Day Ride, 5-17-09
Sunday arrived with a promise of showers in the morning, rain in the afternoon. As I was getting to leave with the thoughts of heading to Peaks of Otter. A few things changed my mind. I figured the peaks would be mostly in the clouds and the standing ADVrider NC TAG was at Hanging Rock. So I scoped out a route of a loop a bit further south. I was going to run over towards Floyd VA and dive south to Hanging Rock NC and then home. However, in doing this I wanted to try some different roads.
For the difference in routes I am sure that for some of you the route is familiar but it was new to me. I looked at arching around the north side of Philpott lake on route 40 rather than the usual U 58 up to the Meadows of Dan. So my route plan was to leave Hillsborough and run north up 86 to Danville. Was a simple ride up stopping for a sausage biscuit at Hardees in Yanceyville. At this point it was damp with a very light rain. Left there and went on up to Danville and to US 58 west. While both these roads are uneventful in topography, they are relaxing roads to ride. As I got close to Martinsville it began to seriously rain so I stopped to put on the rest of the raingear under the shelter of a bank drive through near the speedway. Added another layer as well as it was a chilly day. Once all sealed up from the elements, continued on 58W 220N. I stayed on 220 as 58 broke off. I was heading up to Henry Rd about 15 miles north. I made once false turn at about 14 miles when I saw a road to the left with an additional "Henry" sign on it. Once I sorted this out I rode 220 a bit futher. The turn off for Henry Rd. is just around a sharp right hand turn on 220. It is a down hill turn with truck roll over warnings all about. See the warnings, get in left lane, round the bend into the turning lane. Check your gas before this point. I passed two stations between here and Woolwine, both had no provisions for 93 octane Gas. I know there is one store in Woolwine for gas and then up the mountain in Floyd. I figured I had about 50 miles until the fuel light would come on. It was just that when I got gas at Meadows of Dan.
So I made the Henry Rd cutoff. Nice narrow rural road with good pavement. It has lots of character as it rolls over hills and round about the sides of other hills. I was using this to cut across to Route 40. Even as the rain had stopped the road was only dry in a spot here and there. It is marked as to ride again on a clear dry day. I was crossing this section at 11 and churches were in session. I followed one car a short distance and it turned off, and I think I meet maybe 3 cars. So light traffic.
Where it T's into 40 I made a left towards Woolwine. 40 is just one notch above in width and pavement. Not a wide road in any sense but one with a better surface. I was supposed to run 40 about for about 7 miles and make a right onto Shooting Creek Rd and run it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was thinking it was about 12 miles and rode past it completely. Once I figured I missed it, the plan B was ride to Woolwine and then take 8 up to the Parkway. While not raining, it had rained hard at some point and under trees there was a covering of flower/leaf debris. So there was an eye out for that as well as occasional gravel washed into the road. On a lark I ran up a road to the right, Woods Gap Rd, It is a wonderful little country road that meanders pass farms and fields and up over some ridges. It was my good fortune to have taken this and it turns out it was a 5 mile loop that ran back into 40.
a view from Woods Gap Rd.
Once back on 40 you are soon in Woolwine. Made the right on 8 and headed up the mountain towards Floyd. Still gray and wet no traffic was ahead of me and only a handful of cars were met. This is a section most of you know pretty well. I did take some caution on some of the tight right turns where there is a wide shoulder with a lot of stripping. Didn't really want to be leaning over and apexing over those wet white stripes.
At the top I grabbed the Parkway heading south. It was more cloudy and misty now. Not rain but more than enough to get wet. At passes and gaps the wind was whipping trees around pretty good. A few folks were out and about. I was at Mabry Mill about noon and there were only maybe 10 cars there and a few bikes. Got my wife a little treat to take home and headed on south. Hardly saw any other bikes out this day, on the parkway or otherwise.
Parkway near Rocky Knob Campground
I noticed more and more signs that there had been heavy rain hours before. Many ditches were cleared by the run off but on the parkway little got onto the road surface. I got gas at Meadows of Dan and dashed down the road to check out Willville MC Campground. Not overly large it has a nice grassy area under trees for tents. There is but one cabin so if that is how you would like to stay there.. better book in advance. Looks like a good tent place!
I rode the Parkway down a little further and then made a left over to pick up Squirrel Spur Rd. It is on the list of roads (including 8 and 40) on the www.motorcycleroads.us/regions/va_roanoke.html
site. It is a lightly traveled road and once you start down hill, if you are behind some traffic.. stop and wait. chances are no other traffic will be by for a few minutes and you can ride without it. It is a good enough but short enough ride so you can get to the bottom, turn around and ride it again.
View of valley coming down Squirrel Spur
Once at the bottom at Carter I continued straight across. A great foothills road. As with Squirrel Spur, there had to be an ever present awareness of recent overwash. Even with that caution, enjoyed the ride through the country here. At 103 I went right for a few miles and into NC and then left onto Slate Mountain Rd. That runs down towards NC 89 and Woodville.
Once on 89 I began passing through little communities that are so ever present along the small arteries of a state highway in the mountains. This is a fairly relaxed rd though those communities. I took a right onto NC 66 where it cuts off just past Westfield. This was probably the most careful riding of the day. Again there was places of overwash and gravel and tree debris along the road. Added to that was there had been some patching done lately it seems and there was still some of the loose asphalt pea gravel around. Also the method of using a spray of oil with rocks over top leaves some ridges here and there. Along with these ridges was where they had paved a strip here and there. The Metzler's Z6 I have tend to wander when encountering these ridges. All that made for a slower than usual ride through here.
NC 268 joins from the left and I was planning on taking it. It comes in at a sharp angle with limited room and makes for a confusing left hand turn. I ended up making a U turn to go back and take it east. The smooth wide pavement of 268 is in such contrast to 66. Much like when you get off a mountain road onto the parkway. It was as if my whole body sighed with a sense of ease. This nice road was taken across to 89. I started to cut down through Moores Springs but.... well.. just didn't. When ending at NC 89, I took the right and rode it towards Danbury. I passed Piney Grove Church Rd which is also a nice road to run if you have a moment to. I then rode up into Hanging Rock and grabbed the NC ADVrider TAG. Now it was time to dash home and post that before someone else.
Hanging Rock TAG
Hanging Rock photos.
I left the park and went back through Danbury and down 89 to Rural Hall. There 65 was taken over to 68. (IS THERE A BETTER WAY than 68???). When you have ridden most of the day with hardly any traffic this is always a bit of a sad way to end a ride, in heavy traffic. This I used to get back to I 40 and dash home. If time had allowed I might have used 158 all the way back to Yanceyville. But alas.. time was important. And 40, well it is what it is.
So a wet, sometimes rainy, chilly springtime, right at 300 miles, GREAT DAY RIDE . Hope some folks can join me next time.