Do you sometimes feel that the roads you ride are
too, well, familiar; that you need new roads to explore? WRMT regularly
profiles great rides in the mid-Atlantic region, but sometimes they're
too far for a day trip - if only they were closer to home, eh?
Well, it's time to cut the tether! Just pick a spot and plan a weekend campout - your home away from home. Set up camp, and then explore the new roads and sights - whether twisties up in the mountains, historic sites like Williamsburg, VA and the Pennsylvania Amish country, or small fishing towns down along the Chesapeake.
Usually, you can camp for less than $15 a night for two people. Invite friends along, and you'll have an absolute blast sitting around the campfire "kicking ties" and swapping lies.
Camping? Yuck! If images flash through your mind of creepy crawlies, wild animals, or a guy in a goalie mask stalking stupid kids in the woods - WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE! You'll find that most public and private campgrounds are really quite comfortable, with clean restrooms, hot showers, and VERY friendly people, and even swimming pools and lakes at some campgrounds. In fact, thee are motorcycle-only campgrounds in western North Carolina (and other places). The ones in NC are within easy striking distance of the Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway; two very great places to ride and tour. I've NEVER had a problem with security; I've often left portable TVs, boom boxes, and even a laptop computer in tents or tent trailers (secured with one or two zippers), and after a day out riding, have returned to find nothing has been touched.
Gear . . . how much do you need? Well, how much can you haul? Basic gear is a tent and a sleeping bag, available inexpensively at Sears, sporting goods stores, and other shops. The best starter is a small, three-person dome tent. They take up less space than a rainsuit, the fiberglass poles can be bungied to a sissy bar or beside the saddle below your legs, and they set up in just a few minutes. If you regularly ride two-up, get a two person sleeping bag. It's a little larger than a one-person bag, but a lot friendlier and warmer! Other useful gear includes a small flashlight (like a "maglight"), a small can of "Deep Woods Off" insect repellant, and a small sterno cooking kit. See the checklist below for other useful items. Considering the new areas to explore, the money saved on hotels, and the camaraderie of camping with riding friends, a $100 investment in gear can pay for iteself within one riding/camping season. Of course, a dresser or trailer will haul enough gear to make your stay more enjoyable, but many people tour on bikes other than dressers, or without trailers.
Where do you stay? There are three types of facilities in the world of camping: national camping chains, "independents", and public campgrounds. The chains - KOA, Jellystone and Good Sam, to name a few, have standardized their facilities and publish catalogs of their campgrounds, offer help registering at campgrounds in other states, and provide discount cards, to reduce the cost of your stay (KOA, for example, sells a card thru American Motorcyclist Assn which gets a 10% discount for each night that you camp out). KOA's guide is free (pick one up the first time you stay at a KOA, or send them $3 - address is below); their discount or "Value Card" was $4 for AMA members, $8 for non-members.
National chains have very nice sites, clean restrooms, good hot showers, and often stores, a pool, even a hot tub! Larger ones, especially those near cities, offer "events" too numerous to categorize, but I've seen: bingo games, Navajo tribal dances, steak cookouts, dances, hay rides, and other things, usually free or for a very nominal cost. Some KOAs and other chain campgrounds even have cabins: all you need is a sleeping bag.
Private campgrounds vary in quality; some are good (like the High Country Cycle Camp in Ferguson, NC), some are the pits! The costs vary, too. State and national parks (and even city parks in some of the western states) range from primitive sites (pit toilets, no showers or electricity) to sites comparable to the chains. Parks run by the Army Corps of Engineers are usually extrememely well laid-out, with lots of facilities. Call the state director of tourism (some are listed below; others can be found at http://www.oocities.com/MotorCity/Downs/1382 on my links page, or in the AMA Yellow Pages) for a list of campgrounds, facilities and services. The best buy is usually a public campground without electricity at the site.
I'd like to offer three camping trips for you to consider, in the mid-Atlantic region.
Luray, VA, in the upper Shenandoah Valley, is ideally situated. You can see Luray Caverns, Skyline Drive (a pay-for-the-week [$2 to bikers] extension of the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Waynesboro/I64 to the I66/Front Royal, VA), canoe the Shenandoah River, browse outlet malls in Winchester, VA, or tour many Civil and Revolutionary War battle sites within a few hours ride, including the excellent Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD or Harpers Ferry, WVA. There are two campgrounds in Luray, a Jellystone Park and Country Waye campground (703-743-7222) off US340 two miles north of Luray (just north of Pass Run, a small creek). Country Waye is a very nice private campground that welcomes motorcyclists (although, the gravel driveway is a bit forbidding to greenhorns). The Virginia Motorcyclist Assn had a Blue Ridge Mountain Rendesvous rally there in 1988, and Malcolm Forbes launched his "hot air Harley" balloon from this campground. Best feature: they have a great view of the Massanutten and Blue Ridge Mountains, plus an OUTDOORS HOT TUB! Nothing like riding the hills all day, then sitting in the hot tub, watching the sun set over the Massanuttens!
Intercourse is smack dab in the middle of the Pennsylvania Amish country east of Lancaster, PA. Just a few blocks north of PA 340 in Intercourse is a small Good Sam campground. The Beacon Camping Lodge, W. Newport Rd., Box 384, Intercourse, PA 17534, 717-768-8775, is within a long walk of "main street" (PA 340) and there are wineries, pretzel factories, and Amish/Mennonite craft shops and other stores throughout the county. The Strasburg Railroad museum has a very large display on early railroading history, and just a few miles west of Lancaster, in York, is the Harley Davidson assembly plant and museum. On the other side of York is the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg; both are worth a visit! In addition to great Pennsylvania Dutch cooking (ride to eat, eat to ride!), the campground used to have small Amish/Mennonite girls come through in the late afternoon peddling homemade wares, like pastry, jars of fruit, and so forth. Also, one of the motel restaurants in town has a house speciality, "Old Fashioned Pig Stomach" which tastes really well and isn't half as disgusting as it sounds (it's basically sausage, potatoes and, well, you'll have to check it out yourself . . .).
The George Washington National Forest is in the Virginia Highlands west of Harrisonburg VA. There are camping facilties at both ends of Lake Moomaw, and a really decent campground near Clifton Forge at Douthat State Park (on VA 629 just north of I64, east of town; 703-862-7200). The campground has very clean sites, many with electricity, clean bathrooms and hot water, fishing, a lake, and a restaurant, one of many in this part of the country constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Construction Corps and all built from the same blueprints! The restaurant, on weekends, often has all-you-can-eat lake fish! (HEY! I AM a Gold Wing driver!) From this campground, you can run north to VA 39, a "scenic byway" and go west to Warm Springs (be sure to visit Gristmill Square, in town). At the northern intersection of VA 39 and US 220, look for the public spas, one for men, one for women, in buildings built by Thomas Jefferson in the late 1700s! Inside are large pools of warm, incredibly clear mineral (well, sulfur) water. After soaking for an hour or so, letting the bubbles wash over you, try going downstairs to sit in the spillway (hot water runoff from the pool), then linger outside in the gazebo for a while. It may take some time to regain your strength, the pools are THAT relaxing! Continue west on VA 39 for the Cass Mountain Scenic Railway, a cog railway that runs up the side of a mountain, just off US 219/WV 55 near Snowshoe, WV.
Finally, I'd like to mention a group which actively supports motorcycle touring/camping. The International Brotherhood of Motorcycle Campers can be contacted at IBMC, P.O. Box 1145, Ridgecrest, CA 93556-1145, (760) 375-2521, mrosen @ ridgecrest.ca.us. Members sponsor campouts around the U.S. throughout the year (well, very few in Maine or the Dakotas in the winter). Contact the IBMC for current membership dues.
KOA Value Card, P.O. Box 31734D, Billings, MT, 59107-1734;
High Country Cycle Camp, Ferguson, NC (919) 973-7522;
TWO (Two Wheels Only) M/C Camp Resort, Suches, GA (404) 747-5151;
Camping Supplies: J.C. Wunderlich Outfitters, 800-359-1413;
Gander Mtn, 800-558-9418
CAMPING GEAR: Typical "Starter" kit
___ Sleeping bag(s) ___ Flashlight ___ Toiletries
___ Riding clothes ___ Tent ___ Bug spray
___ Towel ___ Water bottle
___ Sterno cooking kit ___ Air matress ___ Tent stakes
___ Small grill ___ Shower clogs ___ 15' nylon rope
___ Cookware ___ Extra clothes ___ Tarp
___ Plates, flatware ___ Swim suit ___ Bike cover
___ Can opener ___ Dish soap/towel ___ Ice chest
___ Paper towels/napkins ___ SOS pad ___ Seasonings
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