When you see a group of motorcyclists you can pretty well bet there is a story driving the group. So it was Wednesday when a group of friends on two wheels rolled back into the Old Clark Inn in Marlinton, after a day ride to Virginia.
Seventy-two-year-old Carl Walker, of Fairfield, Illinois, is the “leader of the pack.”
Walker has been riding since he was 12-years-old – or “since they invented the wheel,” the group said.
He has traveled more than a half-a-million miles in 60 years and “wore out a bunch of bikes.”
In addition to working a dairy farm for many years, he also had a motorcycle assembly business, taking bikes out of their crates, putting them together and test driving them.
How do you get a job like that?
“Know the owner,” Walker said.
That owner is his cousin, John Walker, who had a Yamaha and Honda shop and a dealership.
Walker retired at 65 so he could “ride the country while I can still get on one,” he said.
Time was on his side, as he has ridden his bike to California three times, and has biked through every state on his 2010 motorcycle, racking up 78,000 miles.
Work, neighbors and connections linked the group that stopped in Marlinton.
Jane and Raymond Byrd also worked for John at his shop and dealership, and Dennis and Roberta Marshall often ride with the Byrds.
“They can’t leave us behind,” Roberta said. “We just tag along.”
Dennis offered another reason for joining the group.
“They fed us once,” he laughed.
Dennis Dozier used to race dirt bikes, but said he is now too old to race, so he just pretends.
Bill and Diane Thomas round out the numbers of the group who call Fairfield home.
After a day on the road, Virgil Bumgardner, of Salem, Illinois, looked right at home on the porch of Old Clark Inn.
The group learned about Old Clark Inn from an article in Rider magazine. It was an article that told about a motorcycle trip along Williams River, as well.
In his April 1, 2014, article titled “Motorcycle Touring in West Virginia (and a bit of Virginia) Michael F. McQueary wrote:
“My destination for the next couple of days was Marlinton, West Virginia, in the heart of Pocahontas County. Marlinton sits in a valley next to the Greenbrier River, and the community serves as an important entrance to the Greenbrier River Trail. What was once the right-of-way for the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad is now an 80-mile-long hiking and bicycle trail along the scenic river.
“I was staying at the Old Clark Inn, motorcycle-friendly lodging just beyond downtown. Nelson and Andrea, my hosts, made sure I had everything I might need for an enjoyable stay, including a road tip that turned out to be a highlight of my visit. When I told him I intended to ride the Highland Scenic Byway, Nelson told me about a little-used back road called Williams River Road.
“‘When you come to Fenwick, go north on Route 20 to Cowen. When you cross the bridge, Williams River Road will be on your right.’
“And what a road it turned out to be. Just recently paved, the road hugged the Williams River for miles through the Monongahela National Forest. It had no markings, no centerline, and calling it a lane and a half wide would be generous. When the road finally broke away from the river to twist, turn and climb up the ridge toward U.S. 219 and Marlinton, it was like my own private track.”
A serious motorcyclist is always looking for a good ride – one that will cling to memory, and Walker found that at the beginning of this trip. When he left Illinois, he met up with, and rode part way with, a group from Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Indiana, that was headed to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D. C., for Memorial Day.
“Back in ‘61 our senior class took a trip to Washington, D. C. on a bus,” Walker said. “A bus was a whole lot different.”
The Walker group took a day trip to Warm Spring, Virginia, Wednesday, where they encountered a tractor, with no driver, coming down an incline toward the road.
Dennis said he yelled, “Whoa, whoa!”
Everyone laughed at the telling of the story, because they knew Dennis’ shouts would not stop the tractor – or did they?
The motorcyclists slowed down and the tractor stopped at the edge of the road.
You never know what you are going to see around the bend.
When asked where the tractor incident took place, one of the ladies said, “It was in a turn.”
Turns are an attraction for motorcyclists, but difficult to narrow down to a specific location.
After a trip through Williams River, the group was heading to Tunnel Hill, Pennsylvania, and the September 11, 2001 crash site of Flight 93.
They will then make their way to New York state before some of them return to Pocahontas County to enjoy the twists and curves of these highways.
The group settled in to their accommodations at Old Clark Inn Wednesday just before dark, sitting on the porch, calling home and enjoying the peace and quiet of the mountains.
As a commentary on their experience in the county, Bumgardner leaned back in a porch rocker and said, “Thank you for welcoming motorcycles here.”