House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
A Nice Fall Ride, November, 2010
A Nice Fall Ride
Here is the map:
I decided to take a long ride yesterday after dropping in on the fine Mr. Shaw with a couple Subway subs. The ride home was spectacular, clear and crisp with all the leaves still ablaze and for once I didn't mind the heat wafting up from my K75RT engine. I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go, but I knew I wanted to ride roads I had not ridden before. It all started with an article on a road food site on a breakfast place in Hancock, Maryland called Weavers - apparently the bakery is second to none and the bacon they use starts out at over 1/4" thick. From there I used GoogleMap to move a route around using the terrain feature to get me to Wardensville, then some old favorites like Rt. 55 and Mt. Weather Road to home.
The alarm went off at 6:30am and it was still dark out. Although a bit disorienting I hopped into the nice, hot shower and then suited up - warm socks, Combat Touring Boots, bike shorts, thermal turtleneck, old-school Gerbings heated jacket (c.1997), and my awesome old BMW Winter Gore-Tex gloves. When I got to the bike it was covered with frost, and was a bit slow turning over (despite a full battery charge) but almost instantly sprang to life. I took a run up the GW parkway as the sun came up, successfully avoiding traffic and spitting me out onto the Beltway. After 20 minutes or so of thick traffic I was on I-270 heading north enjoying the heated jacket and grips in the low 30-degree weather.
It was almost exactly 100 miles to Hancock and at 65mph posted and empty left lanes it went quickly. I will say the electrically adjustable windscreen is a wonderful thing, set right it kept the cold blast off of me and made the ride quite bearable. I exited I-70 at Hancock and rolled up main street only to find Weavers closed. A nice lady walking by mentioned it was closed except for weekends, and recommended the Park n Dine diner up the street. I ran up the street and parked next to a nice blue Honda touring bike. As I walked in I noticed the owner, dressed like me in a Roadcrafter (though Hi-Viz). He was not the friendliest though and returned my "good morning" with a nod and went back to his newspaper. The recommendation was right on and soon I was warming up with a big mug of coffee and a big plate of eggs, sausage patties, rye toast and home-made home fries. Yum!
I sat on a bench out front with my coffee and had a cigar while waiting
for things to warm up a bit. At about 9am it had hit 45 and I decided
it was time to ditch the heated jacket and get rolling! I took Rt.
522 south from Hancock to Berkeley Springs, it was only a few miles
and thankfully as it was packed with dumptrucks dropping gravel and
rocks in showers every time there was a slight bump or seam in the
road. At Berkeley Springs I turned right on Rt. 9 and climbed up the
ridge. At the top is an amazing panorama that, according to the historic
sign, was voted by National Geographic as one of the Nation's top
ten (probably in the 20's before you could drive out to the Grand
Rt. 9 is a great road with lots of great scenery but the real treat was just a few miles up the road, namely the oddly named "Detour Road." I saw this on the map and had to ride it, and it sure did not disappoint. It is a 1.5 lane road with some of the tightest curves and sharpest drop offs (no guardrails!) I have ever ridden. WOW, you could stop anywhere along it for the most amazing scenery, just be careful as the road is so tightly coiled it allows little leeway for mistakes.
More of Detour Road's twists and curves...
Detour Road plopped me back onto Rt. 9, soon to become Rt. 51 as one crosses back into Maryland, through the town of Paw Paw (site of the Paw Paw tunnel, an engineering marvel at the time of its building in 1850.) This was pure Civil War territory and I stopped counting the roadside historic signs of small skirmishes and troop movements back and forth. At one point I noticed a huge bird sitting on a tree next to the road, as I slowed to a stop I realized it was a large barn owl, watching me carefully with his huge eyes. As I was getting my camera out he blinked once and was off into the woods - the several flaps of his wide wingspan making not even a whisper.
Rt. 51 led me to the aptly named Oldtown, an old town founded in 1741 by Thomas Cresap on a well worn Indian trade route - his house is still there today and it is open for tours (just not at 10am on Fridays...) Oldtown went on to service the traffic on the nearby C&O Canal and finally died out in the 1950's when the railroad stopped stopping. From Oldtown I ducked through a small, single lane tunnel and came out the other side to a spectacular valley lined on each side with mountain ridges covered with fiery colors or orange, yellow and red following the road south. A little ways on I came to a curious booth set up in the middle of the road with a sign, "TOLL - 25 Cents" and beyond a long, low-water single lane bridge over a river. The nice lady, complete with long-handled stick with wooden cup at the end, mentioned that the toll bridge was privately owned and has been in the same family for over 200 years. Passing over the bridge was a bit harried as the planks had several large gaps with long-running wide seams - I took it slow and had no problems. This County Route 1 meandered south for a bit and became Rt. 28, a bigger road but none the less spectacular. At one point I stopped to photograph the vintage railroad cars that carry tourists up and down the valley in the summer and fall.
I hung a left on the always awesome Rt. 50 in Romney. Romney is a great little town that has managed to avoid the decline of many of West Virginia's historic towns with a lively and well kept downtown. Just outside of town is an old 1930's motel called the Tip-Top from when Rt. 50 was the only game in town if you wanted to get to the interior of West Virginia or Ohio from northern Virginia (without the long detour up to Rt. 30 in Pennsylvania.) There are two motels from that era of the automobile that still exist two I would pass today are still in excellent shape and fun to look at as you go by and think of the different decades of people that have stopped for the night. The second is See's Motel in Wardensville, I'd be passing that soon too.
From Rt. 50 I turned right onto Rt. 29, another great road that is often overlooked but is well worth the turn. It runs all the way down to New Market on I-81 after changing its name to Rt. 259, but my wrist was getting sore so I cut out the "Lost River/Fort Valley" leg, saving it for next time and instead turned off onto one of my favorites, Old Rt. 55. Old Rt. 55 is shadowed by its newer, younger brother in the form of a super highway. Thankfully they built the new next to and over (with some spectacularly tall bridge tresses) and not on top of old Rt. 55, as that old road is simply spectacular with its prominent rock faces lining the corners and dips and dives through deep forests and broad farmland. I passed through the infamous speed trap known as Wardensville (25mph strictly enforced!) and its great Ka Ka Pon restaurant and historic See's Motel where Elizabeth and I were once refused a room because we were not married, and went on through Strasbourg (worth a stop but not today) to Front Royal.
In Front Royal
I turned left onto a new road for me - Rt. 624. Immediately I noticed
orange cones lining the road and a nice Officer pointing a lazer gun
at me. I guess I was toddering along as I passed but the van catching
up at a nice clip behind me was beckoned over. Rt. 624 is a pleasant
enough road, and my new short cut from Front Royal to one of my favorite
roads of all, Mt. Weather Road. I popped out onto Rt. 50 (again) and
headed up the mountain to the left turn onto Mt. Weather. Someone
once asked me why I like this road so much and I
Mt. Weather Rd. ends at Rt. 7, and I took that now busy commercial road that just 20 years ago was nothing but a slice through farm country to Leesburg, then on to Georgetown Pike and the area where I grew up - amazed even again that every time I pass through even more huge houses are shoehorned into tiny lots. I took the beltway back over to the GW parkway and was stunned at how beautiful the leaves were in the setting sunlight. The stretch from the beltway to the Chain Bridge Road bridge had the very best fall colors of the entire ride, though the setting sunlight may have had something to do with that.
All in all a GREAT ride - the last fall ride I had the privilege of taking was twelve years ago back in 1998, I am very glad to have had the chance to have taken this simply wonderful ride today.
© 1995-2011, Ted Verrill