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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
The Clubhouse and Doctor's Office circa 1937
As it appeared in 1937
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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
Cruised into Wytheville then down 21 to the town of the weekend: INDEPENDENCE, VA.
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.
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.
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!
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