Saturday, October 25, 2014

Baltimore - Princeton, WV, run - Sept 27-28, 2014

Roads:  I-95 - 495 - I-66 W - then S. on I-81 for two exits.  Exit VA-WV 55 to Moorefield, WV, tank up at the big Sheetz gas station, then Hwy 220S to Petersburg, VA.  After that, 220S from Petersburg all the way down to Covington, VA is sport-touring gold... But since my plan was to go down through the middle part of West Virginia I choose WV Hwy 28 to Seneca Rock, then onwards to WV 33 to catch US 250 West towards Huttonsville, WV.  
US250 between Bartow and Huttonsville WV is a good mountain Highway, but all the Porsches on 28 & 33 reflect the fact that the real joy of that stretch of road is mainly high-speed sweepers.
US 250 runs into US 219, where I went South long enough to to hit WV Hwy 15.  15 is good all the way to Webster Springs, WV (where I saw a heavy police presence but none of them speed trapping).  
Stop in the town square to look at an enormous lump of coal which was mined locally and have fun thinking about how much the EX deserves a part of it for Christmas
If you find yourself West of Webster Springs on Hwy 15, you missed the turn for WV Hwy 20 S.  Find the Go-Mart gas station and you will be on WV 20.  Not that I recommend WV 20.  Sure it is a lightly traveled mountain road where the speed limit almost never dips below 55 and legal passing opportunities are plentiful, but you have to be ready for inexplicably uncompleted asphalt repairs lurking just past your view of the apex, and equally unexpected scatterings of loose gravel that suddenly appear like a prankster's shot of adrenaline.

I was happy to exit 20 and go West on US 60; so I could connect to WV Hwy 41 South towards Beckley, WV.  WV 41 is deteriorating as evidenced by sunken patches but with the winding mountain highway being free of road debris the adventure bike's suspension refused to be upset by any of it even during spirited riding.  All was well until Hwy 41 crosses the New River where the bridge over it is being renovated and only one lane at a time can cross.  Riding over concrete and rebar wasn't a problem, but as I climbed the switchbacks to get out of the valley, rain had distributed a thin layer of clay over the asphalt (like butter on toast) and even at a slow (25-40 mph) pace I allowed myself a little too much lean and the front tire tried to slide out from underneath me.  Instinctively I kicked out with my left leg, and, thanks to non-slip sole on my Solovair boots my leg formed a quick strut and propped the bike up just long enough for the front tire to catch its footing.  Luckily my speed was low enough that the resulting high-side force wasn't insurmountable.  And thanks to the strong boot for keeping my foot from getting injured as the forward momentum brought my left foot back into the bike.
Getting through Beckley was too detailed of a task for my paper map; so I missed connecting to WV Hwy 16 South and ended up taking US 19 all the way into Princeton, WV, which was a good choice that would have been even better if I had not already run out of daylight.  

There are lots of food and hotel choices in Princeton, and having several right outside the Hampton Inn makes it a good choice especially since walking back from the bar was right choice.

Sunday started at Starbucks and although it was clear and cool in town a wet fog soon made stopping to apply RainX a necessity.  Thankfully when it was time to exit the boring 4-lanes of US460 I was out of it.  VA Hwy 42 is pure sport-touring gold; so I was quick to stop early on in order to shake off the fog as I checked out an old covered bridge.

VA Hwy 42 N from 460 rocks all the way to New Castle, where smart money is on taking Hwy 311 W.  Well into 311 I should stopped to join the other motorcyclists gathered at the Swinging Bridge General Store in Paint Bank for lunch but the complete lack of traffic in front of me discouraged me from slackening my pace.  

Hwy 311 leads to I-64, which quickly travels Westward on I-64 to the exit for WV 92.  WV 92 is a fast paced valley road that had just received a fresh layer of asphalt so fresh in fact that it was still minus the lane stripes.  Mistakenly counting on gas being available at at least one of the little town-circles along 92, I started to regret not waiting in-line for gas at the busy stations near the interstate... So I ended up having to detour off 92 onto WV Hwy 39W towards Marlington to find it.  

Backtracking to 92, and then up to Frost, to catch WV Hwy 84 as it veers East to plug into US 220N.  (The run on 92 North of WV39 to Frost is a good run and worth finding a way to work into your path)  Proceeding North on US220 through Monterey a brief flash of blue lights to reminded me of what I already should have remembered from earlier trips through here; so I was happy to proceed with the flashing warning.  Soon after Monterey, US 220 soon gets back to being the one of the best highways in WV.  A spirited run ended just North of Upper Tract (a very small circle on any map), where gradually past there Sunday traffic was too thick to work through.  Not wanting to be stuck in stupid, I turned around to Riley's general store in Upper Tract for a rest and re-think. 

Locals confirmed what the map showed, and that is that just a little further South I could turn on Schmucker Rd and connect to S. Mill Creek Rd (aka WV 9) which would loop a long way around to connect back to US 220 immediately S of Petersburg.  It proved to be a perfect detour with the only alarm coming from a guy on a 4-wheeled ATV using my lane to make his apex at what was easily 70 mph; I quickly made room for him and even gave his helmet-less bravery the two fingered acknowledgment usually reserved for fellow riders caught in slow traffic.