Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Campout - Coal Country, WV (2010)
So for this weekend's events, I opted for a more friendly and low key celebration of our national independence. LadyDraco invited folks down to her farm outside Tazewell, VA for a long weekend of riding, friends and food.
I left work Friday around 2:30 and had a nice ride down to the campout via a similar route I took last year to byob. Cruised 81 to 64 then jumped off at Exit 181 for White Sulphur Springs. Rode past the Greenbriar which was packed with 4th of July traffic. Turned at Caldwell onto 63 toward Organ Cave then down 219. Stopped in Union for a shot or this memorial seen entering town from the north
And south some ways to the Indian Creek Covered Bridge
Indian Creek flows to the Mississippii. Cool!
Scooted to Rich Creek and rode 460 to 61. Here is shot of the New River by the town of Narrows
61 is.one of my new favorites :ricky. It follows Wolf Creek for 30 miles or more. The temperature fell to the upper 70's as I twisted the throttle through the 35mph sweepers at nearly double that. One car passed me in a 10 mile stretch of riding bliss.
After a little difficulty finding the proper road (I didn't go far enough by 50ft and rode up someone elses driveway on the previous road), I pulled in and was greeted by LD and HB. They were happy to see I made it. They then proceeded to show me around and poke fun at my ninja-roll new-to-me hammock (thanks Manganos! :wave)
I got the tour of the infamous cart! :clap
Then enjoyed a wonderful meal with myriad of LD's salads
And broke in the new fire pit built especially for this campout :kumbaya
Now for my first night sleeping in a hammock :huh :jump
I slept well in the Hennessey Hammock over the evening. The low temp was around 50F which was cool but not uncomfortable on account of my UnderArmor Cold Layers, knit cap and down mummy bag. I began to stir around 7:00 (later than my usual but we were chit-chatting until well past midnight) The pleasant view south in the burning light of morning foreshadowed the heat to come, forecasts well into the 90's:jkam
LD has a variety of fruit trees around the farm dating from its history as an orchard and contributions of wayward seeds dropped by the plethora of native feathered creatures.
I graciously accepted a breakfast of eggs, coffee, homemade whole grain toast :thumb and soy-bacon. I didn't think it was too bad but HB compared it to the paper towel used to soak up the fat on thick cut bacon typical in most Saturday morning frying pans.
During breakfast, I received word from bmwew1 who had a flat on 64 outside Covington and was in the process of getting it plugged, refilled and underway. We were in cell contact during the AM as he rerouted toward Bluefield to keep on more major routes in case of further emergency. Fortunately, he was able to ride on the plug all weekend despite his early apprehension.
Meanwhile (back on the farm :D), LD showed me their collection of Valks :eek1 Too cool!
After fart'n around some more, I decided I would take off for a ride in the direction of Breaks Interstate Park, leaving LD and HB to welcome guests and prepare for the festivities.
I continued down 61 into Tazewell where I picked up 16N into WV. The heat of the sun on my back reminded me why I usually take off in the summer at 6AM. No matter, any homemade breakfast with good company and conversation is well worth the delay :deal
16 was a blast: twisty, well paved, and some traffic toward the end. I approached a sign that read "You are now entering War"...that gave me a chuckle.
If you get in War you go STRAIGHT TO JAIL - DO NOT PASS GO!
Seemed to be pretty quiet for the city at War
Past war, the road continues to snake through the low mountains filled with coal, sandstone, natural gas and many other resources sure to be extracted; the people exploited:patch For many, it is their only way.
Let me start by admitting I got sidetracked. As I approached the intersection with 83 (toward Grundy and Breaks), I saw a sign for Coalwood. I had read the wonderful Coalwood ride report "October Quest for the Original Cape Coalwood" and finished Homer Hickam's The Coalwood Way just last week. It was sealed...I HAD to go check it out for myself.
Onward down 16, this is the Coretta Mine with conveyor belts to transport coal over passing cars, motorcycles and coal trucks along. I recall mentions of the Coretta mine in Hickam's book.
Over the mountain, I descended the twisty two-lane road into town. Just before Six Hollow, I encountered this sign.
Here is an example of some of the houses typical in this early 20th century factory town. Notice the original roofs on most homes. Some where in rough shape...
Down I traveled till the abandoned Coalwood High School loomed on my left. I took a fair number of photos here since I have always been enamored with abandoned buildings, broken windows and the natural reclamation of man's once-shining achievements.
I spotted this old football play book on the front steps.
To think of the time and effort put into these plays and the sport. I wonder if the author still lives within shouting distance? Maybe...maybe not...maybe underground...
I jumped back on the bike and cruised toward the "downtown" where the Olga Coal Company once operated.
This home was prominent in the book but I cannot immediately recall who it belonged to. Certainly a lead member of the mining company. It is situated directly up the hill from the old mine area.
Windows shut to the light since the closing of the mine in the 1980's
Can you spy the ninja at the back door :evil
The former site of the tipple and mine buildings demolished in recent years.
The Clubhouse and Doctor's Office circa 1937
As it appeared in 1937
Then rode over to the machine shop where Homer Hickam's rocket nozzles were covertly constructed by mine workers.
The paper doesn't come as often anymore.
Thats one intriguing telephone pole....
They built a pool on one wall of the former mine building office:scratch Hell of a place for a pool but whatever floats your boat :dunno
There was still more to see of Coalwood, I continued past the gas station, Homer Hickam's house and Substation row to Mudhole Branch.
In this holler lived many African American workers. Most attended the church of a wise minister named Richard. The road to this church is actually named "Richard Ln"
Hickam's book describes the process and effort which went into designing and installing these circular stained glass windows. They were designed to represent the "potters wheel", with which God shapes the clay of human lives in circular patterns.
The windows are well worn 50 years after their installation but I was the only one appreciating them today.
And some of the views up Mudhole Branch
Fire had consumed many of the small homes. The area did not seem to have as many African Amercain inhabitants anymore.
I reached the end of the holler quickly arriving at a yellow gate. I retraced my route, dual exhausts burbling alarm bells to the residents...an outsider was amidst. I wondered if word had already spread that a "tourist" was roaming about...I'll just leave my helmet on thanks.
Rode the dirt road down to the old coal slack dump which was home to the Rocket Boy's Launch Site
I believe these are the original launch shacks built by the Rocket Boys. I may be wrong.
This comforter is testament to their current function as teen-hangout-escapism location dujour
Enjoyed a granola bar, some water and back up the road I went. Even their playground has rocket items.
Continuing back toward town, I turned left onto Snakeroot Branch. This hollow was also known for its desperate families, hard drinking fathers and thread-bare children. Unfortunately, not much has changed or times have gotten worse. This is true Appalachia and I was satisfied to lack the embarrassment a string of technicolor dual sports would have drawn had I lead a ride here.
Can you spot the dog in the creek?
Back up the road, this is Homer Hickam's childhood home. It was in this basement he mixed his moonshine alcohol rocket fuel, diligently designed his rockets and studiously completed homework assignments.
Substation Row along 16 on the road out to Welch
The road to Welch is a blast :nod
Here is the view looking down on Welch
I enjoyed riding around Welch and took some back road out of town following the railroad up a valley. The road twisted along the hillside, hugging the many hairpin turns and hollows, I wound up in the small town of Davey. From here, I continued along a road which became more narrow and switched back and froth from paved to dirt. The reaction of children on bicycles in their mountain summer celebration, mouths agape at this large unique motorcycle and vivid suit was priceless. I continued on, passing gas wells and pipelines, the road crested a mountain ridge then, slowly, more homes began to appear and I eventually reached a more major roadway. Judging this was 52, I turned right on the signless two-lane road. The yellow line in the center was a welcome sight from the past route of discovery which led me here. After continuing for 15-20 miles, I arrived here in Pineville.
The route I found was not 52 but in fact 10. I had traveled north a good ways distant now from Breaks Interstate Park. It was around 3:00 and I knew I should return by 6 to the campout to gorge myself with barbeque and beer. Did I mention I was getting hungry :tb
The scenery was satiating however.
This old rail bridge looked inviting so I rode onto it a ways. Only after a while did I notice the couple feet of missing sections in the middle open to the river below:doh
Then after taking this shot, some quads rolled by and I had to back out to let them pass. This may have been a section of the Hatfield McCoy Trail Network :dunno I picked some blackberries here for LD
I crossed back through Welch...AGAIN...and chose 103 to 161 for the route back to Tazewell. I passed through the town of Gary, home to Homer Hickam's Mother and a vivacious woebegone character in his book.
Stark views of human devastation abound along 161. These mountains will never be the same in our lifetime...or many more for that matter. The soil and trees planted lack the soil horizons, water tables and complex ecosystem so carelessly destroyed to supply our nation's strength and power. Illusory.
Back down 16, I rode through downtown Tazewell.
After arriving at camp, I greeted my ADV friends and watched at TurkeyMan101 humorously laid waist to LD's front lawn with his roaring coffee fire :rofl
The hostess with the mostest. :bow Where we be?
Chips were served in the light of the golden hour
Flutesong and Muffynmonster went down to pet the horses.
Then my delicious meal was ready. LD, HB and FluteSong put forth a bit of effort while I was out goofing off and taking pictures. Their efforts were savored slowly and completely and washed down with my new light summertime refreshment: Bud Light Lime (its not so bad:augie :hide)
HB giving me his best "what the hell are you staring at" snarl
Then another "just right" fire. Coffee was drank, lies were swapped, friendship was lit.
As the fire faded, the adventurers retired to their sleeping spots around the home and inside. In the morning...we be riding. Goofing off and riding. It's the Cat Herder Way :nod :jump
Hammock time again
Sunday morning shone with the light of another gloriously hot day. The temperature was warmer overnight at a comfy 60 degrees. I slept well in my ninja-roll and was not turned into a bear snack or raccoon curiosity :thumb
LD had her homemade danish roll and some commerical ones as well (which were snubbed by the group)
I was tasked with leading the ride to Breaks Interstate Park. Lets hope I don't end up in Welch again :rofl
Stopping for gas, Mike fit in great with the locals.
Led the way uneventfully to Breaks. The lineup outside the visitor center.
Inside the center they had some interesting local displays.
An old copper still with bmwew1 posing behind it
Fascinating to see birds of prey in person. These would be illegal in private hands.
Strike a pose George Washington
Then exited North via 80. Very interesting cliffs and geology along this road.
Got lost on purpose but eventually found our way back toward Cumberland, KY.
Notice the string of Harleys in this Independence Day ride.
Oh...and the goofball front and center
I led the way up to Kingdom Come State Park. I had visited here during BYOB and always wanted to continue along the "primitive road" following the ridgeline. This was my opportunity
Enjoed the view and I cooked some beans while bmwew1 had some tuna and crackers.
This road was awesome. Single lane, twisty and lush. The temperature was a refreshing mid eighties.
We fueled up in Lynch, he pushed his tank to about 200mi (farthest he has gone so far) but we both made it. I was averaging better than 50mpg even with our antics up and down the mountain roads. Yeah, we were extra-legal at times :augie
Set east back to camp via 160 with a short stop in Lynch to check out the old mine and Portal 31.
We demolished the twisties wearing down the tires as we crossed over the highest point in KY and back into VA.
It was an uneventful but long ride back to camp to be there in time for dinner with the crew. Narrowly missed a speeding ticket on 19. Good times.
bmwew1 checking out the Valks.
And putting the kitteh' in The Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Campout
A bevy of multi-flavored sausages grilled on an applewood fire. Great flavor HB!
The dinner spread prepared by LD and FluteSong. Once again, thanks for the hard work!
Red sky at night...riders delight :deal
LD serving some of her families old cheesecake recipe
It was TO-DIE-FOR along with coffee and FluteSong's Oreo Surprise :tb
The Ninja Approves :thumb
After the meal, the whole lot of us sat on the driveway still radiating heat to our backsides. The Tazewell Fireworks show exploded over the far ridge affording us the occasional red and green burst through trees on an opposite hill. 10 miles is just the distance I like to be from crowds, children and all that nonsense. After the long day of riding and tomfoolery, we all turned in relatively early before 11.
I slept like a log...Monday July 5, 2010 (last day)
I opted to ride my own ride today rather than tag along with some of the other campers heading back home. I really do enjoy doing my own thing, stopping for many photos, berries, water and hikes. This was one of my best days of riding this year (next to my WV trip with Eric and Gail :wave)
LD had the breakfast spread out again. She is such a wonderful hostess.
I snagged some of this in my tupperware to enjoy on the road.
I figured I'd ride into Burkes Garden from the west and exit the gravel road to the east. The morning light shone through the breaks in trees throwing shafts of light into the road. Blinding spotlights despite my polarized lenses. No matter, riding at 7AM is always worth it.
The view descending into Burkes Garden was fantastic
Unfortunately, the fog was very thick and I was unable to view the unique bowl shaped mountain surrounding the valley.
It was nice and cool however. I savored the slight chill knowing I would not feel this until I was back at work on Monday (too cheap to use AC at home...upper 80's as I write this report now in shorts)
My favorite shot of the year so far: Taken on the gravel road exiting Burkes Garden
Looking west back into Burkes Garden and the evaporating fog layers
Enjoyed the gravel road exiting Burkes Garden which was in quite good condition surprisingly. After miles of riding in woods and through laurel groves, I emerged into this contrasting view.
Exiting Sharon Springs Rd onto 42, I erroneously turned onto Vogeltown Rd (622?) and made a nice 5 mi loop until I returned back to 42 :doh Must be the next road which takes me up to the lookout tower on 52. Yup...and what a blast that twisty unmarked road was. Thanks for the advice LD! :thumb
Here is the view from up top looking toward Wyhteville.
A sliver of history for ya Dad
There were a bunch of neat signs at this store. It was closed unfortunately.
So was the tower (not that I'd pay money to climb it anyway)
Obligatory morning flower shot
Cruised into Wytheville then down 21 to the town of the weekend: INDEPENDENCE, VA.
I hung a right on 58, The Crooked Road.
I always wanted to visit this park. So I did.
It was pretty empty so I took advantage of the peace and quiet to go for a nice hike and absorb the sights, smells and sounds of transitioning highland nature.
Views from Little Pinnacle on Haw Mountain.
Mount Rogers (highest point in VA) in the distance.
This mountain was named for a local bear hunter but I cannot immediately recall his name. This was the view from the Big Pinnacle on Haw Mountain.
There was a couple up there from Wisconsin so I didn't want to stay long and disturb their time. I chatted with them for a few minutes and took their picture with their camera.
Back on the hiking trail happy my Chatterbox was at the visitor center charging since I forgot to do it the night prior.
Finished the trail, drank a bunch of water while enjoying the fruit salad from earlier. Geared back up and set forth toward Damascus. There were many bicycle tours heading out for the Virginia Creeper Trail. Eventually I found their source in Damascus.
Next to the Dairy King (husband of the Queen)
Rolled south of town on Shady Valley Rd. going home by way of Tennessee :ricky
I've always wanted to stop at Backbone Rock...so I did. I believe this is one of the shortest tunnels in the world.
Hey Gimme, there were rock climbers here too!
Continued along the road through the mountains until it opened up into a beautiful valley not too different in color and smell from my own back home in the Shenandoah. This was Shady Valley, TN.
Oh...what is that up ahead!? WOAH! Look what I came upon? The Shady Valley Country Store
Home of "The Snake" - 489 Curves in 11 Miles. 'Dragon Smagon'
There was a huge collection of bikes and I struck up a conversation with some guy on the porch. He was interested in my VStrom. I had to cut it short as it was 2:00 and I was in TN and wanted to ride the Snake and get back home before dark. Off I go. Not a car ahead of me the entire way up or back!
This is just as much fun (and closer) than the Dragon with no enforcement today. Maybe not everyday but today was just right.
Rode down to Mountain City and back.
Most of the road was AWESOME but there were two corners riding into Mountain City which had a shit ton of SAND in them
Rode it out and down to South Holston Lake on the VA/TN border. Man does that watter look inviting in this heat. Oh well, many miles to make up...
Rode 75 to 81 then slabbed it home. Unpacked, washed the beast, began laundry and relaxed recounting the many miles and amazing sights I had seen.
Total Mileage: 1208
More to come this upcoming weekend. I will be riding WV again with Dad with stops at the Hutte, Rella's, Hacker Valley, Green Bank and Cass.
As always, thanks for riding along with me. Photos courtesy of my Droid :nod