4 Days of Virginia Dirt, 2 Track and Backroads - aka Scouting The Blue Ridge Trail

Discussion in 'Day Trippin'' started by error cooled, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

    Joined:
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    Scouting the Blue Ridge Trail - June 19 to June 22, 2011

    The Plan:

    Spend 4 Days scouting parts of a route through Western Virginia that I have been working on for many many months. You can read all about it here but basically it is a route that encompasses as much dirt, gravel, two track, jeep roads etc as you can with some awesome ribbons of paved forgotten roads - all within VA and a lil bit of WVA. I have been calling it The Blue Ridge Trail.

    Likely Suspects:
    Me / David - Error Cooled - Red Jacket on a 2008 WR250R.
    Luke - lurker - Grey Jacket on a 1994 DR350SE.

    Day 1: Hinton, VA to Covington, VA

    I hate riding through the DC megalopolis to get to the prime riding areas in VA so I set out to find someone generous enough to let us park for a few days near Harrisonburg. Luckily h14xl / Kevin sent me a PM and invited us to park at his property in Hinton - which is only 15 minutes from the start of our planned route. Perfect. So we arrive around noon and Kevin gives us an awesome send off:

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    From here we are on 33 West headed to Skidmore Fork / Dunkle Hollow FDR227. The sky is ominous but well behaved. Dunkle Hollow is a fun not very technical road that winds up to Flagpole and Reddish Knob. Helmet cam view of Dunkle Hollow:

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    After you wind your way 11 miles up Dunkle Hollow you are rewarded with some great views off of Flagpole Knob at 4300ft:

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    From the top of the mountain you wind your way down some well sorted gravel forest roads including Reddish Knob and North River. OnAndOFF / George on ADVRider had recommended that we hit up WV61 which is a super twisty gravel road that runs parallel to Reddish Knob road. It was here we saw this cool old USFS marker that appeared to mark an old spring. Land of many uses indeed :evil:

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    Helmet Cam shot WV61:

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    After WV61 we ran down 85-5 out of the forest finally catching some sun:

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    From FDR 85-5 we headed over to Clayton Mill FDR61 and stopped for gas in Millboro Springs. My WR250R only holds 2 gallons so I needed at least one stop a day. Luke's DR has a 5 gal Clarke tank that I sometimes siphon off of when we are far from a gas station:

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    From Millboro Springs we ran Lime Kiln FDR194 and Dolly Anne North and South FDR125. These were fun roads with long lines of sight that you could rail on. You know you need to tone it down a bit when you are approaching 75 on the gravel :ricky:

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    The end of Dolly Anne south throws you out near the mill town of Covington. We emerged from the woods and found beautiful clear skies as we rolled into town. We pulled into the Budget Inn Motel and met the owner Pat. Pat is a good guy and his place is well run.

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    We went out and grabbed some food and a bunch of drinks from a very smokey dive bar :freaky. Total riding for the day 120Miles, 70Miles Gravel/Dirt and about 5.5 hours road time total with all of our stopping.

    Day 2 to follow - Covington, VA to Pearisburg, VA.
    #1
  2. UpST8

    UpST8 turnin gas to noise

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    :*sip* Very cool!! Thanks for all your time and effort in putting these routes together, a labor of love I'm sure. Looking forward to the report and really looking forward to getting some riding out there myself in the next few weeks!
    #2
  3. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

    Joined:
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    Day 2: Covington, VA to Pearisburg, VA

    We rise and shine and get kickstands up around 10:45. What can I say we tried to enjoy ourselves in each town at night :1drink.

    Pat (the Inn owner) brewed up a mean cup of coffee for us and we got a quick shot before we rolled out:
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    As we roll out of Covington we are headed to a few ridge line roads but we have a few paved sections to cover. When you see signs like this aim your front tire that'away:

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    The blurb about GPS routing is very appropriate for a lot of the places we have passed. I wonder what Allegheny county official signed off on allowing a shack this close to the road :D?

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    Shortly after the above shot we are on Lignite Mines Rd FDR180 climbing to Bald Mtn Rd FDR179:

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    The climb up is uneventful - save for some erosion damage and ruts that you have to be mindful of. Once you hit the ridge line you are rewarded with some great views:

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    FDR179 runs the top in two track fashion allowing for some very fun fast paced gravel riding with long views:

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    Occasionally the view opens up as you pass through a few meadows along the road:

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    Bald Mtn and Lignite run about 14 miles in total and wind down to a deeply forested paved road. The road down has some bad rutting... I thought a few times one would swallow my front wheel and send me over the bars but no such luck... thankfully... just some sore wrists.

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    From here we work our way up Sweet Springs FDR176 to Potts Mountain East 177.1. Potts is similar to Bald Mtn except it lacks any clearings for a sweet view :cry. The rougher Potts Mountain Jeep trail is accessible off of 177.1 if boulders are your cup of tea. I personally got my yearly serving a few weeks prior at Taskers.

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    We encountered a lot of wildlife on this trip and on Potts we had a few hawks follow right above us the length of the ridge - about 7 miles.

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    As we descended down Potts the skies looked angry and I needed fuel. We headed down 311 to New Castle for some gas and to check out the weather forecast. The winds were picking up and rain looked imminent. After filling up and having a few hotdogs at the C&M Grocery Store I went for my AT&T phone which was of no use in Craig County. Luckily the New Castle Library was across the street beaming wifi. After checking the weather and seeing we had a 60% chance of dodging anything severe we were off to Tub Run Rd FDR267.

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    Tub Run is in someways a little boring. It is deep woods and it runs 15 miles long. It probably has 100+ tight turns that make it a slow going affair. It was also the only place we caught rain -15 mins of it - the only real rain on the whole trip :clap.

    What Tub Run lacked in ride quality it made up for by giving us a nice up close and personal run in with a mom and cub black bear. Unfortunately I had my helmet cam turned off due to the rain but they were pretty small - as I had remembered them in my only other encounter on the BRP a few years back.

    Tub Run Photos:

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    Tub Run ends at VA632 just north east of Maggie, VA. This paved stretch was a nice break and very scenic:

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    From Maggie we rode over the WV line via gravel to Waiteville, WV which isn't hard on the eyes either - as long as stars and bars don't hurt your feelings:

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    I scratched my head for a second as I counted all the fresh flowers at Waiteville's solitary church... and then remembered it was just fathers day. Nice to see people still care.

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    From here it was on to Mountain Lake and Butt Mountain. Mountain Lake is a 1920's era high elevation resort that was the ideal respite before AC. Now it seems a little run down not to mention the lake is near dry.

    On the way..

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    What's left of the lake:

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    Originally the plan was to take Bailey Gap 177.4 along the ridge of Big Mountain to the Butt Mountain Fire Tower. I confirmed the road was open but we opted to approach the lookout from Mountain Lake due to the weather having saturated this already rutted out road earlier that day. For any one approaching the tower this way be prepared for some serious snookie holes.

    Entrance of 177.4 Bailey Gap:

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    The alternate route is up Butt Mtn Rd 714. This is a sometimes steep road that has clearly been pummeled by the local mud boggers the farther you go up the mountain. Nothing a competent rider on a GS800 couldn't handle but not fast going. Luckily the view at the top of Butt Mountain is very well worth it :D:

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    Luke laughing off his fear of heights...

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    We left the peak of Butt Mountain around 6PM and rolled into Pearisburg around 6:45. On the way down the mountain..

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    When we got into town the first place I had identified as a place to stay.. Rendezvous Motel was entirely too far from a bar to be taken into consideration. Instead we opted for the Holiday Lodge. This place deserves its own mini-series......... truly a strange place. Avoid unless you want to party very hardy with the locals who LIVE there :rofl. We were being offered all kinds of things with in 10 minutes of checking in.

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    We went across the street for dinner to an excellent Mexican place called El Ranchero. We got the largest platters we could and had 3 or 4 or 7 Negra Modelos and called it a night. We were wiped out. Total mileage for the day 120 miles - 60 miles dirt/gravel and about 6.5 hours on the road.

    Day 3 - Pearisburg, VA to Wytheville, VA to follow.
    #3
  4. H14

    H14 I Gotta Go!

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    Good 1st hand info. We almost stayed at one of those on our trip in April, but just the shots in Google street view scared me off.:eek1
    #4
  5. ADVmouse

    ADVmouse Whiskered Adventurer

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    Great report, thanks! Looking forward to it myself.

    Mountain Lake sure looks funny now ... I recall how beautiful that area is, but it was always too fancy for us students back then.

    Chris
    #5
  6. Ruis_Rider

    Ruis_Rider Adventurer

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    Nice report! I can't wait to get out and do some more exploring on some of these roads! :D

    BTW, Mtn Lake went completely dry about two years ago...there was little rainfall coupled with a seismic event that literally opened a hole at the bottom of the lake (one of two natural lakes in Virginia) and the lake drained down to almost nothing. Lots of interesting stuff was found at the bottom of the lake, and I think there were even human remains. :huh Sounds like a tall tail, but divers were used to try to locate the hole and put sandbags over it to slow down the leak. That didn't help. :lol3 Eventually, it stopped on its own and now is filling back up.
    #6
  7. Cambion

    Cambion Adventurer

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    Looks like a great time! Thanks for sharing the story.
    #7
  8. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

    Joined:
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    Day 3 - Pearisburg, VA to Wytheville, VA

    Another early morning... kickstands up around 11AM :D.

    Bid the Holiday Lodge Bon Voyage.... grabbed a bite to eat and headed south towards Dismal Creek and Hogback Mountain. The day would start out a little rough. We started off leisurely blasting down the two track on FDR201.. a fun well maintained 2 track.

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    Shortly after this shot Luke overcooked a corner resulting in the first and only potentially dangerous get off of the trip.

    Going..
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    Going...
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    Gone...
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    Luke's foot was pinned but luckily his boots were substantial enough to stop any bad damage. We got the bike off his foot and leg and after some clever pinning of the throttle got it back on the road bed. If this had occurred on a lot of the other roads that had precipitous drop off's this would have ended much worse. Luke blamed his lack of coffee that morning :rofl... In any event we slowed down a notch.

    I noticed while the bike was on it's side that the clutch cable was frayed and about to let go. DR350's have a notorious clutch pull that really strains the cable. With this is mind we have carried a spare on the bike just in case. Once off the dirt we stopped and I assessed the situation. I barely touch the clutch cable and it lets go:

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    We take a break and swap out the clutch cable near Pumpkin Center before ascending Hogback Mountain Road FDR640.

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    Twenty minutes later we are ready to rock and roll. I knew that Hogback would be a fun ride and it proved to be awesome. It is a bit rougher the first 7 miles or so from the east with lots of mud holes that make for some fun riding:

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    After about 7 miles the view opens up as you approach a power line cut... and it was pretty sweet.. so sweet that Luke had to air guitar to celebrate:

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    The view down to Bastian where we would later stop for fuel..

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    This sign is deceiving to anyone approaching from the west as the road does not end. I think it actually passes through private property but luckily the property owners have not erected a gate or posted the road.. yet. Remember tread lightly.

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    From here we wind down to Bastian - refuel... shoot the shit with some locals and get ready to head into Burkes Garden via Round Mountain FDR668. Well we head to entrance and we are met with this :ddog:

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    This gate looked pretty new... but recent reports from locals have told me that they have found it open. I have in inquiry into the JNF to find out why it is closed as it should not be according to the MVUM. We could have easily ducked under but we tried to stay responsible. This was the only unwelcome surprise of the trip access wise. Instead we scoot a little further down 52 and towards Garden Mountain FDR610 which links up with the other end of Round Mountain and gets you into the eastern end of Burke's Garden...

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    This was is pretty tame gravel with some rutting but nothing bad...

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    7 miles later we are taking in the sights within Burkes Garden...

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    a lil celebratory wheelie...

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    The temperature is phenomenal.. probably due to elevation:

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    Everyone takes a photo here... so why not...

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    The ride out of Burkes Garden via 623 is quite fun... lots of stupid cows on the road. After you exit the switch backs and leave the forest you are rewarded with some more great views.

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    The next destination is Big Walker Mtn FDR206 down to Carnot and Wytheville. I heard reports that this roadl was a bit overgrown and they were not wrong..

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    The first 4 miles to the communications towers is well groomed gravel..

    After that you start to bushwhack...

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    We decided to take the road down until we are on on top of the tunnel on 77 through Big Walker Mountain hoping there would be a great view. Unfortunately there was no view and we decided to call it a day and head back to 52 and roll into Wytheville. No doubt the road goes through to Carnot but we didn't feel like bushwhacking for another 10 miles as the dark rain clouds rolled in. The photos do not do the plant encroachment justice.

    We booked it into Wytheville, get caught in the rain and check into the nice Red Roof Inn as we catch a fleeting rainbow around 6PM...

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    Total mileage for the day is 110 with 65 gravel/dirt. We head off to Applebees and stuff our face and have some brews. All in all a great day :freaky.

    Next - the last day.... Wytheville, VA to Hinton, VA via the BRP....
    #8
  9. B.E. Coyote

    B.E. Coyote (Super-Genius)

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    Very nice, Gonna try to get that done sometime in July myself. :clap
    #9
  10. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

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    Day 4 Wytheville, VA back to the truck in Hinton, VA

    We had originally planned to go down to Damascus and ride some Iron Mountain single track. After some discussion with locals in Wytheville combined with some pressing work issues we decided to save the Mt. Rogers area until early fall when you can literally run 40 miles of really good trail.

    So we decided to book it up the BRP.... nothing outstanding to report but the weather was great and we didn't get wiped out by deer so all in all very good :D. We covered around 270 miles today... 200 or so on the BRP.

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    Gas in Montebello... almost tempted to run Shoe Creek... :evil

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    We hopped of the Parkway here and ran backroads back to Hinton. Mother nature provided a pretty home coming as we rolled through Mt. Solon..

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    Back at the truck on h14xl's lovely property...

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    Total damage for the day.. we ran a decent clip on the BRP...

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    We loaded up the bikes, hit up Sheetz and were back back in Arlington by 11:30PM :clap
    #10
  11. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

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    Afterthought

    I had a lot of anticipation for this trip and I was really looking forward to riding the route I had been working on since October. In short I was not disappointed. The forest roads were a blast.. nothing too challenging to take away from the fun. The paved sections were worth the scenery and all along the way we were again and again blown away by the wildlife, views and rural charm of a lot of the route.

    Prudent Planning

    We live in the eastern US and we are never too far from civilization like those out West. I will say that some parts of this route put you pretty back in the woods where a mechanical failure or injury could happen 12 miles from the nearest good road. We were prepared to camp, tow or walk out whenever necessary and I would advise you to do the same. Know your bike well and also be comfortable changing tubes. Also carry adequate water and food - nothing crushes moral in a tough spot more than hunger and thirst. Also cell phones dont work worth a damn anywhere we were. I carried a proper PLB - but I like planning for contingency and mitigating risks. We saw a total of 3 cars in all of the deeper forest road mileage we covered --- not many folks are out in these hollows.

    We ran smaller dual sports and tried to stay pretty light. I think a DR650 or XR600R would be a great tool as well. Even an 800GS or 990ADV if you have some decent riding skills.

    Anyways thanks for tuning in.. hope others get out and enjoy what VA has to offer. :deal
    #11
  12. benwiggin2

    benwiggin2 Long timer

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    Loved it, what a great trip. Thanks for posting. :clap
    #12
  13. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF ┬┐to post or to ride?

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    Sweet! :thumb
    Thanks for the great report. Love you fun-loving guys! I can tell it was a very rewarding trip. :getiton

    And thanks for acknowledging me for that one cool section I love - it wasn't necessary but appreciated. :shog

    PS: your GPS shows 4400' elevation at Flagpole! First time I realize it's just shy of that of Reddish - for some reason, Reddish just "feels" a good bit higher. :dunno
    #13
  14. krishl

    krishl Rocket Engineer

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    Nice trip planning, riding, and reporting. Glad you rode on some of my favorites (Sugar Run, Hogback Ridge), but too bad Round Mt was closed.

    If you find yourself on Hogback Ridge again, take the left at the powerline cutting and go down to to top of another great ADV road (something like Laurel Fork) that comes out on Kimberling Road about 3.5 miles East of where Hogback comes out. It's actually more fun going up the hill and has several creek crossings.

    Chris
    #14
  15. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

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    Chris - It took me a second but I realized you run Twin Valley Riders. I actually gleaned a good bit of info from your postings there - especially about Hogback. I completely missed that the road to the left runs down to Sulpher Springs and out to Kimberling until I was looking up Hogback on TVR last week. Next time for sure!
    #15
  16. DAAANG

    DAAANG LambBoyFilms@YouTube

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    Wow, we did some of the exact same run. A lot of those pics look so familiar. Looks like you had a blast!
    #16
  17. H14

    H14 I Gotta Go!

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    Going to try and ride some of it this weekend. Thanks for the motivation.
    #17
  18. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

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    :thumb

    Our favorite roads from the trip:

    Dunkle Hollow
    Bald Mtn
    Hogback Mtn
    Tub Run
    Butt Mountain / Mountain Lake
    Anything near Burkes Garden
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    I would also suggest Shoe Creek near Montebello but I wouldn't want to do it alone.

    Everything around Goshen / Rockbridge Baths is awesome from prior rides.
    #18
  19. inmate-n00b

    inmate-n00b Ciao, Marco

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    great trip report. :clap
    #19
  20. longslowdistance

    longslowdistance Been here awhile

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    Thanks, this is great!
    Have you ridden "public road 55" that spans the Va VW state line, crosses 39? Looks like a cool ridgetop road but might be technical.
    Can you list your roads as:
    - needs knobbies and a dirt bike
    - Can do with a BMW GS sort of bike with tourances

    PS Alhambra road (FR 63) along the Piney River east of the BRP north of US 60 is beautiful - you've probably been on it since shoe creek dumps out at the eastern end of Alhambra road.
    #20