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Short Motorcycle Ride through West Virginia and Maryland

The view from this overlook on U.S. 50 shows Saddleback Mountain. The ridge just beyond is where Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was born.

The view from this overlook on U.S. 50 shows Saddleback Mountain. The ridge just beyond is where Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was born.

Photo Credit: Mark T. Domenick

Mark T. Domenick
May 7, 2013
Filed under Featured Favorite Ride, Motorcycle Rides, Roads and Self-Guided Travel

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Done. Finally! The lawn is mowed, trimming completed, garage swept, and I even got the car washed. The Honey-Do List completed, I venture inside the house to suggest to my wife that since it is a glorious day and only mid-afternoon, a motorcycle ride would be in order and I will not be late for dinner.

My better half, elated with my success in having finished these chores, gently reminds me that the two of us are due to be at the church picnic by five. Man! I forgot all about that event. This changes my plans. I will need to settle for a one-gallon ride.

Oakland in far western Maryland is the county seat and has a population of about 2,000. My one-gallon ride begins here.

Oakland in far western Maryland is the county seat and has a population of about 2,000. My one-gallon ride begins here.

As motorcyclists, our dreams are often about coast-to-coast adventures, or at least long three-day weekend tours. The reality for most of us who love this sport, is that the majority of our riding will be within 100 or so miles of our home, and usually won’t involve more than a few hours. Today, circumstances will limit this to an even shorter distance and less time. A one-gallon ride will suffice.

My bike is a Suzuki Boulevard S50. A gallon of petrol will take me 55-65 miles. Since we’re in the region of far western Maryland and north-central West Virginia, I have found many great routes that will put a grin on my face and still get me home in time for the church picnic.

Saffitickers serves some of the best soft ice cream in the area. Motorcyclists from many states find this to be a great stopping point.

Saffitickers serves some of the best soft ice cream in the area. Motorcyclists from many states find this to be a great stopping point.

Today’s ride starts out on U.S. Route 219 South. It results in a wonderful trip into Amish country, an area the locals know as Pleasant Valley. If I had time and it wouldn’t spoil dinner, a stop at Saffiticker’s would tickle my palate with great frozen custard, but I need to keep moving. U.S. 219 intersects with U.S. Route 50 at Red House. I dream about turning right and going all the way to Sacramento, California, but remember my promise to the wife and turn left. This section of U.S. 50 in Maryland takes me up Backbone Mountain at just over 3,000 feet. At Gorman, I cross the Potomac River into Gormania, West Virginia. New pavement, great curves and scant traffic bring a smile to my face. I stay on U.S. 50 East for about 20 miles, passing through Mount Storm, West Virginia. If one were to visit here during the winter, this town’s name would become self-explanatory. I travel on U.S. 50 until it intersects with State Route 42. Pulling off at the scenic overlook, I get a great view of Saddleback Mountain. Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln, is believed to have been born in the adjoining valley.

State Route 42 in West Virginia will test riders’ motorcycle skills and put big smiles on their faces.

State Route 42 in West Virginia will test riders’ motorcycle skills and put
big smiles on their faces.

I think about continuing on U.S. 50 East to Romney, West Virginia, but I know one gallon won’t get me there and back, so I follow State Route 42 into Elk Garden, West Virginia. After meandering through the town, the asphalt down the mountain is superb and the curves challenge my motorcycle riding skills. Once at the bottom, I again cross the Potomac River into the small town of Kitzmiller, Maryland. Here, Route 42 becomes Maryland State Route 38. Kitzmiller is an old mining town that today is all residential. Some of the old company buildings like the Coal Bucket Café still exist and remind me of life in a simpler era.

I have ridden this road numerous times, but always love Route 38, as it also goes up about 1,000 feet. When I reach the top, I realize that I am still on the Backbone Mountain chain. I turn left onto State Route 135, heading toward home, but stop briefly to get a glimpse of Deep Creek Lake. It is the largest freshwater lake in Maryland, and at an elevation of just over 2,500 feet, it is also the highest. I realize now that it is only about 12 miles to home.

I am not sure if I follow these directions that I would end up in Disney World. This road sign was found in Grant County, West Virginia.

I am not sure if I follow these directions that I would end up in Disney World. This road sign was found in Grant County, West Virginia.

A little over one hour after my departure, I arrive home with 56 miles on the odometer and one gallon of gas less in the tank. I am able to change, eliminate the helmet hair, and help my wife load up for the picnic. Everyone is happy.

I have completed this one-gallon ride many times, but it is always enjoyable. It is comforting to know that I have at least a dozen more routes just like this one, if future circumstances arise like today. Great day, great ride and great fun for $3.75.

(This article One-Gallon Ride: Sneaking in a Nice Loop in the Northeast was published in the May 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

Swan Meadow School, located in Pleasant Valley, is primarily a school for the Amish. The bell at the top of the school still operates.

Swan Meadow School, located in Pleasant Valley, is primarily a school for the Amish. The bell at the top of the school still operates.

The Coal Bucket Café in Kitzmiller, Maryland, used to be the general store when Kitzmiller was a thriving coal town.

The Coal Bucket Café in Kitzmiller, Maryland, used to be the general store when Kitzmiller was a thriving coal town.

Map by Bill Tipton/Compartmaps.com

Map by Bill Tipton/Compartmaps.com

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Barns with the Mail Pouch Tobacco sign are becoming a rarity. This is a piece of Americana while traveling on U.S. 219 South.

Comments

One Response to “Short Motorcycle Ride through West Virginia and Maryland”

  1. Jeffrey Ford on July 28th, 2013 5:35 pm

    It’s nice to see a writeup on the kind of short rides most of us are limited to taking.Good job!

    [Reply]

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