A Rainy Trip to West Virginia


If only the rest of the day looked like this

Thursday, September 14th

thu map

Thursday's Route

I was in dire need of a break from work and needed to get some good riding in. I was also looking for an excuse to properly break in my new hard bags for the Multistrada. Taking a look at the map at places I could get to (and back from) in 4 hours showed West Virginia to be a possibility. I'd ridden in the state twice before, but that was over a decade ago in my first life as a motorcyclist. One of my best memories from that time was riding 39 in West Virginia, near Goshen Gap and Warm Springs. I figured if I could get as far as Harrisonburg, VA the night before I should be able to hit those roads once again.

I got a lot of advice from STN'ers about other roads to take, with many stongly suggesting 33, 250 and 39 up and down the mountains between VA and WV. Armed with a WV map and some google maps printouts I packed up for a quick getaway.


Leaving work

I had originally planned on leaving work around 3 so I could get to Harrisonburg before dark (not terribly fond of riding in the dark if I can at all avoid it). Turned out I could leave earlier - I was on the road by 12:08pm. Made good time to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and then sat in traffic as the bridge squeezed down from 4 lanes to 2.


Pretty scary looking

bridge traffic


Once over the bridge and through the EZ-Pass lanes a rather fast and uneventful ride down I-95. The weather was in the mid-80's, abundant sunshine and no wind. Pretty much perfect for riding. I normally wear a perforated leather jacket in the summer, but knowing I was going to the mountains I figured I'd trade it for a non-perf'd one. This would turn out to be a VERY good thing.

There was a nasty accident on I-695 in the opposite direction, but of course everyone had to slow down for miles to check it out. Took almost 15 minutes to get past.


I-695 accident

One that was cleared it was smooth sailing all the way to Harper's Ferry. Well, except for an unplanned detour off I-70 onto 29 and US40 when the road split and I missed the signs about which lane to be in. No matter, US40 was quick to join back up with I-70 after a few 2-lane miles, and was a nice break from the highway.



I had to snap a picture on I-70 when I saw some mountains. At last, the reason for this trip was starting to approach. Got off I-70 to 340 and down through Harper's Ferry to stop in at SWRiverstone's place to say hi. Scott has a great house, located a short ride away from some fantastic riding country. Got to see Holly's new ST3, and got Scott to fire it up so I could drool over the exhaust. And even though Scott has been hanging around ADVRider he did not take me skydiving, or deep-sea fishing, or even treat me to a lobster dinner. Bastage :-)


Scott and his WeeStrom

We chatted for a bit about where I was heading, and what roads I should ride, and I mentioned I was thinking of doing Skyline Drive on the way to Harrisonburg, but was afraid it would eat up too much time. He urged me to do Skyline, as the time of day was perfect. OK, Scott, sounds good to me.

dino land

On 340

Headed down 340 all the way to Front Royal, and found my way to the entrance of Skyline Drive around 5:30pm. Payed my $10 (down from $15 for a car), and headed down the road.


OK, the vacation officially begins

I have only done Skyline once before, and that was in a car over 10 years ago. Man, what a beautiful road. LOTS of deer though, but they seemed content to just hang out on the side of the road. I think I saw (and passed) two cars in 50 miles - pretty much had the place to myself on a weekday evening.


Doe, a deer, a female deer





I liked the section from US211 south to US33 more than the first part. For some reason I just got into a better groove on that section, really enjoying the endless curves. I kept my pace down to between 45 and 50, and fortunately saw zero LEO's in this 35-mph park.


The Multi picked a beautiful spot to reach 10,000 miles.


My favorite shot of the day, and one of my favorites overall.

It was just starting to get dark when I exited the park onto US-33. Other than a few nice curves coming off the Drive, the road was nothing special. That is until it got dark and my headlight went out. Uh-oh. Switched to low-beam, and fortunately that worked OK. Whew. Found my way to the Motel 6, checked in, called home, and went in search of dinner. My plan was to park the bike and walk across the street to the Quizno's, but there was a problem. I had brought shorts to change into, no problem there, but once again I forgot to pack anything else to wear on my feet (I had done this once before on a trip to Key West). I'm not sure which would look better - walking around in leather pants, or walking around in shorts with motorcycle boots. Oh well, guess I'm riding to dinner.

5 guys

Mmm, greasy...

My sandwich at Quizno's was so bad I threw it out after 2 bites. Fortunately I spotted a Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries place up on the hill across the street. Mmm. Back to the hotel for some TV and sleep.


300.0 miles today. (it reads AM because I took this pic the next morning)

Friday, September 15th

fri map

The Motel 6 lacked an alarm clock so I relied on my cell phone to wake me up nice and early. I was packed up and ready to hit the road by 7:45. The skies looked so-so, and I was really debating what to do. I didn't have a local weather channel so I didn't have a good idea what was in store for what area during the day. More than once I've backed out of something because of iffy weather only to have it turn into a beautiful day as I sat home. OK, I'll get on with the plan.

First up was 33 over the mountains to Judy Gap, WV. A slow ride through towns and some farm country eventually headed into the hills. Perfect pavement, zero traffic, pretty good scenery. And about 10,000x nicer than riding in South Jersey.


Some scenes along US33





I stopped for a bit at the Germany Valley overlook - the pictures don't do it justice, it was really very postcard-like. You can tell the weather is starting to go south.




judy gap

After Judy Gap I headed down 28 to hook up with 250. 28 was a very nice riding road through the valley, lots of sweepers with zero traffic and terrific views of the mountains. A couple spots had some seriously scary-looking doublewide communities though. I made it to 250 and headed back East to Virginia. The WV side of 250 was great, but as the road went up into the mountains the fog came with it. Not the best pavement either, nothing like the perfection of 33 (and 39 yet to come).



By the time I got to the summit on 250 visibility was pretty much nil. My speed dropped accordingly, and I rode very slowly through the fog. Very dreamlike. I was thankful there was no traffic.

more fog

Pulled over for a bit, and a group of Gold Wingers (many with trailers) came slowly riding by.


fog riders

I finally came down 250 into Monterey, and figured it would be a good time to stop for gas. Saw a station at the corner of 250 and 220, and noticed there were a lot of bikes there. One group around the pumps were the wingers that passed me earlier, and the other seemed to be all FJRs. Amongst the FJRs was one figure towering over the rest - could it be? - yes, it was STN's own FJRSki! We couldn't believe the coincidence of running into each other 500 miles from home! He was in WV for a FJR gathering (almost 150 FJR's met at Lewisburg I hear), and was doing a loop ride. We compared notes, and I strongly suggested they hit 33 and skip 250. The rain was coming in from the south, better they should head north ASAP. I, of course, was heading south right into it.


FJRSki (Frank) posing by my Multi

Me taking the previous picture!

I left the gas station about 5 minutes after the wings, heading south on 220, and promptly caught up to them :-). I'm no speed demon, believe me, but these guys were sloooooow. Passed them in chunks, which they were fine with, waving me by and such. Just as I passed the lead wing the skies opened up. Now I supposed I should have just pulled over right then to don the rain gear, but then all the wings would just pass me again, probably laughing. So no, I waited until I found a little side road to duck into, so they couldn't see me and would think I was just gone in the wind. Parked under a big tree next to this gorgeous house and did the rain gear dance.


Nice place to live

Got to 39 for the most anticipated road of the trip. I tried to go east from 220, but within a mile or two visibility was zero with the fog. No fun at all. Knowing that if I pressed on going East I would only have to turn around and do the fog again westbound, I turned around and headed west towards Marlinton. The rain was coming down pretty good now, and my gloves were starting to soak through. The rest of me was nice and dry, and I was really happy I hadn't taken the perforated jacket as the temperatures were in the mid-60s now.

39 was....fabulous. I couldn't find the spot from the picture below (I suspect it is east of 220), but I was still thrilled to be on that road again. Absolutely perfect pavement, turns that were banked, no traffic, deep in the forest, endless curves, nothing could be better. Well, no rain would have been nice.

This picture is from 1994 and was the first time I rode 39 and fell in love with it

I don't really mind riding in the rain (during the day anyway), but it certainly ratchets down the lean angles on roads like this. So the mode for the day switched from sport-tour to sightsee, and that was OK. I secretly suspect I have more in common with the touring riders than the hard-core sport-touring guys. I had come to West Virginia to ride beautiful roads and see the scenery, not to see how far I could lean it in every bend. I was just as happy riding 28, which was very mellow, as I was on 33 which was very technical. Don't get me wrong - I love curvy roads and bending the bike into the turns, but it's not the only reason for the ride for me.


I stopped here and marked a waypoint on the GPS as "WOW!"


Hairpin on 39

Had an interesting moment at this hairpin. This was the first turn marked at "10 MPH" of the day, so it got my attention. I was heading uphill, and there was a white van coming down the hill who hadn't got to the turn yet. I was about halfway around when I heard the telltale "SHHHH" sound of tires sliding on wet pavement. Sure enough, there was the white van sliding straight in front of me, off the road and into the side of the hill. Boom! I pulled over to see if he was OK, and he was out of the van in a few seconds surveying the damage. Took him a few minutes to rock the van out of the ditch and back onto the road. Man am I glad we weren't travelling in the opposite directions.

van crash

Where his bumper impacted the mountain

I took 39 as far as 84/92, and started to head north, hoping to get out of the rain. I needed to be in Hagerstown, MD by the end of the day as that puts me within easy striking distance of home Saturday morning. I saw signs for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank and since that was something I always wanted to see I headed that way. I don't remember much about the road to the NRAO, other than it was wet. Of course when I got there it was so foggy/rainy that I could barely see anything. The pictures have been tweaked with levels and curves to bring out some detail from the fog.

On the way there I was thinking it would be nice to stop for lunch someplace, but I noticed at one of the photo stops that my hands had been dyed blue/black from the wet gloves. Not exactly presentable for a fine dining establishment (or whatever passes for one in WV). I ended up getting a hot dog and some snacks at the NRAO cafeteria. It was here that I also discovered how difficult it is to gain access to the equipment for a pee break when wearing cycling shorts, leather pants, and rain pants with suspenders. Not something to be undertaken in haste.

It was here that I noticed my Fuji digicam I used for on-board photos was having problems. The lens wouldn't retract fully anymore, I suspect bug guts in the mechanism. Yuck. Because of the weather, I was also having a lens fogging issue as soon as I took the SLR out of the tankbag.


scopes 2

The best shot I could get of the radio telescope - here's what it really looks like

Continued up 28 to Judy Gap, then onto 28/55 through Seneca Rocks. Nice road, very pretty scenery through the Seneca Rocks area. West Viginia pickup drivers have no fear of the rain. Couple times I waved some locals by so they could continue on at 20 over through the fog. Could barely see the top of the rocks through the fog/mist. By the time I took the picture below I was getting pretty beat. I guess the gloom of the rain was starting to take its toll on me, as I was starting to look forward to a warm and dry bed for the night.

seneca rocks

Seneca Rocks

Took Jordan Run Rd to 42, then 42 up to Mt. Storm. 42 was terrific, lots of perfect-pavement turns with great sight-lines. At Mt. Storm I started following 50 east. I stopped at Romney when I saw an AutoZone, and figured I should take care of my high-beam situation. I called my Ducati dealer, Martin Motorsports, to find out what bulb I needed. They were nice enough to pull one out of the showroom bike and get me the info (H7 for high beam, H9 for projector low beam). $16 later I had a new bulb in hand. I also took this opportunity to see if I could get a little closer to home before calling it a day. I had a room booked in Hagerstown, but that was cancellable until 5pm. I called my travel agent (aka my lovely wife Debbi) to see if she could get me a room in Frederick for the night. I set her on that and put some more miles in. Stopped again near Capon Bridge to see how she made out. Good news - she got me a room in Frederick and cancelled the one in Hagerstown. Thanks hon!

wv sign

The West Virginia sign. Took me 4 crossings that day to find one I could photograph

Took 50 all the way to Winchester where I picked up 7, then 7 to Berryville where I got on 340. Full darkness came on 340 getting near Harpers Ferry. As much as I dislike riding at night, I dislike riding at night in the rain even more. In order to keep the Shoei RF-1000 from fogging in seconds I had to keep the visor open to the first detent - which on the Shoei is like an inch-wide gap. Lots of cold rain coming in through the opening. Not happy. Endless stream of traffic going the opposite direction through Harper's Ferry, making it difficult to see because of all the headlights. Stopped once or twice to take a breather. As 340 got nearer Frederick, my GPS wanted to take me onto I-70 to get to the hotel. I was in no mood to dice with trucks at 80mph in the rain at night looking for an exit on a road I've never been on, so I got off 340 and worked the GPS into taking me there via surface streets. The last part of this day's ride really sucked.

Finally got to the hotel around 8:30pm. While I was checking in, the manager asked me if I had parked the bike yet. He suggested I move the bike between the planters right by the front door so no one hit it accidentally. This would also put it right outside my window on the first floor. Thanks! Got in the room and peeled off all the gear. Everything except my hands were nice and dry - the rainsuit and the Oxtar Matrix 2 boots kept the rain out perfectly. Called home and talked with my wife and son for a bit, and settled in to watch some TV. Asleep in maybe 30 minutes.


My Frederick hotel room. The window above the bike was mine.


Total mileage for the day - 393. About 110 of those were in the dry.


Saturday, September 15th


I was very happy to look out my windows in the morning to see that it was bright and sunny. I started to load up the bike and couldn't help but notice that it was pretty darn chilly and very windy. First order of the day was to replace the high beam. Finally, I was getting a chance to use the tools that I carry along with me (tools being a leatherman). About 10 minutes was all it took, with most of the time spent trying to squeeze my fingers into the fairing behind the dash to get at the bulb. New bulb worked perfectly, and I felt like a man's man for repairing something.


The view out my motel room window

Did I-70 to the I-695 beltway, passing again the small amusement park I noticed on the way out. Have to stop there one day and ride their roller coaster - new ones for me are few and far between.

Not being in too much of a rush to get home I ditched the interstate for US-40. Can't say it's a pretty road, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was better than droning on the freeway. As I got closer to Aberdeen the wind was getting really strong, blowing the bike around some. Since I really don't like doing bridges in the wind I was happy to be crossing the Susquehanna on 40 and not on the very high I-95 bridge. Turned out even this low bridge was an exciting ride (not in a good way), as the bike was getting blasted left and right from the high winds. I was not at all looking forward to crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge in these conditions. Not like I had any options - the few bridges further upstream (The Commodore Barry, Walt Whitman, etc) probably wouldn't be any better, and would add a lot of time to my trip. So I spent the next 40 minutes or so steeling myself for the next bridge. Every time I stopped at a light on Rt 13 the bike would get bounced around. By the time I was passing Mike's Famous right before the bridge I was pretty much a nervous wreck.

As luck would have it, there was nothing to worry about. There was zero, and I mean zero, wind buffeting on the bridge. Like I was riding through a tunnel. Woo-hoo! An uneventful 20 minutes later I was sitting in my driveway.


145.4 miles for the day, bringing the grand total to 838.4 for the trip

Final thoughts: