A mountaintop experience: Running a ridge in West Virginia

I was lost, but for a few miles I also was on top of the world

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West Virginia
Somewhere on this map is that road I'll never find again | Google map

As you might have noticed, during the month of August we’re writing a lot on the ClassicCars.com Journal about our favorite roads. But for today’s dispatch, I have a problem. I cannot tell you very much about one of the best roads I’ve ever driven. But I can share the story of how it happened:

Back when I lived in Michigan, my son, Ethan, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and after boot camp at San Diego, he was assigned to the U.S.S. America, an aircraft carrier based at Norfolk, Virginia.

With my brother and his wife also living in Virginia, albeit a few hours from Norfolk over in Staunton, I had cause for making rather frequent trips from MI to VA.

Now, if you’re read much about my favorite road trips, you know I much prefer two-lanes, or at least rural state highways, to the interstates. 

Ask Google Maps to plot you a route from my Michigan home to the Norfolk Navy Base and it suggests a series of interstates through Cleveland the Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., and Richmond.

Suggestion rejected! I’d angle southeast across Ohio, often on a wonderful road that paralleled a beautiful river, and explored several amazing byways across West Virginia, and if you haven’t driven U.S. 250 up and over the mountain in the George Washington National Forest you should go back and do so.

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Back in the 1990s, I had neither cell phone nor fancy-schmancy Global Positioning Satellite technology and relied on old-fashioned maps to find my way. 

But one day, somewhere in West Virginia, I turned left when I should have gone straight and found myself on a road that narrowed as it climbed, finally little more than a single-car wide as it reached the ridge, which it followed for, I’m guessing, perhaps 10 miles before taking me down into a valley.

Honestly, I cannot tell you where I was because I really don’t know. I was — quite literally — lost. 

Lost, indeed, but for 10 or for however many miles I found myself on the most enjoyable road I’ve ever driven. I remember thinking this would be motorcycle heaven, atop this mountain on this twisting, writhing narrow pavement winding between the trees and providing amazing views into the valleys on either side. 

It was a wonderful experience, but I knew I was lost, so after the road took me down into a valley, I turned toward what I figured was East, and I drove on a country lane until I saw someone, in this case several pre-teen children playing in the front yard of a house. I pulled over and asked them how to get to the nearest town. 

They pointed the way. I found the town and regained my bearings. I continued on my way, although immediately missing what had just happened, a marvelous drive on a road I already knew I’d never find again.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

3 COMMENTS

  1. West Virginia is a beautiful state to get lost in! I live in western Pennsylvania and have family in northern Virginia so I make the trip at least once a year. I ways down there that confuse the heck out of the GPS! My favorite route has become Rt 219 through western Maryland and West Virginia. Very scenic and very windy. Takes me through some small towns in West Virginia that you won’t find on most maps.

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