November's First Sunday Ride


Jeff Hughes


The day certainly did not start auspiciously - at 6am a heavy rain pounded Warrenton, less than three hours before our scheduled breakfast meeting. Looking outside, as dawn slowly lit the eastern sky, I shook my head - and resigned myself to a rain ride. At 7am I pulled my maps out. The original route I had planned took us up in the mountains. With rain would come mist and fog, though, so I spent the next hour mapping a couple of alternate, low-lying routes.

Rain cover over the tank bag, Aerostich all buttoned up, and rain gloves handy; I set out a few minutes before nine to ride the few miles to Warrenton. Steve and I had talked about this ride earlier in the Summer - a Northern Virginia ride which might attract some of our members living there. I was hopeful, but doubtful, of the outcome. Even in the best of weather I questioned what kind of turnout was likely. And given the rain, I figured this might be the first ever BRB ride where the only attendee was the ride leader So I was kind of stunned when, turning into the HOJO's parking lot at 9:05, there were already half a dozen bikes there.

Our breakfast hour was terrific. It seems that every ride I go on sees fresh faces in the group. And there were a lot of them today. Folks continued to arrive; and they came from all over. Winchester, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and all points in between. David Taylor rode up from Richmond on his brand new R1100GS. He figured the ride would be a good opportunity to get in some break-in miles. The sun even came out.


By ten we had fifteen or more bikes on hand. The sky was turning blue everywhere and the roads were nearly dry. A brief rider's meeting to review of the rules of engagement and we were off.

We headed west out of Warrenton and then out over some of the secondary roads in central Fauquier county. The countryside here is quiet and rural. Expensive horse farms share the rolling hills with simpler homes - including the odd log cabin. Glancing in my mirrors as we roll along is like watching a video - our headlights strung out in a long train, snaking through the countryside. The Beemer riding boys!

Through the little town of Orlean and then a little jog north to pick up route 647 west into Rappahannock county. This little road runs from Marshall to the tiny Blue Ridge foothills town of Flint Hill. It was one of my earliest discoveries on moving to Fauquier county in the mid-eighties; and remains one of my favorite rides.

Past Flint Hill we turn on the Fodderstack road towards the little town of Washington, Va. On this road they run a 10K foot race every April. A picturesque course, but very hilly. As we pass THE hill at four miles, I'm glad to be gliding up it today using my right wrist instead of enduring the 10K agony of searing lungs and leaden legs. I've done it both ways - right wrist is better.

Through the town of "little" Washington - settled before it's namesake across the Potomac, and actually much more pleasant. Out route 211 towards the Blue Ridge. Past Sperryville and then up the mountain to Thornton Gap. This stretch, the three miles or so up to the gap, is new to several members of our group. It's one of my favorite rides. The road splits into two lanes as it snakes, in a series of fast sweepers, up the mountain. Passing slower cars or trucks is easy because of the two lanes; and the pavement is clean and scrubbed. I bump the pace a bit going up the mountain and give the nether regions of my Battlax's a bit of workout. Sportbike nirvana.

At the top, passing under Skyline Drive, we pull into Panorama for a rest break. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the ride up the mountain. And there is even a slight touch of color left in the trees to lend emphasis to the wonderful ride. This day, which started out so bleak and wet, is turning simply delightful.


After our rest we head down the far side of the mountain, entering the Luray Valley. In front of us, bestriding the valley north to south, and splitting the smaller Luray and Page valleys from the larger Shenandoah valley further to the west, lies the Massanutten range. It is our destination.

After several miles heading west through the valley we turn south on route 340, just skirting the town of Luray as we jink west again, this time on route 675. We cross the Shenandoah river and then 675 curls north up the mountain, climbing the western slope of the valley. Looking to the right as we climb, the valley floor drops farther and farther down, and the darkened river glints back it's lazy, winding shape.

There is one overlook along this stretch and, as we approach, I debate whether to stop there. The decision is easy, though. As we come around the bend, Gene Brockman is already there, firing his camera at the serpentine approach of our group. So we stop for another ten minute rest; and to get a group photograph against the backdrop of the valley below. Gene points out, distant down into the valley, where he was first able to pick up the sight of our group - just before we began the ascent of the mountain.

Continuing, we roll north on 675 and 678, a meandering and relaxed stroll up through Fort Valley and Elizabeth Furnace. The several small communities we ride through here, really just small clusters of homes here and there, are very secluded - bounded by the escarpments of the Massanutten range. Over and down the mountain to the west lies the Shenandoah Valley; down the mountain to the east, the Page Valley. The remoteness and seclusion adds character to the place.

An hour or so later brings us out on route 55, between Strasburg and Front Royal. We head west, and a few more miles brings a gas stop. It's early afternoon and a number of our riders elect here to head home. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the ride.

The rest of us continue out west along route 55, through Strasburg, Lebanon Church, Star Tannery, and on towards the West Virginia border. It was along this route that General Fremont, coming east out of the mountains and working in concert with General Shields in Front Royal, sought to trap Stonewall Jackson in a pincer movement during the 1862 Valley Campaign (they failed). Today, we retrace Fremont's line of retreat.

Approaching West Virginia, and entering the mountain range defining that border, I bump the pace once again, turning the soft turns here into something a bit more hard-edged. Our group strings out as everyone finds their own pace. Down the mountain, now in West Virginia, we regroup and continue on into Wardensville. There, we stop at the Kacapon restaurant for lunch. The proprietor, having seen us pull in, has already pulled several tables together for us as we head through the door. The staff is thoroughly pleasant. And the owner, a pin collector himself, buys both Blue Ridge Beemer and Oilhead pins from Steve. And as if that wasn't enough, the food is delicious, as well.

Finishing lunch, our group splits up. Several members head north on 259 - which will bring them out west of Winchester. The rest head south on 259, albeit via a little detour west, then back to town, then west again. That was to warm the tires, guys!


Thanks to everyone who participated in the November ride. This was my first attempt at putting together and leading a ride. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.


© 1994 Jeff Hughes