally) consistent conservatism in recommended speed.  Riding in Maryland and elsewhere, I have been totally surprised by an unmarked tight curve for which 30-mph was a “pucker moment”, only to be followed by a big warning sign of the impeding 50-mph curve ahead… What the…?  Or suddenly encountering a 35-mph turn that REALLY meant 35-mph amidst a course of 35-mph curves that were easily ridden at 50-mph.  But the WV highway curves are (generally) very reliably marked, making “swooping” though the rugged terrain both exhillerating and comfortable.  Of course there are exceptions, and signage is no replacement for vigilance and skill.  And, while WV does do an admirable job of keeping the highways free of debris, the occasional road-kill or gravel patch can turn even a well-marked curve into a test of skill. 

The ride was great but I was still a bit chilly and losing feeling in my fingertips so stopped a Cave County Camping somewhere south of Franklin for coffee.  In the office / general store / gas station I found the elderly proprietors organizing their stock of used books and looking a bit warily at the leather clad biker that just entered. I could smell the essence of burnt coffee and asked if they had anything brewing.  Pouring the last of the stale pot into a little styofoam cup, I paid my 55 cents and chatted with them about the weather, which really got them talking.  By the end they were asking questions about my bike and my ride, and strongly invited me to return.

I continued south on US-220 still awed by WV.  I had entered some valley farmland; the road still twisting gently along the narrow valley floor.  Tiny farms with small green fields lay cozily nestled between steep ridges.  As I crossed into VA the valleys seemed to suddenly open up.  The curves and intimacy of the narrow WV valleys gave way to the sense that the nature was “over there” as the land flattened and the roads straightened.  The ride was still nice, just a little less remarkable than moments earlier; but in the up side, I was able to make some pretty good time.

I often notice the abupt change in the environs crossing into and out of WV, and its irregular borders are not always determined by rivers and ridges, but sometimes make the most seemingly arbitary angles.  It really gets me questioning “Why?”.   Though I doubt it is the answer, I like to think the early West Virginians carved out the most beautiful and distinctive land for themselves.

Further down US-220 in VA the road became more interesting again as I hit signs for the George Washington National Forest (though I thought I was in the Forest all along).   Pleasant curves through denser foliage restored a degree of that natural intimacy I enjoy.  I was just north of Warm Springs at midday and was about to pass Jason’s Pizza and Subs when I noticed the number of cars and trucks parked out in front of this little eatery in the middle of nowhere.  Figuring that to be a good sign, I pulled in to get some lunch. 

I immediately recieved a very warm and friendly welcome as I took a seat at the counter.  Enjoying a sweet tea while I looked over the menu, I was stuck chosing between Jason’s Bacon Cheeseburger and a Philly Cheese Steak.  I asked the kindly waitress which I should get.  It turns out she is a vegatarian and hasn’t had either, but they both are pretty popular.  I opted for the signature selection and chatted with the owner while I waited.  I learned that the owners were Mike and Kathy (my waitress) and that Jason is actually Kathy’s son, a young man with cognitive disabilities.  Mike had owned an earlier restaurant named Mike’s; when he opened this place, his stepson insisted that it should be his, so they named it Jason’s.  It turns out that Jason is quite the outdoor sportsman and quite popular among the local folk; someone is “always taking him out hunting or fishing.  He loves it. ” Mike explained.  “That’s they way folks are out here.”   Mike went about work while whistling a seemingly random cadence of notes over and over as my burger showed up.

An excellent burger!  The half pound of meat was more than I was hungry for, but its wonderful juicy suculant taste had me finishing the whole thing before waddling out to my bike.  I still think the Chili Cheese King at B&R Old Fashioned hamburgers in Hawthorn, CA is the best in the country, but Jason’s may be in the top ten. 

I am not sure if overeating at lunch was the catalyst, but fatigue started setting in that lasted the rest of the day.  I continued south on US-220 and entered Warms Springs.  I had anticipated a little tourist-trappy kind of place with spas and new age shops, but instead found a very charming little mountain community.  I noted some county buildings, to took the opportunity to seek out an accessible Bath County sign for my ABC point.  Failing that, I did note some very charming inns, and made a mental note that this really would be a great place to just “get away” for rest without distraction. 

I continued on, meeting up with Hot Springs a short while later.  Hot Springs is dominated by an historic resort, the Homestead, that seems absolutely exquisite.  I have never “done” a resort weekend (except for Vegas…. but that is not quite the same), but the Homestead has me wanting to try.   I circled once through what appeared to be the “town” which really seems to exist in service of the resort.  Given the awkward time of day neither food nor drink was appropriate, and I continued south passing golf course after golf course.  (US-220 turns into the Sam Snead parkway at some point there.)

The road continued to provide a nice ride and some pretty active twisties just north of Covington, VA.  In Covington I picked up US-60 W that merged into I-64 which I followed west back into West Virginia.  Near White Sulpher Springs US-60 split back off and I stopped for gas and a Red Bull.  I was getting pretty tired by this point, and my mood had somehow gotten pretty tepid.

I continued west through quite a few twists on US-60 to Hico, where I stopped at the Harley Dealership to buy a T-shirt and get some guidance on the lodging situation north of there.  I spoke with some locals and not-so-locals including a family who rode from Deleware visiting for the rides.  Seems they were taking care of their recently orphaned nephew who at about 3 years old was sporting a mohawk and yellow sunglasses for the ride.  I got more advice about great rides in the area than about lodging. 

Being too exhausted to enjoy the advice, I headed north on US-19 arriving in Summersville, WV.  Riding into town I quickly found the one bar, Michelle’s Goodtimes Bar and Grill, recommended by the girl at the counter of the Hico dealership.  Given the early hour, the place was dead.  I had a beer and asked about nearby hotels.  Fully intending to return, I headed back toward the highway to check into the Best Western.  (I hadn’t really stayed in that chain before, but recently learned that my HOG membership gives me upgraded membership in their points program, so…)

Arriving at the motel lobby, I was somewhat bum-rushed at the door by a nice-enough but high-maintenance older (but not too old) couple.  They were statusing the clerk about the whereabouts of the 0ther half of their travel party, asking questions, and trying to get checked in while I stood waiting.  The clerk was friendly enough dealing with their chattiness and looked back to me periodically as I was about to fall asleep standing up.  They asked for a ground floor room, and was told they were all out, which bummed me out a little given that saddle bags don’t have handles.  After getting their keys and asking a few more questions, they headed out the door.  I stepped up, asked if they had a room available for the night; they did.  I gave her my new Best Western point number, and she looked up at me in my biker attire.  “You’d like a ground floor room wouldn’t you?” she asked. “Yes, please, very much so,” I replied, and within a couple of minutes I was unloading my bike right into the room watching the couple from the lobby heft their bags to the elevator.

I was so exhausted and even though I have a new rule about not eating at chain restaurants while on a ride, even though I intended to return to the supposd “only” good bar in town, and even though I found out that Summersville was having their annual Potato Day celebration complete with a fire department parade, I couldn’t bring myself to ride back up into town and settled for the Dairy Queen in the parking lot of the motel. 

After a burger and a shake, a little blog work, and the umpteenth viewing of Oceans 11, I was asleep for the night.