Day 6 - Tuesday, August 13. We had to be back in Ottawa, Canada tonight - that was objective #1. But.... could we perhaps snake through a few final twisties on the way there?
We got up at our now usual time, shortly before sunrise, and got ready so that we'd be prepared and ready to head off when it got light. Luke felt that the S2000 needed a few extra drops of oil, so we stopped off at a nearby gas station to top up. We had both agreed that trying to sneak in some final twisties before leaving the magic oval (i.e. West Virgina/Virginia/Tennessee/North Carolina) was a great idea.
A little top-up
For the first of these final twisties, I chose US-250. A route we had been on in 2008, and in fact we had been on at a spot further west, out of Elkins on day 3 of our trip. The section of US-250 that interested us this morning was the part that ran up, over, and down Shenandoah Mountain, a broad and high complex of terrain with many knobs and ridges.
As I mentioned on page 3, US-250 is a multiple-state, arterial highway (part of the "US-class" highway network). As a result, it has been built to handle heavy, oversized traffic. However, it also climbs over rugged terrain and is very twisty. As a result, the twisties along US-250 - especially here over Shenandoah Mountain, are heavy-duty. Heavy-duty in the sense that the sharp turns and switchbacks are incredibly wide and very deeply banked. I imagine they do this to accommodate fully-loaded semi-transport trucks. We have arrived early in the morning, and the arterial traffic one would expect on this highway has yet to materialize. We exclaim in wonder at the seemingly endless acres of space and at the tilt of the road in the turns. And of course, it's perfectly paved in a very grippy textured surface, well-lined, perfectly maintained. You can really charge hard on this section of US-250 if it isn't busy. There's so much space to play with, you can carve a distinct racing line *within* your lane.
We stop at the height of land on US-250 over Shenandoah mountain, where we take some cheesy self-portrait shots of us and the cars, then continue on down the other side. The skies are starting to look a bit leaden and we feel a few sprinkles. We aren't overly upset, for we've had a solid 5 days of perfectly dry driving weather. Even if it did start to pour, we could hardly complain.
Almost a hundred miles of Twisties
It does in fact start to drizzle on and off as we descend US-250 into the Doe River Valley, but nothing that really wets the road all that much. We turn northeast on another beautiful valley farm run up said Doe River Valley, on VA county road 654. We follow this all the way into West Virginia, where the highway turns into WV county 23. We exit our farm valley via another quiet little backway that is twisty and incredibly paved, over a bit of broken ridgeline known as Hoover Mountain. Then more farmland valley driving up to a small community called Brandywine, where we stop for a morning breakfast snack.
The rain has finally caught up to us. As we eat our breakfast muffins, we can see that it has started to rain in earnest outside. C'est la vie, and as I mentioned earlier, it didn't bother us that much, given our run of dry weather thus far.
Now in continous rain and with fully wet roads, we headed east over US-33, back over Shenandoah Mountain. This is an excellent example of a multiple-lane twisty, with the existance of twin ascending eastbound lanes. It is very twisty and signed at 55 (and with the double lanes, there's acres of room). But it was a little greasy in the wet conditions, and we didn't push too hard - especially since Luke had quickly discovered that the low-budget Dougies on the front of his car were especially not that grippy in the wet (I noticed a couple of cases of obvious understeer from him in a few circumstances).
As mentioned previously, we had grown quite fond of these northeast-southwest trending farm valleys - they were getting us quickly and efficiently moving in the direction we wanted to go - northeast, and they were scenic and fun. So, I started looking for them on my map, and charted a rough course that maximized our use of them.
Farm Country near Harrisonburg
Farm Country near Harrisonburg
Back and forth we drove, between Virginia and West Virginia, angling ever-northward and following increasingly rare twisties, now that we were nearing the northern boundary of the magic oval. In the northwestern corner of North Virginia we discovered a great little backway on the northern side of Lost River State Park - a backway devoid of lines and with rough pavement - but also devoid of traffic but definitely NOT devoid of twisties and curves, and even a few hairpins. Things were still pretty wet so we enjoyed ourselves, but at perhaps 6/10ths instead of our normal 7 or 8/10ths.
Road is nice, but State Park
S2000, Lost River State Park