Navigating West Virginia’s tight mountain switchbacks. In 15 degree weather. On ice.

Boy, this was fun. Okay, we say that in jest (it really was fun), even though it required every last ounce of our concentration to keep the car on the road and pointed straight. The experience reminded us of a wet track day, only more hair-raising. Consider:

  • Ice (especially black ice) is scarier than water
  • The heightened element of unknown that comes with a public road: oncoming traffic, falling rock, wildlife, etc.
  • In spite of the frigid, icy conditions, the likelihood of said oncoming traffic running something other than dedicated winters (M+S tires)? Very likely (winter tires being notoriously poor sellers in the US)
  • The runoff is, um, a cliff

So – as per tracking in the wet – we played it safe, got our braking done early, and braked in a straight line (braking in a turn reduces grip precipitously), and we are happy to report that the mountains spit us out alive, with no damage to either psyche or sheetmetal (as for all the rock chips from the road gravel, we don’t consider that damage— just little badges of honor to add to the collection).

And what a beautiful part of the country this is. Obviously, this is not the most ideal time to be sampling the snaking, winding passes of the Appalachian Mountains (we’d put our money on spring; there are too many leaf peepers clogging the roads in the fall), but the opportunity presented itself and, well, how can one say no to something like this? We hope to be back again someday— only next time with summer tires.

At base camp. Cold, but not as cold as in them there mountains.

The exceedingly simple camera setup. No windscreen = makes a terrible noise. We have a makeshift solution but it’s hack-y and annoying to get on and off; for the sake of convenience, we decided not to run it. The Panavise is rock solid and grips smooth surfaces like a champ.

Still clean at this point. It wouldn’t last.

Winter ride height (i.e., just like summer ride height).

Winding road at low elevation.

Running the hood protector thing (deployed for track days and road trips). Because we feel silly calling it a “bra.”

Road grime. Yum.

We were exposed to a variety of conditions. What was true at the foot of the mountains wasn’t at the summit, and vice versa.

Thought this would be a good place to have lunch after running frozen twisties hard all morning (it was).

Contemplating the least fun part of the trip: the long slog home.

What an absolute joy – and a treat – this was. Spirited driving – whether on track or on delightful public roads like these (thank you, pork barrel projects) – always is. We count our blessings that we are able to do what we love most from time to time, which we consider to be a privilege.

~ by velofinds on December 8, 2010.

12 Responses to “Navigating West Virginia’s tight mountain switchbacks. In 15 degree weather. On ice.”

  1. Do you swap the open bumper vents out with the closed ones in winter? I hung on to my closed ones for that purpose..not keen on getting more salt grime up inside the front end than can be helped.

  2. nope, open ones are run year-round. never had a problem or thought twice of it.

  3. Thanks for the great write up and pictures. You have the perfect ride for such a drive, can you share a little bit more about the GTI and what tweeks you’ve done to it? I may be trading in the Z in a year or two and a four-door GTI may be the ticket. Oh I attempted something like this on black Friday; but my pics were taken on my blackberry.

  4. nice! what camera/gear was used for the setup?

  5. nice car man, and nice photos too

  6. […] of our recent post, but this time en color. This is [a small excerpt of] West Virginia Route 15 climbing west from […]

  7. good stuff. Solid choice on the Radiohead for the video too.

  8. I just went to WV specifically to drive some of the roads in the state. I had been on some of them on a previous trip and loved them. I drove US 250 first at night. The twists and turns were awesome with the full moon out. When I went back in the daytime I realized how much better it was with the scenery that I missed at night. (US 33 between VA and WV is also pretty cool.) I also drove some of the “motorcycle” routes that are promoted in some of their tourist brochures. Really fun state to drive in.

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