Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Back of the Dragon, June 24-25, 2015

Other than a couple of battery-tending Winter quickies, I haven't been on the bike since last November.  Finally though work slowed down enough to take week off and although I picked a week in what must be our new rainy season, the phone's weather app suggested I go for it on Wednesday.

As always its interstate to get away from Balt-DC.  This time it was I-70 out to Hancock, MD, where a short stint on Hwy 522 gets you to Berkley Springs for the familiar curves of WV 9 and then WV 29 South all the way to the Interstate sized WV55, where the goal is to pick up 220S at Morefield.  Morefield to Petersburg was the same as it always is, but funner since there was no one in front of me; but with increasing frequency the one-lane, flag-man of the work-zone started to appear... It wasn't really more than an operational pause until 220S nears Warm Springs where VA's practice of resurfacing roads by laying fine gravel across it and then (obviously much) later going back to spray a thin coat of tar over it become an unacceptable risk to all those riders with only two table legs.  Luckily I had already planned on jumping off 220 by doglegging onto 39 West to take 92 South.

92 S hits I-64 just right to catch Hwy311 South. Normally I would have taken Hwy 311 to New Castle, but I decided to take the narrower and unmarked 17 (which also goes by the aliases of Waiteville Rd and then much later Big Stony Creek Road) which turned out to be a quietly chill long back road.  It was about 4pm; so having skipped lunch I made a quick connection on US460 to Narrows, VA, where the plan was to catch VA61 after finding food.  And it was there at Anna's Restaurant where I ate what was undoubtably the best fried chicken sandwich, ever.  So hot and juicy...       

Satiated, but aware of the inherent conflict this feeling has with being on a motorcycle, I was grateful to find that VA 61 is just an awesome run along Wolf Creek with long high speed sweepers alternating  smoothly between right and left handers.  When 61 crosses over I-77 the tempo changes as 61 climbs up out of the valley; but with my brain now reacclimatized to speed I was able to savor the road like it was dessert all the way until small town tempo appears outside of Tazewell, VA.  At Tazewell I got a chance to replay my missed opportunity from last November when I failed to make good progress out of Atlanta.  Even on a small paper map Hwy16 South is tempting... And I didn't know this, but since this hwy crosses three mountain ridges it has earned the title of Back of the Dragon.  VA's decision to let 55mph stand stands in favorable comparison to Tennessee's nanny-state 35mph on the Tail of the Dragon.  The sun was getting low when I started but the road was all mine so it seemed a fair trade having the sun make a directly bright appearance through the trees each time the road transitioned from hard-right kneel-over to hard-left kneel-over.

Satiated once again it was time to look across the Dragon's Back:
A local said the best course was to catch 42N to get where I wanted to go, but I had make-up work to do from last year; so it was 16 South past I-81(16 veers left in Marion without a sign informing you; so pay attention).  You're still in the Jefferson National Forrest, but to a diminished extent.  Highway 16 to 58W.  58W was unremarkable except for the Sheriff's deputy in Independence, VA, who, after pointing at me as he passed me as I waited to turn left, tried to take back street in order to lay a speed trap for me as I tried to leave town on Hwy 21 going North.  Fortunately he was faster than the red-light and I was just sliding down the visor when I saw him pull quickly up to the stop sign.  Unhappy with his timing (and my lack of acceleration) he pulled in behind me and dutifully followed me up into the mountains to make sure all the passing lanes were depleted before veering off leaving me stuck behind to two slow cars (thanks brah).  But you can't keep the triple motor down, so soon I was making the most of another good run in the last of the day's light.  Reaching I-81, my run was done.  It was a easy hop to my hotel reservation in Wytheville.  

Morning caffeine was a fast run up I-77 North to Bland and Hwy 42.  I can't say enough good things about 42.  It rocks smoothly all the way to 100, where you plug in to 460 in order to restart the second leg of 42 N a little further to the Southeast, where it rockets again all the way to the sharp descent into New Castle, VA.  311 out of New Castle is some more fantastic VA highway.  I stopped along the way in Paint Bank hoping the General Store would have espresso:
It doesn't.
But it does have two cool old Gulf gas pumps across the street:

From there there is a little more of that 311 gold left for you, but if you want to go East on I-64 then Hwy 159 at Crows is your turn off point... And that was really it for me as it was all Interstate meditation after that.  Roughly 22 hours of seat time over almost 1000 miles made for a pretty good, if not stupidly late, 2015 break-in period.