My moto-camp loaded bike waited patiently in the garage as I cut loose from work early and sped home in excitement. I swear the Wee gave me a wink as the garage door opened. My work clothes were practically off as I ran in the door and in a fury my riding gear was on and I was ready to go. I shot my riding buddy Gabe a text somewhere in that madness to let him know it was time to hit the road. The Wee fired up like a champ and the engine warmed as I started up the US Topo Maps GPS tracker function on my old cell phone and loaded the route. He texted back his confirmation and we both set off to our rendezvous, a BK Lounge parking lot in Bellaire off the Ohio River. This was an ideal spot because it would take us both an hour and 45 minutes to get there which made for easy timing.
After meeting up in Bellaire, we threw our legs over our iron steeds and throttled south following our constant companion on this trip the Ohio River, him on his BMW F650GS and me on my Suzuki V-Strom DL650. Conversations of the plans for the rest of the trip bounced around our helmets via our Senas as we cruised down OH-7. We entered Wayne on Archers Fork Road then took a nice windy road numbered C9. This mixed paver and gravel road, along with a couple others, were a welcome change to the fast-paced tarmac from earlier.
Just before reaching OH-26 we stopped to check out the Hills Covered Bridge, closed to traffic but still standing. There are a bunch of covered bridges in this section of Wayne, many of which are serviceable and lead to some great gravel forest service roads and drive-able trails. Our final stop for the night was a few thousand feet north at Lane Farm Campground. We pulled in and set up camp on a spot overlooking the Little Musky. The free site included a picnic table, fire ring, and a vaulted toilet. We enjoyed a night of stories, barley pops, and excitement for our first of three nights of our style of adventure touring.
After a late night of revelry, I awoke to a bright sun and brilliant blue sky. As my buddy snored away in his tent I wandered around a bit and took a few snapshots of the river and our camp. I grabbed some grub and started the packing process as my riding partner arose from his slumber. Excitement for our impending West Virginia leg filled our conversation as we prepped the bikes, loaded our gear, and ATGATT’ed. We hit our first fun twisties of the day on our way to a Tim Horton’s coffee stop in Marietta.
We jumped Interstate-77 south into West Virginia for a few exits to Ripley and took several curvy meandering state routes over to the Ohio River and into Point Pleasant. The town was made famous in the late ‘60s for sightings of a large man-like creature with huge wings and red eyes that was eventually dubbed the Mothman. Multiple sightings by different locals all reported similar descriptions around November of 1966. The first sighting was by five men working at a grave site claiming to see a man-like figure flying overhead, then by a couple driving at night reporting a large grey creature with red glowing eyes, and another couple describing a man-sized flying creature with a ten-foot wingspan following their car. Other strange occurrences fed into the hysteria such as a couple firemen sighting a large bird-like creature with red eyes and another resident sighting a large creature with red glowing eyes that he blamed for the disappearance of his dog and for buzzing noises from his television.
Folklorist Jan Brunvand noted that at least 100 people claimed to have seen the Mothman and recorded tales of attacks of parked cars inhabited by teenagers (wink-wink). The collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting Ohio to West Virginia across the Ohio River a year later solidified the folklore. The 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies written by John Keel claimed the Point Pleasant residents experienced precognitions of the Silver Bridge collapse, reported multiple unidentified flying objects and strange lights in the sky, visits from inhuman or threatening men in black, and other phenomena. There have since been multiple movies and television spots on the subject with the most famous being the 2002 Richard Gere movie The Mothman Prophecies.
We pulled into town on 6th Street and rode past the Silver Bridge Memorial plaque where the old on ramp was before the collapse. A few blocks south on Main Street we pulled up to the big silver Mothman Statue for a photo-op. The “life-sized” replica with bright red eyes is something to behold, it is ugly and beautiful at the same time. The Mothman Museum sits next door to the statue and we couldn’t help but explore this fascinating conspiracy theory museum. The small building packs in various memorabilia, old newspaper clips, men in black dummies, Mothman Prophecies movie paraphernalia, multiple iterations of Mothman sculptures, and various conspiracy theory fascinations.
The day was getting late so we decided to cut out a section of back roads and followed WV-2 south along the Ohio River. We left the river and climbed into the WV hills on Mud Run Road where we followed ridges and valleys along mixed paved and graveled twisty roads in a southerly direction. There were beautifully scenic views mixed with farms, homes, and ramshackle shacks as we twisted the throttle on not often traveled tertiary roads full of dirt and gravel.
A lot of excitement and a little bit of pucker came as we attempted to cross the Eighteenmile Creek on a dilapidated bridge. Loose boards laid across the structure bounced around as we eased across the span, the bridge was easily 25 feet across, 8 feet wide, and about 12 feet to the creek bed. This ‘unnamed road’ connected Aston Upland Road with Fees Branch Road on what looked like a 2-track through a small valley, according to the Google Machine. After crossing the bridge we found ourselves on the doorstep of a beat up house. It seems the tore up and thick muddy farm road that we passed was our intended track. After wheeling around and looking at the mess we decided to risk another rickety bridge as opposed to the original plan and consulted the maps for a reroute.
Our lazy start and sightseeing mixed with the next intended stop pushed our decision to cut out another jaunt into the WV hills. We jumped back on WV-2 and followed the mighty river down to Lesage and one of the most interesting roadside restaurants I’ve ever seen, Hillbilly Hot Dogs. The Food Network and Guy Fieri would agree as this was a stop on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. A mixture of junkyard, hillbilly museum, and restaurant; this place specializes in rust, humor, and hot dogs. Perfect timing for dinner, we partook in a couple dogs, loaded fries, and a Mothman Black IPA on the upper deck overlooking the eclectic collection of junk and the brown flowing river.
After taking in all the sites (and wandering around to work off any possible effects of that IPA) we kicked our legs over and continued following the river south. After a quick gas stop in Huntington we crossed the river back into Ohio and headed into Wayne South. We twisted the throttle on the amazing OH-775 with quick elevation changes and plenty of opportunities to lean. The sun hung low as we headed down the gravel of Peters Cave Road towards our destination for the day.
Our accommodations for the night would be an old barn nestled against the green hills and our bunk mates would be a herd of cattle. Before setting up at the barn we would have to cross a couple electric fence lines, Peter Cave Creek, and a tore up muddy farm road. Crossing the first field was flat with an easy dirt road that led into the creek. Once through the creek the 40 foot long incline on the other side was two large ruts with running water and mud. The incline was cut right out of the field so the initial run out of the creek was around five feet deep. The inclined ruts ran up onto another flat field just before heading up the final hill to the barn.
By the time we made it to the creek an audience gathered. The curious cows, young and old, all had their eyes on us but kept their distance. With the shallow creek easily crossed I pointed the front tire up the left rut. A steady throttle kept me moving with minimal back wheel slippage until my side case hit the muddy side wall towards the top. I lost momentum but luckily didn’t take a mud bath. After a little help from my buddy I made it to the flat field. His turn went smoothly with a little spot to keep him going. The K60’s and TKC’s did their job.
The last incline to the barn was muddy and covered with hoof prints but didn’t pose any problems. By the time we made it up to the first gate of the barn dusk had set in and our fans had followed us in what I can only assume was a desire for our autographs. We parked the bikes next to each other in front of the gate and walked up to move the second gate open so that we could park the bikes inside the small barn. Snorting and several moos from our bovine fans grabbed our attention and we noticed that a rather large heifer really wanted to meet us and was attempting to squeeze between the bikes and the fence. Luckily, she decided against it after she saw us moving towards her and the Beemer only teetered a smidge, otherwise we would have had a not-so-fun domino effect.
With the sun down and the bikes safely in the barn we went about setting up our camp on the back deck of the barn. The barn had electric so we figured out how to get the light on the deck running and were able to charge our various electronics. We decided on deck camping because it was flat and dry along with the fact that we didn’t want to run the risk of waking up with one of our groupies trying to get into our tent. Over a couple drinks to unwind, my riding buddy shared stories of the old days and festival-like events they would have at this place that they dubbed the ‘Mudsoc Parties’. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to an amazing day.
We spent the next day riding what I christened the ‘Wayne South Loop’ riding as much dirt and gravel as possible with the occasional paved twist-filled connector. We grinned from ear to ear as we knocked some tread off our tires on all the excellent terrain Wayne NF had to offer. A section of dirt and gravel was waiting for us to start out our last day before the long ride north following the snaking tarmac paralleling the mighty Ohio River. The benefits of the larger ADV bikes shone through… enough space to pack camping gear and other essentials, a comfortable ride on the superslab, plenty of throttle and lean angle on those twisty state and county pavers, and a ton of fun on the gravel and dirt (or mud) tracks in the woods. Another successful Shunpiker trip in the books, luckily no run-ins with the Mothman.
A version of this story was posted on Bike Bandit's Blog in March of 2018.
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