MSTA Red River Gorge Rally, Mt. Sterling, KY, July 8-11

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MSTA Red River Gorge Rally, Mt. Sterling, KY, July 8-11

Sport Touring Corner

By Norm Kern

The MSTA Red River Gorge (RRG) Rally is one of my favorites because there are great roads in central Kentucky and it’s only about 150 miles from home. I left on Thursday morning, taking some of my favorite roads in southern Ohio including OH 763 to Aberdeen and crossing the big bridge to Kentucky. 

Since there are often thunderstorms this time of year, I always create several alternative routes to the rally. This time it was nice and sunny, so I took the longer 200 mile version, looping East in Kentucky on SR 344 and 377 through Daniel Boone National Forest before heading West on some four digit roads and down SR 11 to rally headquarters at the Mt. Sterling Ramada Inn. 

Since the rally is relatively close by, I rode my 650 Suzuki V-Strom XT. It’s lighter than the FJR and is fitted with Michelin Anakee adventure tires so I can ride it on the kind of gravel roads found on easy adventure rides. 

Meals were at the Cattlemen’s Roadhouse, which is only two doors away from the hotel. They have a fantastic salad bar, steaks, burgers, seafood and drinks. After dinner we hung out each evening on the patio behind the hotel where there were chairs, tables with umbrellas, beverages and good conversation. 

Scattered afternoon thunderstorms were forecast for the whole weekend, but we were not intimidated. Friday morning, the weather started out nice and my friend Emanuel Papp rode down from Dayton, OH, on his V-Strom to join us for the day’s ride at 8:30AM. We also had Jeff Dolence from Dayton on his FJR and Ray Karcher from the Covington, Kentucky area on his 1990s Honda Nighthawk. 

Our route was one of event coordinator Pat Mogavero’s favorites, which he calls Rock and Roll. It started out North and East of Mt. Sterling into Daniel Boone National Forest, through Salt Lick and around Cave Run Lake, then winds its way south through Wellington, Frenchburg and Nada Tunnel. The tunnel is one of the highlights of the route- very dark and the walls are always wet, so headlights don’t help much. It’s a single lane, so traffic has to alternate one direction, then the other. 

Lunch was at one of the rally favorites, Miguel’s Pizza, near Slade, KY. After lunch we rode through Ravenna, past the big Army depot East of Richmond. On SR 89 North of Irvine, we encountered a thunderstorm, so we stopped and zipped up the vents on our Klim jackets. The rain quit by the time we got back to Mt. Sterling and we had an evening of good food, drink and conversation.

Good friend Jeremy Riffle, of Vehicle Enhancements Inc, Moraine, OH, arrived about 9PM on his KTM 790 Rally Adventure bike. He and Emanuel were ready for an adventure route on Saturday, and the RRG rally had several to choose from this year thanks to our friend Drew Faulkner, who developed them for his popular Red River Scramble Rally, held at Lago Linda Hideaway near Beattyville, KY, September 16-19.

Saturday morning weather was expected to be good until noon with afternoon scattered thunderstorms. We wanted to ride the Novice ADV route, but not in the rain, so we left at around 8 AM, riding the 20 mile pavement route to the start of the ADV loop. This is a great route, and just about as challenging as I would want on the V-Strom. One of my favorite sections was White Ash Road near Beattyville where the road goes through a small tunnel under the CSX railroad line, which runs along the Kentucky river.  There was very little water and mud on the route, but plenty of gravel through beautiful back country, and we were able to do about 90 miles of the 100 mile loop before light rain began. 

When we got to the end of the loop it was just a little after noon, and no one wanted to go back to the hotel that early. Fortunately, I had loaded my favorite road route from the rally in my GPS. It so happened that the end of the ADV loop was right on the Hillbilly Triangle route about two thirds of the way through. We were out of the rain, so we decided to ride it backwards to the hotel, which would take most of the afternoon.

The weather held until we were about twenty miles from the end of our route. There were big black clouds ahead, so we made a strategic stop. I had started the day with the rainproof cover on the tank bag, eyeglasses put away and wearing old expendable gloves, so I was ready for rain. The day before, Emanuel and I had perfected our “tag team” rain drill- stop, jump off our bikes, I zip up Emanuel’s jacket vents, he zips up mine, and we’re good to go. 

. It rained hard for about fifteen minutes then quit, so we just stoped and unziped each other’s vents. Easy and kind of fun We made it back to the hotel about 4:30 PM with just over 270 miles for the day.

After dinner, the rain moved in for good, and we just spent the evening partying. Sunday morning it was still raining off and on, so I just slabbed it home on I75 in a little over two hours. Another fun weekend!    

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If you want to try some Adventure riding, don’t forget to check out Drew Faulkner’s Red River Scramble: The Bluegrass Adventure Rally
Red River Scramble is a free grassroots adventure motorcycle rally; Eastern Kentucky is Drew’s favorite place to ride, and he likes to share that experience with other motorcyclists. This year the event will begin on Thursday, September 16th, through Sunday the 19th, at the Lago Linda Hideaway near Beattyville, Kentucky. https://redriverscramble.com/

Nestled in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, Red River Gorge is a canyon system littered with sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural arches. The paved roads in and around the gorge are some of the best in the Bluegrass State, meanwhile, the off-road riding offers adventure seekers challenges over all types of terrain, with intimate access to some of the area’s unique scenery.

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Connect with local Ohio Motorcycle Sport Touring Association riders at these monthly breakfasts:

Southwest Ohio Breakfast, 9AM, September 18

Village Family Restaurant
144 S. Main St.
Waynesville, OH 45068


Central Ohio Breakfast, 8AM, October 3

Portside Cafe
6515 S High St
Lockbourne, OH 43137

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