Ride Around VA (also)


Premier Member
Found this newly listed ride on the IBA ride page. Ride Around Virginia generally requires the rider to follow the outline of the state passing through specified towns along the way. This seemed like a good way to shake down my recently acquired, and freshly farkled 2013 GSA. I’m entered in the Heart of Texas rally and decided it would be prudent to test things a bit in advance. Timing and weather co-operated and the ride was completed 4-6-2021. For anyone contemplating this ride, I tried to compile things that might help with planning. I generally tossed in a bunch of info. People new to this sort of fun should find some useful info. Hopefully, veteran riders won’t be bored.

Big Picture
This ride does not require super accurate time management. Just have a good plan and then ride it. If (when) things don’t work out there is time to adjust and recover. I lost about an hour to lower than expected average speed and another hour or so to traffic problems. I hit two construction zones that caused long delays and an accident that added to the deficit. All in, I finished in 20 hours and 19 minutes. Not saying the ride is easy – it’s not – just that you do not have to sweat every second of your 24 hour window.

When planning long rides I generally time things to maximize daytime riding and end the ride prior to nightfall. This helps me with safety by avoiding unnecessary riding in the dark at the end of the ride when I am most fatigued. The other big criteria for me is avoiding major cities during rush hour. Northern VA and the greater Norfolk area both have seriously bad rush hour traffic. So avoiding these areas during rush hour was an important consideration.

The ride requires starting and ending DBRs (dated business receipt) from the same location, and the location needs to be within one of the specified towns. My home location dictated Winchester as the obvious starting point. Getting past the stop in Virginia Beach prior to 6am meant going on the clock at midnight in Winchester, checking off Alexandria at 01:30am and getting the Virginia Beach DBR by 05:30am. That part of the plan went well.

Mandatory Points
The IBA instructions dictate 4 specific, mandatory towns that require DBRs, and another 5 that you must visit (as recorded by Spotwalla OR with DBRs). This brings up an eccentricity of addresses and thus DBRs – cases where an address is not actually inside the municipal boundary. The south side of Alexandria where it adjoins unincorporated Fairfax county is an example of this. Businesses in the county have Alexandria addresses but are NOT in Alexandria. Simply looking at an address on the internet might get you in trouble. I used Google Maps to view the municipal borders and choose suitable gas stations safely inside the target town.

If you’re new to this stuff, be aware that “open 24 hrs” might mean only the pumps are open. With Covid it might even mean ‘not open at all’. I did not go as far as calling in advance to confirm available services, but I did choose locations with multiple nearby businesses that could be a serve as backup. If you get a bad DBR (or no DBR) in the wee hours of the morning you will suddenly know why having an alternative location figured out in advance is a good thing. I hit one stop where the pumps were on but the store was closed. Luckily, I got a good DBR so no issues.

Having chosen a Sheetz in Winchester as my starting and ending location, my first problem was a bad DBR at the pump. It was hours off on the time. Went inside and used the ATM to check my balance. That gave me a good DBR. I went back to the same ATM for the end DBR.

Secondary Points
The obvious route has you going through the secondary points, with one exception. While the IBA doesn’t intentionally write ‘tricky’ instructions, it might be easy to miss Lexington, VA. From Bristol to Winchester requires around 300 miles on I-81. The interstate goes through Harrisonburg but it does not actually go through Lexington. The town line is about a mile off the interstate. If you are using Spotwalla all the other secondary towns should be on your route. Maybe this is a ‘letter of the law’ vs ‘spirit of the law’ thing, but it seemed the better part of valor to get a DBR in Lexington. It also served as a good bio/gas stop between Bristol and Winchester.

My plan meant riding Rt 17 between US 50 and I-66, and later between Fredericksburg and Newport News. This entailed riding both stretches of road in the early morning hours in a region with lots of deer. Rural two lane, lots of deer, dark, enough said on that.

US 58 is interesting. It runs along the southern border of VA. In a few places turns are required to stay on the numbered route. Toward the western end there is a twisty section that takes you into the Grayson Highlands. The road is good through the highlands. Farther West there is a long very twisty section ending near Damascus. It’s about as twisty as it gets. Steep ups and downs and sharp, blind curves. If you like this sort of stuff you will love this road. But know that it will slow you down. It added significant time to my plan. If you take this section at night or in bad weather, add still more time to your plan.

In my case Google Maps did not like portions of Rt58. Take a careful look at the route and make sure your mapping software does not actually have you dipping briefly in to North Carolina. Sticking to Rt58 keeps you safely on the Virginia side of the line. Similarly, Garmin sometimes has ideas that are different than the IBA instructions. The rules require that you pass through Independence, VA which is in the area that Garmin and Google Maps try to avoid. I suggest some detailed map review for this area.

I-81 is what it is. Major truck route. Generally lots of traffic. It’s not like I-80 across Wyoming. Speed limit is 70 most of the way. For a generally rural interstate it’s busy. I hit construction and accident delays along the southern half of this section of the route.

Length of ride
My plan worked out to slightly less than 1000 miles (981). Given that the IBA generally uses 1000 as a minimum I tacked on miles to and from home which added 27 miles to each end of the ride for good measure. Not really sure what to say about this. By my reading I met the requirements without the extra miles but I have the receipts if necessary. If the issue comes up during certification I’ll deal with it at the time. If this is a concern for others, I would suggest riding deeper into Virginia Beach and Bristol. This could easily add 20ish miles and, based on my experience, there is plenty of time.

It’s a great ride with a wide variety of roads. Lots of fun and not boring at all. It’s more of a planning and execution type ride than a time crunch type of ride. It worked very well as a shake down prior to taking my new-to-me bike to the Heart of Texas rally.