House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
West Virginia, 1998
It was a rough, rough week. Friday night I got home from work, had a stiff drink and went right to bed. I woke up about 3am, the kind of wake-up where you are suddenly wide awake and aware of everything going on around you (which at 3am wasn't much.) I could just make out the map of West Virginia I had hung on the wall and carefully marked with a yellow highlighter all the roads I had wanted to ride at one point or another. As the lovely Elizabeth was out of town for the weekend and I had no plans I decided then and there to see as many of those roads as possible.
I jumped out of bed and quickly packed a bag, deciding to find a cheap motel instead of bringing along the drybag of camping gear. I had the bike packed by 4am and was out the door with a rough route in mind by 5am. As it was still dark I decided to take the highway out to Front Royal and was rewarded with the sun rising over my back and lighting up the Blue Ridge Mountains from a dark purple to a brilliant orange to a deep blue as the mist burned off. Just as the sun began to rise I was leaving the highway for Rt. 55, the grand entranceway into West Virginia, without a care in the world or a plan in my head of any sort.
I saw where Pearl S. Buck was born and grew up (very small split log cabin!), saw the first gas well in the US, stayed in a beautifully restored 1820's-era inn that was out in the middle of nowhere today but in the 1800's was the crossroads of the E-W traffic in WVA and was across the river from a huge Union Army camp during the Civil War, Oh, "War Between the States" ;-) that was commanded by Rutherford B. Hayes, saw the small simple graves out in the middle of a pasture of the Murray Daughters from the 1750's "Murray Massacre" by the Shawnee Indians, again on a small backroad and marked by a small simple sign, saw a restored "company town" in Cass, discovered a new skyline drive-esqe scenic highway, saw both an abandondend coal mine and the new hi-tech version, saw a Cranberry glade at the top of a mountain, saw some of the world's largest communications dishes, talked to a 100-year old guy who took part in the deadly "Coal Wars" of the 1920's and whose grandfathers fought on different sides of the Civil War and who regaled me with the history of West Virginia in exchange for a Fuente that he chewed rather than smoked (he remembered a time when West Virginia had hardly any mature trees and when the population was twice what it is now), had some delicious ice-cream freshly made in an old wooden ice cream churn in a little old country store I found on a backroad that I turned onto just because it "looked right." I saw fireworks over the WV state capitol building, had a hamburger and onion rings from a 1940's era drive in that was in totally original, unrestored condition, saw some small kids that gathered around the motorcycle like it was a time machine, and lastly, saw the sun rise over the mountains and burn the mist off the river while enjoying a nice Maduro and a thick cup a steaming hot coffee.
Even though I did over 1,000 miles, I took it slow and stopped frequently whenever something caught my eye. It was the kind of ride that you have to do alone because there is no real plan and the route plan is whatever looks cool at that immediate second. It Was a good time to get the cobwebs out :)
Here is the route I took, I would have taken better notes (and had a better write-up) but I was simply concentrating on what was around the next corner and not really worrying about much at all.
Next Time Think About...
From Gauley Bridge...
Trip is about 700 to 800 miles