Shamrock Tour® - Western Maryland

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks, Christa Neuhauser, Karen Parks

The Appalachian Mountains, once reaching Himalayan-scale heights, are among the oldest on earth. Erosion-resistant sandstone sustains their rounded green shoulders, while limestone undergirds the verdant valleys. Yes, there are many attractive features in the western highlands of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; but the most appealing of all has to be the sheer abundance of winding two-lane roads.

Tuesday (250 miles): Ridge and Valley Ramble

Although it's mid-August, we're greeted by cool, clear mountain air on the glorious first morning of our tour. Our excitement is palpable as Christa fires up the big V-twin Moto-Guzzi Norge and I bring the BMW F 800 ST to life. Bright sunshine warms the two-lane tarmac ahead and illuminates the deep green embrace of the surrounding mountains.

Geologists categorize this section of the Appalachians as the Ridge and Valley Province. These mountains typically are long, even ridges, with equally long, continuous valleys in between. Because the valleys are often too narrow for extensive commercial development, many of them still have a colorful patchwork of family-owned farms and quaint small towns where life flows at a more tranquil pace.

SR 475, as it follows the crest of a long ridge, provides expansive vistas of the valleys on either side. Suddenly though, the road dives deep into a sinuous gorge with tight curves tracking a small creek. Moving from dark shadows to sunlight and into shadows again increases the sensation of speed. Riding aggressively here is exciting, but requires full concentration to avoid flying into the outside rail or winding up in the creek.

There's a charming old railroad station in Rockhill, PA, that looks to be at least a hundred years old. Valerie, a part-time employee, tells us that the station, track, roundhouse, repair shops and rail yard are all part of the East Broad Top Railroad (EBT RR) National Historic Landmark, the most complete historic rail site in North America. Founded in 1856, the steam-powered railroad hauled coal, lumber, ore and passengers until it closed in 1956. Ironically, the EBT RR was saved for future generations to enjoy by the Kovalachick Salvage Compay, a large railroad-scrapping firm. The line is reportedly the only remaining narrow-gauge steam train east of the Mississippi that's still in operation. The EBT RR and the adjacent Rockhill Trolley Museum are kept running by a veritable army of volunteers. Rides are available for boys and girls - of all ages - on weekends in June through October.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2008 back issue.