2009 Appalachia Loop  


After several years of hosting the WV Fall Ride-In, I felt it was time for something a little different. I was able to get a week off of work mid May. I decided this was a perfect chance to do a little riding through the Appalachians. I wanted to ask along members of The Venturers to join me, but I really did not feel like dealing with the planning and formalities of an official ride-in. So, I presented this ride as a Ride-Along and it worked beautifully for this type of ride. The concept was simple... Heres what I am doing. Join me if you can. Here is where I am staying, making your own reservations. If at any time you don't like how or where I am riding, feel free to do your own thing.

Pre-Launch Cookout
Several of those who be riding the loop showed up and we had a little cookout. It was nice gathering and a hint of the fun we will have over the next week. In attendance were Steve from PA, Eric from north western WV, Matt from Indiana, Bill & Carol from PA, Harvey & Pam from eastern VA, and Roger from WV. Since we have such an early shove off tomorrow, we broke up early and everyone headed off to get rested up. Matt had the longest ride at 640 miles, but most came a pretty long distance. Weather looks promising for tomorrow and not too aweful bad in the longer range. But… this is May in the southest, so who knows.

Day 1 - What a perfect day.
Today turned out to be an absolutely perfect day. The weather was great, light traffic and no major problems. Chuck had an issue with blowing his main fuse, but we think that is probably a passing light wire and hopefully we will have a chance to look at it tomorrow. My low beam burned out, but we passed an autozone and I already got a new one installed after a few choice words.

We enjoyed a pleasant cookout put on by Bills parents place. Thank you Mr. & Mrs Hanna for your very gracious hospitality.

Riding today were myself (Gary - WV) , Steve - PA, Bill & Carol - PA, Chuck & Celia - WV, Matt - IN, Tony & Linda - NJ, Eric - WV, Wayne - VA

We rode about 330 miles today, most of it at 45mph. The views were way above normal. The normal bluish haze was almost none existant.

We spent the night in Mt. Airey, NC (Mayberry). We start tomorrow to finish the second half of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is calling for cooler temps and maybe some wet stuff, but hey… we could be working!

Day 2 - A long wet day
Today was a long one. It was cool and rainy most of the day and the fog on the parkway was extremely thick in places. We took it slow. Fortunately, all in the group are experienced riders, and well prepared with the right gear. Also, the lack of traffic on the parkway made the fog easier to deal with.

We ended up taking a little unplanned side track into Hickory, NC after I missed a turn in Blowing Rock. This turned out to be a good thing I think as it gave us a little break from the fog and allowed some of the rain to move out. But we did run into more later.

The views we were lucky enough to see were very nice, but mostly we saw a white haze, a yellow line, and a flashing blinkers ahead of us.

We did have one scare today when Bill keyed up on the parkway… “I’M IN THE GRASS” I thought the worse, but a few seconds later he keyed up and announced he was OK and on two wheels. His experience allowed him to ride it out safely. Good job Bill!

We spent the night in Cherokee, NC. What a shithole. I have been through it several times, but never stayed. I thought it would be a good place to stay since it’s convenient location. But after a stressful day of riding in fog and rain several were looking for a cold beer only to find out it is a dry county. What is this the 1800’s?? Not even the smoke filled dirty casino sells beer. Several riders volunteered for a mission to ride to a neighboring county to acquire much needed beer.

Day 3 - Sunshine and Adrenaline
Day 3 was a great day of riding! We started with a ride to the Deals Gap Store via Rt28, then a run on the Tail of the Dragon. Riding were myself, Steve, Bill & Carol, Tony & Linda, Chuck & Celia, Doug, Eric, Matt, and Wayne.

At the end of the dragon, most of us headed off to Vonore to meet John from GA. But Tony and Linda decided they had not yet had enough dragon slaying and decided to turn around for a couple more runs and then try to catch up with us later. Due to the language barrier between yankees and rednecks :) Tony thought I said Lenoir instead of Vonore so ended up heading to the wrong city, then due to a GPS routing quirk, they ended up seeing some of Tennessee most of us will probably never see, including several miles of gravel roads.

At Vonore, we pulled in minutes before John arrived from Georgia. We had lunch and then set off to run the Cherahola Skyway. Matt, Wayne and Eric remained back at the Hardees to wait for Tony and Linda who never arrived as they were enjoying some off road adventures.

John mentioned he would also like to run the dragon, so at Robbinsville I asked Bill to lead the rest back to the motel while John, Doug and I ran the dragon two more times. First east to west, then back. It was great to see John again. I haven’t seen hm since we met on the 2004 Euro-Tour in Germany

After everyone had a bite to eat, we gathered for a bit at the motel pool to share some beer and laughs.

The weather for today was outstanding. Sunny most of the day with few clouds in the afternoon. The benefits of the rain we endured yesterday was the roads were as if they were freshly washed. Well at least the roads most of us rode. Not sure about Tony and Lindas route.. ;)

Today we experienced something I doubt you see often. Nine 900lb touring bikes having to pass two high performance sport bikes on the Tail of the Dragon.


Day 4 - Another good one
This morning we said goodbye to John as he had to head back to GA. We then headed up over the Great Smoky Mountains. Our first stop was at Mingus Mill, a fully operating rebuilt grist mill from the late 1800’s. Since we came through early, it was not yet opened. We then drove to Clingmans Dome which is the highest point in Tennessee. A few hiked to the top while some others did some minor bike repairs. While there, we met another Venturer member, TallyVenture, who was on a family vacation and had read about our trip on the club website.

Afterwards we decided to break the fast food cycle and stopped in Pigeon Forge at the Red Lobster for late lunch.

We then headed toward the Appalacha Museum in Norris, Tn. On the way, Tim from TN called and let me know he was able to get off work early and would meet us there. After our visit at the Museum, Tim led us to the Cumberland Gap where we enjoyed the awesome views. Tim headed back home and we headed to our motel in Harlan, Ky. During our ride to Harlan I turned over 60,000 miles on my motorcycle.

The weather today was near perfect and we are hopeful our luck holds out for a few more days.

Day 5 - A real taste of Appalachia
This morning we awoke in Harlan, Ky with a pretty serious looking line of thunderstorms moving across the area. It was sitting west of Charleston. I decided it would be best to skip the museum stops to save some time but it was agreed to run most of the planned route, so we did. It turned out to be the most challenging day of riding I think because it was so much mountain riding. And it was fun. Our first taste of mountain roads came when we went over Black Mountain from Kentucky into Virginia on Rt160. Some joked it was like the Dragon with coal trucks and quite fitting. We then took a series of progressively more rural roads. This gave our group a real taste of Appalachia coal country. Since I picked these roads somewhat at random using my GPS software, I was starting to wonder a couple times if they would turn to a gravel road. We all were on alert for the sound of banjos.

While in a Mullens, WV, an older gentleman rolled up in his car, got out, grabbed a guitar from his trunk and started playing us some improvised bluegrass. He was clearly looking to make some spare change but was not blatant about it and he seemed like a genuinely friendly fellow. So we passed the hat. This was cool as it gave the group a real taste of mountain music. As he was finishing, I walked toward the back and seen he had another guitar in the back. I was SOOOO tempted to ask to play a song or two with him, but we still had the concern of beating those storms. I would have loved to play Paradise by John Prine with him as that song is so perfectly fitting of the setting we were riding in.

I felt a little bad as I know I pushed the group a lot longer than I should have a few times. Not so much that I wanted to, but once we decided we should stop and eat, it was another hour before we found anything that looked safe. Even gas is scarce in this part. There are so many shut down gas stations. The coal industry has taken a real beating the past few decades and it really shows in these once thriving coal mining towns. When we finally found gas, I was already on fuel warning light. Whew!! We passed through several towns along Rt16N that were really hit by the recent flooding in southern WV. Roads washed out, several walk across bridges gone, and a few houses that appeared to have been severely damaged. There was a lot of clean up work in progress.

We finally made it to our hotel in Fayetteville, Wv. around 5:00pm. 20 minutes later the skies opened up. Looks like our hard riding paid off afterall. Within an hour, the rain subsided so the REAL riders ;) Steve, Tony & Linda, and myself got on our bikes and RODE the grueling 3/4 mile to Dirtie Ernies Ribs. The rest, fearing more rain, called a taxi. Ohhh the humility! :) While at dinner, Matt asked the waitress to do a fake 65th birthday for Wayne. Those two are long time friends and continously pick. Of course the rest of us do whatever we can to rib it on. ;)

Tomorrow is still uncertain, but it looks like some of us may chance finishing the full loop. Rain looks like a definate possibility, but probably not a all day thing. Matt and Doug will head back to IN in the morning, Wayne will head back to NC, Eric will start back to northwest WV. Bill and Carol probably will head back to PA. So looks like tomorrow will be Tony & Linda, Chuck & Celia, Steve, and myself doing the ride to Seneca Rocks area.

Day 6 - On to Seneca Rocks
This morning we woke at 7:00am just in time to wave goodbye to Matt, Wayne and Doug who had to roll early to get home since they had such a long haul back to IN and eastern NC.

The rest of us had a quick breakfast at the motel, then packed up and headed out for the days loop. Bill and Carol stayed back since they were taking a more direct route back home to PA. Our first stop was to be riding under the New River Bridge. As we rolled over it, we seen the bottom covered in heavy fog. So we stopped at the visitor center where the group checked that out for 1/2 hour while I disconnected the trailer and Chuck made a minor repair to a turn signal. Sure enough, after 1/2 hour, the fog had nearly completely dissipated.

We rode to the bottom and stopped half way down for some photos. Then Bill and Carol rolled up, so we visited one last time with them and got a group photo at the bridge. We stopped one last time at the bottom then returned to the visitor center where I rehooked the trailer and we continued on. We rode up Rt16N to Rt60 to Hawks Nest overlook. I met a fellow on a Harley Sportster and had a really nice conversation with him. He was 81 years young and still riding as much as possible. Man I hope I can still do that if I am still kicking then. We talked so much I didn’t even make it to the overlook, but I have seen it several times anyway. I enjoyed the conversation more anyway.

Next we headed for the Highlands Scenic Byway where we rode the whole thing and stopped at an overlook for photos. We then proceeded into Marlington , WV for gas and lunch. One of my favorite lunch stops in this area, River Place, is under new management and is now called Greenbrier Grille. Food is about the same quality, but seems a tad slower service. By this time the skies were looking pretty menacing.

We made it to just south of Greenbank when it started raining. We stopped at the Greenbank Observatory to put on rain gear. While there, Linda spotted a really old dog who was having hard time walking. She checked his collar and seen it was from Montery, VA which is about 25 miles away. Obviously this dog didn’t walk that distance. Linda said she simply could not leave without trying to do something so she went in to the visitor center to try to contact the animal control or humane society but could not reach anyone. There was a clerk there who also was an animal lover who said she would follow up and try to contact them.

It rained on and off from Greenbank to just a little south of Seneca Rocks where it cleared up completely. We arrived at our destination Yokums. Based on my lousy experience at the Yokums motel 1/2 mile away when I met the Ohio gang a few years ago, I expected the worse. But I was pleasantly surprised. The rooms were clean, fairly newly redone and the views from the front porch awesome. See pictures. These rooms are above the main store, so if you ever book at Yokums, be sure to get the rooms above the store as they are nice. The water in this area is typical WV water with lots of iron, so drink bottled!

We did find one thing odd. Above all the doors was a sandwhich baggie half filled with water stapled to the sill. As I was checking in I asked what was up with that. Apparently 80+ year old Grandma Yokums says that helps keep flies away, and apparantly Grandma Yokums must run the show.

We said goodbye at Seneca Rocks to Chuck & Celia as they were off to visit his sister in the area while here. They will then head back another way tomorrow. Steve and Tony & Linda decided to take the hike to the top of Seneca Rocks. I opted to stay back since I did it with my 10 year old son last year. So right now they are sweating there way up to the top of Seneca Rocks and I am freshly showered, drinking a Coors Light, and typing this blog. ;)

Tomorrow we plan to head mostly directly home. It has been a blast, but there is some more chances of rain in the afternoon and we are all pretty tired. Tony and Linda have a long ride back to NJ also.

As of this evening, I have ridden 1,717 miles since we left Charles Town last Sunday. And most has been in great weather. With the exception of Monday and an hour of today, we have had sunny days. Not bad for mid May on the east coast. This has been an incredible trip. I never thought when I posted on the Venturers forum to see if anyone would like to join me on this ride I would get such great responce. We had 8 core bikes which ran almost the whole loop, plus the pleasure of meeting and riding with JohnJr and TnTim for a short time. Even met Tallyventure who was vacationing with family. I really enjoyed this trip. I hope to be able to do again but next time with Lisa along as I know she would have really enjoyed this ride, rain and all.

Day 7 - Sadly… it’s over.
This morning we got up and had the breakfast of champions…. microwaved left over pizza. Oh yeah, Wayne.. we found you some jowl~op~in~ohs. We then rode up through Canaan Valley to Black Water Falls. The falls were flowing pretty good with all of the recent rain. We then headed east on Rt50. In Winchester we said goodbye to Tony & Linda who had to continue via interstate on there long ride home.

Steve and I rolled into my home around 2:00pm. All told I logged 1,893 miles since I left Charles Town last Sunday. It has been an incredible trip with friends old and new.