Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Country Roads in Dixie, West Virginia Style

Last week found me riding the hills and dales of West Virginia. I’ve made it my mission to ride as much of Dixie as possible before I die. My undertaking is to find as many of our national “Scenic Routes” (designated by our government), ride as many as possible, take great photos…and tell anyone who will stop to read…about the places I have found and the impressions I have taken away with me…I’ll tell you of the road, the people who inhabit the area…and of course…a little bit of history as well.

If you’re still with me now, I’m going to assume the pictures caught your eye. It’s a lovely area, and I am not exaggerating when I say it’s worth every ounce of energy you expend to get here…to stay here…and to ride.

I rode so much of West Virginia in the last five days that I believe we will be best served at this time if I were to keep my ramblings to the ride home. From Hico, West Virginia to Johnson City, TN. I will be trying to keep you focused on this beautiful ride through West Virginia.

I stayed at the campground of new friends, Len Hanger and his girlfriend Lee. The place isn’t actually JUST a campground! He provides whitewater rafting adventures for his guests! The property boasts of VIP cabins, richly furbished with pine floors and appointed with two bedrooms upstairs (with double beds), and a bedroom downstairs that is arranged with bunks that will sleep six. There is a kitchen with every modern device one would want while on vacation. The cabin also includes a living room with a nice sofa-bed, an overstuffed arm chair, television with DVD to keep you entertained in the evening. The entry way is a large screened in room that includes a table and four chairs…ohhhh and let’s not forget the Jacuzzi.

If the VIP treatment is not fitting your taste or budget, you can rent the “basic” cabin. This is 12X12 one room building, containing a bed a night stand and an air conditioner. It is recommended you bring your own sheets, blankets, and pillows for this accommodation, but don’t fear…if you do need the above amenities, Len and Lee will accommodate you!

Let’s say you would rather camp than have the deluxe accommodations of a fixed roof? Not a problem! Camping here is encouraged…I think the ground might even be softer here in West Virginia. That may only be this writer’s weird perception of how happy all those Boy Scouts appeared to be from Florida…

I left Songer Whitewater Rafting early in the morning and headed for a route planned out for me by my host, Len. Jumping on US-19 South, I travel one mile to US-60 East. This road is a long and varied path, mountainous and twisty in the first half of the ride, while dropping down into the gentle sweeping hills and farmlands of Southern lands on the second part of Route 60. I was to join up with US 219 after a bit of mountain jogs… I was excited about this course home…300 miles of extreme riding. In my thoughts, it’s hard to get much happier than what I was/am when riding through country like this!

Between Hilton Village and Rainelle you will be running through mountainous terrain. At one point you will be on the tallest elevation of any mountain in W.V. General Stonewall Jackson received his famous war horse “Little Sorrel” on top of this mount, and that auspicious occasion is marked by a Historical Roadside marker on Route 60.

Moving a bit further east, you will find more roadside markers, but none as intriguing as this one on the outskirts of the town known as Sam Black Church, in Greenbrier County. Here you will find the cemetery that has one Zona Heaster Shue. Her ghost helped to convict her husband of her murder.

Also in Greenbrier is this quaint little covered bridge known as Herns Mill. It spans Milligans Creek, its builders are unknown and it was restored in 2001 by the state of West Virginia. To find it, you will leave Lewisburg and travel 2.6 miles west on Route 60. You will then turn left on 60/11 passing some very lovely farms…and these hounds!

Once you return to Route 60, you will begin to encounter sights like this one, farms with rolling hills in the foreground, and mountains to the rear. Cattle grazing peacefully and creosote soaked fence posts. This scene leaves me with such peace…how can it not with this kind of Iconic and Idyllic beauty?

Around Ronceverte, is where Route 60 will intersect with US 219 South. Ronceverte is a French word, who’s meaning translate to “Greenbrier”, the name of the river this town is situated on. As you can imagine, Ronceverte has a long and interesting history. Its downtown district offers great architecture for those of us who enjoy early to late 19th century buildings…and some eclectic shopping opportunities! If you are a photo nut like me…you will enjoy taking time strolling along the main street with your camera at the ready, the bridges of this town, as well as the main historic streets are of great value to the visitor who wishes to experience a once great boom town that featured railroads and lumber!

Leaving Ronceverte, crossing the steel bridge straddling the Greenbrier River…you will head up a small mountain, pass some coal moving facilities and head into real farm country. All the while here…we enjoy roads that are in great shape. Pot holes are practically non-existent! I’m looking forward to finding the town of Union,

in West Virginia…Here, I was told of a memorial erected August 21st, 1901, in an effort to honor the soldiers of the Confederate Army. The dedication of this monument attracted 10,000 people.

The farmland soon gives way to mountains and hills once again. You will begin to encounter such sights as these mountains…how beautiful…with twisty roads, and fire towers.

I’ve run out of US-219 in West Virginia…it will soon intersect with US- 58 in Tennessee….which is another great over-nighter road to feature! I’ll see you soon, traveling the roads of Dixie…
Be well, ride well…

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