One of the more interesting events that I have participated in was the Wild 100 Mountain Bike Race in Slatyfork,WVA. This was a point to point event with 6 check in stops in very remote corners of the West Virginia wilderness. The weekend always started with a camp out in the field behind the Elk River Touring Center. Most often the Inn was sold out but it was more fun to camp under the stars anyways. The next morning was a mandatory meeting at 6:45 AM where you were given a map to the 100 K course along with the notation for the check points. You had to make the check points by a certain hour or you were asked to board a pickup truck for the long ride back to the touring center. Only one time did anybody in my group not make the check in point. One of our guys one year was an ultra runner and wanted to try the event. He underestimated the difficulty and the need to ride miles on the bike. He was escorted out. He told us to keep riding.
Most of the years I participated, I had an interesting entourage with me. Maurice Tierney, founder of Dirt Rag Magazine, was our navigator. He was a pretty good map reader as well as being fairly familiar with the area. Some of the other Dirt Rag guys joined us along with my friend Dixon whose energy source on the ride, among other things, was blue bubble gum. At the top of Props Run, which was nothing more than a stream bed that went to the top of the mountain, Dixon could be seen loading up on blue bubble gum and smiling with matching teeth. Dixon is a character and deserves his own blog post. Props was always inluded in the course and some times you went down it, which was a bone rattling descent, or you went up it and pushed your bike for about half the distance. There was a lot of fire road and if you decided that you wanted to shorten the ride, you went into the woods to several places like Bear Meadows, or the infamous Tea Creek Canyon. The streams and water that you encounterd in the canyon were dyed with tannin from the leaves and the image of a cup of tea was very apparent in the color of the streams. But you had to pay attention here because the descent was off camber with a lot of slippery, slimy roots, into the valley where you had a check in point before you began a long climb out of the canyon.
Navigating wilderness trails and fire roads was a true challenge and you had to prepare well with a pack loaded with plenty of water, energy drinks, food, and lights in the event that you had an issue that would push you into the evening hours. Suffice to say I never had that issue but on the final fire road descent I was always bonking badly and jamming the last dust ball infested energy bar into my face to ward off the fatigue and the blue dots appearing before my eyes. The last time I saw the blue dots was when I did a time trial at Halloween on a very hot day dressed in a tuxedo. That was a heinous road climb up into an industrial park and the blue dots of maximum exertion apeared before my exploding eyeballs. Always avoid the blue dots. They are a sign of imminent disaster. I always avoided the big bonk on the last descent to Rt. 219 and successfully avoided he speeding logging and coal trucks which were dangerously close to us as we navigated our way back to the Touring Center. The outdoor shower was welcome but the temperature of the freezing stream water that fed the showers was anything but relaxing. However, all was saved with a great bar-b-que and awards ceremony followed by blue grass music on the deck. One more night in the tent and back to the burg. The Wild 100 was always a great experience.
This years event is not scheduled yet but if you call Gil and Mary Willis at the Elk River Touring Center, they might be able to tell you if they are scheduling the event or not. They are great people and it is definitely worth the ride to Slatyfork just to ride. The Inn is wonderful as well as the food and the hospitality. The riding, the fishing in the Greenbrier River, and the evenings on the deck with a cold beer are also memorable. http://www.ertc.com If the Inn is crowded, you can go down the road a bit to Marlinton and stay at the Jerico Bed and Breakfast. A wonderful place with pre-Civil War cabins that have been restored with pot belly stoves and lofts. Lots of Confederate memorabelia around and the proprietors grandfather always delights in telling us Yankee boys that there are 9 of us buried up above on the hillside. The earlier battles of the Civil War were held in this general area and sleeping under the picture of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson gives you something to think about as you doze off to sleep to the relaxing sound of the stream bed outside your window. http://www.jericobb.com
The riding in West Virginia is always challenging but there are hundreds of miles of great trails all accessible from either facility. There are lots of fishing events, music festivals and riding events at Elk River like Women’s Clinics conducted by local heroine Sue Haywood who is a member of the Trek Professional Mountain Bike Team. If nothing else, you might be fortunate enough to ride with Dixon and get some of his prized blue bubble gum on your ride. Thanks for reading.