Virginia Motorcycle Travel Destinations
Virginia is for Lovers
The Commonwealth of Virginia offers history, scenery and culture as the inspiration and backdrop for great motorcycle touring.
Virginia has mountains and it has ocean beaches. It has farmlands, deep woods, rolling hills, twisty roads, and pleasant two-lanes. Some of its former territory along with Maryland’s even went toward the district that became the nation’s capitol.
Its people are justifiably proud of their heritage. This year their state department of tourism is even celebrating the 40th anniversary of its proclamation that “Virginia is for Lovers.”
And perhaps more than ever, the state is prepared to accommodate curious visitors with motorcycle rentals for planned tours from day-trips to much longer tours to custom packages that make Virginia a hub for a multi-state excursion for all sorts of bike lovers.
And as for Virginia’s famous slogan, 40 years is really just a blink in its history.
The English colonies began in Virginia in 1607, and several of its statesmen in the 1770s were responsible for drafting the documents that founded the United States.
Virginia has produced several presidents, including the first.
And while it was heavily involved in the formation of the Union, Virginia was also one of the most ardent proponents for states’ rights pushing to secede, and commit itself to a second revolution and hope for a new union. As it had 90 years prior, Virignia offered several of its statesmen as generals and leaders for that endeavor.
All this is about the past, but it is just as much about today, and adds to the many other good reasons to visit Virginia, a state with some citizens who possess long memories.
One hundred and forty-four years after the Civil War, there are those who still know of that great conflict alternately as “The War of Northern Aggression,” or as expressed by the most genteel Southerners, “The Great Unpleasantness.”
Abraham Lincoln and the North, they say, got to put their spin on what happened as a spoil of war, but some Southern folk have documented things otherwise.
That being said, Virginia has taken its smoky history and turned it into parks, museums, and other educational attractions.
And far from representing any kind of consensus, those holding to these and similar sentiments are but one small sampling among a population, culture, history, and natural resources as diverse and storied as it gets.
What is more, for a commonwealth identified with the old South, today some parts are so cosmopolitan, and inter-mixed with foreign immigrants, and Northern, Eastern and Western Americans, that they are hardly distinguishable from an East Coast city.
Northern Virginia, especially, is such a place, and many of the towns of Fairfax County are little more than densely populated bedroom communities for Washington, D.C.
Maybe you’ve already heard these kinds of assessments before, or maybe not. Either way, the only way to really experience the state is first hand, and preferably on two wheels.
The best time to see Virginia by motorcycle is between mid-April to the end of October. Since other popular destinations are close by in neighboring states, a lot of tours include trips there and back again.
Destinations to visit in and out of state as mentioned below are only a random sampling. There are plenty more worth looking into when contemplating a visit.
If you get to Northern Virginia, you may want to head across the Potomac to the District of Columbia to see the museums, restaurants, theaters, historical office buildings and Barack Obama’s new house.
But if faced with having to travel the almost-never not congested I-495 Beltway, you may be better off parking at an outlying Metro station, locking your gear in saddlebags if you have them, and heading in by commuter rail.
Even the local motorcycle rental agencies recommend this, and are strategically located outside Washington, and close to secure train stations.
However if you really want to ride in, you should ideally try for non-rush hour times, and take the Rock Creek Parkway, or I-66, or the George Washington Memorial Parkway as potentially better ways.
If you are experienced in heavy traffic, riding in can be done. And either way, D.C. is worth the trip.
This is where they crank out around 700 new Harley-Davidsons a day. There is a small museum and factory tour there. It is maybe a couple hours north from Northern Virginia.
Home of the famous (and bloody) civil war battle, it is usually part of recommended loops into the Keystone State from The Old Dominion.
Watch out for deer, especially at night and in the fall rutting season. They aren’t a big enough problem to say don’t go, but there are a lot of them in and around Gettysburg National Military Park, and they don’t always look both ways before crossing the road.
In the western part of Maryland, Cumberland is a good day trip from Northern Virginia.
They run steam trains there, for which you can buy tickets to take historically oriented three-and-a-half hour trips. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad leaves the station at 11:30 a.m., and seats sell out, so consider making a reservation if you are interested. October is its busiest season.
Surrounding this area are rolling hills, horse farms, meandering two-lanes, and wineries.
Some of the wineries are small as a garage, and others are major commercial operations. Tracts of grapes growing in the field make a nice backdrop for cruising past.
Winery tours, product sampling, and authentic plantations may be partaken of.
Blue Ridge Parkway
About 60-70 miles west from D.C., this is a part of any tour, and people come from far away to ride it.
Entering at Afton Mountain, about 122 of the 469 total miles are the most scenic, but this is about sightseeing, not strafing twisties. The speed limit is 45, and there are all kinds of places you may want to get off the bike, stretch your legs, take a picture, and see sights that are far more spectacular than most people usually get to see on an average day.
This is a road cresting the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is entered by Shenandoah National Park, 105-miles long with a speed limit is 35.
It is nice enough that even though riders have to ride at about the top speed of a fast house cat, they still go home and tell everyone they had a great time.
Bring a picnic or snacks, your camera, and ride a road Franklin Roosevelt made happen under his New Deal.
Last October, Skyline Drive was named a National Historic Landmark. This is the highest rank a historic resource can receive, and is reserved for those places that "possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States," according to the National Park Service.
This historic scenic route is a great road in West Virginia. It is actually a reconfiguring of existing routes into a four-lane, as part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
It is still under construction, but a popular destination just the same.
Virginia’s distinguished city on the James River, and former home of Edgar Allan Poe, has four centuries of history, along with lots of culture and natural resources besides.
Outside of town, and on the way to Williamsburg are preserved landed gentry plantations available for tourists to see how the upper crust lived once upon a time.
East on Virginia Route 5 from Richmond, about 60 miles is Colonial Williamsburg.
From 1699 to 1780, it was the capitol of Virginia the colony, then Virginia the state. Many original buildings are preserved there, and they make a huge deal out of this cultural resource, and for good reason.
It is a well-preserved piece of significant American history. Scholarship, re-enactments, tours, souvenirs, and much more are all wrapped into this mixture of historic education and entertainment.
In 1607 a handful of English settlers carved out the first colony not to get wiped out by starvation, a severe winter, or natives.
That place was Jamestown, and it’s about 10 miles west of Williamsburg. It is connected to Williamsburg by the Colonial Parkway, which also leads east to Yorktown.
This is where British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered in 1781 to the American Revolutionary War soldiers. It was the final battle of the war, and removed the British objection to the United States assuming its role as a new sovereign nation.
Tour guides have noted with humorous irony – especially with U.K. visitors present – that in nearby Jamestown, Brits risked their lives to forge a new opportunity, and here was the spot that their offspring beat them up, and kicked them all out.
It all happened in this neighborhood, and represents yet another pivotal American moment brought to you by Virginia.
Eastern Shore Points
The Chesapeake Bay runs into the Atlantic. Riding further east from Williamsburg, will also take you past Newport News, Norfolk, and to Virginia Beach.
There is much history here, including that of the U.S. Navy, which maintains a heavy presence in Norfolk.
For riders who need some twisties, here’s one road for you. It is not quite the Dragon in not-that-far-away Tennessee and North Carolina, but it’s about 50 miles of well-paved curvy roads.
It runs from Lexington, Va., to Marlinton, W. Va. If along the way you smell sulfur in the air you may be near Hot Springs, Va., which is a town on geothermally active terrain offering natural steam in the Allegheny Mountains.
Virginia is for lovers! But wait, that’s old news isn’t it? Anyway it’s still being celebrated and in some cases, is probably true.
What is undeniable though is Virginia is a pretty cool place to tour if you know where to go, and plan it out right. Pre-set tours are available, as are motorcycle rentals in Northern Virginia’s Chantilly, Winchester and southwards in Richmond.
Obviously there are plenty of places on the map to vacation, but Virginia is one that offers more than many others. The best thing to do is research; contact a rental outfit or tourism bureau or someone more independent to see if it is where you would like to go.