On the Road: Traveling to Burke's Garden in southwest Virginia

| 2/2/2012 10:58:59 AM

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Sometimes it can be hard to predict what will turn out to be a Good Idea. Does taking street machines on an unknown dirt road qualify as one? I found myself facing one of those decisive moments motorcycling on VA Highway 91 in mid-June.  After an exhilarating half-hour of watching Don Sprinkle’s BMW GS’s taillight gradually recede while I dodged the gravel patches residing in every third or fourth curve, I came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the highway next to Don and the “Pavement Ends” sign, staring at a gravel road climbing up over the next mountain. As I removed my helmet, Terry Shiels pulled up on the other side.  We had left Charlotte that morning, passed through Saltville, VA a few miles back, and our goal was Tazewell, and a visit to Burke’s Garden, reputed to be a stunningly beautiful pocket of rural tranquility in a very quiet region of western Virginia’s mountains. We now had to reach a consensus on whether to proceed on dirt, or turn around and find a paved route to Tazewell.  


The mountains’ beauty shrouded in the morning fog 

For Don, it was a no-brainer. His BMW GS boxer had all the options, including a dirt-road detection device.  He would have ridden gravel all the way from Charlotte had such a road been available.  Terry’s gaze told a different story.  He was astride his newly-acquired Triumph Sprint GT, a stunningly beautiful 600-lb sport tourer.  It had so much new on it, that he literally polished it every time we stopped, to ensure the freshness shone through. I could tell he wasn’t so enthusiastic.  My ’78 Moto Guzzi V50 was a pavement-only machine, but it was light enough to handle gravel, and old enough for that prospect not to bother me too much. 


Not all of Virgina's major highways are paved!