If mountains are magnets then I am steel. Be it the Alps or Appalachians, I have always been drawn to the folds of stone and soil, wondering what secrets lay hidden in the distant peaks and valleys. They are tranquil and foreboding at the same time, and largely inaccessible. But occasionally we are lucky enough to become a part of their vast landscape.
Street lights flicker on in the gathering darkness as I pull into the Elkins, WV, hotel lot, noting the trailered adventure bikes there and assuming that our tour guide, Brian Holmes, has arrived already. Florian completes our tour trio in short order, and I head downstairs to greet him, as well as to check out the bikes on his trailer—a much anticipated Yamaha Ténéré 700 for Florian and a KTM 790 Adventure for myself. Brian will be riding his knobby-equipped BMW R 1150 GS, which is the epitome of rugged functionality.
Lingering rain from the previous day’s monsoon delays our early morning departure, but Brian knows the area’s weather patterns and decides to head south toward Snowshoe in the hopes of staying as dry as possible. Rain gear seems to be appropriate for starters, and it proves to be the correct choice. We meander through a mix of seldom-used roads, a single lane in width and sporting a Mohawk-like line of grass between dirt and gravel tire strips.
Dodging rocks and as many puddles as possible, I find the KTM to be poised and confidence-inspiring, despite its street-oriented tires that Florian left on it for me. The traction control is adjusted perfectly to allow feet-up drifts in the corners, while reining in the 95 available horses enough to avoid drama.
Turning onto some suspiciously familiar tarmac around lunchtime, we’re soon replenishing spent calories with pizza in Snowshoe, the site of two previous RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend events. Clouds are starting to break and the beams of sunlight filtering through the overhead trees promise better weather. We stash our rain gear and settle into a relaxed rhythm of picking our lines through the rocks, ruts, and puddles while rolling on the throttle for a burst of speed on the short straightaways. Time becomes meaningless—this road and this moment are all that exist, a sometimes difficult but oh-so-satisfying state to achieve.
A complimentary bike wash in the form of a short but intense rain shower welcomes us back into Elkins, but I don’t mind one bit. The day has been spectacular and I turn my room into a hillbilly laundromat with gear draped and drying everywhere. My stomach reminds me that I’m past due for dinner by the time we take the short ride to the Alpine Motel. It’s a perfect way to cap off our first day of the tour. This is one of Brian’s favorite dining establishments in the area, completely without pretenses yet delivering what matters to hungry customers.