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Dan Hughes

Thursday June 16 though Saturday June 19, Canaan Valley WV to Oneonta NY

Looking for the tiny-line roads across Pennsylvania.

I spent the day Thursday at Canaan Valley just veggieing around. A riding group was showing up a few at a time, so we chatted, kicked some tires, and told some lies when comparing our machines. The group was BMWST.com, where the ST means Sport Touring. Everyone was very jealous of my riding schedule. More correctly, the lack of a schedule.

Friday morning I tried a couple more back-country roads in West Virginia and again ended up disappointed. Too many pot holes. Didn’t end up on any faint mountain goat trails and didn’t hear any banjos this time. I finally learned to stick to the more bigger lines on the map. We’ll have to come back and check out the back roads in a little more detail.

I hit US 50 between Elk Garden and New Creek and decided as this is a US highway, it will be in better shape. Wanting to avoid the big towns in Western Maryland and having ridden many of the roads, I headed West on 50. Oooops, West is the wrong direction. But I continued on.

The road is for the most part an excellent ride. Beautiful countryside. The short chunk in Maryland has the best surface. In West Virginia the condition of the surface seems to vary by county. There were no really bad parts. Many curves, wide sweepers and tight twisties and some marvelous Ss. A beautiful and very enjoyable ride.

Before I knew it I was way too far West and had to turn North. I’m supposed to be heading North and East, not West and South. Most of the morning is gone and I’m only a few miles from where I started.

Sticking with the big-line roads I pick up US 119 just East of Grafton and head North for Pennsylvania. I’m wanting to ride up the state on the Western edge for a change. Our main corridor for crossing the state is generally through the center of the state. And, shudder, I-15 when we’re in a four-wheeled vehcile.

Robert and I came down the Western side back in 2000. If you’ll check your maps you’ll see a big chunk in North-Central Pennsylvania that doesn’t have many roads. Always a good sign and a big clue for where to head. I pick up PA 26 / 281 East of Morgantown. A most excellent choice. I stopped near Confluence at a BBQ place for a snack. Bad choice. As I should have known because BBQ is mis-spelt.

Having spent far too much time off task, I hit US 219 to make up some miles and time. Not a good choice. Way too much traffic and way too many small villages and towns and the posted suggested minimum is mostly 35 or 45. Nonetheless, I stay on task. Not having much fun, tho.

Now it’s getting very late in the day and there have been no motels for miles and miles and miles. So I have to aim for the I-State and the reliable presence of rooms for the night. I-80 is at the Southern boundary of the sparse-road chunk and there are no motels out here in the boonies along the I-State. I have to ride way East to find a room.

Saturday morning I decide to check out some of the roads that are hidden between those long, endless mountains down here in Pennsylvania. And that’s what I do for a couple of hours. It’s beautiful country with those picture-perfect farms set way back from the road. Endless numbers of picture-perfect farms.

Again I’m off task so I head for PA 144 to transverse the empty chunk. A most excellent choice. A genuine jewel of a road. The surface from Snow Shoe to near Renovo varies considerably, and long sections are under repair. But no really really bad sections. The road runs through a beautiful high-altitude ( as that goes in these parts ) forest. There are a few long views of the endless mountains. The road goes over several ridges and there are twisties when going up and going down. Very nice. Again the posted suggested minimum is mostly 35 or 45. Seems to be un-patrolled so the suggested minimum is easily maintained, if you get my drift.

At Renovo there’s a section that has been up-graded and is a real joy. Renovo seems to be too big to be out here in the middle of the boonies with no visible means of support. After this section, the road reverts to that of the more Southern sections. But still no really bad parts. Not much traffic here, and lots and lots of camps ( aka cabins ). The posted minimum can be basically ignored.

At US 6, up in Northern Pennsylvania, I head East. So I continue to be on task after the diversion this morning. I start East on US 6 and immediately encounter lots of traffic. After the second town that is having a Festival / Function, both involving chrome and motorcycles, I decide to hit the really Big Roads.

At Mansfield I pick up US 15 which goes due North. We’ve been on 15, but not way out here and not for a few years. US 15 is being upgraded to I-State status. Another one bites the dust. Ride’m while we’ve got ’em.

In Southern New York, I pick up US 17 which runs due East. Now I’m on tack for sure.

And I’m on a modified destination run for home. I’ll ride NY 7 tomorrow morning and maybe a couple of other local New York roads. I’m in familiar territory now, so I know which roads to ride.

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June 19, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | 3 Comments

Wednesday June 16, Catlettsburg KY to Canaan Valley WV

Today I’m aiming for the high mountains of West Virginia. Specifically the Canaan Valley State Park and Resort. Mary and I have stayed there a few times. It’s a very nice place for a restful break. And I hope it’s even cooler there than the past couple of days.

I leave Catlettsburg on a big road because I need to get across the Big Sandy River, but I’ve spotted some thin-line roads in Western WV to explore. I’m thinking these should lead to nice rides deep in the cool boonies. I get on US 60 soon after crossing the river aiming for WV 34 that will take me North and East toward US 33. The latter road will then take me directly toward Canaan Valley.

Not many miles on WV 34 and I see a sign that a bridge is out and a detour onto US 35 is necessary. I start out on the detour, a very big four-laner, and this is not what I was looking for today. I spot a another thin road that’s not on my real time moto road trip planner so I take it. It’s very nice, following the river that the closed bridge crosses. At a service station I find out that there is a bridge nearby that will cross the river and get me back on track on WV 34.

This is a very twisty road riding up on the ridges, with an excellent surface, and lightly used. Lots of shade to keep the Sun off, too. At I-75, my map indicates that WV 34 continues Eastward and intersects other roads that will take me to US 33. So off I go.

But, this is not the road that I just was riding on. The surface is a total wreck and it is becoming very narrow. I’m thinking it just a bad spot and ride a few more miles. I finally make it to the intersection for the next road, all the while thinking i’m making a mistake. At this T-junction I see two tiny, barely one-laners, with no markings going deep into the darkness of the forest. Suspecting that they are very twisty, and not wanting to meet any other kind of vehicle under these conditions, I decide to turn around. My map shows place-names back in there, but I’m thinking the only people who go there are those that live there.

Looking at my map right now, I see that many of those roads don’t have numbers. Maybe that’s a clue.

I have to take I-77 for a short hop to Ripley to get to US 33. US 33 is a good road, but it’s too heavily used to be a lot of fun, if you get my drift. There can be short periods of fun, but sooner or later you’re going to run into traffic. Then, passing on the double-yellow is your only choice to have more fun. With this go-fastest sport-touring model, I can safely do that. And maybe I did a couple of times.

I stop at Arnoldsburg at the Y Cafe to get a burger and fries. I can’t recommend the place.

At Weston, maybe 100 miles from Ripley, US 33 has been made into a future I-Sate grade road. And just when we get to the good high mountain parts. Part of the Robert C. Byrd Appalachian Highway System. I’m certain that Robert C. Byrd has decided to eliminate all most excellent two-laners left in Eastern West Virginia; from North to South. It like riding an I-Sate from Weston to Elkins.

From Elkins to Canaan Valley we have now gotten to the really good stuff. Lots and lots of fun. Twisty, excellent surface, cool shaded road. However as I get closer to Canaan, I notice that additional sections of US 33 are being prepared for four-laneship. We have to ride them while we’ve still got a few of them. They’re all gonna go.

At Harmon WV 32 leads to Canaan Valley State Park And Resort. It’s really cool up here, temperature in the 70s F, nice cooling breeze, wonderful green trees everywhere.

And, most excellent road riding roads.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Tuesday June 15, Elizabethtown KY to Catlettsburg, KY

Continued on US 60, US 62, US 460 Eastward toward home. Continued very hot and humid. Continued stopping before about 4 pm so as to avoid the worst of the heat.

Very nice countryside and beautiful horse country around Georgetown and Paris Kentucky.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Sunday June 13, Mountain Home AR to Dyersburg TN

Thinking that it might be a little cooler, no matter how small, I decided to go North a bit and check out some local roads in Missouri. I left Mountain Home on AR 101 to pick up MO 142. It was a nice enough ride, but nothing special to write home about. Not many twists in these parts, but lots of vertical ups and downs as the road, not cut and filled, goes over the ridge tops. Lots of very green trees, but not much relief from the high temperature.

Even as far North from the mouth if the Mississippi River as we are, as the Eastern edge of Missouri is approached, big-argi is the name of the game. Lots of flat land and lots of straight roads. When MO 142 starts too far North, I take US 67 back down into Arkansas to get to a bridge over the river. At Kennett, home of Sheryl Crow, I get US 412 for a ride over the river. Still very hot in these parts.

Not much to write home about today.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Wednesday June 9, Salida CO to Clayton NM

Ok, I guess I haven’t completely made the turn away from continuing the road trip. From here in Salida I could make a right turn and go West over Monarch Pass ( 11,312 ft ) or I can head down the road South.

I head South.

If you’ll check your maps you’ll see lots of very straight roads in South Central Colorado. Very long and very straight. Yep, those are my roads out of Colorado. The objective for today is to endure these and hit US 64 in Eagle Nest, New Mexico.

I will say that the views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range from these roads are wonderful and help the time pass while the miles rack up. In particular, South out of Salida on US 285 and the first miles on CO 17 are excellent, as straight-road riding goes. The view of the mountains across the valley floor are impressive. Especially when the floor is green due to ranching / farming.

All too soon, tho, the objective becomes to simply make it through this little rough spot so you can get to the good stuff. Thoughts of exploration on this trip and previous trips help make it through.

By way of US 160, CO 159, NM 522, and NM 38 through Red River, I make it to US 64 and Eagle Nest.

I stop in Eagle Nest because I know that I have arrived at the last canyon. By the time I get to Cimarron, only 21 miles away, I will be on The Great Flats Barrier. I suspect it will not be a pleasant crossing of The Barrier; many miles of very bad road.

I chat with a guy working on some flower beds near the bench that I’m resting on. Turns out he retired two years ago and that many of his retirement plans have fallen through like so many plans for so many others. It’s a common theme these days. He owned / operated the little gift shop ( aka tourist’s trap ) across the parking lot. For 34 !! years. Before that he was in retailing for 20 years. The guy has worked for 54 years !! And been retired for two. He says they made a good living with the little shop, in this very small town, with a very short High Season. He says you have to be careful with what you buy and how much you pay for it, but making a good living can easily be done. I don’t completely understand how it’s possible, but apparently it’s done all the time. The two shops across the street are up for sale, he says, but the debt service on 900,000 bucks might be a little heavy.

He re-enforces the fact that I have reached the last canyon. And notes that it is indeed a beautiful canyon.

So off I go. On US 64. And it is beautiful.

At Cimarron I pick up NM 58 into Springer and then US 56 / 412 to Clayton. As I suspected, it is not a pleasant ride; straight road, hot air, sun beating down, very big cross-wind.

Sometimes the journey is less pleasant. Almost all the time, tho, the journey is most excellent.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Tuesday June 8, Estes Park CO to Salida CO

Heading home. The mess on Wall Street has made me uncomfortable for too many weeks now. The market has been up only for one week and down for like five weeks. I fell for the sucker Bull Rally, again, and I expect next year will be worse than this. I’m heading home to save up a few bucks for shorter, more focused moto road trips.

It’s been a good journey and I’ve seen lots of new sights and met several interesting people. It has also been good to have made it back to some places that I have not explored for many years.

I left Estes Park on US 34, the Big Thompson Canyon route, always a good ride. The frost objective road for today is the part of CO 72 that I missed when I went to Boulder few days ago. At Longmont I took CO 66 West to get CO 7 at Lyons. Lyons appears to be attempting to become a Yuppie-like place at this important intersection. I stopped at the local food market / deli to get a snack and coffee for brunch and pack a sandwich to eat at the side of the road later in the day. And re-stocked my supply of chilled Starbuck’s products to sip when I stop to let the joy sink in.

CO 7 goes up a canyon from Lyons, much like CO 119 down into Boulder. This canyon is not quite as tight as the Boulder ride, and it’s a very pleasant putt-putt up the stream to the intersection with CO 72. Apparently there has been mining all over these mountains down through Central City and Black Hawk. Ward is an interesting example. A very off-the-grid kind of rugged and rough place high in the mountains.

Soon I’m back to CO 119 at Eldora and heading back toward Central City, the old-mining-now-gaming town. These old roads just West of the Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Boulder, Denver axis are located in some of the more spectacular country side. I suspect that CO 72 into Denver is another good ride. The road-surface quality is varied, but generally not bad.

This time I decide to check out Black Hawk. What the gaming opportunities have done to this place is amazing. The old road, replaced by the Central City Parkway, goes through Black Hawk. When the gaming industry decided to develop in Black Hawk, the narrow canyon was simply too narrow. So, the walls of the canyon were blasted out to make room for the mega-size gaming establishments. Triple ugly. There’s no land for large parking areas in these canyons, so the industry builds large multiple-level parking garages adjacent to the main casino buildings. Shuttle buses run between the various gaming locations and up to Central City.

Not wanting to take the Big Road US 285 again, I head West to Dillion to get CO 9 over Hoosier Pass ( 11, 541 ft ) and ride down to Fairplay. And then putt-putt on into Salida for the night. The huge valleys surrounded by mountains always provide amazing sights.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Sunday June 6, Walden CO to Estes Park CO

The objective today is to ride Lost Trail Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park to get to Estes Park. I take CO 125 out of Walden heading South to Granby to pick up US 34. It’s another nice ride with the high mountains way across the valley and pleasant little Willow Creek Pass ( 9,621 ft ) along the way.

The ride over Lost Trail is a little messy with lots of traffic and road construction on both sides of the pass. The road surface is actually a little dangerous what with stones and pot holes and grooved asphalt. Plus all the traffic. Nonetheless, RMNP is a beauty. Took lots of photos and have already sent some electric versions out by way of electrons. Several of the pull outs for viewing were packed with tourists, so I skipped a few.

I’m going to park here for two days.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Saturday June 12, Bentonville AR to Mountain Home AR

Yesterday I rode into Bentonville on OK 20 / AR 72 to make a stop by the motorcycle store to get new tires. Had a nice visit and didn’t buy any necessary accessorizes. Chatted about the wonderful world of motorcycles; the machines and the journeys.

Today I left on AR 303 out of Rogers to roam around in the Ozark Mountains. I can’t reproduce the route because I wandered so much. The roads rode include AR 21, 23, 16, 7, 14, and maybe others. Just putt-putted around kind of Eastward.

Continues to be very un-pleasantly hot.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Friday June 11, Tonkawa OK to Bentonville AR

Continued the journey on US 60. From Pawhuska into Missouri and Arkansas is not so bad. At least the streams and rivers have actual water in them. Sometimes I think Texas and Oklahoma must be Native-American words that mean, No water in the rivers.

Portage, by the way, is French for, Get out and carry the boat around the rocks.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment

Thursday June 10, Clayton NM to Tonkawa OK

Very straight roads, huge ranches, mega-argi, Sun beating down, big cross-wind, and as late afternoon approaches, hot way beyond comfortable. Rode mostly US 64 and US 60 straight across the panhandle and into the heart of Oklahoma.

Another 360 miles of journey-as-destination. It takes all kinds of journeys. They make different destinations.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | moto touring | | Leave a comment