Oh Shenondoah…


After all the drama of the Neil Peart ride story, I’m hesitant to post a normal, regular, plain ol’ ride report. But here it is, nonetheless.

Following a nearly 3-week layoff from riding, two weekends ago I decided to find roads that followed the course of the Shenondoah River as closely as possible. I pressed MapSource into use and plotted a route along anything that it said was a road. More on this subject to follow!

I got an early start, initially rode to Jefferson, MD, and then followed pleasant back roads through the tiny town of Lander and on toward Point of Rocks. On my own, once again, I quickly reverted to my usual behavior and stopped occasionally for a picture (e.g., every few feet). The advice given to new pilots to “always keep at least one wing in the sunshine.” Maybe it applies to motorcycles, too:

Once in Virginia, I took a series of back roads that I’d never been on, through Milltown and Frogtown and other semi-nonexistent places, always moving south and west. Early on, I went by the VA version of Catoctin Creek (which is unrelated to the MD version).

Along the way, there were stately old mansions…

…and churches (this one, fittingly, on Rehobeth Church Road)…

…and lots of mini-bridges and creeks, most with virtually no water.

Somewhere along the way, I actually found the Shenondoah River. It, too, was pretty low on water. The little dot in the middle of this picture is a fellow who was wading across the river.

Fortunately, there appeared to be enough to handle the occasional tire swinger:

My route also took me by the imposing Holy Cross Abbey and then the modest Wickliffe Church, originally constructed in 1819 and rebuilt into its current configuration in 1846.

I couldn’t find any information on this old house, which appears to have fallen on hard times.

Following River Road, I came to Route 7, crossed the Shenondoah there, and immediately went north again on Castleman Road. After a while, I ended up on Route 25, which on the map tracked the river nicely on its western bank. Very quickly, however, Route 25 became narrower, unpaved, progressively rougher, and–not far around this corner–just a pair of tractor tire paths, one about 1 1/2 feet higher than the other. (And this was on an official “route” in a civilized State!)

I teetered along as far as I could. But by now I was well onto someone’s private property, and the road just disappeared altogether (despite the Zumo showing that it continued right along the river). I decided to turn around when I reached this pickup, which looked like it was hors de combat…

…but the really weird thing was lurking a ways off in the distance, in the middle of a grove of trees. The more I looked at it, the more it appeared to be a double-decker bus–out here in the middle of nowhere! And by golly, that’s exactly what it was. Go figure.

Given the dead-end, I had to backtrack quite a ways and find another way around to pick up Route 25 again. It wasn’t too hard and, once safely back at the river, I found this bike-by-the-river photo op, just for Tina:

Naturally, a few miles later on, the now-infamous Route 25 turned into someone’s private driveway. Moreover, there was a “welcoming committee” present, so I couldn’t even explore too far to see if it actually continued. As best I could tell, it quickly dead-ended at their dilapidated house, with the last little bit covered by a number of Dead Cars in Various Stages of Disrepair. More detouring ensured, together with one more Route 25 dead-end, and eventually I gave up and headed to Route 340 in West Virginia. (A rather less-civilized State, I’m afraid–but at least their Routes are for real!)

After a quick lunch in Charles Town, WV, I decided to continue my riverside trek, but this time along the banks of the Potomac on Old Furnace-Molers Road and then County Route 17. This proved to be a great choice, with one beautiful setting after another. With all the reflected flora, even the river looked green:

CR-17 also ran right alongside a semi-calm pool created by Knott Island in the Potomac, right across from where Antietam Creek empties into the river on the Maryland side. The main part of the Potomac is visible in the distance:

A little ways south of Shepherdstown, from the corner of my eye I saw what looked to be a sizable stone ruin. Sure enough…

…although the main front wall was unfortunately decorated. I don’t know what this place used to be: It seemed too big for someone’s house, but it was too far up the riverbank to serve as a mill. It could have been an inn, although it was a fairly remote location. Hmmm, it was just off of Cement Mill Road. How long ago did anyone know about cement??

I crossed back into Maryland at Shepherdstown, and motored on to what I thought would be the long-gone town of Wevertown. As it happened, however, there were still lots of houses in the area. So much for ghost towns. But it was nonetheless scenic and fun to pass through.

From Weverton, it was 340 and 70 back to Catonsville. All told, the ride was about 240 miles, with clear but extremely hot weather. What more could one ask for, since I enjoyed every single mile? And I learned an important lesson regarding electronic road databases: ‘Tain’t necessarily so!

Rick F.

PS–As always, if anyone would like the route, just let me know. You, too, can end up at a dead-end with a double-decker bus in the middle of rural Virginia!


Written by Rick

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