Reader Ride: Sweet Virginia

Text: Dan Bard • Photography: Gale Bard

Between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies lies a mystical land that has attracted pioneer farmers, statesmen, soldiers and settlers. It brims with scenic beauty and inviting roads of escape, all interwoven among the valleys and hills of this lush region. It's more than enough to make any motorcyclist smile from ear to ear. These roads are seldom populated by anyone other than the locals, and even when frequenting these byways, they only do so in order to jump onto the more rapid roads that will convey them quickly to Walmart, Home Depot or the Interstate.

With towns named Cootes Store, Singers Glen and Deerfield, all sorts of images may flash in your mind about what they look like and where in the world they are. Thankfully, they are easily accessible by motorcycle on the well-maintained roads in Virginia.

Heading south out of Woodstock, VA, we parallel I-81 and historic Route 11 on VA Rt. 42, where on most days you can easily see the ridges of the Shenandoah Mountains to your right while the Blue Ridge rests in typical blue haze off to your left. This part of the trip is scenic and relaxing as you float along the wide section of Rt. 42. The curves are well announced and can be executed at a comfortable pace.
The next segment, on 613, will kick your level up a notch since the road becomes narrower and demands attention; and there are many things to see that may tug your eyes off course, ranging from tidy farmsteads on the periphery to the tall forests on the slopes and the green, grass buffers that follow the meandering streams. Don't attempt to maintain your pace if you find yourself afflicted with "gawker syndrome" - slow down, or better, pull off to fully enjoy the picture-postcard beauty of this route.

Crossing over Rt. 33, you pass through mostly uninhabited Cootes Store, which, from the 1830s to 1956, served as mountain-community hub and a good place for road weary travelers to pause for a rest. But a short scenic distance away lies "Singers Glen," the birthplace of Southern Gospel Music. Originally called Mountain Valley, it was renamed Singers Glen for a new post office in 1860. Singers Glen is also the site of the oldest continually published hymnal in America. As you roll through this bucolic town, try to imagine a warm summer evening where groups have gathered for a hymnal retreat. The faded storefronts give ample indications of their original uses, though long since abandoned and either re-utilized as a residence or left vacant to observe the passing of time. With a bit of refurbishment, it would make a stunning site for other retreats - ones that could even accommodate motorcyclists. After all, the roads around here are a biker's dream.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2009 back issue.