MSTA Fall Colors Pandemic Non-Rally
Lewisburg, West Virginia, September 23-27
Sport Touring Corner
By Norm Kern
Like so many other Motorcycle Sport Touring Association events in 2020, our annual Fall Colors Rally in Lewisburg, West Virginia, was cancelled due to COVID19 concerns. The weather forecast looked good for that weekend, so a few of us including Andray Hubble of Guntersville, Alabama, Gary Fourman of Indianapolis, Indiana, Helene Villemure of Columbus, Indiana, and I agreed to meet at the cancelled event’s hotel to ride and enjoy the great roads in the area.
Lewisburg is only about 300 miles from home for me. Riding the FJR there and back would be easy enough. Helene had new tires on her bike and hates long boring highway riding, so she loaded her bike in a trailer to tow it to Lewisburg. Looking at routing, I found her fastest route passed to within twenty miles of my house. She offered to pick up and transport me and the bike, so I met her at Ohio route 73 and Interstate 71, leaving on Wednesday so we would have three days in Lewisburg to ride before coming home Sunday.
We stopped at Rio Bravo 2, a mom and pop authentic Mexican restaurant, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, for lunch. The rest of the drive to Lewisburg was relaxing, and we got to see the progress on US route 35 construction in West Virginia. The new expressway to replace the last 15 miles of two-lane should be open next Spring. Yay!
Helene and I rode by ourselves on Thursday. She works hard at her engineering job and it’s difficult to get time off, so when she does get to ride she wants to maximize the experience. This means starting fairly early in the morning, riding a good pace, stopping very little. The more technical the roads the better, so I had prepared a custom route that featured Edray and Back Mountain roads, which are winding and narrow with no centerline, running through the mountains from North of Marlinton to Durban, passing near Cass, West Virginia, home of the Cass Scenic railroad.
I have an extra Sena 30K Bluetooth communicator that I always bring with me on trips. Wednesday night we installed it in Helene’s helmet so we could have intercom during the weekend. It was her first time using one and we had fun with them, pointing out things along the way including wildlife and objects in the road, safe-to-pass info, etc.
Since Helene doesn’t have a GPS on her bike yet, it was up to me to navigate and lead. Part way through our ride, I realized that since I was prompting her on the intercom when turns were coming up, there was no reason she could not lead if she wanted to. Helene got to ride her own ride, and I got a better look at her lines, cornering technique, etc.
Our route covered almost 250 miles, and we were nearly back to Lewisburg before 2 PM. Rather than go straight to the hotel, we rode another 35 miles to the Swinging Bridge Restaurant in rural Paint Bank, Virginia, for an early dinner, avoiding the normal crowd.
The ride back to the hotel was an extra treat- Helene offered to trade bikes so I could try her Yamaha Tracer 900. It’s nicely set up, including Ohlins suspension front and rear, and I got to ride it at speed on hilly, twisty mountain roads, as well as a short blast on Interstate 64. The Tracer is light, handles very well and the three cylinder 850cc motor is fantastic!
By the time we got back to the hotel, Andray and Gary were there and we socialized with them for the evening.
Rain from hurricane Laura started moving in after dinner, so I started studying radar and weather reports to hatch a plan for Friday. Storms were coming from the South, moving East and Lewisburg was near the North edge of them. I looked for a route from the previous Fall Colors package that went Northwest, figuring that would be our best chance to stay dry.
The rain almost stopped by 8:30 Friday morning as we rolled out. There were patches of light fog, but after half an hour, all we had to deal with was damp pavement. A few hours later, riding out of Spencer, West Virginia, Andray and Gary got separated from us in traffic and made a wrong turn. We turned around to search for them, but after we unknowingly passed where they turned, they got back on the route and were now ahead of us. Of course these things always happen where there is no cel phone service, so there was no way to contact them. We lost half an hour searching, but eventually caught up with them having lunch at the City Diner in Gassaway. The route was long- 325 miles plus about 30 extra that Helene and I rode doubling back, but we still reached the hotel about 4 PM in light rain, but only for the last ten miles. Not bad for a rainy day!
Mild cloudy weather was predicted for Saturday, and I knew we would need another long route for the pace we were running. Both previous days we had ridden North of Lewisburg, so the obvious choice was a route that went West and South. I found one about 250 miles in length and added two extra loops to it for a total of about 300 miles. The loops were roads I had never ridden but they turned out to be some of the highlights of the weekend.
Near the end, the route took us to the Swinging Bridge restaurant so we could have an early dinner, arriving at 3:30PM. Since it was Saturday afternoon, there were more people there, but we were still seated fairly quickly. Thank goodness for planning to arrive early!
Sunday morning we said our good-byes, loaded up and I headed toward home with Helene. We unloaded the FJR at US route 35 and Interstate 71, about 40 miles from home and I rode the rest of the way. This weekend was the first time the FJR has been trailered to an event, saving over 500 road miles. Even with trailering, we rode our bikes about a thousand miles over the three days.
Am I a trailer guy now? No, I still enjoy long highway rides to and from events, but riding Helene’s Tracer has made me think about some other things. For example, there are places in West Virginia that have lots of improved gravel roads. A mid-size adventure bike would be fun to explore them with, yet still be competent for sport touring on pavement…
Connect with local Ohio Motorcycle Sport Touring Association riders at these monthly breakfasts:
Southwest Ohio Breakfast, 9AM, November 21
Village Family Restaurant
144 S. Main St.
Waynesville, OH 45068
Central Ohio Breakfast, 8AM, December 6
6515 S High St
Lockbourne, OH 43137