We were sitting on the deck, watching the news, when my dad looked over and said "you know, I was thinking we could ride the Blue Ridge Parkway." So, we made some quick plans, started packing up some overnight gear, and wen't outside to practice strapping everything to the bikes. I had never done something like this, so it took me a while to get the ropes tied just right.
On Monday, June 12, we left from Peachtree City, Georgia and traveled 125 miles north on I-85 through Atlanta to I-985 though North Georgia and stopped for a break at Tallulah Gorge State Park.
From Tallulah Gorge, we traveled 65 miles to Cherokee, North Carolina and ate Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch. The Blue Ridge Parkway was only 5 miles down the road. We took a quick photo at the entrance and pulled off into the mountains. 469 miles of unknown roads lay ahead.
Immediately, the landscape was captivating. So much, in fact, that dad became entranced and couldn't look away. Unfortunately, he was still connected to his bike, which was drifting off into a grass ditch. It literally happened in a flash and all I could do was look on in astonishment. Grass began to fly around as the bike slid back and forth as on an ice rink. Like something out of a movie, a masterful stunt performance, dad managed to keep it under control and came to a stop a few feet before a drop-off. We slowly pulled up to the overlook to compose selves, vowing that the next 459 miles would be free of mishaps. Spoiler Alert: no more mishaps occurred
During the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there were a lot of tunnels. There are no lights inside the tunnels which make for an eerie ride-by-headlight until you see light peek out from the other side.
[From Wikipedia] "Most of the work on the tunnel digging was done by hand and provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Little machinery was used with the intention of creating manual labor in depressed economic times. They did have for tunneling truck-mounted water-cooled compressed air drills called "Jumbos." After the initial holes were drilled into the substrata, dynamite was used for blasting away the rock."
The roads switch back and forth through winding roads, some of which reminds me of my Appalachian Trail hike. We crossed Lick Log Gap, which was one area that I hiked. The entire route was rife with stunning views accessed by overlooks positioned along the road every few miles. Throughout the first day, we passed many motorcycles, a Corvette, and a lot of photographers who stopped to take photos of the mountains.
After 75 miles, we decided to stop in Asheville for the night and grabbed some food at Oyster House Brewing Company. Dad got oysters and fries and I had the best grilled chicken sandwich I've ever eaten in my life, no lie. (And I eat a lot of grilled chicken sandwiches) We stayed at a little motel called the Asheville Inn.
When we woke up the next morning we discovered, over delicious McDonald's coffee, that my tail light lens had fallen off somewhere during yesterday's ride. At 9:10 a.m. on Tuesday, I rode to the nearest AutoZone and pick up some red tape to make the repair. Leaving Asheville, we entered the most mountainous stretch of the ride and could only average 30 miles per hour along the twisting road. We stopped after 24 miles at Craggy Gardens Visitor Center for a break and spoke to some fellow travelers. We first met Roy, who had an affinity for bicycles. He spoke about a cross-country bicycle trip he took in the 1970's and how he loved machinery. He also told us that, though he has never owned one, he loves motorcycles. We met an older gentleman who has lived in Maui for 40 years. He worked for Dole and moved to Hawaii to help them with their canning process. He decided to stay. (The fellow in the photo below is not him, just a guy who was also from Maui and apparently appreciated Maui Brewing Company. I'm assuming they knew each other.)
Roy told us that we absolutely must visit the highest peak in mainland eastern North America, Mt. Mitchell. It was only 13 miles up the road. The sky was overcast and we wouldn't have a clear view from the top but it is the highest peak we are talking about. So, we had to check it out.
It was getting close to noon and our stomachs needed more than coffee. 25 miles up the parkway we found a town called Little Switzerland. Here, we ate sandwiches and mapped out the remainder of the day, aiming to get as far as we could while realizing we had a very long way to go. It began to rain. We pulled our bikes under a carport and talked with fellow motorcyclists until the rain passed. Our plan was to travel 50 more miles to Boone, North Carolina by nightfall. Surprisingly, the road along the way was flat and relatively straight, allowing us to cover more distance than we expected and we knew we could tack on an additional 64 miles and make it to a town called Roaring Gap. Along the way, we stopped in Wilkesboro at a sign that read, "...Hang down your head." We listened to The Kingston Trio sing this folk ballad on our iPhone.
We arrived in Roaring Gap before nightfall and stumbled upon High Meadows Inn, a quaint and endearing motel. On the property, is a wonderful Italian restaurant, Nikolas, which was exactly what we needed.
To the end. We left Roaring Gap and headed for Roanoke, 110 miles away. The road here consisted mostly of rolling hills and we covered a lot of distance pretty quickly. We arrived at Fancy Gap by mid-morning and stopped at Cockerham Food Mart for more coffee and a Royal Pine Car-Freshener. I wanted to see if I could heighten my riding experience by making it smell more... real. It mostly just blew around all over the place and flew off ten miles down the road.
23 miles up the parkway, we stopped for rest at Mabry Mill which has been a blacksmith, a wheelwright shop, then became a sawmill. Then, in 1905 it was used as a gristmill. Near the water in front of the mill, I found a Diamondback Water Snake and poked it with a stick.
We reached Roanoke by 11:30 a.m. and ate Bojangles. Dad has a special place in his heart for some Bojangles chicken. I ate a rice bowl, as it was the healthiest thing on the menu. After Roanoke, we have 120 miles to the end at Waynesville. Traveling on, a good distance up the road we came upon a black bear and her cub. [side note: bear cubs may be the cutest thing in the entire world.] We didn't know what to do as we sat there staring into the eyes of a couple bears maybe 30 yards away. We revved our engines. Immediately, the bears high-tailed it across the road. Mamma bear disappeared into woods and her little cub scurried quickly up a tree. I was unable to get any photos of this event as we were on bikes and my gear was packed away. Just take my word for it, it happened and the little cub was adorable.
When we were 35 miles from the end, dark clouds quickly gathered overhead. We had seen this before along the way and had always escaped without a drop so we weren't worried. This time It rained hell's fury down upon us. Dad had time to throw his rain suit on. I was not as fortunate to remember to pack my suit on the top of my gear and didn't have time to go through it all. The storm raged around us for about 15 minutes, during which, I became entirely soaked. My shoes, jeans, and leather jacket were all wet and made for a very cold, miserable experience. The clouds parted about 10 miles from the end and, though wet, I was happy. We finally reached Waynesboro and immediately made our way to Pinky's Car Wash where the bikes would get a much-needed cleaning. Behind a row of pine trees lining the property line between Pinky's and Mc Coy's Furniture Co, I changed into dry clothes.
We did it. We rode the entire blue ridge parkway in three days. It was time to rest and prepare for the long ride home.
During our adventure, we covered a total of 1,325 miles and came across two turkeys, two snakes, two deer, two bears, one rabbit, and a lot of squirrels.