The Monterey Run
If you have been following along at home you’ll recall that last month I wrote about the pleasures of riding the country roads of rural West Virginia. That first article described riding on one of my favorite routes, the Highland Scenic Highway. The truth is there are so many great rides through the WV countryside that I find it very hard to pick a favorite. A ride I never tire of is one I call “The Monterey Run” because it does a 140 mile loop from Snowshoe through the town of Monterey, VA and eventually returns back to Snowshoe. What makes this ride special are the open farm vistas you encounter along the route through the roads connecting WV and VA.
There is very little open country around here and this valley gives a rider a great perspective of the countryside that is hard to get elsewhere. If you picture a large, shallow soup bowl you’ll get an idea of what this area looks like. The first leg of the ride takes the back road from Snowshoe and runs 15 miles along WV 66 through the town of Cass, WV and connects with WV routes 92 & 28. This stretch will get your adrenalin going quickly because it combines negotiating some steep (9%) forest lined grades with several switchbacks that are surprisingly tricky if you are not paying attention. A few cups of coffee to start the day should help your attention span; but you shouldn’t over do it, because you will have to give the stuff back somewhere along the way.
Cass is noted for its rare collection of working Shay steam engines. It is now a WV state park but around the turn of the last century it was an active logging company town. The Shays were used to haul timber down the steep inclines of the surrounding mountains to an awaiting rail connection which would carry the timber to market.
At the intersection of WV 66 and 28/92 you head south to the village of Frost. This road is usually lightly traveled so, on a warm summer day, I set my cruise control to 50, get my feet on the highway pegs and enjoy the passing scenery of farms and scattered houses. One house that always amuses me when I pass it advertises that the owner collects hats. He seems to have a lot; I never donated mine because I need all the Harley hats I can get. After about 20 miles of gently winding road Rt. 92 intersects with WV 84 at Frost. To even call Frost a village is to be generous: it’s mainly a few houses, a post office and a church. There is also a place called the “Inn at Mountain Quest”.
This place has always been kind of mysterious to me: it’s in the absolute middle of nowhere and I’ve never seen anyone staying there. I think it’s really a CIA front, but I can’t prove it. Anyway, here you take WV 84 east to Vanderpool, VA, a run of about 20 miles. For me, this road is what you dream about when you think about riding a motorcycle: no traffic, beautiful scenery, straight and twisty roads, streams with swimming holes, hills and valleys – all rolled into one package. My favorite part is a section that opens up into a wide vista (remember the soup bowl) as you descend into the valley after going through a heavily forested stretch of road. No single photo can do the area justice but here is one I borrowed from the Chamber of Commerce which gives an idea.
Vanderpool is yetn another group of farms and homes collected into a village and lies at the intersection of US 220 and VA 84. Here you turn north on Rt. 220 and ride about 5 miles into the town of Monterey. Monterey (pop. 144) is the biggest place around the area which is known as Highland County. It is something of a tourist destination because of the festivals that run through the year. I think the biggest attraction is the Maple Festival, which occurs each March. As one who is fan of maple syrup, I can attest that their stuff is mighty fine. Monterey has some restaurants, a small hotel or two and some shops selling local crafts. It is also at the intersection of US Rts. 220 and 250 – the major roads – so, if there is any traffic in the area, it usually goes through here. Last year I met a man in his 80’s here who was a long time biker but, due to health issues, could no longer handle a two-wheeler.
So, he traded his Harley for a home-made trike – a contraption cobbled together out of a VW body and a Honda Gold Wing front end. It looked pretty strange but it allowed him to keep riding; and for that he was one happy dude. From Monterey the loop turns west along US 250 toward Huttonsville, WV about 35 miles away. This part of the run is great fun: it combines some pretty steep climbs and descents with several sharp turns. There are even a few straight stretches too, so there is a lot of variety along the way. Somewhere on this road a biker hit a bear crossing the road last year and had to be Medevac’d out. Now that’s a hazard you At the half-way point you pass through Durbin, WV which is next to Frank, WV, in case you were wondering. Durbin is the home of the Durbin Rocket, a tourist excursion train which runs about 10 miles along the Greenbrier River. You can also grab an ice cream cone here, which on a hot summer day, is always in order.
There is plenty of parking in Durbin, so don’t worry. Continuing on Rt. 250 you eventually reach Huttonsville where you pick up US 219 for the return to Snowshoe. Huttonsville is a pretty large town, mainly because most of the residents are inmates of the state prison (or, if you prefer, “correctional facility”) there. There is a good view of the prison from the road as you enter the town (better to be on the outside looking in, I always say). I don’t think they give tours. However, break enough laws and you do get a free pass. The other attraction in the town is the Exxon station/ Subway where you can feed your bike and yourself at the same time.
The last leg of this tour picks up US 219 south to Snowshoe, about 35 miles away. This part of the road is pretty routine riding: OK scenery, several tiny villages and fairly light traffic. There are some interesting stretches of climbs and descents, but after the roads you just travelled over, it is just “average”. Nevertheless, the worst day on this road is almost always better than the best day riding roads around Philadelphia; and, there is some advertising you don’t see every day as well.
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