The ride leading from GearHead Junction in Pearisburg to Mountain Lake Lodge offers a smorgasbord for motorcyclists: some paved winding mountain backroads, some gravel and dirt trails, and a finishing dance with the beautiful New River you hope will go on forever.
In Giles County, situated in southwest Virginia about a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C., there’s something for both experienced and beginner bikers, ranging from rugged adventure riding to posh motorcycle “glamping.”
Whatever you choose, start your morning off with a doughnut—specifically the red velvet flavor—from Hilltop Deli, though there is some unexpected competition at GearHead from the doughnut with sprinkles.
Then, ask GearHead owner Terry Rafferty for a cup of coffee. Pick his brain, enjoy his jokes, and let him come up with the perfect ride for you. He created GearHead Moto Tours because he loves to plan rides based on people’s preferences and skills, right down to the types of pillows they want.
Rafferty is one of those people who truly has a passion for riding, and it’s evident as soon as you walk in the door.
“I moved to the mountains because I wanted to do what I love and have it be awesome,” he said. “This is it. Yesterday, I got paid to go ride seven hours.”
His tours include day trips, pampered camping, instructional camping, “soft pillow,” and full-on adventure, as well as custom tours.
You do need a motorcycle license to book a tour, but other than that, as Rafferty said, “Our deal is that everything’s inclusive. You can show up in flip-flops and go.”
The ride up to Mountain Lake Lodge is gorgeous, shady, and curvy enough for skilled riders to have some fun, but smooth enough for beginning riders to slow it down and get some extra practice. Stop at the top to stretch your legs, and see if you recognize the setting: The lodge is where the movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed way back in 1987.
Choose a dirt road on the way back down the mountain, turn off the engine, and coast while you enjoy the sounds of the birds chirping and your tires splashing through the little creeks that play along the trail.
On one section of the ride back down, the New River is visible around every other curve, disappearing and reappearing, a gorgeous tease impossible to capture any other way but biking it yourself.
What’s Rafferty’s own favorite? “I like the ride to Dismal Falls because I like waterfalls, rushing creeks and trout streams.” Note to anglers: Rafferty has put together custom moto-fishing tours that take you to some of the best-kept secret spots in southwest Virginia. Bring him a doughnut with sprinkles and ask him to fill you in.
Memorable moments off-road
The word “kairos” has biblical origins; in ancient Greek, it describes the right, critical, or opportune moment to do something great or crucial. Visitors who travel to Kairos Resort, about a 30-minute drive from GearHead, are in search of those kinds of moments in their lives, said John Powers, general manager at the resort, which opened its new campground about a year ago.
With more than 40 miles of trails, the 1,500-acre property is a joy for motorcyclists, side-by-siders, horseback riders, and hikers, all of whom share this space with a feeling of community and extended family that draws you in. You can also rent rafts, canoes, and kayaks for some water time on the New River Water Trail, which flows along one edge of the resort.
For lodging, there are 50 RV sites with full hookups, as well as secluded wilderness and primitive campsites with easy access to a beautiful bathhouse and recreation hall. For “glamping,” try one of the luxury yurts.
Speaking of “Kairos moments,” winding a Polaris RZR (pronounced “razor”) through the Kairos trails makes you feel like you’re a miracle worker. The vehicles—for rental at Kairos in two-or four-seater versions—are an engineering marvel. They roll up and down extreme slopes, over rocky creeks, past scenic overlooks, through spittin’ mud, and over baby heads and rock gardens.
Go and ride the Kairos trails simply because it’s so much fun! Take the kids. Take your friends. Take your significant other and get married, because the resort offers wedding packages, and then you can spend several days riding around in RZRs for your honeymoon, separately or together, depending on how the newly minted marriage is going.
The luxury yurts are popular with honeymooners, too. And, as yurt-style cabins become more trendy across the country, the Kairos yurts are actually the real thing, complete with soft sides and beautiful furnishings. Another Kairos co-owner, Jared Spencer, said it best: “Really, you can’t get much more yurty than this.”
New River Water Trail
Mountain Lake Lodge