Quite often it seems that I'm shooting across West Virginia enroute to coastal Virginia in order to visit my father. Usually I hammer across the state, but the last trip this past fall, some extra time was spent snapping some photographs. Spent the night in a quaint trail town that I've been wanting to lay over in also. A throwback town of sorts. Hell, most of the state is like a time warp. That's why I like it.
This ride is on the way home to Detroit. Fall time; late October. That morning I gave dad a hug goodbye and hit the road. Bypassed Richmond and jumped on Route 33. Had an amazing breakfast in the Glen Allen, Virginia area. The restaurant was on 33 just after exiting the bypass. Real farm fresh food. I told the waitress it was the best I'd had and she said everything came from the farm down the road. Made note of the location - I'll be back.
My dad checking out the GSA before my departure. He is an old school tool and die maker, so he appreciates the engineering along with the fit and finish. He also admired the welds on the racks.
After cresting Skyline Drive on 33 and coasting down the northern side - I came upon this dude absolutely flying on his road bicycle.
He was rolling 40-50 mph !
Made a roadside stop at the scenic Germany Valley. This upland valley high up in the Allegheny Mountains was originally settled by German farmers in the 1700's.
The vista was made more rewarding with the speckled autumn colors.
Further up the road, Route 33 delivered me to Seneca Rocks.
I found a small gravel road that ran me out behind Seneca Rocks. Now this is what overlanding is all about.
Eventually I came to a gated dead-end at a cow pasture. Turned the bike around and climbed the nearest hill for a vantage shot. Check out the craggy peaks of Seneca Rocks looming above the tree-line.
Since I had an extra day to kill, after leaving Seneca Rocks - the town of Davis, West Virginia was punched into the GPS as the current go to point. Actually, the towns of Davis and Thomas.
They are right down the road from each other and I planned on staying the night in Thomas.
Backpacker Magazine is a great resource for adventure travelers. Not only does a backpackers lightweight gear cross over efficiently for a motorcyclist, but the magazine often highlights interesting trail towns that are worth seeking out.
That is how I had originally found out about Davis and Thomas, West Virginia; in an article about some of Americas best trail towns.
No franchises ! I love towns with no franchises. I'm sick and tired of franchises.
Davis was not too far off now and it was early, so when I saw a sign indicating that the Dolly Sods Wilderness area was off to my right, I followed it and spent a few hours exploring some very inviting twisty roads - paved and gravel. Probably, there isn't a bad road in West Virginia.
Go ahead, make a mistake on that tight right-hander up ahead - it would be the last !
Play time was over. Rolled through Davis.
Then made my way over to Thomas to find accomodations for the night. I would go back to Davis later.
First stop in Thomas was the Tip Top for a coffee.
Thomas, West Virginia is buried deep in the Allegheny Mountains. It is a small town with a population of less than 600 residents - and physically only four by seven miles. Elevation is 3,013 feet.
The discovery of coal in 1884 got things rolling in Thomas, bringing in immigrants from all over Europe. An Italian paper was even published here.
In 1915 there were over 2,000 residents in Thomas. But the local coal and coke company stalled in the 1940's - and the last mine closed in 1956.
Rode a couple blocks down from the Tip Top to the Purple Fiddle looking for some lunch and a bed for the night.
Nothing fancy inside. Just an old general store converted into a bluegrass venue, café and guesthouse. Upstairs is cheaper hostel style lodging. Next door is an old house with private rooms for rent. It was during the week so the rooms next door were discounted to around $50.00 a night so I opted for a room. The evening bands playing would not be as loud next door as compared to the hostel upstairs.
Grabbed some kind of wrap sandwich and a beer. Plopped down at a table and relaxed in silence while taking in the spirit of the place. The simplicity was welcome. Took me back to the 70's and 80's - in my rural Ohio upbringing.
The old guest house next door to the Purple Fiddle. Before leaving the Fiddle, I paid for a room. My room was the front unit with the window just below the sign.
It would do. Homey and clean. Shared bathroom and shower down the hall.
You know you are in West Virginia when your room is equipped with an old boat anchor of a television and a VCR tape player wired up to it; there was a selection of VCR movies down the hall on a community shelf.
After dumping my things in the room, I buzzed off to explore the local area for awhile.
Supposedly, there was a small waterfall in very close proximity to the Purple Fiddle. The lady at the Fiddle explained how to get there, but after a few passes of the area that I thought she had described - I gave up. Instead, I'd head over to Blackwater Falls State Park; there was a large waterfall there for sure !
Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the falls of the Blackwater River; the amber-colored water plunges five stories before flowing through an eight-mile long gorge.
The river is called Blackwater because of the dark, reddish brown appearance of the water - much like the color of tea. This distinctive characteristic is caused largely by the presence of natural organic matter containing tannins. The mountains and valleys within the Blackwater drainage contain many plants that contribute to this phenomenon.
Stands of conifers, such as red spruce and Eastern hemlock, drop their needles to the forest floor where rain and melting snows leach tannins from these needles into the streams. Tributaries of the Blackwater River meander through bogs where sphagnum moss grows - another source of tannins.
There is a trail and boardwalk leading to the falls with various points to snap photographs. These falls are one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. After spending about an hour at the park I decided to run into Davis and have a look around before heading back to the room in Thomas.
Davis sits at an elevation of 3,200 feet - making it the highest incorporated town in West Virginia.
Because of the elevation, the year round climate is cooler in this area. During the summer the average temperature is 75 degrees.
Davis became a well known lumber town in the late 1800's. The plateau area was known as "Canada" consisiting of a dense forest.
The first actual residents were James Parsons and his wife; they arrived by train and lived in a box car.
Mr. Parsons was a surveyor for the railroad. After laying out the town, he named the three main streets Henry, Thomas, and William - for the Davis brothers.
Davis was called "stump town" for years because you could travel all over by stepping from tree stump to tree stump !
Davis was incorporated in 1880 with a population of 909.
In 1902 - the population had grown to 3,000 and there were more than 80 businesses.
There were seven churches - and soon to be seven saloons.
Within this old bank, an old hippie shop caught my eye. Had to go take a look. Couldn't resist after reading the sign. "A throwback to the hippie shops of not so long ago."
An interesting place; made especially so because many of the original features of the old bank were retained and incorporated into the shop; such as the counter the tellers sat behind - which consisted of some very impressive woodwork, and the vault itself.
Into the vault room. Note all of the locking mechanisms within the inside of the outer door.
The doors were incredibly heavy to swing open. Look at the layers of steel that went into the construction.
It has been awhile so my memory is becoming vague, but the man working here was telling me some of the history of the place and he mentioned something about it being ironic having the large safe, because this bank took all of it's money to the bank across the street every day.
As I was about to leave, the lady at the desk mentioned the weather was turning for the worst overnight. Rainstorms rolling in and turning to snow during the day - as the temperatures dropped. Wait a minute, the temperatures are supposed to rise during the day. Better beat feet out of here in the morning.
Coincidentally, it was just about this time, that I was starting to feel under the weather myself. Took a Tylenol extra-strength and topped off my water supply at a gas station on the way back to the room.
Figured I'd better retire early for the night - as the next day could be a long one; so I climbed into bed in the old West Virginia guest house after putting my earplugs in, and quickly drifted off to sleep - as the Tattletale Saints strummed away next door in the Purple Fiddle - filling the night air with eclectic sounds just outside my window.
As almost always, I woke around dawn; still feeling rough - but at least rested. Walked out front to take inventory of the situation. The GSA was still standing in front of the Purple Fiddle, all soaked.
Rained lightly on and off through out the night and was currently intermittent. The street was pretty much deserted at this hour.
Peered into the Purple Fiddle through the glass.
Had some time to kill before anything opened for breakfast; so I went back to the room, sparked up the Jetboil and brewed a couple of cups of Lobster Butter coffee. Hung around out front packing the bike - while sipping coffee from my tin hobo cup.
A middle aged man from the room next to mine came out to load a bag into his car. He hurried over to talk motorcycles for a bit, all the while nervously glancing back at the door - waiting for his wife to come out. In so many words he let me know she was not happy. His anxiousness was obvious. She came out and they hurried off. Why can't we just all be happy.
Walked down the sidewalk looking around at things; in windows, and at a few knick-knacks situated along the store fronts.
Then the skies opened up and it downpoured; raining sideways with heavy winds. Refuge was sought in the doorway of the Tip Top coffee shop until the front subsided. It passed and went back to intermittent rain with mist lingering in the mountains.
Flying Pigs finally opened - so I sat down to a classic breakfast. Needed to fuel up before departing into the questionable weather.
It was time to head towards the barn. Needed to reach lower ground; snow was heading for this elevation later in the day, as temperatures were dropping. The plan was to head north for a while - seeking out US-50.
Then follow US-50 west.
If I needed to, I could follow it into Ohio and layover, or if I found my rhythm - jump on the interstate and hammer back to Detroit.
As I headed north out of Thomas on Route 219 (Seneca Trail) the colors and landscape was breathtaking. The road was gaining elevation and overlooking the Black River to my left. Steam was wafting through the river valley and the fall colors were speaking to me - as a light rain seemed to intensify everything.
There was absolutely no shoulder through this area to pull over, even though I wanted to stop and photograph the magic so badly - so I just etched it into my brain and kept on rolling.
It didn't take long and I came upon US-50.
Headed west on 50 through more amazing topography. Curvy roads up and down mountains and along rivers.
Along US-50 was a very unique gas station with a built in diner and store. The antique tractor graveyard littering the sprawling grounds sucked me in - but I decided to fill up the humongous tank on the GSA while there; large fuel tanks are important to me, and was one of the deciding factors bringing me back to this particular model of bike.
After pulling up to a pump and dismounting, I'd noticed a little old lady scurrying towards me. As I pumped gas she came right to the edge of the pump and looked at me attentively. I asked, "is everything alright." She exclaimed, "this is a full service station, let me know if you need anything. Since you are on a motorcycle though, you can fill it yourself if you wish."She stood sentinel till I had finished, then scurried back into the building. Wow. That was a blast from the past. That kind of customer service is loooong gone in my part of the world.
After parking the bike, some time was spent walking the grounds and observing the bizarre collection of old tractors.
They had their own cider mill on the premises and sold cider and apples at the station store.
There were a couple of lamas wandering around near some old tracks and a box car. The white one came trotting right up to me. Kinda spooked me as he was so inquisitive and not slowing down; after sticking my arm out - he halted. The cider mill hand said, " he just thinks everyone has apples for em, but the black one can be ornery."
What in the world ?
This little guy was hanging out also.
Before leaving, I took a glimpse inside the store. It felt as if I'd stepped into a time warp. The age of, and the way the diner was configured, flooded me full of almost forgotten emotions of when my mother would take me to the woolworths soda fountain in the 70's. It wasn't identical - but the spirit of the place.
From here I saddled up and stayed rolling. Fell into a rhythm; following US-50 to Interstate 79. The temperature hovered around 50 degrees all day with a steady light rain. Was fighting a head cold, but I cranked up the heated grips and jacket liner; these along with the Gore-Tex kept me going strong. Ran 79 north up into Pennsylvania, skirting Pittsburgh to the Ohio Pennsylvania Turnpike and ran that to Toledo. Toledo is the gateway; then just a hop, skip, and a jump - and I'm home.
All through Pennsylvania and Northern Ohio, the autumn colors were popping - even on this rainy and overcast day. I'd imagined how they would look had the sun come out and illuminated them.
Welp, that closes out this ride report. Hope it got your juices flowing - as riding season is knocking on the door.