Trip Report - Potomac Highlands Tour

by Laurel Klein

We met in Burlington on a Friday night. The motel was not exactly in downtown Burlington; it was about 3 miles east on Rt 50. Mike was the first to arrive and he had found a restaurant that served huge steak hoagies, which were quite delicious. He had also scouted out our breakfast. Donnie and Richard arrived later. They had driven up from Elkins along our first day's route. There was a beautiful sunset that evening.

Next morning we rolled out at 7 and stopped for breakfast. We ate very well. It was a little chilly as we headed down Patterson Creek Rd, but sunny. It was a good road with a little more traffic than I expected, including some trucks. The scenery was beautiful. We noticed wild cactus blooming with yellow flowers along the road. Nearby there was a pond with pink water lilies. All kinds of birds were singing. We stopped a couple of times, to take pictures, to check out a bridge over the creek and later a country store. Almost too soon, we were in Petersburg, where we had lunch at the Fox Pizza, just one of many Fox Pizza places we encountered on this trip.

Back on the road, heading south from Petersburg, at first we had some spectacular down hills, but later we had some grades to climb, not steep hills, but wearing nevertheless. The sky had become overcast. I would not say that it was particularly hot, but it was humid. We took a break at Smoke Hole Caverns. There is a gift shop fully stocked with souvenirs, but it was the porch swing outside that caught our interest. Richard mentioned that one of the motels at Seneca Rocks had porch swings like this. It was not the motel where we had our reservations, but was right next door to a pizza restaurant. Hmmm.

As we got to the first motel, the sky was turning quite darker, though it was only 2pm (felt like 4 or 5 to me). This was the cheaper place and quite dismal looking both inside and outside. It took only a minute to change our reservations to the place down the road with the porch swings. As we had ridden along during the afternoon we noticed a huge number of motorcycles passing us. You guessed where they were all going- the second motel/country store. Fortunately, for most of them this was only a rest stop, not their final destination. So after a few hours of rumbling around the parking lot, most of them cleared out, leaving us to our porch swings directly across the road from Seneca Rocks. This was a good place to be at the end of a 53 mile day.

On Sunday, again we headed out at 7 to find breakfast at the restaurant by the 4-U motel. It was a neat, clean, quiet place but no view of the Rocks. After just one or two little hills, we rolled along the river quite easily. It was fairly flat all the way past Judy Gap, and Circleville to Cherry Grove. There was nothing open but we did find a soft drink machine. The scenery was outstanding, but the sky was overcast, not a good day for taking pictures. There was no traffic at all. As we started onto Snowy Mountain Road, the climb was very gradual for several miles, but at some point it became rather steep.

We stopped to rest in front of a farm that had sheep and horses in a field that was just about straight up and down. Once over the top, we had a rather wild descent. We came out onto Rt 220 at Harper where we found a churchyard. Services were going on inside, but we sat down on the grass anyway and ate our snacks. We could hear the hymns being sung. From there it is just a short way to the WV/VA state line. The road climbs toward Monterey, Va in steps; each time it goes up it levels off and goes up some more. By the time we were at the edge of town, the sky looked like rain was imminent, but nothing happened.

We arrived at the Highland Inn about 1 pm. We could have made it to the buffet, but no one felt up to a $15 meal, so we went across the street to High's restaurant and had barbecue sandwiches. I believe Donnie had some onion rings, which he shared. Some how I had miscalculated the mileage. What should have been a 50 mile day was only 37, but no one seemed to mind. We had a pleasant afternoon, sitting on the porch, walking around town, visiting the art gallery. We had dinner at Highs and some ice cream at another little place nearby.

On Monday, Mike decided to leave early, to get out ahead of us and take more pictures. He must have left about 6:30. The inn served continental breakfast at 7:30, but not long after 8, the rest of us were ready to go. We moved along Rt 220 pretty quickly, back past Harper to the country store at Cave. Donnie said this store never closes (he would know as he lived near there for a time several years ago before moving into Franklin, where he us the sports coach at the high school) but it was closed. We saw no sign of Mike. We started up the road and over the hill, which seemed to everyone like a fairly major climb, but I had forgotten it was there, thinking more of the mountain we had to climb at Sugar Grove. We got over this without too much trouble and on toward Moyers, where we found two little stores open. I had assumed that both were closed for good. We stopped at both just to make sure we didn't miss anything. They still sell ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread, wrapped in wax paper for about a dollar. You have to have one of these and maybe some cheese curls to make it over the next hill, which really does get steep.

Somewhere on the way down, Donnie had a flat tire. Richard stopped, but I was ahead and didn't know what had happened. I found Mike waiting at the bottom of the hill. Soon drivers were stopping to let us know that our friends were working on the tire. Later we learned that some dogs had gathered and were giving them a hard time. After a while they had it fixed and we were rolling along again on a fairly flat road. It had seemed like a long enough day when we arrived at Brandywine, but it was only about 1pm and we had only ridden about 36 miles. Our motel was at Fox Pizza, so I had to have a pizza The others seemed content with potato chips and beer. One of Donnie's old buddies from Franklin came to visit. The guys spent the entire afternoon in the parking lot, while I wandered through the antique shop across the road. We set out to the Cabin for dinner, but it was closed, so we returned to Fox Pizza.

In the morning, Mike set out early but nothing was open for breakfast until the Cabin opened at 7, so we all left Brandywine together. It was a nice day, with the sun out for once. The road to Moorefield is fairly flat, but still scenic. We were moving along fast. Richard had next to nothing in his panniers by now, as he was throwing his dirty clothes away as he went (what else are you going to do with those T-shirts you never wear? he said). Mike and I fell behind to take some pictures but we caught up when the others stopped to talk to a man from the North of England who was living in an old schoolhouse with no electricity. We arrived in Moorefield, a 40 mile ride, no later than 11:30. We had a nice lunch and went to the motel. Richard suggested that with only about 30 miles to go, we could finish the trip that day. Mike and I were not up for it. We checked into the motel, but Donnie and Richard went on. We spent the afternoon resting, wandering around town and visiting the library. We were just heading out for dinner at the 1953 restaurant in the McMechen House, when Donnie and Richard rolled up in the van. They had ridden back to Burlington, started to drive home and then decided to return to have dinner and spend the evening with us. It was an excellent dinner and a pleasant evening.

Wednesday morning Richard was up to see us off. We had a nice breakfast, but no sooner than we started out on the bikes, it started to rain. We stopped at WalMart for a few minutes. I thought it might quit raining, but no such luck. We decided to stick to the back road along the river even though it was longer and hillier because there would be less traffic as well as more scenery. This is the so called trough where the Potomac Eagle train goes. We didn't see any eagles, but the rain tapered off and the scenery was gorgeous. We stopped at a store that rents canoes. They had coffee for 27 cents, can you beat that? Too soon we were back to route 50, which was mostly flat back to our starting point. A little traffic, not terrible.

I was looking for a side road that Bill had mapped out for us and rode right on past the motel. If Mike hadn't yelled at me who knows where I would have ended up. Another fine adventure. I wish more of you had been there, but those who did go were excellent traveling companions. With such a small group we moved along very well. We could have ridden a few more miles most days, but not if it had been 90 degrees outside, which thank goodness it wasn't. I plan to put a fall tour in this same area on the schedule, most likely for the three day Columbus Day weekend. I hope you can join us.

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