Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Really-Big-Hills Ride

Saturday was yet another picture-perfect day here in the Virginia Piedmont.

View from Leeds Manor Road, just south of Paris, Virginia.

Rather than head toward the mountains on repeat roads, I decided to head north through horse country to show Hubby some of the roads I'd seen, but he hadn't. Some of the roads were repeats for us, but we hadn't been in that area for a while, so it wasn't bad.

When there are so many roads to be discovered, it seems wasteful to ride the same ones over and over.

View Bluemont Loop in a larger map

Temperatures were around 70 when we headed out. The humidity was low again, too, which makes for clear, blue skies.

I don't know what is up with this weather of ours. We're usually suffering with the nasty Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity by now. Not that I'm complaining. On the contrary, I am quite enjoying this extended Spring.

We were both excited to go out riding that day. I was even more eager than Hubby as I had a new helmet cam to try out. Finally.

We headed north out of Warrenton on Blackwell Road. It continues to amaze me how quickly we hit country here. I mean, we're not that far from Northern Virginia (NoVA). If you've ever been to this region, you know that NoVA is like one giant suburb of DC. The area referred to as NoVA, which radiates generally south and west from DC, includes several counties and cities in Virginia, and around 2.6 million people, which is approximately a third of the population of the entire state.

Anyway, from Bluemont, we turned right onto Blantyre Road and then right onto Trapp Branch Road, which, after it crosses WV-55 and goes under I-66, becomes Bust Head Road.

Don't you love country road names?

It also turned to gravel at that point. Gravel roads are never fun. It was doable, just disconcerting. I always find myself tensing up on gravel, which is the complete opposite of what I should do. You really need to relax and just let the handlebars wobble as the bike skitters across the road surface. The dual-sports do much better on gravel than the big-ass cruisers did. But still. I'm not sure if I'll ever truly get used to that feeling.

We were back on blacktop soon enough and, before we knew it, were in The Plains, a cute, tiny little artsy town not far from Warrenton.

If you're wondering why you aren't seeing more pictures, it's because I inadvertently had the new helmet cam set to video. And I haven't had time yet to figure out how to edit the video. Sorry.

I'd share the raw video, but it would bore y'all to death. Speaking of boring, I guess the play-by-play, with no pictures, isn't exactly riveting either. So I'll just say we zig-zagged north and west, across at least one more gravel road, until we reached Bluemont.

We stopped at the Bluemont General Store for some refreshments.

It was just as cute as their website promised. Lucky for us, the porch was empty, so we got to sit at a picnic table in the shade and watch traffic go by on the Snickersville Turnpike.

Don't let the term  "turnpike" fool you. Bluemont is a quiet little hamlet with about 200 residents just south of VA-7, perched on the edge of horse country. The town was originally incorporated in 1826 as Snickersville, because it sits at the base of Snickers Gap. The name was changed in the early 1900s to Bluemont in an effort to make it sound more resort-like and promote tourism.

Hubby enjoying the shade on the porch at the Bluemont General Store.

After that lovely respite, we hopped on WV-7 for the blink-of-an-eye, and then headed south on Blue Ridge Mountain Road. That's an eleven mile stretch of a lovely bit of blacktop, which straddles the border between Loudoun and Clarke County, VA. It climbs from an elevation of about 1,000 feet at Snickers Gap (LOVE that name!) to about 1,800 feet at Mount Weather and then back down to about 1,00 feet at Ashby Gap, where US 50 crosses the mountain.

Now, I know the mountains sound small in comparison to those out West -- they are -- but they're still mountains to us. Or at least really big hills.

Quick aside... Mount Weather is one of those places that, if you aren't expecting it, definitely cause a WTF moment. It's a FEMA control station, i.e., large federal government installation. So you go from enjoying a bucolic, winding mountain road one second, to road flanked by imposing, eight-foot-high (at least) barbed wire fence and NO TRESPASSING signs the next second. And then back to country road. You can read more about Mount Weather here if you like.

It's not one of those places you would stop and take pictures, unless you like being greeted by machine-gun-wielding soldiers. We knew it was there, as we've ridden past before, so we continued on.

After turning left on US-50 and re-entering Fauquier County, we headed south on US-17 at Paris and then right onto Leeds Manor Road.

I LOVE Leeds Manor Road.

The scenery along the entire road is just gorgeous. It is referred to as "The Splendid 688" on for good reason. (Let me know if that link doesn't work. You may need to subscribe to read stuff at the site. But it's free and highly recommended.)

After that one very quick stop, it was on toward home.

Sorry this is sort of a repeat shot, but that silo with stuff growing out the top of it just made for such a cool picture...

Perhaps I'll return to Leeds Manor Road one day when the helmet cam is on the photo setting so you can get a better feel for just why I love that road so much.

I was actually going to go for a ride this morning since it's ride to work day. But it's raining. And I just don't feel like donning all that gear, especially since my actual commute takes me from the bedroom down to the kitchen (for coffee) and then back upstairs to my office.

Hopefully you are having better weather and can enjoy your ride to work today.


Trobairitz said...

Such beautiful pictures. I think the town would get more tourists having left the name Snickersville. Sure it might not sound as refined as Bluemont, but it isn't as catchy as Snickersville. I think I just like to say Snickerville.

I think for Ride to Work day you need to put your helmet on and walk downstairs making vroom vroom noises. That should suffice. Oh and a pic of you with your helmet on taken at your desk.

I've officially had too much coffee this morning. :-)

Oh, and the link worked just fine.

SonjaM said...

The Bluemont General Store reminds me of the old fashioned motorcycle joints from my hometown Germany. Usually good stopping for coffee, ice cream and the occasional snack and chat. What a beautiful area!

As for Ride to work day: Use a door mat, and slide downstairs but only in ATGATT.

ToadMama said...

Brandy wants me to wear my helmet and run around the house going, "Vroom, vroom!" Then sit at my desk. Sonja wants me to slide down the steps on a doormat, but only in ATGATT.


My husband already thinks I am an idiot, so I think I'll abstain. But I sure got a chuckle out of both comments. :-)

Trobairitz said...

Glad we could make you laugh. That was what I was trying to do.

Deb said...

Lovely photos with subjects very much akin to my heart and mind.

I was particularly elated to find that "conversation" is NOT a lost art afterall! Got to get over to the Bluemont for some of that as it seems to be sorely lacking in these parts where IPods and IPhones preoccupy so many minds! LOL

Love it...makes me want to saddle up in the morning and head out on the backroads!

Thanks for the journey!