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... http://www.virtualblueridge.com/park...al/parkway.asp
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!
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...