Rural Residential Twisties
Driving through Poor Valley
VA-80 through this part of Virginia wasn't as awesome as The Snake had been, back in Tennessee, but it was still pretty good, especially the part over Clinch Mountain / Poor mountain. And, the highway was signed mostly at 55mph. Pavement wasn't quite as perfect either.
Next came a long stretch of very scenic, very pleasant valley farmland driving. Quiet highways and byways that meandered up and around and down pasturelands and past farmhouses, framed in behind by the ridges and knobs of the wooded appalachians. Not hard-core twisties, but still definitely curvy - and again, mostly all signed at 55mph. Extremely enjoyable.
Next up - the Thompson Valley - a wide and scenic expansive of farmland nestled against Clinch Mountain, south of Tazewell. This is where VA-16, aka "The Back of the Dragon" crosses over clinch mountain, in one of it's best sections of twisties. We had first visited VA-16 back in 2008, and it's worth a run for any sports car driver who happens to be in the vicinity.
The approach up to VA-16 from the Thompson Valley was a bit noteworthy for the extensive carpet of creeping vines on both sides of the highway - up trees, cliffs, boulders, and completely covering even the armco (the highway railings).
Driving the Back of the Dragon
The best parts of VA-16 are the run up and over Clinch Mountain and another run up and over Walker Mountain (I guess you could call them the two humps of The Back of the Dragon). Anyhow, after thoroughly enjoying the first hump, we elected to turn off in the valley in between the two and head northeast. I did this not because I didn't want to experience the Walker Mountain portion of VA-16, but rather because I wanted to explore another nearby route that also went up and over Walker Mountain a little to the east. A route which we had not done in 2008 (and so, in the spirit of exploration, I wanted to check it out).
The road, known as The Nebo Mountain Road, was indeed incredibly twisty - and very quiet (didn't see a car on it). But it's not a full-blown regional highway - there are no painted lines, and the pavement, although fairly black and fresh, was of a lower, more rough texture. It was still excellent, but not quite up to the perfection of some of the more principal routes. Although that quietness counts for a lot....
After Nebo Mountain Road, it was time to make some distance, and we hopped onto I-81 and cruised at high speed eastward and northward. I had a few more ridge-crossing twisties that I wanted to get to before sundown and this was the fastest way between them. Unfortunately, I missed my intended turnoff and had to do a little time-wasting back-tracking.
Interstate Traffic Backup