Monday, May 21, 2012

The Roads Were the Destination

I've never been one for naming my motorcycle. I understand why people do, I've just never felt the urge. Until this weekend. That's when my bike's real personality emerged. So, if I were to give the bike a name, I think it would have to be Franz. That's a good name for a hot-headed German, right? More on that later.

Hubby and I had our first overnight trip of the year this past weekend. It wasn't until just before we left that I realized it was the first overnight with these bikes EVER (we bought them in January 2011), so it was an extra-special occasion.

The weather was absolutely perfect. It started out in the low 60s (F) and didn't get above the upper 70s all day. The humidity was low, too, which made for some very clear blue skies. It was one of those clear-blue-sky, puffy-white-cloud days.

I planned the route, but let Hubby plug the map into his GPS so he could lead. Not because I thought we'd get lost, but because he's braver (crazier?) than me and likes to take the curves at maximum lean. And since I knew we'd be hitting lots and lots of curves, I figured I'd let him have his fun. He gets sort of cranky when he's forced to go slowly through curves that seem as if they were made especially for motorcycles.

I embedded a map so you could zoom in on the route if you want. But then I realized it's probably a bit hard to follow. So I'll show you this graphic first that's got directional arrows to help you understand our circuitous, figure eightish route.

We headed west from town on US-211. After we passed the Luray Caverns area, we took US-340 south and then jogged west again to skirt Waynesboro and Staunton.

The ride was nice, but there was nothing special about the roads to that point. Except for that section of US-211 that crosses through the Shenandoah National Park. The one with the sign warning motorcyclists of the HIGH CRASH AREA. That's always fun, but it doesn't last for very long. The good news is there are actually two lanes in each direction, so you can get around the cars and other four-wheeled vehicles as they labor painstakingly across the mountain.

The "destination" roads for the day were US-250, from just west of Staunton (pron. stan-ton), VA northwest up to Mill Creek, WV. US-250 actually joins US-219 a few miles south of Mill Creek. We could have taken 219/250 all the way into Elkins, but we'd been on that stretch of 219 before. Plus our second destination road for the day had an endpoint far south enough that going through Elkins would've added a couple of hours to the journey.

View May Motorcycle Adventure in a larger map

It's funny talking to non-riders about a trip like this. They always say, "Where are you going?" And when they get a reply of, "Nowhere, really. But we're going to ride on some awesome roads," they give you this look of confusion. They just don't get it.

But y'all get it, right? We're talking about some amazing roads, people. Really.

We stopped for a quick stretch and potty break after a couple of hours of riding. Forty miles later, after enjoying some sort of easy, twisty stretches, we stopped in Monterey, Virginia to grab some lunch.

I'd seen a restaurant described very briefly on the Web that had potential. But as we headed into town, I was wondering if I'd be able to spot the place. I needn't have worried. Because as we headed up Main Street we were greeted by a most unusual sight...

Both sides of the street were lined with various makes and models of BMWs and other non-cruiser types. And it almost seemed like they were pointing at High's Restaurant for us. The food was only okay, so 'nuff said about that place. (We later learned that Morton's BMW of Fredericksburg, VA was having an event nearby.)

Over lunch, I told Hubby the roads to that point had been sort of lame intentionally. I'd planned a pretty long route and knew we'd have to cover some ground quickly early on if we were going to do the whole route. I assured him the real fun would start soon.

I don't think he believed me. Or maybe he believed me, but didn't know exactly how much fun I was talking about.

Before we took off, I told Hubby not to panic if I wasn't right behind him. I was planning on stopping for some pictures. Sadly, I'd forgotten the helmet cam. And I had promised y'all some pictures, right?

Unfortunately, I was having so much fun, I didn't want to stop.

Sorry. But US-250 was amazing. I'm not even sure how best to describe the thing. Good-quality pavement with only a few traces of gravel. Lots of tight corners and twisties. Quite a few ascending and descending curves. Multiple-mile 9% grades. There were some straight stretches in valleys, but they were kind of far and few between. Oh, and I can't forget those technically challenging switchbacks. You learn pretty quickly when you see a 15 MPH curve sign that it really does mean SLOW DOWN.

It was on US-250 that the bike started hollering at me. Not in a bad way, I don't think. Just being loud. I couldn't tell if it was yelling good or bad stuff 'cause I don't speak German. But the indicators all looked fine. It felt right, and the bike was performing like a dream.

I think that was the first time I'd really put the bike through its paces. It was loud, but was doing what it was supposed to be doing. And I was having a blast.

After turning off of 250 at Mill Creek, we hit our first and only bad road. It was a county road, so I knew it would be a slower-paced ride. What I didn't realize is that there are a couple of coal mines along the route. Lucky for us, there weren't many trucks out. The road was so narrow, there were signs warning outbound truckers to radio ahead. You know, to warn incoming trucks that they had to wait because the road wasn't wide enough for two trucks to pass.

That's what I get for taking a short cut. It's CR-46/Helvetia-Adolph Road I'm talking about. Which becomes CR-11/Alexander-Helvetia Road when it crosses into the next county. Understanding West Virginia road maps is an acquired skill.

It was definitely an interesting road, though, thanks to Helvetia. One of those places where you find yourself scaling mountains on a one-lane, winding track through the seeming wilderness and all of a sudden there's this town. Not just any town, but a quaint little obviously German town that makes you think, "Wait a minute. What was that?"
If you'd really like to know, I found a cool post about it on someone else's blog. We were too anxious to reach the next road to stop. Because the that next road, WV-20, our second destination road of the day, was the inspiration for the trip.

Really, it's why we were in that area in the first place. And reaching it made the whole Helvetia-Adolph ordeal worthwhile.

That road name kills me. I just had to work it in there again.

Looking at my embedded Google map, WV-20 is the westernmost bit of road that runs roughly north/south. Zoom in a bit and you'll see we got on it just above Rock Cave and exited around Richwood. After about 75 miles of riding where straight stretches were far and few between. Where it's nothing to spend 10 seconds in a right-hand curve, going about 50 mph, followed immediately by another 10-second curve, at the same speed, but leaning to the left. I am not exaggerating. Not all of the curves were that long, but many were at least half that. And there were a lot of them. Quite often, back to back.

It was awesome. The pavement was dry, unlike the last time when we rode that road in the cold and rain. The road surface was fairly decent, too. Only a few heart-pounding patches of gravel. And traffic was very light. Motorcycle nirvana.

See why I didn't want to stop for pictures?

We were planning to overnight in Richwood. When we got there, however, we discovered it was really a very depressed place. So we backtracked a bit and motored on to Summersville. We grabbed a room at the first hotel we saw -- a Super 8, oh boy! -- and collapsed. We'd put over 320 miles on the odometers, a third of which had been on rather challenging roads.

There was an Applebees about 200 yards from the hotel. The food was awful, as expected, but we couldn't walk any further. And our butts were too sore to ride another foot.

I didn't want to tell Hubby, but the bike (temporarily named Franz, remember) had been growling at me all day. I kept watching the tachometer thinking I was going to blow the engine or something. It never got into the red zone, but the RPMs seemed to be running rather high.

I guess you can tell I am no gear head. I have enough sense to know the red zone is bad. And I figured being kind of close to the red zone probably wasn't good. When I did finally mention my concern to Hubby, telling him I didn't want to over-stress the bike, he laughed.

"You're not going to over stress that engine," he said.

That was a relief to hear. Of course, by that point, all I could worry about was how my poor, tired body was going to ride another couple hundred miles the next day to get back home!

I'll tell you all about day two in my next post. It was another gorgeous day. That post will even have  pictures like this one, which I just had to add to whet your appetite.


Deb said...

What a fun post to read! I actually felt the wind in my hair as we roared down that mountain pass! LOL

Hurry up with part 2...


Trobairitz said...

Great roads and beautiful weather on two wheels with hubby. SOunds a bout perfect.

I can understand why you didn't want to stop. I get like that too, then my bladder reminds/begs me to stop.

Those roads sound awesome and the shot of the cafe with the forested mountains in the background, I can imagine what those twisties looked like.

Looking forward to the report for day 2.

Fuzzy said...

How great! Thanks for including the route/road names. It's always nice to be able to pull them up on the map so we can "see" what you're talking about.

20 sounds like I need to try it :)

Don't you love 250? I love doing the ladders of roads around 219/250/39/28 past the big telescope and that little rinky-dink road that goes by the Cass railroad.

How was HIghs? We've eaten across the street a few times near the gas station but never ventured in. Love their sign :)

ToadMama said...

WV-20 is a must! If you're going to be in that area, you have to ride at least some of it. Yes, I love 250. Where's the telescope? I thought of you while riding. I thought you told me you'd done 250 before. High's is okay. It's got great atmosphere and the simple food we ate was good. And yes, I love their sign.