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Old 10-09-2009, 06:34 PM   #1
Pastor John OP
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My great Blue Ridge Pkwy & Skyline Drive excursion...

Took my October sabbatical up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive this week, and had a wonderful time - six days and 1600 miles of great riding and fall scenery. Most of the area was just shy of peak autumn colors - I was probably a week or two early. But there were some spots that were brilliant!



I took Sunday afternoon to get from my house in south Atlanta to Cherokee. I had reservations to camp at Smokemont inside GSMNP, but by the time I got to Cherokee it was raining, so I chose the Holiday Inn instead. Nice hotel, and I was able to park outside my door.

The first two days on the Blue Ridge Parkway were cold and wet, and I spent most of my time in the clouds with limited visibility. But there were some spots where the clouds lifted a bit and afforded good views. As I approached the Mt. Pisgah area, visibility was down to about 30 feet, which made for slow going. Stopped briefly at the highest point marker at MP 432.





The Folk Art Center (MP 382) is a great place to stop and see some terrific art and stretch the legs. It’s a good time to purchase a nice gift for the better half in gratitude for letting me take a week away from home...





The Museum of North Carolina Minerals (MP 332) has some nice exhibits and is a welcome stop to clean the mist off the visor and windshield. Temperature at this point was a balmy 38 degrees, so I donned the Gerbings and cranked the knobs to about halfway. Ahhh... nice and toasty! My Olympia AST jacket and FirstGear overpants were doing a good job of keeping me dry, but I needed that little something extra to take the edge off.







Moses Cone and Julian Price Memorials (MP 295) are wonderful, but congested, areas and I had no patience for traffic. So I snapped a couple of pictures and continued northbound, trying to outrun the clouds. The clouds won.







Since I’m a wimp when it comes to weather, I overnighted at the splendid lodge at Droughton Park (MP 242) instead of camping as was my plan. At suppertime, the clouds gave way to a spectacular view from the bluff behind the lodge. By the way, the restaurant near the lodge has the best fried chicken on the planet; period!



Day two coming up...

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Old 10-09-2009, 06:47 PM   #2
now it's just Al
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Perfect timeing. My two broinlaws and I will be enjoying the NC portion of BRP this time next week. Did the VA side in '07. Looking forward to day two!
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Old 10-09-2009, 07:05 PM   #3
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To see your experience with some of my favorite local (within several hours anyway ) riding...
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Old 10-09-2009, 07:07 PM   #4
GB
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Gotta love the BRP in in full Fall colors!

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Old 10-10-2009, 02:03 AM   #5
Pastor John OP
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I left the lodge early Tuesday morning heading north in the clouds again. Looked like another great day of (slow) riding! But the good thing about overcast days is that the colors are more vibrant, so the autumn leaves are really striking - when you can see them!





I stopped at the Blue Ridge Music Center (MP 212) and listened to some great bluegrass music and enjoyed the exhibits.





From the Music Center it was 20-30 mph as visibility continued to be poor. But thatís OK, every now and then I would get either above or below the clouds and could take in the amazing scenery. I stopped at Mabry Mill for a while, and even saw the sunshine briefly, but it was a 45 minute wait for lunch, so I soldiered on towards Waynesboro, Virginia, northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the promise of a warm shower and dry towels. I made only a few stops along the way since visibility was so poor and there wasnít anything to see, so no pictures of Peaks of Otter or other places which Iím sure were very scenic underneath clouds as thick as pea soup. Kinda depressing, but you know what they say: ďthe worst day of motorcycling is better than the best day at workĒ.... or something like that.







I stayed at the Best Western in Waynesboro and you might think it weird to talk about a hotel in a ride report, but Harley-Davidson has a working relationship with Best Western that made this stay notable. When I whipped out my Harley Ownersí Group ID card, I was given a nice discount on my room. Then the clerk showed me parking just outside the front door under the awning where he could keep an eye on my bike during the night. When he offered me a bucket of dry towels to use in wiping the bike down, I was very impressed. Guess where Iíll be staying from now on....

So end of Day Two. The weather forecast looks very promising for tomorrow, so Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park will be great!

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Old 10-10-2009, 03:17 AM   #6
Pastor John OP
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Itís amazing what a bright sunny day can do to lift the spirits! Today the air is clear, brisk, and itís time to hit the Skyline Drive of Shenandoah National Park. Hereís a pic of the sign at the north end - not the end that I started from, but for documentary purposes itís useful.



It was a perfect day for the Skyline! Autumn leaves were stunning, and there were lots of bikes on the road. After a brief hotel breakfast, I saddled up, paid my $10 entry fee, and started working the pipeline!





This 105 mile extravaganza only takes about three and a half hours, but itís a rich time and the overlooks are stunning. Since the ride is so short, itís best to stop often to take it all in.





The Visitor Center at Big Meadows (MP 52) has a good exhibit about the construction of the Skyline and the efforts to preserve this important area as a national park. But the real highlight of this area is the alpine meadow from which the area gets its name.





Having spent half the day soaking in all the sunshine, I finished up at Front Royal, its northern terminus, and set my sights on a more southernly direction. This is where that Northern Entrance picture really belongs...



I decided to hammer the interstate southbound to Claytor Lake State Park, near Radford, Virginia for a quick overnight. I wanted to rejoin the Blue Ridge Parkway for another day or two before I ran out of time and needed to head home. This is a beautiful Virginia state park on the banks of Claytor Lake, formed by a dam on the New River. The facilities and scenery are great, and itís just a couple of miles from I-81 so itís a convenient stop.

So Day Three ends with a great camp, and Day Four begins with abundant sunshine and warm temperatures. It was nice to fire up the JetBoil and enjoy a cup of coffee while the forest came back to life after night.



So I rejoined the Blue Ridge Parkway at Fancy Gap (MP 200) and enjoyed this roadway the way it was designed to be ridden - long sweeping curves, the sound of a great V-Twin engine, and the crisp autumn air. Life is great! Since itís the fourth day, I have forgotten completely about work and all the problems and challenges of every other day; today itís all about the ride and this great scenery.





Stopped at Doughton Park (MP 240) for an hour off the bike to enjoy a picnic lunch that I purchased at the restaurant at its entrance. This is a really beautiful area with amazing views of the North Carolina highlands. Sometimes itís worth just stopping for a while to hear the sounds of the leaves rustling in the wind and feel the warm sunshine on your back. I lingered here with the pleasures of a club sandwich and a special Opus X I had been saving for just such a moment as this.





So having lingered for much more than an hour over lunch, I approached the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain area (MP 300), where leaves were at their best. It was worth getting off the bike for a few minutes to take it all in!







I camped at Crabtree Meadows campground (MP 340) that evening and enjoyed the sunset behind Mt. Mitchell, making a note to stop there on my way down the next day. Unfortunately, the following morning the entire ridge was clouded over again, so that will need to wait for next time. Letís see..... I think Iím available next week!




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Old 10-10-2009, 07:21 AM   #7
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Excellent, thank you.

Opus X mmmmmmmmmmmm.

May sound odd but after a crappy month(s) this RR put a smile on my face.

Thanks once again.
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Old 10-10-2009, 09:30 AM   #8
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Old 10-10-2009, 09:44 AM   #9
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I'm gonna be doing the whole bloody thing north to south starting next weekend. Skyline looks beautiful this time of year!
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Old 10-10-2009, 11:58 AM   #10
pbreisch
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thanks for the great pics! I was out there as well and the cloud cover really killed some of the ride. But like you said, worst day riding and all that...
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Old 10-10-2009, 12:34 PM   #11
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Nicely done!

Beautiful pics! I'm hopeful that I'll be able to squeeze in a ride through the mountains before all the leaves drop.

I'd love to learn more about your ministry...

- Jimmy
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Old 10-10-2009, 04:58 PM   #12
Pastor John OP
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Thanks Jimmy! I'm just a church pastor who enjoys motorcycling and the opportunity to combine the two. I enjoy touring and have had some great spiritual conversations around campfires at motorcycle lodges and campgrounds. Just spreading the love....

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'04 Gold Wing (God forgave me for buying it!)
'07 Harley Road King Classic (God forgave me for selling it!)
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Old 10-10-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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Great report! I have to do that trip soon! Sounds like you have an interesting ministry.
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Old 10-10-2009, 05:24 PM   #14
Stretch67
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Thanks, Rev. I'll be up there myself in a week and a half or so, taking the full length of the BRP and Skyline Drive from South to North.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:39 PM   #15
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PM'ed you John.
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