Motorcycle Touring in Logan County, West Virginia

Two motorcyclists on the road in search of good directions, good steak and good roads. Story and photos by Lee Klancher.

Quests play a pivotal role in travel. Whether traveling to find something or discovering a search that develops as I travel, I always seem to end up looking for something when on the road. In the case of a recent ride in and around Man, West Virginia, Darrick, my riding buddy, and I found ourselves with three primary quests: finding a decent steak, riding some great motorcycle roads, and locating just one West Virginian who could give us good directions.

The search for great motorcycling turned out to be the easiest goal to fulfill. West Virginia has a reputation with truckers as one of the toughest states to drive. The roads we traveled on the route from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Man earned that moniker, with tight turns, narrow lanes and steep shoulders.

The very features that make these roads a challenge for truck drivers make them alluring to motorcyclists. On our bikes, the twisty pieces of tarmac were a delight, and we took special pleasure in the tight turns on U.S. Highway 10 from Huntington south to Logan. This mountainous stretch is surprisingly populated, with houses packed along the narrow, winding, two-lane road. Traffic is steady but hardly heavy, and the tiny towns you pass through—Stepptown, Crum, Marrowbone Creek, Kermit—are a blend of shockingly tumbledown and painstakingly maintained houses.

We spotted a fairly new sheriff's car sitting in a junkyard/repair shop and resting on its hubs, the hood open to the weather and one of the wheels missing. A hillside road lined with hundreds of junk cars ran above a little town full of immaculate brick homes, clean apartment buildings and abandoned trailer homes stripped of their tin, the bare wall studs rotting away in the weather.

Southern West Virginia is rugged country, with low rocky mountains rising above narrow valleys. Mountain streams rush through these valleys, and the roads wind along the bottom. We found the occasional back road snaking up into the hills, and we took a terrific loop near Logan, West Virginia. These little roads were not marked with signs, though they were numbered and lettered on the map. When we came to a town—which was often not much more than a half-dozen houses—and a turn, we could look at the map and orient ourselves.

We achieved the third goal of our trip while searching for the second. We needed to find a good place for our traditional Saturday night motorcycle trip meal of meat, meat and more meat, and we did our usual drill of asking around to find the best steakhouse in the area.

After getting directions to a few promising places, we came to the conclusion that finding anything in West Virginia requires careful listening skills. In fact, interpreting local directions was much like finding the killer in the board-game Clue. You have to ask a lot of different people questions, listen carefully, take notes and then assemble what you learn into a coherent thesis.

We talked to one young lady in a local establishment who assured us that a nearby restaurant offered the best prime rib in town. It sounded enticing, so we asked her the way. Her response went something like this: "Oh, it's easy to get there." West Virginians said this to us a lot. If you live there, it's probably even true.

"First, go down the main road."

"You mean Highway 10?"

"Yeah, the main road. Go until you come to a left, but don't turn there. Then go some more until you see a right turn."

"On which road?"

"You know where the Taco Bell is?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Just past there, there's a right turn."

"So turn right. Got it."

"No, no. Don't turn right. Just go past that until you come to a bridge."

"And go past it?"

"No, turn back under the bridge. And then go straight until you can go right. The place is right there. You can't miss it."

"Ummm...thanks."

As with Clue, we found that each set of directions gave us a few more pieces of information. In the end, we came up with just enough knowledge to figure out how to get to the restaurant.

When we arrived at the eatery, called Tops, we found out it was a private club. This is common in parts of the world where liquor licenses can be tough to get.

In West Virginia, private clubs have locked, windowless front doors. You have to press a buzzer to be let in. When we walked up to the front door of Tops, all that greeted us was a dingy front entryway containing a plywood door painted flat black with a red-lit buzzer on the frame. We pushed the button and a burly man in a blue T-shirt checked our IDs and waved us in. Inside was a vintage low-rent supper club, with a low-lit dining room and a large, dark, somewhat dank room with a U-shaped bar on one end and a stage on the other.

The prime rib came in three cuts, ranging from generous to humongous, and the giant meal complete with potatoes, salad, bread and a side of veggies cost less than $20. The meat was flavorful and juicy, not a bad cut anywhere, and terrific for the price.

On our last day of riding, we stopped at the head office of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System to check out what they had to offer. John Fekete, who manages the trail mapping for the system, heard our bikes roll up and came outside to greet us. We did the usual bike walkaround and BS session, and then asked him to recommend a good ride. He suggested a circular route on some of the tiny little back roads of Logan County.

"Head east of Man on the main road. Take a left at the Exxon. You'll then wind up the hills for about five miles and come to a Y. Go right there. About 15 miles after that, you'll come to a T. Take that left to wind back down the mountain and out onto the highway."

After he finished, he repeated the directions and paused to ask if we understood. There was a moment of stunned silence. "Wow," Darrick said, "Those are the first decent directions we've had all trip!"

If you'd like to share your favorite ride that is 100 to 500 miles long and includes at least one interesting stop, send details of the route and your contact information to _Motorcycle Cruiser, 6420 Wilshire Blvd. Floor 17, Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515; or e-mail_ Jamie.Elvidge@primedia.com.

For more descriptions of our favorite motorcycle rides and destinations, visit the Rides and Destinations section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.