Day 18: Monday 1st October : 243 miles and a beer to forget!

Another day, another hotel breakfast. This one was made a little more interesting by the chap we got talking to who was riding a Kawasaki Ninja 650 that we’d seen yesterday and is fitted with dual-sport (on/off-road) tyres. He said he’d ridden part of the Trans-AM Trail (TAT) on it, the dirt-road route across the US Aaron and I rode in 2011! That’s quite some feat on what is essentially a sports-bike, but he did only go as far as Oaklahoma, which is only at the start and on the flat and easy bit.

Straight after leaving the hotel we were back on the twisty back roads of West Virginia, roads that took us through forests and past fields and small settlements dotted here and there, the white wooden houses and immaculate lawns standing out against the rugged tree-lined forests. We also saw weird plant formations, where leaves from the Kudzu plant (also known as Japanese Arrowroot), have surrounded the low plants at the roadside, the trees and even the telegraph poles. Some of these formations looked like animals standing proud and I swore one of them looked like Disney’s Tigger. The plant is invasive, grows like crazy and, having surrounded other plants is killing them off all over the southern states. It does look amazing, though!

After more twisty roads and a section of gravel road we stopped for lunch, opting for a Chinese instead of Subway thinking it would be lighter and more healthy. We were wrong, it was disgusting, swimming in MSG and completely tasteless. Not only that, but it sat heavy on the stomach, detracting from the afternoon’s excellent riding. The afternoon saw us head up into the mountains on a very twisty road, with hairpin bends and great views. The signs at the start proclaimed this to be the “Back of the Dragon”, an obvious reference to the famous “Tail of the Dragon” road near Deal’s Gap that I’d ridden before the start of the TAT in 2011. Googling this later, it is clearly an attempt to bring more motorcyclists to the area, declaring it the “The premier road in North America offers thirty two miles and 438 curves of knee dragging fun” on the official website! I wasn’t dragging my knee (or anything else for that matter!) but it was an enjoyable ride. It wasn’t without unexpected hazards either, as coming into one right hand bend Dean had a massive moment when he hit a large patch of gravel (the only one on a road like this we’d seen), but he saved it well.

Our overnight stop was the Holiday Inn in West Jefferson and with a brewery in with a good rating for its food, we looked like we were in for a good night to end a great day. Only we then discovered this must be the only town in the whole of the US without either a taxi service or Uber. So we had to ride to dinner, which was as good as we hoped, even if we couldn’t wash it down with a cold beer. This being a craft brewery, I asked if they did take-outs and they did, in the form of a Growler (32oz) or Crowler (16oz). Not knowing what either was but not wanting to end up with a lot of a beer I didn’t like, I ordered 2 Crowlers, one of their “Ass Clown Brown Ale” and one called “Ass Clown Ghost Chilli Ale”, whilst Dean got one of their pumpkin ales. The brown ale was very good, but the pumpkin ale tasted, somewhat unsurprisingly, of pumpkin and was, to my taste buds, not very nice. Dean liked it though, his American palate clearly attuned to pumpkins (which we’ve seen everywhere). But the Ghost Chilli ale was something else. Made with Ghost Chillies, it was very spicy hot, to the point where a little sip was enough to bring on the sweats and set my lips on fire. A second sip only confirmed this and that was enough for me. Dean tried it, and the sight of him bouncing around the room, face bright red, coughing and spluttering had me in fits. When he went back for a second go and did the same it was just as funny. The crazy fool kept trying it to see if it would improve with each taste. It didn’t and the rest went down the toilet, where it probably cleared the drains from here to the east coast!

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