Our second segment in the trip is the Virginias. We were met with an idyllic American farmer landscape of rolling hills tattooed with freshly paved curves that lasted for miles. Although we had little traffic to interfere with the ride, the twists and turns proved to be both a mental and physical exercise for the motorcycle muscles, not to mention the first crash of the trip.
The starting line of our journey began at the Front Royal campgrounds on the western border of northern Virginia, a few miles from Route 81 and quietly set back from any main roads. The mom-and-pop campground provides both RV sites and cabins and gave a family-friendly welcome to us in the Shenandoah National Park.
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First up was Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles north and south along the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. But with a 35 MPH speed limit and a $10 entrance fee if using the main entrance off Route 340, it was more of a scenic route then the exhilarating ride we were expecting. Despite the amazing sights, our most exciting moment was coming face to face with a black bear in the middle of the road.
Just over 60 miles south on Skyline Drive we cut across to West Virginia on Route 340 to head to our favorite road on the trip so far: Route 33. This road has long sweeping turns on a freshly paved banked blacktop with incredible visibility allowing you to fold the bike over and hold it for what seems like forever as you navigate miles and miles of epic turns. After a few passes and a couple hundred miles we headed back from Petersberg, WV, to return to Front Royal to get ready for our next campground.
We packed tight into the truck and headed for southwest Virginia with a quick pit stop to check out the nightlife in Roanoke. It felt good not to pay New York prices for a nice meal out. The locals were incredibly warm and we chatted it up with a number of groups to get the scoop on the scene. Last call at 1 a.m. crept up on us pretty quickly and as we parted ways with some new friends, we finished out with a late night drive to Marion, Virginia – our home for the next 3 days.
Enter Hungry Mother State Park. This is by far the coolest campground for motorcyclists that I have come across in any of my trips. Three separate campgrounds, filled with cabins and RV plots housing a lakefront resort. The campground is literally on Route 16, known to some locals as the, “Back of the Dragon,” and the starting point for a multitude of routes that could have kept us there for weeks.
Route 16 kicked my ass. In the two passes I made, I low-sided the first and caught a flat on the second. So personally, I am not a huge fan, but would still hold this as a must ride road for any motorcyclist that can get here. A true test of technical skills, the road starts with a caution sign that we’ve never seen before, that actually forbids trucks of any kind – a sign many wish was at the Dragon. Further signs recommended speeds that quickly decreased to 15 MPH as we headed into the first set of blind, decreasing radius turns to carve up the first mountain. If you’re willing to risk looking away from the road, the sweeping switchbacks provided an amazing Virginia mountain forest backdrop.
The one notable drawback of Route 16 is the gravel. The first and third mountain for us were free and clear, however the rumors from bikers at our camp were true about the gravel lining making its way to the corners. In speaking with the state park office, the road gets swept periodically but not often enough. Every corner on the second of the three mountains was ruined with a layer of dirt, rocks, and debris that drifted from the road’s edge to span the entirety of the turn.
This route also marked a crash that I will never forget. Not due to fear, pain, or the money it would take to eventually fix the damage, but for the moment of reflection it provided. When the front slipped under me, rather than my life flashing before my eyes, I had split seconds to celebrate the fact that if fate wasn’t on my side, at least I went out doing what I loved.
After the crash, and assessing the damage, we were all later reminded of the personal reasons we had for setting out on this trip. We reflected on everything we learned to get to this point that enabled us to realize that the bad things aren’t so bad, if you’re doing something you really love.
This trip is a passion project for all of us. Something we’ve wanted to do, that started out not sounding very realistic to friends and family (as most creative passions tend to do), but progressed into being more possible every day with the hard work we put into it and those who supported us. I have a great team behind me and I am thankful everyday for the help I have received to get this project off the ground.
As the idea developed, we wanted to finally take the opportunity to get out of the city, go on a journey, and hope to inspire people to go on their own bucket-list adventure wherever it is or whatever it is, motorcycles or not. As long as it is what they define as really living.