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Stretch67 11-07-2009 05:44 PM

The Blue Ridge Parkway and North Carolina's Outer Banks
I had a military reunion at the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia over the third weekend of October. Since I was heading up there anyway, why not take a few extra days and make it an enjoyable bike trip?

I had always wanted to travel the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America's most scenic roads. I had done bits and pieces of it over the years, but never the entire length.

I sent off for a Blue Ridge Parkway directory and studied over it for a few weeks prior to the trip, wanting to see the sights and "smell the roses" along the way....

The BRP begins just outside of Waynesboro, Virginia, and traverses the Blue Ridge mountains for 469 miles, ending just a couple miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina.

Skyline Drive is essentially a continuation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting in Front Royal, Virginia and heading 105 miles south through Shenandoah National Park to Rockfish Gap, where the road turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway.

So if you wish to travel the full length of both these scenic byways, you have 574 miles of mountain twisties in front of you. Since I live in Georgia, to the south of the southern end of the BRP, my plans were to ride up to Cherokee, get on the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ride its full length north to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, and then the full length of Skyline Drive.

A history of the BRP...

My trusty wingman, as usual, is RocDoc, on his '07 R1200GSA.

About an hour north of home, we agreed to ride up Currahee mountain near Toccoa, Georgia, made famous in the HBO miniseries "Band Of Brothers". The soldiers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained here for the combat parachute jumps into occupied France on the first day of Operation Overlord (D-Day).
Currahee... Cherokee for "Stands Alone". The mountain stands about 800 feet (240 m) above the surrounding landscape, with an elevation of 1,735 feet (529 m).
Three miles up... three miles down. Those young men frequently ran up and down this mountain during their training. This photo doesn't really show how steep the road is. 506th PIR = absolute bad-asses.

A couple hours later, we rolled into Cherokee, NC and gassed up. From previous experience, I knew that the southernmost sections of the BRP were the most twisty, as those parts are the most mountainous, and also at the highest elevation, nearly 6200 feet at its highest point.
BRP Mile 469, the southernmost end, just above Cherokee, NC on U.S. 441.

The Parkway and its right-of-ways are maintained by the National Park Service, with no tractor-trailers and other commercial traffic allowed. The BRP and Skyline Drive are essentially National Parks, built and maintained to provide a pleasant drive with beautiful scenery.

With the exception of only a couple gas stations, there are no services (restaurants, gas, & motels) on the Parkway itself. To access these services, you have to exit the Parkway at a crossroad. This is where the BRP Directory comes in handy, using it as a quick reference as to where one can stop for gas, motels, etc.
The Devil's Courthouse
Looking Glass Rock, so named because of the monolith's high reflectivity when covered with ice and sleet.

An early winter storm had rolled through the area just two days before, and the section of the BRP's highest elevation was closed due to ice and snow on the roadway. This was our first of three mandatory detours.

We were able to get back on the BRP above Waynesville, NC and rode until nearly dark, where we exited again to find a motel in Asheville.

Picking up the next day, heading north from Asheville...
Sheets of icicles on the road up to Mount Mitchell.
Near the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River, 6,684 feet (2,037 m). No yellow... tasty!

Continuing on...

We encountered another detour near Blowing Rock, NC. This one was due to road repairs, and was listed on the BRP website, along with directions.

The third detour we encountered was also in NC, due to the authorities closing the road to investigate a crime scene. We never heard any details, and the road was re-opened shortly thereafter.

Note how the leaves are more red and gold as we head north. South of us, the nights hadn't been quite as cold, and the foliage was still green. As we headed further north, up into northern Virginia, the foliage had just about played out. Most of the leaves there were brown or had already fallen.

We found a nice mom-and-pop motel in Meadows Of Dan, Virginia.

While gassing up the following morning, a couple riders saw the ADV stickers on our panniers and breezed across the street to say hello. It was Fast Ferris and his bud RotsORuck from BadWeB. Ferris was on his Harley and Ed on a Buell Ulysses. We spent a few minutes talking about bikes and riding, and lamenting the loss of Buell.
Rockfish Gap, near Waynesboro, Virginia. Mile 0 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mile 105 of Skyline Drive. Just to the left is the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park. The entry fee for motorcycles is $10.00, with a strictly enforced speed limit of 35 MPH.
The northern entrance of Skyline Drive, after having ridden well more than the usual 574 miles of it and the BRP, due to the detours.

I would highly recommend this ride, especially during October, when the fall foliage is in full color.

From here in Front Royal, we rode an hour east (in the dark) to Dumfries. This would be home base for the next couple days. I went to my reunion, and RocDoc went into Washington DC to see the sights.

More to follow...

Stretch67 11-07-2009 05:44 PM

Sunday, October 25. With my reunion over and RocDoc's Washington DC meanderings done, we hit the road, taking the long way home (cue the old Supertramp song...)

We rode north on I-95 past Washington, taking U.S. 50 toward Annapolis, MD. We crossed the bridge over Chesapeake Bay, and rode east through the remainder of Maryland, into Delaware.

At Georgetown, we turned south into Maryland again, and then down the Virginia peninsula heading toward Norfolk.

But to get to Norfolk, we had to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, which covers a distance of nearly 18 miles across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. There are three sections of bridge, separated by two sections of tunnel where the water is deepest. The shipping channels pass above the submerged tunnels...
Obviously not my photo

From the Bay Bridge / Tunnel website:

From shore to shore, the Bridge-Tunnel measures 17.6 miles (28.4 km) and is considered the world's largest bridge-tunnel complex. Construction of the span required undertaking a project of more than 12 miles of low-level trestle, two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway, four manmade islands and 5-1/2 miles of approach roads, totaling 23 miles.
On the bridge, approaching a tunnel

We continued south through Norfolk and Virginia Beach into North Carolina, then east to the Outer Banks. We arrived in Kitty Hawk after dark, and rode to Nag's Head before we found a motel.

Stretch67 11-07-2009 05:46 PM

North Carolina's Outer Banks, from north to south.

The Outer Banks are a chain of barrier islands along North Carolina's coast, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the inland sounds and waterways...

We had ridden down to Kitty Hawk from Norfolk the night before, and spent the night in Nag's Head. We would then head south on Hwy 12, past Cape Hattaras to the end of the island at Hattaras Village.
In many places, the Outer Banks are only a couple hundred yards wide. As this is looking south, the dunes are on the left, with the Atlantic Ocean just past them. The sound, several hundred square miles of calm but shallow sea water is just a few yards to the right.

We caught a passenger / auto ferry at Hattaras for the 30-40 minute trip to Ocracoke Island, the next island south. Reservations are recommended...
Ocracoke Island
The Atlantic Ocean, just past the dunes.
Leaving Ocracoke village, heading toward Cedar Island, two and a half hours away.
RocDoc containing his excitement
Ships that pass in the night
Back on the road, heading south to Beaufort (Bo-furt. Not to be confused with Bew-furt, which is in South Carolina) and Morehead City, then back onto the islands at Atlantic Beach.
You can't see it in my crappy pic, but he's giving me (and you) the ADV salute.

We continued on until the highway took us to Jacksonville, where we headed inland and toward I-95, I-20, and home. We arrived home at about 11 pm.

In all, 1876 miles in six days, stopping to smell the roses.

Thanks for coming along. :ricky

GB 11-07-2009 07:12 PM

Looks great! thanks for taking us along, especially to the outer banks! haven't seen that here... :thumb

bobw 11-07-2009 07:25 PM

Great report. Some of my favorite roads too!


bobw 11-07-2009 07:25 PM

Great report. Some of my favorite roads too!


MichaelJ 11-08-2009 06:29 AM


Originally Posted by Stretch67
There are no gas stations, restaurants, or motels on the Parkway itself.

Not quite true. While the three gas stops on the Parkway have been closed, there are still places to eat and sleep on the road. Peaks of Otter, Doughton Park and Mt. Pisgah all have accomodations and there are a few other places to eat as well.

But some of the side roads are sheer entertainment in and of themselves. :D

Thorne 11-08-2009 06:34 AM

Looka like an interesting area to ride...........

MichaelJ 11-08-2009 07:00 AM


Originally Posted by Thorne
Looka like an interesting area to ride...........

That would be an understatement. :D

rocdoc 11-14-2009 10:55 AM

update from Stretch's said riding partner Rocdoc... yesterday Stretch had a pickup truck assisted get off and is in the hospital here in our home town. He got a slightly collapsed lung, a cracked rib, three back and two neck vertebrae cracked. Doesn't look like any surgery will be needed, but he'll be a while recovering. Good wishes appreciated. Rocdoc

Chanderjeet 11-14-2009 11:01 AM

Hoping he gets well soon :thumb
His pics reminded me of my time riding through those lovely roads. :ricky

XC Rider 11-14-2009 05:26 PM


Originally Posted by rocdoc
update from Stretch's said riding partner Rocdoc... yesterday Stretch had a pickup truck assisted get off and is in the hospital here in our home town. He got a slightly collapsed lung, a cracked rib, three back and two neck vertebrae cracked. Doesn't look like any surgery will be needed, but he'll be a while recovering. Good wishes appreciated. Rocdoc

Aw man, what a bummer; glad that he's not in worse shape though. Sending positive thoughts your way and thanks for the great pictures of the BRP. I'm on my way back to Virginia here in the next couple of days, and plan to finally go and ride the Cherohola Skyway and the Tail of the dragon on the way home. I'll keep my eyes open for snow as I go over Mt. Mitchell!

WildAnCrazymtl 11-14-2009 05:46 PM

We did almost the same ride but started from montreal this summer! :lol3

RonkoRider 11-14-2009 06:54 PM

Someone looks a little chilly!:evil

Serbchaser 11-14-2009 07:54 PM

Bring...It...On...:clap :clap :clap

Great Report - Awesome Ride.


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