August's First Sunday Ride


Jeff Hughes


Route 211 westbound, chasing my shadow towards Thornton Gap. It's a little after 7:00 am - some forty minutes since I left Warrenton. Traffic is nonexistent and I just know that this is going to be a special day. A cold front Friday has left behind a clear, crisp weekend - a rare respite from the normal August heat and humidity. It's actually cold as I ride past Sperryville - and I'm glad for the Aerostitch.

Entering Shenandoah National Park the twisting road splits into two lanes leading up the mountain - the mountain that is the reason for this rather indirect route to Afton. I hold a steady, crisp pace through the turns and the seven-week old K1100RS rewards me with a sweet, smooth, and powerful drive through the esses. I love this bike; I love this road; and I love this day.

Topping the mountain, the ride down into the Luray valley is spectacular. A rope of cottony cloud cover running the length of the valley, in both directions as far as the eye can see, rises into the sky. It obscures the bottom half the Massanutten range. I wish briefly for my cameras and a tripod, but they can wait - today is a day for riding.

Down into the valley, and a left hook down route 340. I ride into the cloud cover - actually a huge body of fog rising from the Shenandoah River. Visibility drops to maybe fifty feet inside the fog and I have to slow way down. But it soon dissipates and I bring the K-bike back up to a steady eighty. Eating miles, I fly down the valley.

At Grottoes I intend a pit stop at a roadside gas station; and coffee at the 7/11 next door. The gas station is closed, however. Well, uh, OK - maybe a small coffee.


I arrive at the Howard Johnson's at Afton a bit after nine with a hundred new and memorable miles on the clock - a wonderful prelude to the BRB First Sunday ride. Steve Coburn and a coterie of other riders are already there, enjoying breakfast.

I've always enjoyed the anticipation that accompanies the breakfast before a ride - the day stretches before you like a smiling beacon. Here, the food is good and the company is fine. And I have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of several BRB'rs I hadn't met before.

We've got maybe a dozen riders. The bikes are the usual mix of K and R type - leavened with a lone Kawasaki sport bike and a single, spectacularly beautiful, customized Harley-Davidson. The big V-twin is one of the nicest Harley's I've ever seen.

From the Ho Jo's we roll south down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Steve is riding his K100RS this day, and pulls out in the lead. The rest of us follow behind him - a rolling riot of sound and color.


If I were forced to choose a single road to ride on for the rest of my life, there is no doubt that this would be the one. And it seems no coincidence to me that so many BRB rides start with, end on, or somehow otherwise include a section of this great road. Clean, scrubbed pavement, sweeping curves, the lack of any cross traffic, and beautiful countryside conspire to make this road compelling. For me, this road is the yardstick against which all others are measured.

Our ride this morning will take us down to route 56, where we head west to Vesuvius and Steele's Tavern. We lose one rider - Boyd Anderson peels off for home; and gain two more - Alan Ross joins us halfway down the mountain and David "Raz" Rasmussen joins us at Vesuvius. Raz must have heard us coming down the mountain because he is already rolling when we come around the turn into the little town. He takes the lead and will be our guide for the rest of this ride.

From Steele's Tavern we ride through Raphine and Brownsburg. The countryside is a menagerie: rolling hills, farms, old barns, log cabins, country stores, and the odd house trailer. Traffic is light and our pace is gentle. Time enough to relax and enjoy everything.

We push on towards Goshen. The pass is a popular destination and it's already starting to get busy by the time we roll through - several fishermen are already wading the water, picnic'rs and hikers walking above. Several motorcycles are parked along the road and our group waves. I make a mental note to come back sometime with a flyrod and test the river for smallmouth.

We pick up route 39 and head west. Near Millboro Springs we stop for a ten minute break. Raz hands out cue sheets and, studying the proffered map, I'm surprised and delighted to find that our intended route further west, where we'll be skirting the Appalachian range, will be 600 and 84 instead of 220. Route 220 from Warm Springs to Monterey is a nice, pleasant road - but route 600 is smaller, tighter and has more character. Anticipation again.

First, though, it's time for lunch. We pack up and head out route 39, over one mountain and down past Warm Springs. A few more easy miles and we arrive in Hot Springs - famous for The Homestead resort and it's hot spring baths, the feature which gave this town it's name. Our destination is Sam Snead's tavern, where we enjoy a cool and delightful repast among quaint surroundings and pleasant company. The consensus opinion is that a return to Sam's is indicated. Another mental note.

Leaving Hot Springs, Raz leads us, via a circuitous route, back to 39. On the way we ride through Bacova, a pleasant little town noted for it's one industry - the manufacture of those fiberglass, ivory-colored mailboxes, with various wildlife scenes, that one sees across Virginia.

Then the good stuff. Route 39 rolls over another mountain and Raz sharpens the pace just a bit. Down the far side we skirt the trout waters of Back creek. And a few miles from the West Virginia border we turn north on route 600 at Mountain Grove. From there to Monterey is about a fifty minute ride. The topography hardens as we proceed north and move from Bath to Highland county. Highland is known as Little Switzerland and it feels it. Hard-edged farms. And the hills here are not rolling - they are sharp and steep and rocky. Wonderful, beautiful country.

At the crossroads town of Hightown we turn back east on route 250. From here, Monterey is only five or six miles away. But they are five or six special miles. Clean pavement, little traffic, a rarefied atmosphere, and turn upon turn of esses - up, around, and over the mountain. Raz, the master of this road, bumps the pace again. Left-right, left-right jabs over good asphalt with clean, smooth transitions. Unmitigated delight.

Monterey arrives all too soon and we stop again. I ask Raz if he rides that stretch of road very often - it sure looked like he does. He smiles. And I force myself to resist the urge to re-trace our way and ride it again. But I will be back.

After resting, our troupe continues east on 250. The trip from Monterey back towards Waynesboro is quiet and pleasant. Riders slowly begin to peel away, like planes rolling out of formation, at various points. Raz slips away at Churchville. And our group ride slowly dissolves back into the individual rides that most of us began the day with. Another great BRB ride is in the books...

© 1994 Jeff Hughes