4321 Miles, 18 States, 1 Saddlesore 1000 – Summer 2009

The next day I continued south on WV 219. This is an absolutely wonderful motorcycle road. It had been freshly paved – in some places the surface was so new that lines hadn’t been painted yet. The views were terrific, but there were no places to pull over to park in order to take pictures. Just north of Valley Head I turned right onto Rt 15 and enjoyed some twisties to rival Deals Gap. Both 219 and 15 mark the edge of the Monongahela National Forest and the scenery is beautiful. Since this is coal country, I was suprised to see wind turbines along the mountain ridges.

Wind Turbines in WV

In Craigsville I picked up 55 heading back east and reconnected with 219 at Mill Point. Just south of there I came across the historical marker for the birthplace of Pearl S Buck, author of the classic book “The Good Earth”.

Author of The Good Earth
Pearl Buck birthplace, Hillsboro WV

The Sydenstricker House, birthplace of Pearl Buck’s father, was originally in Greenbrier County. It has been dismantled, transported 40 miles, and reconstructed here for use as a cultural center.

Sydenstricker House

In Lewisburg I headed west on Rt 60 until I got to Rt 19. A few miles south on Rt. 19 and I was at the park office for the New River Gorge National River, a breathtaking gorge and recreational area. The New River Gorge National River was established in 1978 to preserve 53 miles of the New River and its gorge. “National river” designation is conferred by the National Park Service to a river of significant national value, culturally and naturally. The New River Gorge National River is a unit of the National Park System, which protects more than 70,000 acres along the New River between the towns of Hinton, WV and Fayetteville, WV.

Park facility
National Park building
The gorge (you can just makeout the old bridge through the mist)

At one time this was the biggest arch bridge in the world. It is half a mile long. One day a year, every fall, the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic so that people can jump off the bridge. Literally. It’s called Bridge Day. Some interesting facts:

  • Bridge Day is always, always, always on the 3rd Saturday in October.
  • The New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet from water to arch, giving jumpers about 7 seconds to open their chutes.
  • More people come to the bridge to rappel on Bridge Day than to BASE jump, and the vast majority of people just come to watch.
  • BASE jumping is legal on Bridge Day if you qualify for a permit. Jumpers may jump as many times as they can during the festivities.
  • Bridge Day has been going on for 30 years, and it’s the largest one day festival in West Virginia.
View from a lookout

There is a narrow, one lane, one way road that takes you down the bottom of the gorge where you can cross the river on the old bridge. This is an extremely twisty road with lots of loose gravel and debris – I’d take it only if you are very confident in your abilities. There is one section in particular on the south side of the river that is a sheer drop hundreds of feet to the bottom of the gorge and there is no guardrail. Not a good place to target fixate…big time pucker factor.

A narrow one-way road down to the river and the old bridge crossing
Looking up at the modern span
The old bridge crossing at New River Gorge
In the middle of the old bridge
An amazing engineering feat

After coming up to old road on the other side, I picked up 19 again, backtracked north to 60, and continued west to Charleston, the state capital. It was along this stretch that I picked up my souvenir lump of coal from the side of the road.

West Virginia coal country

The capital is beautiful and is right on the Kanawha river. I tooks some photos, then hit the blue line and found a motel off of I-79 just north of the city.

The state capitol of West Virginia on the Kanwha river
Me in front of the capital building

Looking back, this was the best day of riding during the entire trip. The mountains were cool, the roads spectacular, the scenery breathtaking. I’ll be going back.

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A Goldwing rider from Jacksonville, FL.

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