As many of you know, I live in Catonsville, MD and have a BMW F650CS motorcycle. My college roomate and best friend, Buzz, lives in Wooster, OH and has a Honda 750 Nighthawk. (In fact, he’s the reason that I got back into motorcycling after a 35-year layoff, but that’s another story.) So, we decided to ride West and East, respectively, and meet roughly halfway at the Summit Inn outside of Uniontown, PA. Then, after a great couple of days riding together, I found myself at the Summit Point Raceway–home to my 10 years of racing with the Sports Car Club of America.
Getting There is Half the Fun (Especially with a Castle on the Way)
I got a nice, early start on Friday, September 8th and slabbed it to Charles Town, WV. From there, Route 9 North through Martinsburg and on to Berkeley Springs.
Along the way, I passed The World’s Smallest Barn.
I also motored through someone’s field to try and get a good picture of an historic tavern, but it turned out that the trees and bushes were too thick to allow a decent shot. But at least it demonstrates that a CS can be a proper “off road” machine–in minor doses!
About 10 miles outside of Berkeley Springs, I caught up to a fellow riding a Generic Cruiser–incredibly slowly. A minivan was stuck behind him (!), then me, and soon a whole slew of cars. For a corner marked “40 mph,” which most people would take at 50, he would slow down to only 30 mph! Arghh. Eventually I got by the ‘van and the PoserCruiser and got back to riding properly.
Route 9 on the North side of Berkeley Springs climbs the mountain and passes right by this stately castle-like mansion. Ages ago it was open to the public for tours, but now it’s a private residence.
A little further up the hill is one of the most beautiful vistas you’ll find anywhere. This picture doesn’t do it justice–it’s the kind of place you could happily spend an hour looking at. The Cacapon River is just visible as it feeds into the Potomac–which looks particularly majestic from up there.
Speaking of the Cacapon (which, just in case anyone doesn’t know, is pronounced “cuh-KAY-pawn”)…
The Paw Paw Tunnel
Okay, someone help me: I’m pretty sure these are ducks, rather than swans or geese, but is it normal for ducks to be all white? Hmmm, now that I think about it, I guess it’s pretty normal (based on Donald, Huey, Dewy, and Lewie…)
Outside of Paw Paw, WV there’s a state park alongside the C & O Canal (featuring self-service camping, incidentally). Here’s what I assume is a former canal supervisor’s house.
If you hike a half mile or so along the towpath, you come to the Paw Paw Tunnel, a marvelous engineering accomplishment from the early 1800s. It’s over 3,000 feet long and took 14 years to build. (I’d known that the C & O Canal passed over various rivers and streams in aqueducts, but I hadn’t ever realized that it also passed right through a mountain!) More information on this remarkable site is available at Paw Paw Tunnel
After Paw Paw, you cross the Potomac River and re-enter Maryland, and Route 9 becomes Route 51, winding its way past Old Town and on to Cumberland. Scenic and virtually traffic-free. I saw virtually no cars ahead of me or behind me, although I did get passed by a Dodge Viper Coupe…
Just before Grantsville, MD is the Casselman River Bridge State Park. This bridge was used from the early 1800s until 1933, carrying all of the National Road (Route 40) traffic. I’d say it’s earned a rest!
Just before reaching the Summit Inn on Route 40, you go by Fort Necessity State Park and the Mount Washington Tavern. Both are well worth a visit. The Tavern was built in about 1828 and was very active as a stopover along the National Road. More info at http://https://www.heraldstandard.com/special_sections/pike_tab/mount-washington-tavern-offers-glimpse-at-th-century-hospitality-business/article_27d011cb-5011-5a88-b65b-4043ab29a8fc.html]A Glimpse at 19th Century Hospitality
At the Summit Inn, I met up with Buzz. It’s a great, but not cheap, place to stay. Best of all, it has a very warm, very bubbly jacuzzi in between its indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Just the place to relax tired muscles after a long (for me) ride. If you look really carefully, you can just spot an R1100R parked under the front entrance roof…
Ohiopyle—and Another Castle
The next day, we rode off to Ohiopyle and had a great non-healthy breakfast at a little country store. Sufficiently fortified, we continued on up 381 to Normalville, over 711 to Connellsville, along Englishman Hill road and various others to Donegal, then up Bethel Church Road and 982 to Route 30, and then up 259 nearly to the town of Indiana, PA. We spotted this house along the way, but decided its lower rates weren’t worth the drop in luxury compared to the Summit Inn…
On Route 22, Clem’s Cafe had outstanding barbecue and ribs, as evidenced by Buzz (who is about to start licking his fingers!)
We finally turned South on 982 and enjoyed its winding beauty all the way back to Connellsville. Here we are, demonstrating that we can ride along quite nicely, even after the training wheels were removed…
Turning West, we headed over to Brownsville in search of the historic Nemacolin Castle. Between getting rained on for ten minutes and missing a turn onto Tippecanoe Road (no kidding!), it took a little longer to find Brownsville than it should have. And once there, we couldn’t find the castle to save our lives. Fortunately, a friendly fellow on a Suzuki GSX1000 and his girlfriend offered to lead us there. The “castle” (actually a stately mansion built in the 1700s) was worth the effort. Nemacolin, incidentally, was the name of the Indian guide who helped settlers develop what became the National Road.
Even better, the local brass band was playing songs, and ice cream cones–with freshly baked-on-the-spot waffle cones, woohoo!–were being sold for charity. It was a great place to rest a while and enjoy the music, ice cream, and local sights. More info on the castle, and Brownsville generally, is available at Nemacolin Castle
After a little more sightseeing, we rode back to the Summit Inn for another swim and jacuzzi dip, and then back into Uniontown for a delicious hole-in-the-wall Chinese dinner.
From Summit Inn to Summit Point
Sunday morning, we set off on our different ways–in my case, toward Summit Point to join the BMWBMW annual picnic. With the prior day’s rain and the changing temperatures, I quickly encountered some of the thickest fog I’d seen in a long time. Fortunately, there was essentially no other traffic on 40 that early in the morning, and the fog disappeared by the time I got back to Grantsville.
From there, I slabbed it on 68 to Cumberland and set off on Route 28 South to Romney, WV. This fellow showed up through the mist and brought back memories of the 1950s:
Romney turned out to be quite historic, having been first settled in 1725, and is considered WV’s oldest town. It was also having an Historic Festival. I didn’t stay for the festivities, however, being anxious to get to The Point in time for the parade laps. I did get a quick picture of the Mt. Pisgah church, which was quaint and unusual even by WV standards.
Leaving Romney on the famous Route 50, I quickly made it to Winchester, VA and then along Route 7 and some barely remembered back roads to the track. Whereupon, I discovered I was exactly just in time for the parade laps! Here’s Fearless Nate waiting to lead us Fearless BMWBMW Bikers onto the track.
My other Summit Point photos are available at Summit Point Picnic 2006. Here are my favorite Nate Kern pictures of the day:
After a terrific time at the track, Hello Kitty and I motored on back to Catonsville, as chronicled elsewhere–and I got to try her neato-keeno R1200GS! (Thanks again Nancy!!)
All in all, it was 215 miles to the Summit Inn on Friday, about 200 miles touring in SW Pennsylvania on Saturday, 140 miles to Summit Point, and maybe another 80 miles back home. The CS ran perfectly throughout, I only got rained on (briefly) twice, and I finally met a whole bunch of great folks with whom I’d only conversed online previously.
And Nate won 2 out of his 3 races! Who could ask for anything more?