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Topic: The Virginia 600's: SR678 and SR654  (Read 5325 times)

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SWriverstone
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« on: January 09, 2008, 11:14:48 AM »

Virginia has one of the largest secondary highway systems in the country, with 48,305 miles of roads. The system was created in 1932 when the Great Depression caused the state to take over most county roads. In 1932, only 2,000 miles of the system was paved. In 1972, only 400 miles remained unpaved. The roads are numbered in the 600s and higher, and though there is no specific logic to the location of road numbers, they are often clustered in a given area, and the road number is roughly indicative of the road's age (the lower the number, the older the road).

When I first began motorcycling, I noticed that many of the "600's" were great to ride and began seeking them on maps. I recently decided to begin riding as many of them as possible and document the best ones. With the incredibly warm weather and sunny skies yesterday, I decided to take the day off and go exploring. I'd targeted a few 600's in Bath and Highland counties, but had no idea what I'd find. Happily, I hit the jackpot!

With winter daylight in short supply, I got an early start and was on the road by 7:30am...



I fueled up in Charles Town, then rode over to I-81. My plan was to slab south as far as possible, then head west and return via backroads. At 8am, the temperature was already 51F degrees. Even so, I wore my electric jacket just to stay comfortable at interstate speeds. 120 miles later, I took a coffee break in Staunton, Virginia—right next to the ominous remains of the former Western State Hospital. Once called the Western State Lunatic Asylum, I couldn't think of a better place to film an episode of "Ghosthunters."



I rode another 30 miles south on the interstate, then exited at Lexington and headed west on Rt.39. A well-known motorcycle road, Rt.39 runs through Goshen Pass along the Maury River. It's undoubtedly one of the best roads in Virginia, and I had it all to myself on this Tuesday morning.







As a whitewater kayaker, I've run the Maury several times. It's an extremely challenging, solid class 3-4 run for experts only. It's worth noting too that the river level seen in these photos is far below what's considered a good runnable level. Still, looking at all the rocks, you can imagine what a boiling cauldron it becomes in higher water. The image below shows one rapid in particular where I received a serious thrashing on my first run—when I wasn't ready for it.





I appreciated the stonework around the huge boulders along the road...



It was around 11:30am and had warmed up into the 60s. I pulled over to remove a few layers, then spent a few minutes trying to capture some of the beautiful detail in the pass...







Halfway through the pass is a monument to Virginia-born explorer Matthew Maury (after whom the river is named). I love the caption: "Pathfinder of the seas—the genius who first snatched from ocean and atmosphere the secret of their laws" — excellent!  Thumbsup



Though the view is partially blocked by trees, the image below shows the biggest, scariest rapid on this river: Hell's Kitchen. And I can tell you from personal experience that in high water, it is truly solid class 4 hell.  Crazy Many paddlers (including myself) have gotten trashed here, partly because there is no clear line through—it's just a jumble of car-sized boulders, sluices, drops, and holes! When the river is up, this section is awe-inspiring.



Just outside the town of Goshen I saw this neat old truss bridge...





I continued west a bit farther on Rt.39 until I reached one of my target 600's: SR678. As soon as I turned north onto 678, it looked like a winner.







The pavement was smooth, clean (no gravel anywhere), and the absolute desolation of this part of the state was almost mystical. For two hours I never saw another vehicle...and at every stop by the road, the only sound I heard was the wind in the trees and the flowing water in the Cowpasture and Bullpasture rivers. The road just went on and on, and seemed to flow through a perfect combination of straights, sweepers, rollers, and twisties.











Continued in next post...



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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 11:26:13 AM »

The beauty of SR678 is that it changes character several times as it winds its way north. Almost exactly as I entered Highland County, the road left the Bullpasture River valley and climbed into a steep gorge...



In spite of the 60-degree weather, there were still signs of winter along the road...



Eventually the road emerged from the gorge and joined the Upper Bullpasture, which rushed along and had the most crystal, emerald water I'd seen in a long time. Several flyfishermen had also taken the day off, making me wish I had more time and my flyrod!











The Clover Creek Presbyterian church was in a beautiful spot with nothing else around. I parked the bike and spent a good 15-20 minutes walking around the beautiful little church and cemetary on the hill behind it. The profound quiet was moving.







A reminder that even as recently as 1957, good medical care was probably pretty tough to find in a hurry in this part of the state...



This gravestone was pretty impressive...



And here was something I'd never seen: several members of the same family (McClung) with the same stone.





I sat in the grass for a few minutes and simply existed, wishing I could be laid to rest someday in such a peaceful place.

Continued in next post...
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2008, 11:47:56 AM »

SR678 continued north and eventually ended at Rt.250 in the little town of McDowell. I could have rode back east on 250, but I'd already done that a few times, and was more interested in following the 600's. I stopped at a little country grocery for lunch, which I enjoyed sitting on a bench outside the store...







I felt a lot like this pup...just content and a little sleepy sitting in the warm sun...



From McDowell, SR654 continued north through the town of Doe Hill and across a corner of West Virginia, where it became CR23.





I saw this sign on a fence in Doe Hill. Somewhat depressing. I made a mental note to look up any planned wind power projects in the area. (The wind was blowing a constant 20 knots at the time.)





The moronic Governor of West Virginia recently decided to change the state's motto to "Open For Business," a move that pissed off a huge number of West Virginians, including myself. So I was happy to see the old motto still alive and well in these parts...













After crossing into West Virginia, CR23 (which becomes CR25 and then runs to CR21) ends at Brandywine and Route 33. As it was now around 3pm and I knew I only had a couple hours of daylight left, I figured I'd have to bite the bullet and head back east on Rt.33.  Lol It was a blast, and especially nice because there was zero eastbound traffic and the low afternoon sunlight made the high pass glow.

Back into Virginia, I turned north again off of Rt.33 onto another one of the 600's, SR612. This was nice, but nothing like the transcendental experience of SR678...



In the town of Orkney Springs, I was surprised to come across a huge and beautiful Episcopal Retreat...





As I continued north, I noticed the sun about to slip behind the ridge to the west, so I stopped at a small church up on a hill for a last shot of the sun...



I reached Rt.42 and took that east back to I-81 at Woodstock, where after a quick coffee break, I slabbed the 70 miles back to Harpers Ferry. Here are my GPS stats for the day:



It was an incredible ride, and I was happy to have found another fantastic road among the 600's. SR678/SR654/CR23/CR25 is an amazing, unbroken north-south 60 miles of superb scenery, excellent sweepers and twisties, clean pavement, and mountain passes. This stretch roughly parallels Rt.220 in West Virginia...and as much as some people like 220, I can tell you it's nothing like 678! So if you're ever passing this way, don't miss this set of 600's! I'd rate it a solid 8 (maybe 9) out of 10.

Here's a map:



Scott
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2008, 11:51:04 AM »

Lucky you. I've never been riding in Virginia, but seeing your great pictures has put it on my to-do list. Looks like some sweet roads there.

We're snow/ice bound here in Idaho so it's good to see some ride reports from elsewhere.

Thanks for posting.
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2008, 11:57:46 AM »

Excellent report & pics! Thumbsup  I've been able to ride almost all the way through VA on the 600 roads - we did that last year going to & from VIR.

Staunton would be another good base of operations for a Region 6 ride 'n meet later in the year.  Lotsa good restaurants in that town...
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2008, 11:59:07 AM »

That route from Brandywine to 39 is excellent. I've done that before and plan to hit it again in 2008. I've hit a few of the other 6xx roads in the area and want to explore more of them. Nice pics too.
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 12:08:38 PM »

This is one I will have to try myself. Very good ride report. Thumbsup
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2008, 12:30:17 PM »

Very nice report and great pics. Thanks for sharing. Wink
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2008, 12:33:37 PM »

Great pics!  I'll have to take some time down that way this summer when we have more daylight.  
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2008, 12:45:58 PM »

Excellent report! Love the pics that you took of the area. I could feel the chill in the air even here in SD.

You should really post more of these reports and less of the more controversial threads you start. Razz

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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2008, 01:19:03 PM »

Awesome report!  Thumbsup
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2008, 01:28:15 PM »

Good report - loved the pics.
The NoVA crew has gotten lost many times in that area - but I think 654 is a new one for me.
I agree - 220 is overrated - next time we will try this new option.
-DNA
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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2008, 01:45:04 PM »

Here a couple thoughts on other 6xx roads in the area:

629 also runs between 250 and 39, but isn't as nice as 678 IMO. The southern end of 629 (nearer 39) is better.

614/CR-21 runs between Sugar Grove and 250. It's not a bad road either. Meanders thru the valleys with farms and woods.

600 (near the WV/VA border) is a nice enough way to connect 39 to 250 as well. You actually take 600 to 84 to 640.

640 is supposed to be nice north of 250
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2008, 02:28:23 PM »

Good notes Garry. The thing that boggles my mind is the sheer mileage of 600 roads that (likely) nobody has ever ridden. When you ride along those roads (678, 629, 600, 654, etc.) you ride past many *other* 600 roads, and every one of them looks great! I'd bet for every 600 road any of us has ridden, there are several more we've ridden past without ever exploring.

Of course generally speaking, most roads in that part of Virginia (Highland, Bath, and Allegheny counties) are superior to roads farther north (in Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties) simply from a far lower population density. (Of course there are some good roads farther north, just not as many.)

Interestingly, a benefit of winter riding in areas where nobody lives is that the roads are clean! They're not clean because there is less snow...but because there are fewer people (and school buses) who travel them...so they don't tend to get the "gravel overkill" treatment.

Scott
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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2008, 02:56:57 PM »

Great pictures Scott and excellent choice of subjects to post!
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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2008, 03:41:44 PM »

Nice to be riding in January - and on twisty roads too Thumbsup
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« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2008, 04:36:42 PM »

I keep trying to convince myself that New Jersey is a great state for riding, but pics like these keep reminding me of how much more is out there but just out of reach for a day ride.  

Great pics too.  
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« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2008, 04:50:28 PM »

Nice job, Scott!
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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2008, 05:22:21 PM »

Scotty your my idol! Hail Hail Hail
I wish I could ride more like you (and with you), but first and foremost I've got to learn how to slow down and smell the roses... Burnout
I've got two brother-in-laws in the N. Virginia area where I could set up base camp. It looks like day rides to where you rode would be no problem???
Oh ya, the wheels are turning... Smile
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« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2008, 07:45:26 PM »

Nicely concise but still descriptive ride report Scott. I found myself daydreaming reading your captions and viewing your sun inspired photos. The increased tempo of my day seemed to diminish in pace until I was reinspired once again for rural country and for a moment to breathe and relax, all of this among the white wash of a network operations center. Thanks.
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« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2008, 09:24:53 PM »

Great pictures, Scott.  Thumbsup Thumbsup Thumbsup


Too bad some jackass kept parking his butt-ugly V-Strom in your shots.  Bigsmile
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« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2008, 10:25:35 PM »

 Nice one! Clap

We need a Pashnit style web page for West Virginia.

I nominate you  Bigsmile
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« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2008, 11:40:38 PM »

Nice passel of pics. I recognized many of the spots in your pics... I usually hit most of those roads once or twice a year, because I can't stop myself.

Thanks for posting the ride. Wish I'd been there!
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2008, 06:45:07 AM »

Thanks for the good feedback all. I neglected to mention above that all these roads are within a half-hour's ride from Marlinton, site of the ESTN '08 meet...so they should definitely be on the list of ride options!  Thumbsup

Scott
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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2008, 07:37:27 AM »

I really enjoyed that, Scott.  Thank you.  

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« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2008, 08:21:39 AM »

Scott, I'm green w/ envy right now.  That looks like a great ride.

The NE loop I'm messing around with for ESTN includes Rt. 21, which I believe you took to get to 23 at Sugar Grove.  Then I pick up 614 down to Head Waters off Rt 250.  

I see 678 off of 250 running south before Monterey, I may need to amend the trip to include it.  Drool
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« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2008, 08:36:10 AM »

Another "mandatory" side trip when riding in the area of CR21 is to ride up to Reddish Knob (via CR25)---yes, it's paved all the way to the summit, where there is a parking lot and views like this...



Here's the town of Sugar Grove...



And here's a view along CR25...



There are definitely a ton of great roads in the area that aren't major US highways (like 33 and 250 and 220).  Thumbsup

Scott

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« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2008, 09:20:46 AM »

Nice shots Scott


BTW was it just me, or did anybody else have a giggle when the first photo to pop up after the preamble "only 400 miles of unpaved roads" was a photo of an adventure tourer with semi-knobbly tyres... Razz

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« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2008, 10:42:57 AM »

Man I hate not having a motorcycle!! Thanks for the post Scott!!  Thumbsup
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« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2008, 07:54:29 PM »

Good eye, Scott. I need to spend more time in WV. Great write up. Bigok
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« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2008, 12:52:09 AM »

great report/pics.  i rode some of those (brandywine to rt 39) last year.  can't wait to get back down there!
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« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2008, 09:03:12 AM »

Truly, this ranks with ride reports by Orson and ElTee.  Well done.  Bigok

But, uh, keep writtin' this stuff and VA and WByGodVA will go the way of Deal's Gap...   Wink
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« Reply #32 on: January 11, 2008, 09:26:30 AM »

Really nice ride report!  Thumbsup Thumbsup Thumbsup The pics were fantastice! What camera set up were you using? The zoom ins were full of incredible detail.
Thanks,
Eric
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« Reply #33 on: January 11, 2008, 04:48:08 PM »


Really nice ride report!  Thumbsup Thumbsup Thumbsup The pics were fantastice! What camera set up were you using? The zoom ins were full of incredible detail.
Thanks,
Eric


Glad you liked it Eric! I really enjoy those long solo rides when I can stop anytime without worrying about irritating anyone else.  Smile My camera is nothing special---a Canon Powershot S2, around $400, 5 megapixel. The thing I like about it is that it has a 12x optical zoom---more than any other camera in that price range...and that really comes in handy. (I have no clue what that translates to in normal 35mm lens equivalents, but I'd guess something like 300mm?)

Scott
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« Reply #34 on: January 13, 2008, 09:47:34 PM »

Great report Scott.

I can see that I'll have to zoom in a little in MapSource and start considering the smaller road.  I'm in Pittsburgh PA and that would be a nice weekend trip for me.

Thanks
John
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« Reply #35 on: January 14, 2008, 11:47:13 AM »

Scott,
I have been bikeless since fall waiting on my BMW to arrive. It's here & I'm going to pick it up this week. I'll post some pics when i pick it up. Maybe we can go for a ride sometime? I'm about an hour & a half from you & have to ride out in your direction to find any interesting roads!  Wink
Eric
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« Reply #36 on: January 14, 2008, 01:24:59 PM »

I hear there's 100% chance of snow, ice, and rain forecast for the Arlington, VA area for the foreseeable future.  Do you have anything to do with that?  Hmmm...?   Razz
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« Reply #37 on: January 14, 2008, 06:28:02 PM »


Scott,
I have been bikeless since fall waiting on my BMW to arrive. It's here & I'm going to pick it up this week. I'll post some pics when i pick it up. Maybe we can go for a ride sometime? I'm about an hour & a half from you & have to ride out in your direction to find any interesting roads!  Wink
Eric


Sure Eric---let me know, it would be fun to do some riding. I've actually got to "pay the piper" by doing some maintenance on both my bikes (I've been letting it slide for a while)...weekend project I guess!

Scott
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« Reply #38 on: January 17, 2008, 07:00:33 PM »

Scott,

Truly one of the best ride reports I've read to date. Your pictures and subject matter says it all..And that you enjoyed it on twisties alone on clean roads with no traffic, would be ZEN for sure. Dude, you rock on many levels. Wonderful road choices to consider for Sept.

Excellent! More pics and stories please... Its Snowing here tonight.... and we're goin in the Freezer this weekend  Thumbsdown

Now get that maintenance done!.. you been sayin you need to do that 1000 miles ago... Lol

Hope to get back down that way soon,

Jerry
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« Reply #39 on: January 18, 2008, 02:28:27 PM »

Country Roads...take me home...to the place...I belong...

Great eye for photography.  It's suprisingly difficult to stage a bike in a good landscape shot.  Well done.  The sun setting behind the scooter is my fav..

It's also just as difficult to stop moving long enough to just "be".  Thanks for reminding me.
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« Reply #40 on: January 20, 2008, 03:08:33 PM »

WONDERFULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL PICS I am soooo missing the nice weather.  I can not wait for the weather to break.  Nice job Scott.  Say hey to Holly for me.  Hope all is well.  Chris
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« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2008, 07:52:24 PM »

Thanks for the excelent report and pics.

A sublime part of the world!
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« Reply #42 on: January 30, 2008, 02:15:39 AM »

Love the road shots, and that shot of the small town with the church!  Like something out of a movie! Inlove
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« Reply #43 on: January 30, 2008, 02:48:33 AM »

Very well done.   Thumbsup  I liked that you included a gas station pic, too.   Bigsmile
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« Reply #44 on: January 30, 2008, 02:34:59 PM »

Great ride report.  I can't wait to have more weather like that.  Thanks for the work you put into your ride report.... it was like I was with you for the journey.
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« Reply #45 on: February 05, 2008, 06:31:26 PM »

great report, and brilliant pics!!! Thumbsup Bigok
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« Reply #46 on: February 06, 2008, 10:57:57 AM »

Just lovely!  It's gotta be a real slice of heaven to have roads like that so close to home.   Thumbsup
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« Reply #47 on: September 21, 2008, 08:50:59 PM »

I figured I'd drag this up from the archives.  I was pondering where to ride today & ran across this report.  I lived in that area years ago but never had the chance to cover it on a bike.  So I did hit 678 & a few others & remembered how awesome that area is.  The round trip was just under 300 miles & I recognized most of the pictures when I read the report.  So thanks for the report I have rediscovered 100's of miles that I had almost forgot about:deadhorse:.  Please keep the reports rolling!
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« Reply #48 on: September 22, 2008, 07:40:19 AM »

I was raised in Staunton, but have not made it to the 600s...something to look forward to. A wonderful photographic eye as well...kudos!/ LT
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