A CannonRide Up the Mid-Atlantic Backcounty Discovery Route (MABDR)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. terrysig

    terrysig Plays with atoms in spare time...

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    In. Plannimg for August South-North. Interested in reducing tarmac and stealth camping. Looking forward to the full RR.
    #21
  2. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    Cannot wait to see full MABDR ride report. Initial set of photos look great.

    I cannot believe the weather back in Mid-Atlantic this year. We're 4 weeks behind schedule. I live in Virginia, just west of Washington, DC. Normally this is perfect time of year. Last weekend was in mid 80s. Last few nights were in 30s.

    Thanks.

    GF-kam
    #22
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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks for following along!

    I'm one to take advantage of exploring more of an area when I am already there for another purpose. Lots of interesting things along the way.

    The mud spill was on a side trip. Very slick.

    It is all pretty good so you can't miss when choosing a long section.

    Lots of fun and a 700 Honda would be a good choice too. :D

    Hope you have a wonderful trip and that this report proves helpful to you!

    Some interesting stories from the past along the way.
    Purr-fect for your STen.

    We got into some more obscure Civil War locations you might enjoy reading about. :thumb

    We toted a camping kit but never cracked the seal on it. We planned to get inexpensive motels as it was the right time of the year for vacancies. The camping kit was in case we got stuck out in the woods overnight somewhere.

    Thanks! I hope you find some of the side trips interesting this time as well!

    Hope you have a great trip! The pavement is pretty darn good (on any bike) so you may want to ride it. :D

    Thanks for following along. We started with 81 degrees and ended in the 30s. No regrets or complaints though. :D
    #23
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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Well, let's get this story started . . .

    It has been a long Wisconsin winter (and that is not over yet as we have new snow on the ground here). I wasn't getting to ride and had a hankering to do so, so I did some last minute planning to ride the MABDR. It looked like a great route. I was drinking coffee with Ajacks in our small town when I mentioned I needed to get out for a ride and that I was looking at this. He wanted to join in so we worked it out in a matter of days. Ajacks is a skilled and experienced rider with a lot of travel under his belt.

    We rode down from wintry Wisconsin. We managed to time it so that we threaded between some passing rain storms. While we were away, part of Wisconsin got hammered with more than two feet of snow.

    We rode into nice weather - in fact, pretty warm weather.
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    I see a few people in the planning thread wondering about tires for this route. Being that I was leaving on short notice, and my source was out of stock, I ended up running on some well-worn Heindaus. They were fine. Keep in mind that the surfaces change quite a bit throughout the ride so no matter what the tire choice one still has to adapt to the surface at hand. The strong side-wind on the way down probably saved me some center wear since we had to lean the bikes a lot to compensate. :D This tire lasted the entire trip. Time for a new set now though.

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    As I mentioned, we lodged at inexpensive motels along the way. Sometimes you have to go a little off-route to locate them but those spur rides often turned out to be entertaining by themselves. We sought out first floor rooms with easy access to the bikes.

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    More about Damascus in a bit, but I suggest to those that plan to overnight at the start of the trail to go 10 miles over to the interstate highway and stay at Abingdon. There are plenty of inexpensive rooms and restaurants there. I've been through Damascus a couple of times now and I sort of envisioned it as offering inexpensive hostel type lodging to Appalachian Trail hikers. Our experience wasn't so good with that. There is a better value in Abingdon. If you are camping, there are some excellent spots just south of Damascus in the National Forest.

    One thing about Abingdon is that they get flooded for races at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Rooms get booked and prices go up with demand. You might want to check the schedule for the raceway ahead of time. Also be aware of the Trail Days Festival at Damascus in the middle of May when up to 20,000 people flood the town. That can create a lodging constraint as well.

    Abingdon
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    I'm not so sure about that stopped time number (I think it was a little over 2 hours total), but here is the daily for the trip down. Good thing I have a screen protector on that unit to take the scratches instead of the screen itself.

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    Something I do when I am going to operate in a different time zone is to set my cameras and watch to the new time zone prior to departure. The GPS will automatically adjust. This way I can geo-locate photos if I need to by checking the time the picture was taken against the time on the track points along the way. One of my cameras GPS tags the photos if I leave it on long enough, but it drains batteries. Something else I do is buy a slew of inexpensive replacement batteries as spares to use along the way in case I can't recharge for a while. A camera cable will charge the camera during the ride in the tank bag as will a charger that clips in the battery so it doesn't bounce loose. I also keep my point and shoot waterproof camera tethered to my coat with a Gearkeeper retractable lanyard. I take most of my photos on the fly so it is nice having the camera on a tether if I have to drop it to grab the bars or something. I keep it in an open chest pocket on my coat so I can grab it quickly. Best to have a camera that starts up quickly so you can get those unexpected shots on the fly.

    And don't forget to tape that shooting wheel on the back of the camera into position so it doesn't inadvertently get moved when moving the camera in and out of a pocket with gloved hands. It is a shame to lose some shots because the wheel got set to macro or something.
    #24
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  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Staring out on the path on day 1. A nice ride from Abingdon to Damascus - only about 10 miles. We usually got up at 0600 and were packed up by about 0715. No real pressure, it just worked out that way. Breakfast was either at the motel (if offered), at a nearby café, or some place further up the route.
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    Damascus is a town of less than 1,000. They bill themselves as a trail town. They have the Appalachian Trail, a national bikeway, the Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail in the area. They are also on the Danny Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. When they do their Trail Days in mid-may, they have the largest gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere. During the 2013 festival, a car hit the crowd sending 60 people to the hospital by air and ground ambulance.

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    Some places for lodging.

    About $100 we were told (not sure if for two).
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    The old mill lodging was closed for now.
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    $55/person for hostel like set-up.
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    RV camping (limited).
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    A little short on pumps at the gas station for the moment.
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    A few hikers out and about throughout the day.
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    #25
  6. Tiger993

    Tiger993 Been here awhile

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    :lurk
    #26
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  7. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

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    Also in Damascus are several places to take a shower-----------in bicycle shops as I remember-------maybe 3-$5 and they furnish wash cloth and towel.
    #27
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I added a loop to the start to take in a noted motorcycle path called The Snake. It only adds about 30 miles to the path and is a great way to start the trip. What a great ride!

    As a side note, I have the original MABDR path in dark grey on my maps so you can see where the base route and mine vary in places whether it be by choice or because of required go-arounds.

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    About five miles out of town you will encounter the world's shortest tunnel. It cuts through Backbone Rock. Back in 1901 they needed a railroad route to haul logs from Damascus to Shady Valley, TN. The cheapest thing to do was to blast a hole in the rock. But, the dopey engineers forgot to allow space for the engine smoke stack. They had to hand chisel that weird looking notch into the arch so the trains could pass. By about 1913 logging and some manganese mining played out so the rail line shut down. The USFS used the path as a truck trail. Eventually it became state road 133. The CCC came in later and did some magnificent improvements in the area.

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    As I mentioned there are some nice campsites along the river on this road.
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    The ride through the national forest heading down to The Snake is great by itself.

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    I don't know for sure about this one, but schools of this type were built around the time of WWII. This one is in great shape.
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    Heading onto a portion of The Snake.

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    Sorry, not too many pictures from this segment as I had my hands full negotiating the ride. It was fantastic!
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    Stock promotional video from the web.



    This Lotus trailed behind us in the curves.

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    Heading back north to intersect the MABDR.

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    All good.
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    #28
  9. DockingPilot

    DockingPilot Hooked Up and Hard Over

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    Just subscribed Bryan.
    Excellent report so far as always ! Great stuff.
    This will no doubt be a busy route this year.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #29
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  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks for following along!

    Good tip! Thanks for adding it to the report. Hopefully we can create a helpful reference for others to use.

    Thanks Frank. You'll find this to be a very satisfying ride. Every section was good.
    #30
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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    While I think about it, I should mention a few things about the Tenere on this trip. I chose sport mode over touring mode. This had to do with rapid power on climb outs and negotiating the paved twisties in an aggressive manner. It worked fine. When I remembered to do so, I changed the traction control to allow for a little more wheel spin. This had to do with stutter bumps and protruding rocks on some of the power on climbs that could cause interruptions in the standard mode. The unified braking (front brake handle controls all) worked very well both on and off the pavement. Anti-lock braking was great as well - especially when we had water on the road.

    My bash plate loudly took hits from "flip up" rocks but I didn't settle on any bottom strikes. Even with plastic guards that some bikes have down low, those flip ups can do in an oil filter on some bikes. Maybe carry a spare. There are protruding rocks and with a bad bounce on the wrong unprotected bike one could get bumped onto a protruding rock that might crack the case. There aren't many that can get you, but there are enough. There are also a number of rocks that fell and rolled from above that settled on the contour roads. These are often bigger than the protruding sections and are an occasional hazard.

    I would recommend keeping tire pressure up to protect tubes and rims as rock strikes could produce a pinch flat or damage a rim. We can talk about cuts later. :D

    I never really had a problem finding premium gas, but it is best to not go more than 100 miles without refueling big bikes because one never knows what the situation might be ahead. I think there was only one long stretch for fuel. I'll look for that as the report progresses. I'm sure a side trip off-route someplace would help relieve that if need be. There are a lot of opportnities for fuel along the route - even in the boonies.

    Jack will cover a few things about how he used the systems on his bike.
    #31
  12. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

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    In, I'm thinking this will be a very busy route.
    #32
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Joining the route near the state line and heading toward Marion. The first part of this section turns into some nice gravel on contour roads. Then it takes to pavement for most of the portion depicted here once you hit 58. It is all great.

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    While I think about it, let me say that the pavement on this route is often as great as the contour forest roads - just a different experience with riding. Contour roads in the forest are great, but riding in and out and back and forth for extended periods is not what I want to do all day. It is nice to get a solid dose of that and then move out onto the pavement a while for some twisties. If nothing else, you get to relax on the bars for a bit and catch a cooling breeze. The changing surfaces and paths keep this ride very interesting and entertaining. Just when you've had enough pavement, back into the forest you go. Purr-fect.

    Where we joined the MABDR.

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    When the sun was at low angles, it could be blinding. Not always so convenient on those contour roads. :D

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    Speaking of which, don't mess with your GPS while moving along this route. There are too many places to go over the edge if you get distracted for a moment too long. :D

    Beautiful scenery along the way. We thought that being out before the trees leafed out gave us the opportunity to see more when in the forests, particularly when looking out from mountainsides.

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    A rare guard rail. Many of the paved roads have no shoulder at all. Lots of steep drop offs on the contour roads.

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    Off the initial pavement and onto the gravel.

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    A waterfall marked as the start.

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    Road width varies with terrain.

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    Blind corners sometimes produced oncoming traffic - even in remote areas.

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    An old railroad cut. Nice even arc - none of that surprise decreasing radius turn stuff here that often turns up elsewhere on the contours.

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    A runaway truck lane at Skulls Gap.

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    Skulls Gap overlook. Great views. Noted for hawk watching during the fall migration.

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    The Abijah Thomas House was built in 1856. It has been bought and sold several times with an eye toward restoring it. The local legend says that the house is haunted. The owner had slaves and was said to have treated them cruelly - maybe even involving brutal beatings or even murders. Of course, there is no evidence of this and one of his slaves is said to have stayed with him even after being freed.

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    Reports include blood running down the walls, demonic spirits making blood curdling sounds, chains rattling, moaning in the night, and a light that can be seen moving from the Thomas graves to the house on the anniversary of Abijah's death. There is a room in the center of the second floor that has no windows. There was no lighting fixture ever mounted to the ceiling. The room was probably used for storing canned goods. There are stains on the floor (perhaps from spilled cans) that some say are from beatings that occurred there. The tortured souls of those abused there are reported to be responsible for the paranormal activity.

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    But, Jack doesn't look too scared about it all. :D The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    These side trips produce some fun riding sometimes.

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    #33
  14. BLucare

    BLucare What could possibly go wrong?

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    I'm in, Bryan :thumb Planning to do this ride with a small group later this year, likely late August or early September. Looking forward to your own spin on it, as always.
    #34
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  15. DYNOBOB

    DYNOBOB lucky dog Supporter

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    Thanks for again taking the time to share your ride. Sounds like the MABDR would be a good two-up experience w/ the better half...

    .
    #35
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  16. Ajacks

    Ajacks "Not in the face"

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    .......Jack here, My bike a 2016 BMW R1200 GSA, Has 4 riding modes-Rain,Road,Dynamic,and Enduro. When I would remember, I would switch to Enduro when we were off pavement and it seemed to make a big improvement. When we had rain I switched to rain even off road, thinking it might help keep me upright. truth be told, I'm not sure it made any big difference. The bike though was amazing, when standing on the pegs, it felt as nimble and easy as my KLR 650 or DRZ 400, I can't say enough about the tires (Anakee Wilds)
    #36
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Indeed it will. There are also a number of day riders in some areas. We met a few bikes on a warm day.

    Hope you have a wonderful trip! Get in touch if you have questions as the date gets nearer.

    We talked about that. I hope the passenger can be comfortable with some steep drop-offs along the roads and a jostling bike along the way 'cause I wouldn't be. :D The slippery spots might make two-up a challenge so watch the weather.
    #37
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  18. zoid

    zoid Dirty Old Hippie

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    Always in for a Cannonshot RR. Enjoy the historical perspectives that are part of it.
    #38
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  19. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    In!

    Great to see another RR from you Bryan

    Cheers n best wishes!

    Shane
    #39
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  20. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

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    In! I'll be riding this in two weeks. Looking forward to seeing up to date trail conditions.
    #40
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