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Old 11-12-2007, 04:38 PM   #1
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The Road Not Taken

So have you ever been on a trip and been tempted to take a scenic byway? Well here's one to AVOID. My sister and I were visiting last week in the scenic Bryce Mountain area of Virginia, Just outside the town of Basye (ten miles off of route 81, 25 north of Harrisonburg). I'd left the Airstream home as she has a time-share condo there.

We did quite a bit of "exploring" the back roads and found a road that you'll never, never, never want to be caught dead or alive on with your Airstream. It's called "Crooked Run Road" state route 720 in Virginia and state route 20 in West Virginia. We wanted to really get up in the mountains where we could see the leaves and listen to the quiet of the real country. So we decided to cross through the national forest from Virginia to West Virginia in HER mini-van. Why didn't I insist on taking the 4-wheel drive Burb?!!! Well we started out climbing gradually through the lovely woods with the high end vacation homes... and then crossed the LAST intersection before going into the real woods. As we went higher and higher the leaf colors changed from multicolor orange, red, brown and yellow to a pure buttery yellow interlaced with black tree trunks and branches... you could almost hear the leaves fall. We continued on... and saw four people on horseback taking a leisurely ride up the road. They pulled their horses off the road so we could proceed, but looked at us like we were crazy. Hmmm.... wonder why they think that? About half a mile later it started to dawn on us...

This gravel road is now less than one lane wide. The turns are very sharp, and at every turn there's a little pull off that has boulders stacked at the end (only later did we realize it was an emergency stop for vehicles coming down). We thought about turning around, but with a 300 ft drop on one side and a 300 ft cliff on the other, there didn't seem to be any really good places. And we kept saying, "Well how much worse can it get?". Hem.

We'd almost reached the top when Karen's cell rang. Neither of us could believe that we had coverage in that remote location. Karen answered, but quickly hung up after promising a callback. We started to wonder why anyone would have even built such a "road". Then suddenly we reached the top - and a fabulous view... and we knew why the road existed - there were two cell towers, and of course they needed to be at the top of the highest peak in the area.

At the very top there WAS room to turn back... but we were at the top and wanted to end up in West Virginia so we said (once again idiocy prevailing), "well, how much worse can it be going down the other side versus the one we just came up?" HOLY CRAP, trust me it didn't take 500 feet to convince us was worse. On the way down the road was banked OUT toward the cliff, not inward towards the mountain and it got narrower.... and the whole thing was covered with wet leaves.

Karen came almost to a stop on one turn and I suggested she manually shift into low gear. She asked why and I said "do you know what brakes smell like when they're overheated?" She said "Oh.......... " and put the car in low gear. The leaves blew off one place in the road just ahead and revealed the bare granite rocks of the mountain... not even any gravel or dirt on the road. Each turn was more precarious than the next and the grade must have approached 20% on a few of the straighter portions of the road. Then suddenly I saw a tiny cabin with an outhouse and said, "Karen I think we're past the worst, someone actually lives here." Thru gritted teeth she responded something unprintable that ended with "or was stranded here!"

Well five minutes later we were back on the edge of civilization... with one hunter walking through the trees... looking at us like we were ghosts (or total nutjobs?).

Karen says if I ever again say "Well at least we weren't trying to tow the Airstream..." she's going to brain me!

w) Paula
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:55 PM   #2
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Hey, what are you complaining about - sounds like you got to see leaves after all!
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Old 11-12-2007, 06:48 PM   #3
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Great story...sounds like the hair on the back of your neck stood up a few times. Been there and done that on a bike and always come out of the woods with a great story to share with friends. That's the best part of the journey of roads less traveled! Thanks for sharing
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Old 11-12-2007, 08:23 PM   #4
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I can just see and hear you both Paula. Glad you two are out enjoying adventuring. Probably a little steep (literally) for my blood but I sure loved your story. Thanks for sharing and a hi to Karen. You two should consider the can opener if you are free. No slip sliding away, you hear?
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Old 11-12-2007, 08:49 PM   #5
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Great story! I had a similar one in my then-new '79 Jeep CJ-7... after we got out, we found out we'd been driving on an old abandoned artillery range! Talk about increased pucker factor!

Roger
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Old 11-12-2007, 09:09 PM   #6
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Robert Frost Poem

Of course, someone has to quote the famous poem -- the one I read at my son's wedding this June:





TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;


Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and Ió

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Great story!
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Old 11-13-2007, 06:48 AM   #7
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Paula, great story!
Thanks for posting it

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Old 11-13-2007, 09:22 AM   #8
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We too took a "less traveled by," and like you, Paula, survived to tell the tale, but the telling still brings out clinched muscles and perspiration. Our less traveled route was the back road from the west (Idaho) side of the Tetons to Flagg Ranch campground between the two national parks. It showed on the map, little dashes (!)--let that forewarn you, and someone we talked to on the Idaho side said it was rough but possible, at least they thought it still was. We were in our Toyota LC, thought we had fuel, power and clearance, so off we drove. Hmmmmm, clearing of throat. We started fine, looking forward to seeing some backcountry off the beaten paths, but like Paula, the way got rougher, narrower, mere portions of an inch of clearance on the sides between boulders, trees, and sharp turns. We saw NO ONE. We had no cell phone connection. I was sure that we'd die on that road and never be recovered. Since I'm here retelling the adventure, obviously we didn't die and we love to remember the drive. I thought we were reasonable people; I never thought we'd try such a thing again until ...last fall when we took a "scenic" trek up along the treeline in the Rockies in search of aspen groves. Our spines still feel the jars as our truck lurched from boulder in the road to boulder. Horses make better sense--and we met some sensible people on horseback along the lurch, er...drive! And by the way, the Tetons are fully as lovely when viewed from Idaho as from Wyoming with some spectacular side trips along the way, just don't take the backroad into Flagg Ranch! ~G
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Old 11-13-2007, 09:52 AM   #9
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Wife and I had a somewhat similar story a number of years ago in the Smokey Mountains. We were staying in Waynesville NC and had gone across the mountain to tour Cades Cove on the Tennessee side. As we were leaving Cades Cove, the Park Ranger informed us that there had been an ice storm and that the road back to NC was closed.
After consulting a map, we saw a fire trail from the backside of Cades Cove loop over to Fontana NC. Well, having just bought my 1st 4X4, we said "Let's go for it".
Well, granted I was like a kid in a candy store, grinning from ear to ear, but the road left quite a bit to be desired, even with high clearance and 4 wheel drive.
The amazing part of this was that a family in a family Sedan decided to do the same thing and they were ahead of us. At some point, they pulled to the side and let us go by. Never saw them again.
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Old 11-13-2007, 12:15 PM   #10
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"...At some point, they pulled to the side and let us go by. Never saw them again." Story fades off to the background lyrics...."But did they ever return? No they never returned, and their fate is still unlearned. They may ride forever..." Yeh, I admit that I was a Kingston Trio fan ~G
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Old 11-13-2007, 04:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FordTruck
Wife and I had a somewhat similar story a number of years ago in the Smokey Mountains. We were staying in Waynesville NC and had gone across the mountain to tour Cades Cove on the Tennessee side. As we were leaving Cades Cove, the Park Ranger informed us that there had been an ice storm and that the road back to NC was closed.
After consulting a map, we saw a fire trail from the backside of Cades Cove loop over to Fontana NC. Well, having just bought my 1st 4X4, we said "Let's go for it".
Well, granted I was like a kid in a candy store, grinning from ear to ear, but the road left quite a bit to be desired, even with high clearance and 4 wheel drive.
The amazing part of this was that a family in a family Sedan decided to do the same thing and they were ahead of us. At some point, they pulled to the side and let us go by. Never saw them again.
I believe we took the same road many years ago with our Coleman pop-up in tow. Had to replace panels on it when we got home after scraping the rocks.
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Old 11-13-2007, 07:10 PM   #12
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Don't be tempted to take the back way through Lucerne Valley to Big Bear Lake, Calif. After the nice big friendly road has narrowed and there are absolutely no places to turn around is when you see the signs that say "Sharp Curves and Steep Grades Ahead, Vehicles with Trailers Prohibited, Grades Ahead 6% to 16%". You wouldn't believe how many car drivers told me that I was Number 1.

Also, leaving the main gate of Fort Irwin, Calif. is a sign that says "Absolutely Nothing Next 22 Miles" and it's definitely the case.
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Old 11-13-2007, 10:14 PM   #13
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Foiled Again - My parents tell of a drive very similar from their travels in Virginia in the early 1960's. The were trying to get to Lost River WV State Park from the Shenandoah Valley north of Harrisonburg in a 1959 Ford - the addition to your story was the hole in the gas tank from the softly sprung car dragging on the bedrock slab roadways you spoke of repaired with a whittled poplar wood plug, then at the 1st service station they came across after crossing the mountains the attendant greeted them by name since he was a neighbor visiting his family in West Virginia.

My Dad tells of having to go to Timberville WV to get the tank repaired - and how definite the road was marked with a blue line on the new map they were using but how in actuality it was a rough fire trail. He got a good laugh from your Cell Phone ringing - remember there were manned fire towers and access roads criss-crossing the nearly wild mountains until they mostly reverted back to private ownership in the late 60's...

One thing I've seen about the Bryce area - hiking the mountains one notices all the trees seem to be growing in tight circles from being clear cut and the stumps resprouting, that is the trees the Gypsy Moths spared...
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