Elite cycle group visits county every year
Motorcycle riders love Pocahontas County for the good roads, beautiful scenery and numerous tourist attractions. A variety of cycle groups rode into the county on the weekend of June 4, including a group of 24 riders on Italian motorcycles and a group of seven cyclists from a church in Pennsylvania.
The group of 24 rode Ducati Multistrada 1200s - a sophisticated Italian bike capable of both highway touring and dirt road riding. They arrived in Pocahontas County for their seventh annual rally, dubbed the "East Coast Madness" after a similar event on the West Coast.
Ducatis incorporate state-of-the-art technology and sleek Italian design. The bikes come in both red and yellow and look like props out of a James Bond movie.
Peter Youngblood, a retired Army colonel from Portsmouth, Virginia, organized the event in 2005. He participated in an Internet forum, multistrada.net, where owners share information and discuss their love of Italian motorcycles.
The retired soldier wanted to meet some of his internet acquaintances, so he organized a weekend rally, where friends could ride, show off their bikes and relax in a beautiful location in the country.
The first thing the colonel had to do was pick a location. He enlisted the help of his friend, renowned long-distance rider Gary Egan, and the duo went searching for great places to ride. The search took the bikers to Nelson and Andrea Hernandez's Old Clark Inn in Marlinton.
"We decided to scout around for a likely location on the East Coast and we ended up in Marlinton," he said. "We met Nelson here and we were really impressed and we enjoyed the roads and so, we decided that this would be a good spot."
In 2005, 20 riders showed up for the rally. Every year for seven years, 20 to 30 Multistrada riders have returned to Old Clark Inn.
"They enjoyed it so much that we kept coming back, year after year," Youngblood said. "Nelson and Andrea are wonderful. They make this such an easy thing for us to do that it's the path of least resistance. It makes it so easy to stay here and keep coming back. It makes it difficult to think of changing.
"We're drawing people from Ohio, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania," he said. "In the past, we've had them from as far away as San Diego, California; Alberta, Canada; Reno, Nevada and Atlanta, Georgia."
Youngblood said he particularly enjoyed meeting friends that he had known only as screen names on an Internet forum.
"All of this is coordinated on the Internet," he said. "We never see these people face-to-face, except right here. It's always exciting to find out who the guy is that you've been talking to on the Internet."
Youngblood said Ducatis are a special breed of motorcycle.
"It's technologically more advanced than most other motorcycles," he said. "We're able to get a lot of power and a lot of performance out of something that only weighs 400 to 450 pounds, as opposed to some other motorcycles that weigh 800 pounds and have half the horsepower."
The Ducati riders enjoyed good weather for nearly the entire weekend and traveled to several area attractions, including the Scenic Highway, New River Gorge, Seneca Rocks, Cass Scenic Railroad and the NRAO.
"Pocahontas County offers a lot of variety within a fairly small geographic area, so you don't have to go 500 miles to have fun," said Youngblood. "The population density is such that there's not a lot of traffic on the roads and that's good for us, too."
The organizer said he was appreciative of the local hospitality.
"The community supports us," he said. "We've always got good support from the mayor and the tourism bureau. The sheriff has been very helpful. So, we feel like the community is glad to see us and that makes us feel more welcome here."
Multistrada rider and attorney Eddie Prince, of Roaring Gap, North Carolina, was enjoying his first time in Pocahontas County.
"There's good clean roads and it's a great place to stay and everybody's real friendly," he said. "That's the makings for a great weekend."
Dave Cottingham, of Raleigh, North Carolina, described why he returned to East Coast Madness every year.
"I come here to ride my bike in the beautiful mountains," he said. "It is stunning here. It's absolutely gorgeous. I love the beautiful roads. I love the people. We had some great meals in restaurants this week. It's just beautiful."
A different group of seven riders rested at the intersection in Frost on Saturday. The riders were members of the Oregon Hill Grace Chapel Church in Willsboro, Pennsylvania. The group planned to take the scenic route, through Clover Lick to Cass, on their way home to Pennsylvania.
Jeffrey Rush, executive director of Three Springs Ministry, in Morris, Pennsylvania, emailed that the group had returned home safely and "thoroughly enjoyed" their ride through Pocahontas County.
Hopefully, like the Ducati riders, the Oregon Hill group will return next year.