April 26th, 2010
Richmond, VA – Urbanna, VA
180 miles RT
It’s my birthday and I wanna ride. We haven’t been to the water for a while, so we set our sights on Urbanna, a hamlet on the Rappahannock River about 15 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
We decide to take “Old Virginia” roads, the long but scenic way. Our route will take us through Ashland, Central Garage (the crossroads, not the building), St. Stephan’s Church (the crossroads, not the building), King and Queen Courthouse (the crossroads…) and Truhart.
My riding partner knows a shortcut at Hanover Courthouse (…not the building) and we twist our way through a canopy of hardwoods, sun flickering on the road like fluttering confetti.
Rt. 14 is the bomb
Our first surprise is Rt. 14. It’s flat and much twistier than it looks on the map. It’s also clean, smooth and empty. We plan to take it about two-thirds of the way to West Point and cut over to Rt. 17 at 602, which looks like a wiggling worm on the map.
602, a.k.a. Truhart Rd, gives us our second surprise. Our helmets tilt sideways as we contemplate the dirt and gravel road at our turn. Really? It probably becomes paved eventually, but we’re hungry and don’t feel like exploring off-road. We bomb down to 603 instead and take it straight into Urbanna.
Urbanna is a mere burp of a town. When we reach the end of the road we ask each other, “Did we miss it?” A few restaurants, some stores, a bank, a realtor and a coffee shop made up the commercial area.
We have a tip to eat at the lunch counter at Marshall’s Drug store where we twirl on the counter stools like kids while they make our sandwiches. I give a thumbs up to the chicken salad, a pucker to the limeade. Chips are 45 cents extra, just help yourself to a bag. Two lunches plus tip: less than $10. I am a cheap date.
No cloister for the oyster
Every year, Urbanna hosts the Oyster Festival. In brief:
If you like mollusks, either slimy or crunchy, you can find out more here. They have corporate sponsors, folks. This is no small pile of shells.
The best place to be during the Virginia summer is on the water (or in the mountains if you’re on a motorcycle), and Urbanna’s second reason for existing is its ideal location for boating, near the Bay but still relatively protected. Boat people – I mean sailors – love to gather here and tease the oysters before the fall comes around.
The day we’re there, the harbor looks just like this – except for the clouds, gray water and lack of boats. In the summer, I’ll hang out here if I get a boat and want to R – E – L – A – X.
I’ll have an adrenaline espresso, please
However, I prefer espresso. In fact, I’m finishing a latte’ as the first raindrops fall. We have more than an hour riding at don’t-you-dare-blink speed to get home, so we bail on the back roads. The sky is dark purple to the North but there are flecks of blue showing to the south. We go south. This tactic has worked before. We take Rt. 33 to 64, where we have to head northwest to Richmond.
Miraculously, the rain holds off as we fly. About seven miles from home I notice that the edge of the pavement is wet. A mile later we hit heavy mist and road spray. We ride the last three minutes of highway in rain. But the storm front is flaky, and by the time we get off 64 the roads are dry again.
Despite the rain it was a great ride. Rt. 14 alone was worth it. If I want solitude, I’ll go to Urbanna during the off-season. Otherwise, I’ll revisit the dock in high summer.
Credits: Thanks to the following gifted and giving flickr.com photographers for their photos. In order of appearance:
miss_leslie – the dock and Marshalls
jadam – oyster on parade
holly0h7 – shriner/USA/confederate salute
terren – fried food fiesta
wattman75 – harbor in summer