Richness of Pocahontas County

Tamela Rich, of Charlotte, stands with her BMW G650 GS.
Tamela Rich, of Charlotte, stands with her BMW G650 GS. Photo courtesy of C. Moore

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

Tamela Rich, of Charlotte, North Carolina, first came to Pocahontas County between the fall of 2012 and 2013 and has returned on numerous occasions.

“Motorcyclists like two things,” she explained. “They like places that are welcoming to them, and they like beautiful scenery and well-maintained curvy roads – and Pocahontas County has all of that. We come here for all the reasons Pocahontas County markets and lives up to.

“A fellow motorcyclist from Ohio was just here one or two weeks ago, and she got a flat tire in Buckeye. Joe Hanna, of Hillsboro, offered to trailer her bike back to Lewisburg and took four hours out of his day to help her. That’s the kind of good testimony that goes. It has a good reputation. Motorcyclists will ask each other what places are like, and a story like that will definitely continue to bring more motorcyclists.”

For Rich, personally, Pocahontas County’s history and culture has a significant pull.

“I’m not just about staying on the bike,” she said. “The air smells great, it’s beautiful and there’s always something new to see. I like to get off, look around and go to the funky little museums. The first time I came here, I went to Richardson’s Hardware and probably spent an hour just knockin’ around. The guy showed me the high water mark from the flooding. I just love to get to know a place like that.”

Earlier this year, Rich and a number of motorcyclists from Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maryland gathered at Mountain Quest for a Ride to Reboot event.

“It wasn’t about getting on your bike and riding as much as you can,” Rich explained. “It was about when you ride and stop. The roads were nice, and we took them up to Slaty Fork. That’s how we got to stop and talk to Tom [Shipley] at Sharp’s General Store. He told us the history of the cabin and gave us a tour. He made it very special for me and for our guests.”

Following the stop at Sharp’s, the group made their way along the Scenic Highway before ending their night in the Mountain Quest library, where they were treated to the sounds of a bluegrass band out of Hillsboro.

“They were fantastic,” Rich gushed. “The cultural memory of having that trio come and play for us in the library – it may be right up there in the top ten memories of my life. It was just a beautiful evening, and they played so beautifully.”

While discussing the event, Rich praised Pocahontas County’s quiet zone.

“Very often, people get off their bikes, and the first thing they do is look at their phone. Here, there’s no temptation. They had to talk to one another and spend time with one another. We saw that as a real benefit and a reason to bring people here. Most of the people that came, I think, were from the city and just hustle, hustle, hustle.

“With Ride to Reboot, the idea was to slow down, reacquaint yourself with nature and get to know some new people.”

When she’s not touring the highways on the back of her bike, Rich is a multifaceted writer.

“I ghostwrite for other people,” she said. “I do a lot of travel-related stories, and I blog for Charlotte Parent magazine, where I talk about nice itineraries that are family-friendly.”

In addition to her travel-based works, Rich is the author of two books. The first, Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer, follows Rich as she spends two years traveling across the United States and Canada for breast cancer causes.

Her second book – which has yet to be titled – will focus on a discussion about fear and will hit the shelves some time next year.

“I usually travel alone,” she began, “but sometimes I’ll travel with a friend. Usually you see big packs of motorcycles. I don’t travel like that. I prefer being either by myself or with one or two friends. When people learn that I’ve traveled so widely on a motorcycle by myself, the number one question I’m always asked is – ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ People don’t ask me what my favorite scenic overlook or road is. They want to know if I’m afraid.”

According to Rich, there are five categories of fear – humiliation, separation, loss of autonomy, mutilation and death – and each fear a person experiences falls into one of those categories. From there, Rich – with the help of her PhD Statistician – plans to research how a person’s fear relates to and differs from the three main areas of life – intimate relationships, work and community life.

“For example, your number one fear in the workplace may be a loss of autonomy,” Rich explained, “but in your intimate relationships, your fear might be humiliation. “We all have this fear voice. It has its script that it plays all the time, so whenever you see something, more often than not, the same script runs through your mind. Even when something isn’t likely to happen, it’s still there.”

The book will feature Rich’s personal stories from the road, as well as stories and interviews from others she has met along the way.

In addition to being a motorcyclist and writer, Rich does travel segments for Charlotte Today (NBC Charlotte), Good Day Charlotte (Fox 46) and WBTV (CBS), which brought her back to Marlinton on Thursday.

“The [Pocahontas County] Convention and Visitors Bureau asked it I would like to come up and get to know the music,” she said. “I don’t know a lot about the music, the Mountain Music Heritage Trail, what’s going on or the movie, itself, but they asked if I would like to come up and check it out. I do a lot of TV back in Charlotte, and I write my own blog. It’s nice to get the word out, and I think that’s the goal – to get me more familiar with what’s going on around here so I can tell more people about it.

“I will write about the premiere on my blog and will refer to the Mountain Music Trail throughout the year as I produce stories for digital outlets and TV appearances. It’s a wonderful topic, and the Mountain Music Trail will provide plenty of suggestions for road trip stories and itineraries for my viewers.”

Rich was first introduced to motorcycles as a young girl but it wasn’t until later that her love for them was truly discovered.

“When I was a kid, my dad bought a dirt bike,” she explained, “but I had no interest. I had a horse when I was growing up, so I never had an interest in motorcycles. They [her brother and father] had a good time with it. They didn’t do anything for a long time, but then a few years ago, my dad and brother decided to do some male bonding. They wanted to learn to do something together, so they decided to buy the same bike.”

Her brother and father toured national parks from Utah to Ohio, and along the way, sent Rich pictures and videos of their journey.

“Everyone takes smart phones for granted these days,” Rich said. “Back then, there were only “dumb” – or mobile – phones, and then the iPhone came out. Well, my dad and my brother had iPhones, and I started getting emails from their iPhones of all the fun they were having on those bikes. That was bizarre. That was probably about six or seven years ago. Anyway, I was getting emails with these gorgeous pictures and videos, and I said ‘That’s exactly what I’m going to do,’ and I did it.”

She learned to ride in 2010, and following her motorcycle endorsement, traveled from North Carolina to Oregon and then back on a cross-country adventure. Since then, Rich has covered 47 states and five Canadian provinces on her BMW G650 GS.

“It’s a smaller bike,” she explained. “Not a lot of real estate, but it’s big enough for me and all the stuff I carry. I really enjoy [curvy roads], and it’s a very nimble bike. I can just zip along. I really love it. Whenever I can go somewhere on the bike, I will. I have gone at it with gusto.”

When asked if she had anything else to share about her experiences, Rich chose to part with an expression of her gratitude.

“Just thank you,” she began. “This is a lovely community, the people are open-hearted, and I know that, sometimes, motorcyclists have a certain reputation. I think people can be frightened that these people are coming to town. Most motorcyclists are a mother, father, brother or sister. Don’t be alarmed when you see motorcyclists coming to town. We love nature, too, and we really appreciate it, so thank you for being so welcoming to us motorcyclists.”

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