I will not be able to attend this year’s MotoAmerica round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, so I decided to take a two-day ride to Spartanburg, S.C. and back to get a ride on the West Virginia Turnpike this year, as well as photograph my Yamaha FJR1300 at several scenic overviews I discovered last year.
I stopped at all three scenic overviews along U.S. Route 23 north on my drive home from last year’s MotoAmerica event at Road Atlanta, when I decided to take a different route back to Columbus than Interstate 77. I’d driven or ridden the interstate several times, and the Route 23 option is a slower but more direct route to my home in Columbus.
For this trip, I took U.S. Route 33 east out of the Columbus metro Sunday morning to Interstate 77 at Ravenswood, W.Va., then headed south on Interstate 77, stopped for breakfast at a Sheetz in Ripley, W.Va., then continued south through Charleston and onto the West Virginia Turnpike. After making a fuel stop at the turnpike’s northern end, I followed the turnpike’s twisty alignment through the mountains, stopping for a break at the Beckley Service Plaza.
I got back on Interstate 77 south through Virginia and North Carolina, which included several scenic views I enjoy each year on my way to the MotoAmerica round at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. I made stops at a Flying J along the Interstates 77 and 81 duplex near Wytheville, Va., to hydrate and later stopped for fuel in Jonesville, N.C.
A local rider aboard a BMW S 1000 XR — who was getting fuel at the pump next to me — advised me to avoid Charlotte due to ongoing road construction and suggested taking Interstate 40 west to U.S. Route 321 south to reach the final leg of my trip on Interstate 85. I took his advice and enjoyed the light traffic on the alternate routing, and stopped at the South Carolina Welcome Center on Interstate 85 to photodocument my presence in the state, which is the 29th of the 48 lower United States I have ridden in. I rode about another hour along Interstate 85 to reach my accommodations for the night at the Comfort Inn and Suites adjacent to Exit 75.
On Monday morning, I continued my ride on Interstate 85 to that route’s interchange with Interstate 26. Heading north on Interstate 26, it didn’t take long to get my first glimpse of the mountains I would be riding through for the rest of the day. The air temperature was in the high 60s when I left in the morning, and conditions began to feel cooler as I followed the interstate through Asheville, N.C., and into the higher elevations.
The skies had been dark and cloudy all morning, and a light mist or drizzle that started near Mars Hill, N.C. — which is where my first scenic overlook stop was — almost instantly turned into a steady rain. I stopped on the shoulder to put on my rain gloves and got back on the road, only to find my second scenic overlook stop was just more than a mile up the road. After snapping a few photos of the mist rising off the tree-covered mountains, I continued north on Interstate 26 and the rain ended shortly after I got going again. I continued to enjoy the scenic views, curves and elevation change the interstate offered until its end on the north side of Kingsport, Tenn. The interstate’s northern terminus is at U.S. Route 23, a non-limited access, four-lane highway I took the rest of the way back to Columbus.
I stopped for fuel just north of the Interstate 26’s northern terminus and made a stop at another scenic overlook in Virginia, but otherwise enjoyed the views of the mountains and many curves in the road all the way to Ashland, Ky. The road was generally in good shape, and the seemingly never-ending views of the tree-covered mountains made the ride an absolute blast. After making a fuel stop just north of the Marathon refinery near the interchange of Route 23 and Interstate 64, I continued north into downtown Ashland and took the 13th Street Bridge across the Ohio River to U.S, Route 52 west, re-entering my home state of Ohio.
I stayed on Route 52 to the recently-constructed Ohio State Route 823 (Portsmouth Bypass) and took it to its northern terminus at U.S. Route 23. I headed north on Route 23, passing through Piketon, Waverly and Chillicothe on my way to my dinner stop at the recently-opened Taco John’s, just south of Circleville. After chowing down on some delicious tacos and Potato Oles, I finished the ride home to the Far East Side of Columbus while stopping to help a stranded motorcyclist along the way.
Overall, the tour was the most enjoyable multi-day ride I’ve taken in several years. I didn’t feel like I was racing against time to make it to my destination before nightfall, and Route 23 was an even better ride than I thought it would be. The scenic overlooks were everything I figured they would be from my drive in 2019, but it was a lot of fun navigating the route’s many twists, turns and elevation changes through several sparsely-populated regions.
I didn’t get out as early either day of the trip as I’d hoped, and learned the value of covering a motorcycle at night. When I headed down to the hotel lobby Monday morning, there were two police cars in the parking lot and one of the officers was asking the front desk clerk if they had video surveillance footage of the parking lot from Sunday night. There was nothing missing from my bike, but I’m glad it was covered so no one got any ideas about what they could take off of it.
This was my second ride with the Alaskan Leather Sheepskin pad that I’d received as a birthday gift, and I’m impressed with how much of a difference the pad has made. I used to have to take aspirin or spend a good bit of time out of the saddle when I was riding 500 or more miles in a day. With the pad, I didn’t have to take any aspirin on the second day and my rear end wasn’t too sore when I got home.
As for helping the stranded motorcyclist, I’m glad I happen to run across him. I had stopped in the parking lot of the Scioto Downs racetrack/casino near Lockbourne, Ohio, to make a phone call and noticed a rider milling about his Yamaha FZ6. After I got off the phone, I rode over to ask if he was OK. He said his bike’s battery had died, as had his cell phone, and that he’d been there about 45 minutes. I asked if he’d tried pop-starting the bike, and I he wasn’t sure what I was referring to.
After trying to explain the pop-start procedure, the rider asked me if I could do it for him. I usually refrain from getting in the saddle of someone else’s ride, but I also figured he’d been there long enough and probably just wanted to get home. He gave me a push, I dropped the clutch and quickly realized I’d never put the bike in gear. A quick downshift and clutch drop later, and the FZ6 roared to life. The rider was grateful to have a way home, and I warned him that he needed to keep the bike running until he got home, and we went our separate ways.
Though it takes about a half-hour longer to get to Spartanburg using Route 23, I’ve definitely found a fun, toll-free route I can look forward to riding once each year when MotoAmerica makes its annual stop at Road Atlanta.