Shamrock Tour® - Lexington, Virginia

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers, Kathy Myers

According to the road signs, we're closing in on Natural Bridge, Virginia. Normally, it's a good thing to be nearing the night's comfort zone, especially after nine hours of riding on a hot summer day. But this evening is different. Kathy and I are at one with the nimble Honda 599 howling away beneath us, traffic on Route 130 is light, the James River is shimmering through the trees, and the road is unrolling in a buffet of smooth, sinuous curves that simply insist that we stay on the gas and keep eating.

A little car that we zipped around a while back wears a bumper sticker proclaiming that "Virginia is for Lovers." A fine sentiment indeed, but the problem is someone left off the ..."of Great Roads" part. We haven't even officially started our Shamrock Tour, originating from the Natural Bridge Hotel, and the back-roads ridden to get here from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, have alreday demonstrated some serious RoadRUNNER story potential. (Sorry folks, I'll have to keep that set of squiggly lines undisclosed and under my hat for now.)

While I'd surely like to keep riding, Kathy is more than happy to see the welcoming, white-columned porch of the brick, colonial inn that will be our home away from home for the next five nights. As we're pulling up, she taps my shoulder and points excitedly to the groups of oak rocking chairs lining the long patio. Being ever so fond of lolling away the sultry, Southern evenings in a slow, back and forth manner, I know where we'll be parking our weary rears tonight.

Day One: What 'n the Hell is a Dubyanell?
Although we've chosen the hottest week of the year to take a little motorcycle ride in Dixie, we're not terribly worried about it today. Since we're getting an early start, bringing along our Silver Eagle Classic Cooling Vests, and the lines on the map wander to higher elevations, we should be good to go. Route 11 proves to be a great way to start the day. This mostly forgotten four-lane runs parallel to I-81 and has pretty much been reduced to locals-only status. If you look closely, you can still see some of the fading art deco facades and roadside architecture that once appealed to travelers seeing the USA in their Chevrolets. Today, most of these relics are in various states of weed-choked collapse, having slowly bowed to the slab of concrete progress that has cars and trucks whizzing by just east of the tree line.

Large, antebellum homes with sprawling porches appear as we roll into Lexington proper. These shady, pillared sanctuaries seem near perfect for wiling away the day's opening hours, sipping coffee and reading the paper. And in keeping with this formal aesthetic, the old educational mainstays of Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute still anchor much of Lexington's fortunes. George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson are but a few of the vaunted figures associated with these institutes. As we're searching for the local bean steamer, I'm puzzling over "Dubyanell," a word that seems to be popping up everywhere. President Bush... and Little Nell? And just when I'm about to give up, show my tourist ignorance, and ask what it means, it hits me, Washington and Lee - W and L - Dubyanell. It's a Southern thing.

(End of preview text.)

For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2006 back issue.