Shamrock Tour® - Marion, Virginia

Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Poring over my maps on a lazy Sunday, another rainy day in March, I felt restless. The urge to ride was almost overwhelming and I could hardly wait for the first warm days of spring to start the next tour. The winter had been long and cold, fairly unusual for North Carolina, and during those days of waiting and studying regional routes, I discovered Marion, Virginia. Intrigued by the winding map lines, the promise of their many curves, I set about planning three tours in the surrounding hills.

April 7
Watching the Weather Channel. Great news - finally! Better conditions are forecast and it warms up. I talk with my wife Christa. No jobs are scheduled this weekend. There's absolutely nothing holding us back.

April 19
Friday evening after business we head for Marion. Three hours later we're there and looking for a place to stay overnight. An inviting motel, the Virginia House Inn on North Main Street, provides the solution. Motor­cyclists are welcome and the front desk manager is happy to tell us all about Virginia's Blue Ridge Highlands and is very helpful with recommendations. In our room, a refreshing shower is the first order of business. Food is next. To relax our legs and stretch out the muscles in our 'rear views,' we walk (always recommended after a long ride) to our Chinese dinner at the Capitol Restaurant. We heartily recommend the sweet and sour chicken with almonds.

April 20
Bright sun in a clear blue sky wakes us early. Fresh air fills our lungs. But before riding off on our first jaunt, we explore Marion. It's near the Houlston River in Smyth County and perhaps the best advertisement for the area is the wonderful and oddly named Hungry Mother Lake and State Park. It's definitely worth visiting.

As legend goes, settler Molly Marley and her daughter escaped from Indian raiders and wandered the wilderness to the point of exhaustion, eating nothing but berries. After Molly collapsed, the child walked on and found help along a creek. The rescuers reported 'hungry, mother' were the only words she could say. Today the horse trails and hiking paths of the 2,200-acre woodlands and the walleye and muskie in the 108-acre lake attract vacationers to the park's three campgrounds and 20 rustic cabins.

One of our brochures touts Marion as 'the most charming town west of the Blue Ridge.' Originally known as Royal Oak, the town was chartered in 1849 and the name changed to honor a Revolutionary War hero, the celebrated 'Swamp Fox,' Brigadier General Francis Marion. Other interesting facts: The soft drink Mountain Dew was first created here in the 1960s and Nolan Ryan pitched his first professional baseball game as a member of the Marion Mets. In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored the town with its 'National Main Street Community' designation. But enough of history, our throttle hands are itching. Back on the road!

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2001 back issue.