After the bouts of incredible twisties, US-219 settled down a bit as we drove through some nice rural residential / farmland areas - wide valleys with pastureland and a few farms, that sort of thing. We then used I-64 as a short connector between several more excellent little snippets of various highways.
Little Levels Farm Country
A brief bit of Interstate
Andrew above Sandstone Falls
This burst of twisties, straighter connector route, burst of twisties pattern continued for most of the morning and into the lunch hour (with one particularly nice bit of highway called "Beech Run Road" - WV-3 - that had some nice wide hairpins and some really tight stuff).
Generally, we were inching our way southward, following my intention to cross down into Virginia and eventually into North Carolina and Tennessee, pushing further south and exploring areas that we did not reach in 2008.
In all of our over-eager gobbling up of the great tarmac, we had forgotten about lunch, and it was nearly 1:30pm by the time the stomach grumbles were heeded. We stopped at the cutely-named "Eataly" in Ghent, a small community adjacent to the I-77 turnpike in southern West Virginia. It wasn't what I would call true Italian cuisine by any stretch, but the quality was decent enough (portion sizes a bit too huge, though).
It was while finishing my chicken parmigiana that I looked out of the window to Luke's S2000, which was parked right outside from our table. I noticed that a couple of what looked to be white lines painted on the inside of his right front passenger tire. We talked about it for a moment, intending to give the lines a closer look when we finished lunch.
Nicely satiated, we headed outside and I bent over and had a closer look at these little white lines on Luke's tire. And upon closer examination noticed that they were rather ropey and fibrous in nature, and... poking out from inside the tire. Yep... thems were tire cords, in the carcass. The inside of Luke's right front Michelin Pilot Super Sport tire had had its inner edge worn away, right down to the cords.
When Luke had left Ottawa, he had examined his tires and and concluded that he had more than enough life left in his front tires to do this trip, and indeed for the rest of the year. And the rest of the tire looked fine. Probably something was off in the alignment - either camber or toe (most likely the latter). But the question now was - what to do? Luke didn't want to do hard twisties on a tire that was showing a bunch of carcass, for fear of a sudden blowout. And here in the backwater of West Virginia, would it even be possible to find a premium performance tire... in the weird size that the front of a Honda S2000 requires? Seemed doubtful...
Yer Cords are showin'
This unexpected development had suddenly cast a shadow of uncertainty onto our road trip. Would Luke have to unceremoniously flat-bed his car back to Ottawa? Would we cancel the rest of the trip and just drive back home?
We went back inside Eataly and Luke started making calls. At first we held out some small hope that maybe a place like the Tire Rack could pull off some magical trick and instantly ship us a set of replacement Super Sports, but we realized quickly that that wasn't possible (although the staff at the Tire Rack on the phone were helpful). Next Luke tried to find out if any of the tire retailers in the area happened to have Michelin Pilot Super Sports in the required size (result: none of them had Super Sports in any sizes, nor pretty much any performance tires; we were deep into pickup truck country here, remember). So then we turned to big box stores, and we dropped the requirement for the specific tire. The basic question was now this: do you have a tire in 215/45R17 (Luke's front tire size)? No brand, no type - just something that fit.
And... well, Luke found tires. At a Walmart, about 20 minutes drive away. They were all-season, they were of a brand completely unknown to us, but they were the right size, and they had them in stock - and they could fit them to Luke's car in the next hour.
Emergency Tire Replacement
It didn't take long for Luke to decide to go for these no-namers. It was the most suitable course of action, really. He didn't mind the likely degradation in performance going to what was definitely going to be a less sticky, less stiff tire. And the fact that the front tires were being replaced with something less grippy meant that any change in the S2000's handling would just be a tendency for more understeer, which is a relatively benign trait. So that was it - time to head to Walmart!
Emergency Tire Replacement
The staff at the nearby Walmart wasn't super organized, and in the end it took us the better part of two hours to get it all done, but done it was, and the S2000 was now wearing some smart looking "Douglas" all-season tires in the front (what the heck are "Douglas" tires?). And they had been very inexpensive: $57 per tire. They may have been a cheesy copycat knockoff low-budget brand tire, but they'd do the trick, and our road trip was back on track.
The New Dougies
Glad to have that obstacle out of the way, we continued our journey south. With Luke doing a bit of pre-race like back-and-forth to get a sense of his new "Dougies" (as I had started calling them), we soon hit another excellent bit of West Virginia highway - a stretch called "Coal City Road", which winds along the valley of Stonecoal creek in the southern reaches of the state. Between the little rundown settlements along this winding creek valley, the road is great: nicely paved and winding through lush valley bottom forest. And went on for a long way like this.
Coal City Road connected us up nicely to another really windy West Virginian backway - the Stephenson Basin Road. Here the pavement wasn't quite as perfect, but the ton of twisties made up for it. Then onto WV-10, another example of a wider, perfectly paved state highway. WV-10 brought us to WV-71 (losing track here), and finally... we crossed into Virginia at a place called "Yards". The late afternoon had been one excellent twisty filled highway after another, often with only brief respites between.
Amazing Pavement for Small Backway