Solo Southern Half of MABDR w/ TN

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by vector_dumb, Sep 22, 2019.

  1. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Just wrapped up 6 days of the southern half of the MABDR. The trip went exceptionally well, so I thought I'd post some notes and pics in case it helps anyone out.

    I heard of the MABDR from a group of bikers when staying at the Greenwood Furnace campground in PA while taking an on/off road trip up to Buffalo in 2018. After checking out the route I saw I've already done most of the northern half on prior adventures, so this year I looked to the south.

    mapsnap.jpg
    After playing around with the route a bit I ended up with 5.5 days riding with a pinch more North Carolina and some Tennessee. Three ish days down, 2.5 back with probably 85% overlap of the north and south parts of the trip.
    #1
    tjzondrz likes this.
  2. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 0:

    From experience the worst way to start and end your trip is dealing with the DC beltway and other major DMV roads, so I decided to trailer my bike out to the western part of Maryland. I hauled my bike ('Ol Shitty) out to the greater Winchester VA area and grabbed an Air BNB for the night. First time using an Air BNB, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up getting a nice private room and bath for half the price of a crummy motel. Hosts were very nice and got a good night sleep with the pumpkin and Chevy expo standing guard out front.

    20190915_185409.jpg

    Luckily the entrance was around back and I didn't have to use the floating doors.
    #2
    tjzondrz likes this.
  3. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 1:

    Got up and trailer the bike out to Romney Cycles in Romney WV. These guys were awesome and let my park my car and trailer in their back lot while on the trip. After a short scoot on rt 50 you are on the MABDR. Full disclosure I actually shaved off some miles by taking Branch River and Through Rd. south out of Romney and hooking up with the MABDR in Moorefield since I was getting a little later start than I would have preferred (Romney Cycles opens at 9 a.m.)

    Also I should probably point out here that I am really lousy at taking pictures and route notes. I do recall the southern half of Smoke Hole Rd being pretty nifty. Might want to budget a little time to take some nice photos.

    Once you hit enter the George Washington National Forest you pick up unpaved roads. I believe Sugar Tree road was crisscrossed by some small streams, so if it has been rainy be ready to do a little fording action.

    For the night I popped off the trail just before Warm Springs and put up for the night at The Peaceful River campground in Millboro VA. I originally planned to put in for the night at Bolars Mt Rec Area, but they closed for the season. Luckily I found that out before I left!

    Camping was perfect. Pretty much nobody around with a spot right by the river. A warm no humidity evening with a full moon. As I drifted to sleep I heard an odd chirpy noise from up on the hill. I've been outdoors a lot and never heard anything like it. I assume it was just some small woodland creature getting its balls tickled.

    Total miles for the day 177
    #3
    tjzondrz likes this.
  4. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 2:

    Up at 5 a.m. to eat, break camp, and some minor checks. Got moving just before dawn and resumed the route. Limekiln rd gets pretty curvy and I remember sections being fairly technical with lots of loose gravel and sharp turns. My average speed was probably the low 20s. When riding alone I'd rather be in control and slow then a hero who's trip ends early.

    Moving further south Nimrod Rd stands out. The road was in pretty good shape and fun.

    ...and then was Tub Run Rd. Tight turns, lots of gravel, and I found it just impossible to get any speed going. A few road repairs were done under the philosophy of "needs more gravel". No oopsies, but it was a tiring and tedious stretch. If you can ride this stuff safely and fast, hats off to you!

    More offroad, more tight windy roads through the forest.

    Popped off at an overlook for lunch.
    IMG190917-122249F.JPG

    In Bland I had a navigation error and ended up on I 77 south. As a plus I rode through my first appreciable tunnel on a motorcycle, so that was kinda cool. After a couple of miles I hopped off and was at my campground - Stony Fork Campground outside of Wytheville VA. Campground was fine but nothing special. The only thing I really remember is that the shower would only run while holding down a button, so most of the time I had my knee jammed into it while I tried not to fall over.

    These pics are actually from day 5, but the same part of the route.
    IMG190919-130333F.JPG
    IMG190919-143350F.JPG

    Total miles: 177
    #4
    tjzondrz likes this.
  5. Bhuddy21

    Bhuddy21 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    19
    Location:
    Bali
    Nice
    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 3:

    This was my favorite day.

    Got up at 5 a.m. again and was on the road around 6:45. I took a parallel but slightly more southernly rt to the MABDR. Black Lick Rd and Cedar Springs Rd to the Sugar Grove "Highway".

    Things got a lot more interesting with Hurricane Rd and Skulls Gap Rd. The start of Skulls Gap was a bit of washed out and eroded mess. I actually got off the bike and walked the worst section to pick a line and move a couple of rocks. So after the prep I tractored through in first gear with the RPMs 1-2k higher than needed yelling "GITSOME" like a nOOb. Turns were tight and I almost dumped it in some deep gravel, but the road was short and soon it was over. On to 76 to White Top Rd.

    After crossing Rt 58 the next few miles got interesting. Narrow roads passing through hardscrabble farms on steep hillsides. People could have just about walked out of their front door and been in the road. I was chased by dogs, had roosters fly in and out of the road, had someone yell something at me (I had earplugs in so I just waived) and saw farm buildings built out of every construction material under the sun. I wish I had stopped to take pictures, but I'm not sure what the locals would have thought. Unbeknownst to be I was in North Carolina.

    After that mini adventure I continued on to Mountain City and got gas. While looking at the pump I noticed the inspection sticker read something to the effect of "Inspected by TN Weights and Measures". I was in Tennessee! I remember being kinda stupidly shocked that this was how I found out I had made it to TN. I wish I took a picture of that beat up pump.

    Now for the real treat. When planning day 3 I just looked at my Garmin maps and picked roads that looked fun. Next up was US 421.

    I've heard of Tale of the Dragon but as I got going I noticed a sign declaring US 421 "The Snake". They only give names like that to good roads so I psyched myself up. So I got that XR650L with its mighty one cylinder going and it did a fine job as we danced through the curves. No traffic. None. Zero. People can have the Dragon. 421 was awesome.

    I exited 421 on Camp Tom Howard Rd and followed Big Creek Rd along S Holston Lake. Tennessee must not be getting much rain because that lake was way down. IMG190919-080314F.JPG

    Some parts of Big Creek rd were a little dicey with turns and gravel, but there was a small paved stretch and then it turned back to dirt for a few miles. I guess the road was mostly paved and instead of fixing it they just make it unpaved?

    After exiting the Cherokee National Forest I made my way over to Johnson City where I would overnight at another Air BNB. It was a nice place with 2 dogs. One of them just had their nuts snipped, so he was wearing a cloth collar so he wouldn't go to town on his junk. Kind of made the poor dog look like a low rent clown, but he was unphased and a nice dog.

    I stopped and had lunch at this teeny diner off rt 400. Behold Tennessee!
    20190918_125746.jpg
    Such majesty!!
    20190918_125654.jpg
    After getting to the AirBNB and airing out my tent, did some laundry, a bit of maintenance, and I walked down the road to the Dollar General and the "Discount Grocery" which was next door.

    Things sure are different down in Tennessee
    20190918_165322.jpg
    What was really alarming was the massive 3 lb tuna pouches they also had.

    Total Miles: 136


    In a perfect world I would have gone over to the Speedway and checked out Bristol, but I had to get back in a few days and I was pretty tired. No divide and conquer with errands when you are on your own.
    #6
    tjzondrz likes this.
  7. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 4:

    On the road a little after 6 a.m. While I didn't do much riding in TN I did notice people treat stop signs more like recommendations. Be alert!

    After retracing my steps through the Cherokee forest I was back on US 421. Again absolutely no traffic, although I wasn't on it as long. Hopped off at Shady Valley and continued up to Damascus. At Damascus I picked up the MABDR proper.

    I did take some more pictures
    IMG190919-122355F.JPG
    Favorite Pic (Note this is somebody's driveway and not the MABDR route):
    20190919_145210.jpg

    IMG190919-141129F.JPG
    IMG190919-144914F.JPG
    #7
    tjzondrz likes this.
  8. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 4 Continued:

    I continued to outside of Pearisburg and put in for the night at the New River Junction Campground. What a pretty spot!
    20190919_161741.jpg
    20190919_161936.jpg
    IMG190919-161325F.JPG
    The owners look to put a lot of effort into keeping their site nice. During the summer they offer tubing too.

    As I was cleaning up for dinner I heard a chopper in the distance coming my way and it got louder, and Louder, and LOUDER. It sounded like a fleet of choppers. Are we being invaded? Nope, just the Marines. Much to my surprise a pair of Ospreys came into view. Just barely got my phone out in time for a pic (it doesn't nearly do the aircraft justice)
    20190919_170503.jpg

    The sun set and I settled in for the night. ...and then the trains started coming. Guess it is called New River Junction for a reason! Let me tell you those guys do not spare on the horn. I was tired and still got plenty of sleep.

    Total Miles: 200
    #8
    tjzondrz likes this.
  9. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Day 5:

    This was the longest day - most miles and more difficult roads.

    20190920_123530.jpg


    I think this pic was taken on Tub Run Rd - when I rounded the curve I just caught a glimpse of an animal beat it off the berm on the left. No white tail (not a deer) although it was buck brown colored. I got the impression it was squat and it moved real quick. I might have seen a mountain lion. I stopped and looked for tracks, but saw none.
    20190920_133614.jpg

    Speaking of wildlife I probably saw 50 deer, 30 turkey (two separate rafter and a few singles), and a bald eagle.

    My day ended at the Brandywine campground. Pretty good campsite, although people did like their radios loud.

    Total Miles: 206
    #9
    tjzondrz likes this.
  10. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    20190921_082140.jpg Day 6:

    Planned as a short one so I can get back to Romney Cycles, pack up the bike, and beat DC traffic.

    I was on the road a little after 6 a.m. and got to do a little riding in the moonlight. Quite a treat!

    Fall is in the air...
    20190921_071245.jpg
    20190921_071710.jpg
    20190921_071730.jpg
    20190921_072759.jpg

    I passed a number of hunting groups on the way back. Not sure what is in season but most had a few hounds with them. Most guys had setups where the dogs would ride in a platform above the truck bed with them looking out over the cab. Kinda funny to see 4 dog faces looking at you where typically see roof lights.

    All too soon I was packing things up and heading home to Bowie.

    Total Miles: 98
    #10
    tjzondrz and norton73 like this.
  11. Brickflyer

    Brickflyer Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2009
    Oddometer:
    111
    Location:
    Milton, TN
    Vec,
    Great RR. Ol Shitty looks bulletproof. glad you had a good ride. Headed that way from Middle Tn Friday !
    See any road closures or bridge outs? Appreciate the info.
    #11
  12. DownGoesFrazier

    DownGoesFrazier Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    M'boro, TN
    Nice RR. Pics are mighty purty. Headed out soon. Any sage advice?:muutt
    #12
  13. vector_dumb

    vector_dumb Happier Here

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Bowie, MD
    Brickflyer and DGFrazier -

    Offhand I didn't have any notable nav issues. There was one road closure I think for bridge work, but to be honest I can't remember exactly where - the reroute was very easy and I think it only added a couple miles. It was on the outskirts of a small town on a paved road, so it wasn't like the only bridge for 10 miles. I think I hit it about 60% of the way through VA when coming up from the south.

    For me the trickiest stuff was a few sections of deep gravel. These sections are easy to spot, but I do advise going slow and not getting too grabby with your front brake. For me my front tire would do its best submarine impression (dive! dive!). Almost dumped the bike a couple of times. I wouldn't say it's hard riding, just tedious for a few short sections and you have to stay sharp.

    Starting at Damascus I'd recommend airing your tires down once you hit dirt and keeping them aired down until you leave the national forest near the end of section 3. My initial plan way to leave my tires at 25 psi and not screw with them for the trip, however I was getting poor enough traction in the Jeffy and GW National forests that I aired down to about 20 psi. (Shinko 244 front, T63 rear). Most of section 1, almost all of section 2, and most of section 3 has enough offroad you can get away with leaving your tires on the low side.

    Otherwise take more pictures than me.

    While paved, cow pasture rd is very very scenic and you should take a quick stop at dismal falls. I missed the sign on the way down and didn't stop on the way back for whatever reason. I think that was kinda dumb. Smoke hole rd also deserves a few pics where cliffs start cropping up by Seneca rocks.

    Be safe and have a blast!
    #13