Southwestern Virginia - TUESDAY DAY THREE

Beautiful view of Salem from the Valhalla Winery on Chestnut


We spent much of the morning driving from the Wytheville area to Roanoke to be closer to some of the roads suggest to us by Virginia riders. Oddly their didn’t seem to be a lot of campgrounds to chose from. We ended-up pulling into the Roanoke Mountain Campground just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 120.4. There were no hook-ups for the FunMover, but this was no problem for the one night we planned to spend there. We were the only RV in the loop designated for RV camping. With minimal facilities we still had to pay the same $18 as we had at the much nicer Stony Fork Campground the night before.

We were on the road by 11 am and almost immediately hit traffic in the Salem area. We were heading north to make a rerun on VA311 from Salem to Paint Bank. We had been on this road back in 2001 and recalled it being a lot of fun. But the heavy city traffic was driving Nancy nuts. I quickly turned on a side road hoping the GPS would reroute us on backroads, but it kept saying “turn-around”. Finally I pulled over and programmed a route to get us back on track. In minutes we were on a great residential back road climbing on winding twisties and dodging deer. Suddenly we crested the hill and saw fields of grape vines and a beautiful view of the countryside and distant mountains.

We had accidentally arrived at the Valhalla Vineyards on Mt. Chestnut Road (SR692). Now this is no knee-dragging road even though some of the curves were great. Like I said, we encountered deer and the area was residential. But it was an interesting ride until we hit the traffic again on 419 through Salem .

After crossing I-81 we were suddenly back in the country on VA311. 311 climbed Catawba Mountain offering a few good sweepers. It straightens westerly for a few miles and then passed through a gap as it turns to the north and passes through the small town of New Castle .

Turning to the west again 311 had some good sweepers before climbing Potts Mountain and tightening. Then there is a quick descent into the valley. Here we found some great corners and little traffic. The elevation change is from 1600 to 3100 feet and then down to 2000 in the valley. We pulled into the Potts Mountain Wayside to enjoy the distant view. It looked like there had been some kind of building here at one time, but all that was left was remnants of a small foundation.

We arrived at the small crossroads town of Paint Bank eagerly anticipating a Buffalo Burger than someone had suggested we try at the newly remodeled Paint Bank General Store. The place was clean and decorated really nice, but the service and the food was unexceptional. Nancy ’s hot tea was cold, the buffalo burger that she had was overcooked, the barbeque buffalo I had was blah, and the service was slow. We are glad that the place wasn’t crowded. But riders don’t have much of a choice on places to eat when riding 311.

Paint Bank was named for pigment used in paints taken from the hills. It was later known for iron ore mining. With the demise of mining in the 1930s the railway shut down and the town reverted to logging and agriculture. Today it is trying to make a comeback attracting tourism to its unique rural setting. The old Depot is now a bed and breakfast, the old mill is being rebuilt, and the nearby Hollow Hill Farm is raising bison.

Back on the road after the disappointing lunch we headed west a few miles to see the bison pastures. Only three miles on VA600 brought us to the West Virginia state line. We backtracked and rode northeast on VA18 towards Covington . This was a scenic rural route, but not very challenging.

Near Covington we took a right onto Pitzers Ridge Road which immediately got our attention. This unmarked country road had some challenging twisties, dips, and turns. Hays Gap Road was much of the same. We then took a left onto Rich Patch Road (VA621) lined with corn fields. The relative country road quiet was broken by couple of fighters flying at low attitude that made me think the KLR had exploded.

VA621 T-boned at Craig Creek Road (VA615). A store on the corner looked a little too backwoods for us to stop. This immediately became hunting camps and ultra-rural homes. The road was good though. We found some good sweepers, twisties and no traffic all the way back to New Castle . With the sun in our eyes and late afternoon approaching we were very alert for deer but didn’t see any. We did scare-up a flock of turkeys though.

We returned to the Blue Ridge Parkway through the horrendous traffic of Salem . Nancy was not a happy camper having to negotiate the red lights and bumper to bumper cages. Back at the RV we broke out the beer and planned our next day’s escape.


TIME: 6 hours


Bison near Paint Rock

Rich Patch Road and the corn fields.

The Roanoke Mountain Cmapground
just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Heading into Salem we had to dodge a semi
that couldn't make the U-turn

Approaching the Valhalla Winery on Chestnut Road

Chestnut Road leading down the mountain from the winery





Paint Bank General Store

Paint Bank Depot Bed and Breakfast
Turkeys on Craig Creek Road

Nancy enjoying the view from Potts Mountain Wayside