Posts Tagged ‘motorcycle riding in virginia’

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For a pleasant change we had family come to visit and ride with us! Debbie’s sister (Vicky) and her husband (Jeff) trailered their Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle from Ohio to our home in Front Royal, VA.  Neither of them had ridden Skyline Drive or anywhere in this part of Virginia.

They came out for the Labor Day weekend arriving late Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, we unload their Fat Boy and made ready for Skyline Drive. The morning was cool but comfortable and the view of Skyline Drive from my driveway was clear and bright.  Little did we know that the bright sun would disappear and reappear and disappear and reappear as rode along the ridges of the parkway.

Stopping at a few of the early western view overlooks Vicky and Jeff though the sites of blue skies and the Shenandoah Valley were just spectacular! They were both enjoying the smooth tarmac and twisty nature of the parkway and as it was early in the day the bonus of a low traffic.

Looking east, however, I realized that the bright and sunny would not be the way the entire trip.  Lots of clouds clung at the treetops, with breezes moving them around in movie like motions as they sweep up and down the eastern ridge. I knew, from the number of times I have ridden the parkway, that in short order we would be riding in a cloud and the temps would drop.

I was not wrong, as we approached the first exit from Skyline Drive, Thornton Gap, the clouds were right down on the parkway.  Ridding through a cloud, if you have not done so, is foggy and damp.  Riding our motorcycles out of Thornton Gap we quickly made it to Mary’s Rock Tunnel.  Of course, we had to hit the throttle to hear the music of the V-Twins reverberate from the halls of the tunnel.

We pulled off at the Mary’s Rock overlook, today’s view was more, inside of cloud, then amazing vista but, we talked to Jeff and Vicky and generally admired Skyline Drive and the other motorcycles parked at the overlook.

Back on the bikes we were in and out the clouds going from warm to cool with the occasional mist and rain drops. We dropped off Skyline Drive at the second exit and then rode the motorcycles north on SR 340 back to Ft. Royal.

After the ride we went to “Shenandoah Valley Ax Throwing Company” for dinner and some fun.  Throwing the ax was a lot of fun and a bit therapeutic depending on what you were imagining the target to be 😊.  This is the first time we had been there be it will not be the last! 

The next day was just as much fun.  We rode the motorcycle south on Fort Valley Road to Luray.  Swung by Cooters, Duke’s of Hazzard Museum and then over Thornton Gap.

Thornton’s Gap has signs on both sides that state that this is a high crash area for motorcycles! The signs are right, people overestimate their skills.

Like the day before, as we reached the top of the ridge and passed under Skyline Drive, we activated our “storm chasers” superpowers. Three quarters of the way up a nearly all the way down the other side it was motorcycling in a light rain and fog.  But it was warm and sunny when we were back in the valley below.

This day we stopped for lunch in Front Royal at “PaveMint Smokn’ Tap House” which is a great place for wood smoked meals.  Everyone loved their food, Vicky and Jeff said they would like to come back someday. 

2 days of motorcycling, with 2 members of our family for 220 miles of the best of riding in Virginia … just cannot beat that!

Ride On, Ride Safe

We have not been getting out on the motorcycle a lot, nowhere near what I want. Between work (new job) and life (covid, weddings, etc.) I am way behind on this year’s riding.  I hope to change that with less than half the year remaining.

But we did get the motorcycle out for good ride a few weekends ago.

That morning we set out with new helmets (Harley Davidson/Sena Outrush), new jackets and I had a new pair of Kevlar lined riding pants.  Each of those products will get a separate post. For this motorcycle ride there was no real destination, I had only a road to start on, “Fort Valley Road” or State Road 678.  

Fort Valley Road is, at the start, a quite twisty road with stone cliffs on one side and a drop into Passage Creek on the other. After a while the valley widens to allow for farmland and the road goes from twisty to rolling hills with a few tight turns thrown in for fun.

We rode Fort Valley Road to the end and then made our way into Luray, VA. Riding through downtown Luray it is evident that we need to come back and spend some time here.

Taking State Route 211 out of Luray, we crossed through Shenandoah National Park, and under Skyline Drive.  The ride up and down the mountain is normally spectacular, this day not so much.  There has been a lot of thunderstorms recently and there were several places where gravel had washed onto the road requiring slower speeds and more attention.  In one spot there was several inches of water running across the road.

After coming off the mountain we decided to ride over to Culpepper, VA for lunch. Culpepper is another of those small towns in which we need to spend some time.  That day we did not get to lunch in town as every spot we checked had a line and many were closed (it was a Sunday).

By now the day was getting quite warm, it was over 90F. Luckily our route back to home was via a scenic mostly tree covered route.   We did not take a direct route but wandered through a dozen back roads until we ended back in Front Royal.

It was an awesome day to be out on a motorcycle ride!

Ride On, Ride Safe

I have ridden along many national parkways including the Natchez Trace (TN/MS), Great Lake Seaway Byway (NY), Blue Ridge Parkway (VA, NC) and, of course, the Skyline Drive Parkway (VA). I have also attended multiple motorcycle rallies along the east coast including Daytona.

Outside of rallies, I have never seen as many motorcycles in one location as I do in Front Royal, Virginia. During motorcycle riding season, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of motorcycles in Front Royal, either singular or riding in large groups daily. You can see these large numbers of motorcycles passing through almost every day but especially on weekends. In my opinion Front Royal could be the motorcycle destination of Virgina much like Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee.

Why are so many motorcycles passing through Front Royal? It is because the town is located at the northern terminus of Skyline Drive and about an hour from the nation’s capital.  All these motorcycle riders are passing through the town on the way to Skyline Drive or to parts unknown as they leave the Parkway.

By just passing through Front Royal motorcyclists are missing out on opportunities for some great local rides and the great local flavor.  For example, a rider can take a loop from Front Royal to Luray via Fort Valley Road. That ride would last about two+ hours, depending on stops, and would have you back in town by lunch time.

After lunch, mount the motorcycle and head south out of town to cross under Skyline Drive at it two gaps.  But be careful, they are quite technical, and the northern gap is designated as a high crash area. Two+ hours later you will be back in town with enough time to get to dinner and a stroll along main street.

After dinner, riders could visit the Virginia Beer Museum for brew and live music or Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing for a unique activity or any of the many other venues in town.  Front Royal has lots of hotels and restaurants and a main street that could be considered a throw-back to another era. Check out the movie theater that has a 1950’s vibe with a state-of-the-art projector and sound system.

Front Royal may be the gateway to Skyline Drive, but it should also be a destination at the start or end of your motorcycle ride.  Stay a day or two, there are plenty of hotels and campgrounds, to explore both our local roads and our small-town atmosphere.

Going for a spin!

A few weekends ago the wife and I took a motorcycle ride to Shenandoah Speedway racetrack.  A friend of mine was participating in a “drift” event.  For the few of you out there that might not know about drifting it is the sport of sliding your car sideways through a turn as fast as you can.  Quite exciting to watch a lot harder to do, unless you have plenty of practice and a car set up to do it properly.  My buddy has both the skills and the car.

The ride to the racetrack was great.  Bright blue skies with a few big puffy white clouds. The temp was not too hot or too cool making the ride with “ATGATT” comfortable. We left Front Royal going south on SR 340 in the spring green Shenandoah Valley.  With little traffic it was no time at all before we passed Luray Caverns. The Caverns are a very popular tourist destination and today their parking lot was full of hundreds of cars and lots of buses.

Just a short distance past Luray Caverns is “Cooter’s”!  For those of us of a certain age that remember the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, Cooter’s is a museum of sorts celebrating the show.  The man who played Cooter, Ben Jones, is from the area and had collected a lot of memorabilia from the show which is on display including some of the cars with a General Lee replica out front.  By the way Cooter is also multi-term US Congressman.

My wife had never been to Cooter’s, so we pulled into its packed parking lot.  This day they had a Blue Grass and Folk music band playing, something they do on a regular basis.  We wondered around the facility for a bit with Rocky Top and Country Roads dancing in our ears.  The stop was a nice diversion back to our teen years.

Back on our steady stead we continued south on SR 340 until we reached the racetrack.  I knew we were close when I could see the plumes of white smoke and the smell of burning rubber in the air, drifting is very hard on tires.

It was not long before my wife was buckled in the race car and out on the track.  She was only able to get two laps in before they blew up the right rear tire.  Yet, those few laps were enough to give her an ear-to-ear smile.  She talked about it for many days later.

As the day got longer it was time to head to the house.  A 100+ mile motorcycle ride and a new experience for my wife made this a great day.


Ride on, Ride safe

We were able to sneak out for about 2-hour motorcycle ride this past weekend.  Still a lot going on in life/work, so I am just happy to get out on the motorcycle.

Motorcycling around Front Royal, VA and the surrounding area is a lot of fun.  More than a few nice places as destinations and more than a few good country roads to ride.

We even got up on Skyline Drive for a short ride. The leaves have not yet reappeared on the trees, so the views were spectacular!

The curiosity of the day was the “Audi” Can Am Spyder.  The reality was the guy was not happy with the big, black, empty area on the front of his trike and put the Audi badge there.  It was a neat conversation starter.
Ride on, Ride safe

I though I would try my hand at video recording my travels.  This ride I wanted to “shoot the gap”, the southern gap of Skyline Drive.

There are two places along Skyline Drive where you can ride your motorcycle under the parkway, after going up a twisty mountain road and of course back down the other side.  I had never ridden the southern gap so now was the time.

As you can see in the video it was a wonderful day to ride a motorcycle.  Setting out from my home in Front Royal with a clear, bright, blue sky and a cool but comfortable temperature just made for a perfect journey.  Low traffic in the Shenandoah Valley provided little impedance, except for the deer and her three fawns.  I had to stop and let them cross, woe is me riding in the country. 

So why 150 in 9?  This was a 3-hour ride, but my batteries died after 2 ½ hours.  NO ONE wants to watch a 150-minute ride with no commentary, I have not figured that one out yet, so I set it to fast forward and got the whole thing down to 9 minutes.

Hope you enjoy.

*****

Ride on, Ride Safe

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This was a fantastic road to ride a motorcycle. All I can say is WOW.   

This byway gets its name due to the many rivers, creeks, and streams that you cross or ride your motorcycle parallel to throughout the length of the road.  The Mury, Gauley and Cow Pasture rivers just to name a few, each with fantastic vistas.  Additionally, the road crosses five counties in both Virginia and West Virginia.  We started our Route 39 motorcycle ride in Lexington VA. 

Riding out of Lexington you are in the Shenandoah Valley but quickly start to ride over the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain system.  This is the first hint at what will become a very cool, repeating mix of twisty mountain roads and smooth valley cruising.  

b (14)One of the neat things about this ride is the fact that the tourism/visitor centers for each of the counties have worked together to “lure” motorcyclist on to the byway. If you desire you can download a “passport” from the Scenic Route 39 website. If you make the stops to get your passport stamps you can earn a Route 39 lapel pin.  Additionally, they also offer a chance to earn a challenge coin, if you can correctly answer enough questions about geocaches.  We did both and the stops you make to fulfil the requirements are a lot of fun and make good breaks from the road.  

Our first stop was the Millboro Mercantile in Millboro VA. This is the quintessential small country ijustwant2ride.comstore, there even is a payphone outside. From my view the best part of this little store was the “extreme” taxidermy.  I have never seen a vampire or carnivorous deer until that day!  Oh, and sticking with the waterway theme, a creek runs under and next to the store itself.

b (12)Back on the bike we were off to our next destination. This portion of our motorcycle ride was through a mountain valley, the view from the saddle showed that fall is upon us.  The beginning of fall is well marked with the spots of color scattered across the mountainsides. It was not long before we made it to Webb’s General Store for our next passport stamp AND a glass bottle of Dr. Pepper with real sugar! OMG was it good!  Even if you don’t ride your motorcycle the length of the Byway, the ride through Rockbridge and Bath counties in Virginia is worth your time. 

It is shortly after you leave Webb’s that you leave the foothills and begin the climb into the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. LOTS of turns and climbs/descents of 6-9%! A motorcycle rider’s version of a rollercoaster.  Crossing the border into West Virginia (our home state BTW) we continued riding b (17)the rollercoaster until we dropped back into another valley and entered the town of Marlinton (don’t add a G, they even have a song or poem about not adding the G).  The visitor center for Pocahontas County, in Marlinton, is one of the passport stops and we had a great visit at the visitor’s center.

We talked with a couple of the employees but primarily with Molly.  We had a great conversation about what is going on in the area, about tourism and motorcycle tourism. It is my opinion that, for some reason, West Virginia just has not become a motorcycling touring/riding destination.  Many of the roads and accompanying attractions rival or even exceed east Tennessee and the Tail of the Dragon.  I will give the Pocahontas County Visitors Center a lot of credit though, they even have a motorcycle touring section on their website. 

b (21)The rest of the ride was much like the first, whipping the bike through the mountains and relaxed cruising along valley or ridgetop roads. More wonderful views and fresh mountain air all around.  So enough we arrived in Summerville and the end of our Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway but not our weekend. 

Riding south out of Summerville about 30 minutes we were visiting my mom in my hometown of Ansted, WV.  We also participated in the Hawks Nest State Park’s 42nd Annual Country Roads festival, a celebration of local craftsmen and mountain heritage.  

This park is also the start of one of the best motorcycle roads in the state.  The ride up or down Gauley Mountain on US Route 60 is an 8-mile ride on a moving serpent’s spine.  Multiple 90+ degree turns, including some approaching 180 degrees, is a floorboard dragging, smile inducing part of Wild Wonderful West Virginia.  Oh, Route 60 is also the Midland Trail Byway, 180 miles of which quite a few are mountain twistiness.  

To soon it was Sunday morning.  Back on the motorcycle we headed home across Route 39 and it was just as much fun going east as it was coming west.  Heck we even turned around in a few places to ride that section again.  An 800 mile round trip might seem a lot for a 3 day weekend…but the fun of 39 made it a blast. 

I highly recommend Route 39 as a road every motorcycle rider should experience.  I cannot imagine why any rider would be disappointed. 

 

 

 

 

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Debbie and I decided to take a quick Sunday morning motorcycle ride this past weekend.  Our ride took us to three national parks in about 5 hours!

Leaving home about 8AM we headed out to the George Washington Parkway (a national park). It took us about an hour to get to the southern terminus which is also Mount Vernon home of George Washington. Riding north on the parkway gives the rider a wonderful, at times panoramic, views of the Potomac River and surrounding country.

Coming abreast of Washington D.C. the view is remains panoramic as well as breath taking. The Washington and Lincoln Monuments clearly in view, the Kennedy Center and the spires of Georgetown make the few minutes you ride past the city quite awe inspiring.  Just past those sites you come across Theodore Roosevelt Island.  This is an often a much under looked memorial to a great president.  Take the time to walk across to the island and view this memorial. We did not stop this time…the parking lot was full, otherwise it would have been 4 national parks in 5 ½ hours.

The second park of this motorcycle ride was the C&O Canal National Park.  If you follow this blog you will see that I am attempting to get to all the motorcycle accessible stops along the canal.  I have knocked out a few but there is a lot of stops remaining.

Lastly we stopped in and took a look at Glen Echo National Park.  Just a short distance from the Clara Barton Parkway (named after the founder of the American Red Cross) this National Park started life in 1891 as a school and in 1911 transformed in to the premier amusement park of the great D.C area.  In 1971, shortly after the amusement park closed the Park Service took over and it is now a national park!  The park is an easy motorcycle ride coming out of or into Washington D.C.

Leaving Glen Echo we returned to the Clara Barton Parkway and headed west towards home.  All in all…a great day for a motorcycle ride!

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We started our motorcycle vacation today.  We left the house about 8AM and headed out to Ohio on our Harley Davidson Ultra Limited.  Our, path for all but a few miles on day one, is via US Route 50.   

We picked up Route 50 just a few miles south of Leesburg, VA. I have to say that Route 50 from this point to our endpoint is a fantastic motorcycle ride.  In Virginia you ride through horse and wine county (I quite counting vineyards and wineries at 15).  In fact in Middleburg we saw folks preparing their horses for a jumping contest (I am sure there is a proper name for this contest, but I do not know what it is) there were dozens of horses and riders milling about. My wife said she thought it was called “Trials”, to which I replied then they are all guilty!

WP_20170615_09_55_38_ProShortly after crossing into WV you head into the Appalachian Mountains.  These mountain roads are some twisty fun for a motorcycle!  Swooping around turns, quick climbs and steep descents (up to a 9% grade) with spectacular views from the mountain tops and rolling farmland in the valleys make this a route, in my opinion, as much fun as any of the roads around the Tail of the Dragon.  By the way I dragged the floorboards of the bike a few times without even trying! 

WP_20170615_12_05_47_RichI had forgotten that Route 50 passed into Maryland for a few miles so today we traveled in 4 states. When we left Maryland and rode the motorcycle back into WV Route 50 also became the Northwestern Turnpike one of America’s Byways.  Stopping for lunch and gas in the little town of Grafton, WV we ate a McDonalds, which had to be one of the least clean stores we had been in…unfortunately I did not notice this until after we had received our food.    

WP_20170615_15_41_58_RichWe did make a side trip to Cairo … I am still taking my wife to all the great cities of the old world, via motorcycle.  I was able to get her to Lisbon and Damascus last year.  Athens is next on the list!   

The first day of our vacation motorcycle trip is now over.  315 miles through some of the best country for motorcycle riding.  I highly recommend this part of Route 50 to anyone passing through WV, MD or VA.  OHHH… for got to mention, that per Standard Operating Procedure, we got wet in a thunderstorm!!! Storm Chaser powers ACTIVATE!

 

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The first really great motorcycle riding weekend of the year and we got to take advantage of it!   It was a bit cool when we started, something just under 50F.  But, Saturday, a little before noon, the sun was out, the temperature was rising, the sky was blue and the motorcycle was calling.  

I threw on my chaps, Debbie put on her electric jacket liner and we were ready for a motorcycle ride to the US Marine Corp Museum.  We had not been there before but had seen its structure many, many time.  Anyone who travels north or south on Interstate 95 in the Washington, DC metro area has seen the spire of the museum rising above the tree line.  

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Iwo Jima flag rising… in Legos!

We rode out, going the long way to avoid the DC highway system, and a couple hours later we were pulling the motorcycle into the parking lot of the museum.  The building itself is quite imposing, it was built to give an artistic representation to the Marines rising the flag on Iwo Jima.  

It is quite amazing when you walk into the atrium of the building. Hanging from the ceiling are multiple Marine Corp aircraft from WWII as well as a Harrier jump jet.  The museum itself is well laid out walking you through the founding of the Corp at Tun Tavern through their current deployments in the Middle East.

If you are in the area of Quantico, VA riding your motorcycle or in your car, you should stop a check out this free museum.  It would be worth your time to learn a little more about one part of the American armed services.