Great ride through rural areas in the mid-Appalachians
A customer from Silver Spring, MD on 10/3/09
If you're looking for a challenging ride through rural, unpopulated, open Appalachian country this is great. Most of the towns on the map are really just cross roads with a few houses. Lots of wonderful down hills (and the corresponding climbs)! This route travels through a region of the country that is still open, quiet and dark. Quiet enough to hear the echo of a distant dog barking down a creek valley, cicadas screaming at dusk, dark enough to see the clouds of the Milky Way, and stumble upon areas filled with colorful and giant mushrooms. The maps take a while to decode. First: decide clockwise or counterclockwise (counterclockwise seems the better choice). Then: there are three cut-offs to shorten the ride and one alternative. And plan on camping! My son and I rode the full route, nine days, clockwise; no alternatives, in mid-August. OK, I need a couple of lower gears but walking three short stretches I made it with no problems. Be ready for "limited" and missing grocery stores. This is rural America; economic hard times close stores and your choice may be 3-year old boxed macaroni and cheese or week old vegetables. The people are lovely; stop to visit and talk; you'll find what help you need. Listen, you'll hear a side of America that is disappearing. Be aware of the profiles, read the maps and the road descriptions. There are gravel roads. These are ridaeable on a touring (or a fatter tire) bike without a problem, but don't expect skinny tires to survive. We had the two rails-to-trails conversions on the second half of the ride; it was a wonderful, three-day loooong downhill along the Greenbrier River. The West Fork Trail feels unkempt, the Greenbrier River Trail is a luxury and worth a trip in itself. This 73-mile section of the trail has its own support organization and map (see http://www.greenbrierrivertrail.com/). Read the directions carefully. I missed two turns that each took a fair number of miles to realize. There are road signs where the map indicates they're missing, and signs missing that the map doesn't note. Such is the problem with prepared directions in a dynamic world. Carefully watch your way in the Durbin area. I had a tough time figuring out the close configuration of roads; a detailed inset would help. We rode this 'cause we were looking at the last minute for a near by week long ride. It was great.