October Anniversary Trip – Days 5 – 6 – WV and Back to VA

This is number 6 in a series about our recent anniversary motorcycle trip. If you’d like to start from the beginning, go here. I’ve added links at the bottom of each post to take you to the next installment.

Our bikes in front of the Locust Hill Inn

Our bikes in front of the Locust Hill Inn – garage on the left

Day 5 dawned sunny and beautiful, in Marlinton, WV, a treat after the previous day’s rain and overnight storms. We had a nice breakfast with two of Dave’s B&B guests from North Carolina, and briefly discussed our plan for the day, which was no plan. 😉 Part of the reason for having no plan for the day was that the Dam Cabin was an experience in truly disconnecting, due to no cell service or WiFi! From perusing paper maps provided in the cabin, we decided to start to the southeast to visit Cass, the historic mill and railroad town. And then we would see where we felt like going after that.

Our timing was impeccable, as we arrived in Cass just as the sightseeing train was approaching. Following the train’s arrival, we walked through the small Cass museum exhibit that explained the area’s lumber and pulp history and then browsed the old company store. At the last minute, we ducked into the visitor’s center. A very nice lady there learned that we were motorcyclists and told us that the State had recently completed a paved road to the highest point in West Virginia at Spruce Knob, with a view that was not to be missed. With the GSs, gravel would not have been an issue, but we wouldn’t have known about Spruce Knob at all if we hadn’t gone into the visitors center, so we considered it an unexpected bonus for our trip!

Fall color in Cass

Fall color in Cass

The Greenbrier River in Cass

The Greenbrier River in Cass

Leaving Cass, we followed Hwy 28 north to The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. We didn’t tour the facility, but we did stop to capture a panorama of the giant telescopes.

Panoramic shot of the Greenbank property with huge telescopes

Panoramic shot of the Greenbank property with huge telescopes

This route took us through more peaceful valleys with flowing streams and rivers, and lots of large farms. Although we had seen our share of horses, goats, and sheep on this adventure, the predominant livestock category has to be the ever-present bovine. These docile creatures almost always looked up as we approached, and followed our movements with interest until we passed from their view.

Next, we met up with US 33 and followed it until we reached the turn for Spruce Knob. As we rounded switchback after switchback, we didn’t pass a single car going up the one lane winding road, and it felt like riding through our own personal fairy-tale forest. The sun shone through the trees, the leaves rained down on us, and we reveled in the autumn splendor. 

At the Spruce Knob parking area, we saw 6 various models of BMW’s GS line of motorcycles and a Goldwing already there, their riders having hiked the short distance to the view point, and we noticed there was not a helmet to be seen. As we walked the trail, all seven riders trickled past, like us, waving and smiling in full gear and helmets, to counter the cold and wind at this high elevation!

Panoramic view from the top of West Virginia - Spruce Knob!

Panoramic view from the top of West Virginia – Spruce Knob!

Spruce Knob parking area

Spruce Knob parking area

From the amazing vantage point, a 30 foot stone viewing tower at 4,863 feet in elevation, we realized we had really hit the jackpot on the peak fall color in the highlands of West Virginia, despite the heavy rain the previous night. After enjoying the 360-degree view (and the gale force winds), we walked back to our bikes, which were now the only two-wheelers in the parking area. The trip back down the tiny mountain road was a little more exciting due to the heavier traffic heading up, and kept us dodging cars around blind corners.

Once back on the relatively tame US 33, we enjoyed sweeping curves, and more beautiful scenery, including the unique formation of Seneca Rocks, where we made a quick stop for gas and food before heading into Elkins.

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks

At Elkins, after threading our way through a massive afternoon traffic jam (school release?), we picked up the ‘Seneca Trail’, US 219 south to Valley Head, a small town where we headed west on Hwy 15. This was another delightfully scenic and entertaining road, truly off the beaten path, but made us wonder out loud “who lives so far from anywhere, and why?” We made a quick stop in the small town of Webster Springs, for a stretch, a quick snack and a walk across the Elk River.

The Elk River glitters in the afternoon sun

The Elk River glitters in the afternoon sun

From Webster Springs, we followed Hwy 20 to 39, which is part of this area’s Scenic Highway, back to Marlinton, where we enjoyed a quick dinner and WiFi (yay!) before going back to the cabin. A very satisfying day, on which we hit 1000 miles for our trip thus far.

We enjoyed this gorgeous full moon as we arrived back at the cabin, and later, woke to it shining down on us in bed through the curtain!

Full moon, Oct 8th

Full moon, Oct 8th

Day 6 began with an excellent breakfast at Dorie’s Cafe in Marlinton, prior to heading east and south back into Virginia. Our route went up and over a mountain ridge on a gracefully banked twisty road and then past another lovely barn quilt, which prompted a u-turn to the photo opp.

Another lovely barn sign

Another lovely barn sign

A patient husband waits by the roadside - again!

A patient husband waits by the roadside – again!

We reached the historic resort town of Warm Springs, VA, and pulled into the Homestead resort just to have a look around and capture a few pictures. 

The Historic Homestead resort

The Historic Homestead resort

A couple of interesting things happened during our quick stop at the Homestead parking lot: a hotel guest stopped to tell my husband that our GSs were beautiful, which is a first for this utilitarian motorcycle style, and we got a 4G signal on our phones for the first time in days!!!  Since we were not able to visit a winery in Abingdon, we decided to search for a winery to visit that afternoon on our trip south. A Google search revealed that Fincastle Vineyard and Winery was open this mid-week day and we set our Garmin Zumo 390LM to take us there. I should note that we purchased the 390 model because of its unique capability to opt for ‘curvy roads’, in addition to the setting for avoiding highways which many GPS units provide. Well, the 390 delivered in spades! We headed west on US 220 for a few miles then the Zumo directed us to turn on McGraw Gap Road, which actually resembled someone’s driveway, and then crested over a very large mountain! It may have been the tightest switchbacks we have encountered on this trip. We realized we were really in the sticks when we saw a car stopped in the middle of the road talking to the post man, followed by two broken down vehicles just at the start of a blind turn! Fortunately, the fall splendor and rich fragrance of the forest along a lovely flowing stream made the ride thoroughly enjoyable. We passed along the boundary of the Jefferson National Forest, bordered by a wide gorgeous river for miles, and then over Caldwell Mountain into the small town of Fincastle. In another fortunate instance, we would never have found this intricate route on tiny back-roads without our spur of the moment decision to go to this winery!

Fincastle Winery

Fincastle Winery

The winery view

The winery view

At the family-run winery, we broke our “no alcohol while riding” rule and tasted all 7 of their wines, then sampled a glass of our favorite while fortifying ourselves with fruit and crackers on their wisteria-covered patio. We allowed plenty of time for the effects of the wine to pass, before taking on the challenging parking situation, caused by missing the winery’s sign for the level motorcycle parking. Fortunately, the hub was able to get us out of it with his calm approach and bike maneuvering skill!

Our bikes, as viewed from the winery's patio

Our bikes, as viewed from the winery’s patio

Following this relaxing splurge of great wine and peaceful contemplation, the rest of our ride this day was punctuated with heavy traffic in Roanoke, and culminated in an early dinner and much-needed rest at Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Go here to read about our final days of the trip as we make our way back into North Carolina in time to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary!

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