Wednesday, May 04, 2016

2016 Romney Cycles Camp and Ride

4/29/16 - 5/1/16

Being a veteran of Romney , and living on a sandbar for most of the past year, I decided to take a vacation day and drag a camper and motorcycle from central FL to Romney, WV to attend the 2016 Romney Cycles event.

Fourteen hours, 750-ish miles, and two brief stops later, I gave up and overnighted at a Walmart in Staunton, VA, 150 miles from Romney.  I was sick with dehydration and from running exclusively on Cliff bars.

An early start and lots of shifting along rt 50 brought me thru the fog to my destination, deploying the bike in the Romney parking lot by about 9:30AM.

Expecting a large crowd, I parked close to the only other "RV" yet to arrive to allow room for other would be later-comers who never materialized.  I needlessly crowded Ann and Mike from Ohio, whose company I would enjoy for my whole stay in Romney.
Having spent more than a full day driving to come to WV to ride, I got right to it.  I headed SW, in the general direction of Dolly Sods, with no particular course in mind.  In short order I was between a pair of sheer rock walls with a creek to one side of the road.  I pulled off to absorb the place for a while.  I listened to the birds and smiled up at the rock faces for at least a full 15 minutes before a single car went by.  The solitude and pace of this place is restorative.

Still not having really eaten much besides a few Cliff bars since breakfast yesterday, I stopped at a Sheetz for fuel and a sandwich.  I parked next to pair of cruisers and chatted for a bit with their friendly riders, who'd both come some distance to meet here and start a trip together.

On to Dolly Sods.  I have nothing but fond memories of the long, easy, gravel roads that lead up to and along the wilderness here.  I've traveled them two or three times, so it's officially "tradition."  I don't go to WV without climbing up here.  I crawled out onto some of the Bear Rocks, took some pics, and spent another half hour just being there: watching the hawks, guesstimating distances, feeling small, and contemplating the unfathomable time and forces involved in such a place coming into existence.  For another half hour, I did not see or hear another human or their machinery.  If there was a drug that made me feel like that in "real life", I'd be an addict.

On the way back to Romney, I passed thru a cut which wouldn't have merited more than a smile for most of my life.  Living on a sandbar denies one any sense of "vertical" and "geology."  I stopped here, shot some GoPro riding thru, and picked at the frangible sandstone layers.

Another overlook on the highway back to camp.  Pictures.. justice.. had to be there.

A roadside cut just outside of the town of Romney.  Again, mountain folk are probably oblivious to this sort of thing.  The little green band on top is a forest.  If those trees are 20-40' tall, how big is this cut?

Back at camp, the food concessionaires fed me well, and I was cordially invited to hang out with my neighbors under their canopy.  I eventually turned in to a warm, dry, camper, which - despite having no hookups - had a half tank of Florida water and a house battery to pump it.  The difference in luxury between a truck camper and a tent approaches infinity.


Saturday morning, the food vendors again fed me well, and again I was cordially invited to eat breakfast with my new friends next door.  We talked about riding plans and ultimately decided the three of us would do the Green Ridge loop.  We set out for what turned out to be a long, slow, somewhat boring slog.  At a gas stop we all expressed disappointment at the lack of "off pavement" travel this supplied route included.
Eventually, tho, we reached the muddy part.  Very early on, we passed an abandoned rail tunnel in the woods.  We stopped for pics and a look around. Before we started moving, I set up the GoPro.

I was soon confronted by the first of what would be several mud/ water crossings which were a bit intimidating for a 600+ lb bike with no crashbars, active financing, and a rider used to riding solo and turning around when the possibility of a big drop with expensive damage looms large.  Gentle encouragement from Mike and Ann saw my courage up to passing thru several situations which seemed as simple and effortless on the way out as they seemed dicey and potentially disastrous on the way in.

My sudden short stop here caused Ann to fold up behind me and drop her bike. In my mind, the bottom of these puddles was somewhere between greasy (lose traction and dump it) and squishy (bury the back tire to the axle).  Alone, as equipped, I would absolutely have turned back here after psyching myself out about dumping it in BFE.  The bottom was solid, the crossing uneventful.

The three of us sloshed thru the woods for rest of the route, stopping at a scenic overlook for some pics which I now can't find.  After crossing the wooden toll bridge back into WV from Maryland, we split up and I sprinted back to camp, where I was again fed, and again supped with Mike and Ann.

My "street cred" from the morning's festivities would later get largely washed away by the rain.

After lunch, Mike loaded up his GPS with the "easy dirt" route, and I headed back out under threatening skies.
The route was dry and rocky, affording much faster travel than the morning's unpaved sections.  My confidence boosted from earlier successes, I started sliding the back around corners and wringing it out a bit.  It's still a 600lb bike, but I begin to see where a confident, skilled, off-roader would push this bike.

At some point along the route, I passed an abandoned homestead along the side of the road.  A house and several weathered outbuildings in the slow process of collapse and overgrown with trees beckon the imagination to invent details of the lives of the people who must have lived here.
Their story inexorably ends when a tipping point between being able to maintain the property - or maybe being worth it - is crossed, and nature slowly reclaims the land.
Places like this are an homage to the mercilessness of time.  People sat on that porch, slept in those rooms upstairs.  People lived their lives here - possibly for generations.

With waning light and threatening weather, I again pointed my bike towards Dolly Sods.  I climbed up from the Bear Rocks side into dense fog and limited visibility to birth another tradition: the threat of running out of gas on top of Dolly Sods.  When I reached the other end, I clutched in and coasted the 5 or 6 miles out of the clouds and down to the highway and gassed up at the first town I came to.  A high-speed slog back to camp up rt 220 - my gear did a fair job of keeping me dry as the rain started about 30 minutes out.

Back at camp, I was fed the "free meal", with cake.  Again I ate with Mike and Ann sheltered from the rain under their canopy, reviewing the day's highlights.  Rain pushed the raffle and speeches into the dealership.
In the dying light following the formal rally activities, I decided to load up and put a few hours behind me.  After securing the bike on the trailer, I went next door to say my goodbyes and thank-you's.  Not surprisingly, I was invited to sit down and ended up talking to Mike and Ann for a few more hours.  Intermittently, "squeaky Pete," a drunk KTM guy from DC with the noisiest boots ever made, would slur something derogatory about Mike's KLR or ask how things were going from the campfire nearby.  I tried to be delicate about expressing some of my crazier opinions.

Sunday morning I got out before 7AM and rolled many, many miles home in intermittent rain and fog.  Somewhere in GA a strange noise revealed that the camper's siding had succumbed to the wind and was being peeled off.  I wedged our outdoor mat between the roof of the truck and the camper overhang to prevent further destructive flapping and made it the rest of the way home without further incident.  

Somewhere along the way, I was passed by a truck with a heavy equipment load. Someone had strapped down a Tonka truck on the empty half of the flatbed trailer.  I wish I could meet the person who did this.