We are an online adventure source covering the beautiful state of West Virginia. Whether by motorcycle, Jeep, ATV, boat or even by foot – Backroads WV will get you pointed in the right direction.
West Virginia is centrally located between the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast and within a days drive of more than 75% of the US population, so it’s a great location for a getaway!
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GAULEY BRIDGE — For nearly 400 miles, the New River meanders, turns and twists its way in a generally northern direction from North Carolina near the Tennessee border through Virginia and into West Virginia.
For many of those miles, the ancient river — known as one of the oldest on Earth — has carved a deep gorge through the Appalachian Mountains.
Because of the creation of the New River Gorge National River in 1978 and the burgeoning of the whitewater rafting industry, views from sites such as the Grandview overlook and Diamond Point are popular attractions for travelers.
Other travelers, though, are drawn to the river for another purpose. Those who enjoy driving or riding the highways towering in the mountains above the river bed have long loved the trip along the New up Gauley Mountain from its confluence with the Gauley River in Gauley Bridge.
On Oct. 19, anyone who loves such rides is invited to join motorcyclists, sports car drivers and anyone interested in making the journey for a ride along The Talon from Gauley Bridge to Hico.
What is The Talon?
“It’s an idea. It’s a concept,” co-creator Jeff Lanham said on Friday. “The idea for The Talon came from a fellow motorcycle enthusiast and I traveling. We rode those roads in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
“All these other states have named roads, so we decided West Virginia needed one. You basically take a piece of road that everybody’s familiar with, that they ride, and come up with a name for it.
“Every community has a stretch of road that they ride. In our travels around the country, on the East Coast primarily, we saw those places and we thought, ‘Wow, West Virginia has as good a road or even better,’” he said.
The road to which Lanham referred, the road so many enjoy riding, is the 18-mile stretch of U.S. 60 from Gauley Bridge to Hico, an approximately 35-minute trip during which travelers climb 1,457 feet in elevation.
“The Talon needed to be where it is: from Gauley Bridge to Route 19 (at Hico),” Lanham said. “It brings people here. They come mostly from Indiana and Ohio; the flatlanders love to come here, and the Canadians.”
Creating The Talon
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Well, we’ve ridden that for years. What gives you the right to name it?’” Lanham said Friday.
“I just did,” he said. “I’m nobody. I’m just a guy. I don’t own it. My partner and I just thought West Virginia should capitalize in the same way other states were.”
Lanham and Tina Watson mulled over the branding of the ride for months, he said.
“Branding was tough. We brainstormed for ages, on rides, visiting other areas. We wanted the name to have to do with the area and we thought about Hawks Nest and the New River and all these things.
“We’d go ride The Tail of the Dragon and The Snake and we’d toss ideas around, but everything seemed too long, too much.
“Branding and naming is hard. We were overthinking it,” he said.
“You have to have an air of danger and intrigue (because) it creates enthusiasm and interest. We’d go up there every weekend and ride and look at all the beautiful scenery and talk about the park and the river, the birds.
“Finally, she goes ‘talon’ and I go ‘Yes!’ ’cause that’s the business end of the hawk,” Lanham recounted.
“It took months to get us that far.”
Lanham and Watson next had to work to create recognition of the brand.
Names were registered with the Secretary of State’s Office and the U.S. Trademark Office. Watson did all the design work on logos and Talon gear as well as taking the photographs used while Lanham worked with a specialist to create a website.
“The corporation that we formed was Backroads WV and we created a website for The Talon (the-talon.com).
“We had a lot of things that we really wanted to do, but The Talon just grew and grew and it was all getting to be too much for me,” Lanham said, so he’s cut back to concentrating on marketing The Talon for now.
A self-employed IT communications specialist (he owns and operates Impact Communications) from Cross Lanes, Lanham has been spending most of his free time visiting small towns and businesses in the region, marketing The Talon and discovering places to sell his Talon-branded merchandise.
“The mayor of Montgomery (Greg Ingram) heard about it and the mayors of the Upper Kanawha Valley invited me up to a meeting.
“I knew Mayor Ingram from when he worked at Walker because I did their communications system. He said, ‘We need some things in this end of the valley to grow. We really need a destination,’” Lanham recalled, revealing how the two entities came together to benefit both.
“Mayor (Bob) Scott was at one of the meetings and he invited me up to Gauley Bridge to talk with him. He told me I could place one of my signs at the old visitor center (and people are already stopping there to take pictures with it!) and we worked out this fundraiser.”
Fundraiser on The Talon
The fundraiser will be Saturday, Oct. 19, a day on which traffic through Gauley Bridge up U.S. 60 to the New River Gorge will already be heavy because of the 40th annual Bridge Day at the New River Gorge Bridge.
There will be all-day music and food vendors at the old visitor center, the official starting point of The Talon, and Lanham is hoping hundreds of bikers stop in to support the town and to celebrate the ride.
“The fundraiser thing is really cool. Doc’s BBQ will be there. He’s a big fan of small towns and he’s donating money to the city. I’m making a donation. The musicians are doing an in-kind donation.
“The funny thing is, I heard a lot of ‘We hate Gauley Bridge. We’re not giving them any of our money.’ The stigma of something that happened years ago (when the town was branded as a speed trap) is still there. It’s sad that people harbor things like that.
“That spot beside the New River is a great break on the ride from Charleston. It’s always been a natural stopping point to stretch, top off your tank or whatever. On Oct. 19, there will literally be thousands of motorcycles coming up 60 and we hope they’ll stop by and spend a little time,” he said.
As for The Talon, Lanham said he hopes it is just a small piece of an economic uptick in the area.
“Hopefully The Talon can just be a springboard. It belongs to the people that ride, but I’m hoping it can make a difference. We really want to highlight all the places we ride, all the cool things we see.
“It’s a West Virginia thing. It’s the American story, ’cause we love it here,” he said