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Thread: Return to the Blue Ridge Parkway

  1. #1
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    Return to the Blue Ridge Parkway

    I took a trip the length of the BRP over 30 years ago on my 1971 R75/5 and have not been back since, partly because I now live further away from the Parkway and mostly because I didnÔÇÖt have the opportunity or time to repeat this trip. With my recent retirement, I now had time for this trip.

    The BRP is 470 miles of two-lane road perfect for motorcycling with limited access and no traffic lights or stop signs. My plan was to take three days, which ultimately wasnÔÇÖt enough time, to ride the Parkway and camp along the way. To maximize time on the Parkway, I planned to ride the interstates down and back.

    I left my house at 5:30 Monday morning. It was pretty chilly and I started with my GerbingÔÇÖs jacket and gloves on. Somewhere in VA my dual controller stopped working so I switched to my backup single controller for the jacket and did without the heated gloves for the remainder of the trip.

    On the ride down as my mind was wandering, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to pack my "medicinal" sippinÔÇÖ whiskey. Lack of heated gloves I could tolerate, but no sippinÔÇÖ whiskey?? I tried without luck to find a liquor store in Waynesboro, VA - the start of the BRP. My GPS doesnÔÇÖt have a ÔÇ£liquor storeÔÇØ option, which would've made it easier to locate one.

    I got to the Parkway around noon and there were two guys from Ontario on R1200RTs just waiting to take my picture.



    They were also riding the Parkway but were headed to Roanoke that evening and a hotel.

    I stopped at the visitorÔÇÖs center to confirm the campgrounds were open. My destination was the campground at Otter Creek at milepost 60.

    The speed limit along the Parkway is 45, which actually is a reasonable speed, as the Parkway is to be savored. I rode almost exclusively in 3rd gear, which kept my speed somewhat legal and provided good engine braking so I could just roll on or roll off the throttle and it made for a really relaxing ride.

    There are many overlooks along the Parkway and I stopped at a few.





    It had been cool and cloudy all day, and I had ridden through some light showers on I-81 earlier in the day. Eventually it started to rain again so I put on my rain suit and tank bag cover.





    I arrived at the campground around 2:30, and was the only soul around, and no one else ever showed up. I picked a site along a stream and set up camp as a light rain fell.





    As it was still early, I headed south on the Parkway to do some more riding. I was a short distance from the James River visitor center.



    The James River is the lowest elevation along the Parkway and after you cross the river, the road climbs and climbs and twists and turns and was great fun to ride. As I got to higher elevations, it got cooler and foggy and started to rain.



    I turned around as the weather deteriorated and the ride back down in the fog was ÔÇ£interestingÔÇØ, due to a fogged faceshield and wet glasses. It was good to have a GPS and have an idea which way the road turned. It took a little while to get below the cloud ceiling and I was very happy then to just be riding in rain.

    I was relieved to arrive back at my wet camp.



    Dinner was freeze-dried lasagna, and as I was preparing it, I realized IÔÇÖd also forgotten to pack a spoon. I mixed up my meal using a stick and poured it into my coffee mug to eat.

    As I was taking my trash to find a dumpster, I ran into the camp hosts, who IÔÇÖd chatted with earlier, and they pointed out the dumpster. They then asked ÔÇ£would you be interested in a vodka tonic?ÔÇØ They didnÔÇÖt have to ask a second time.

    Three hours later they deposited me back at my tent after spending an enjoyable evening in their warm trailer listening to the rain fall drinking more than one vodka tonic. They also gave me a spoon, so my two forgotten items turned out not to be an issue. I was a happy camper and fell asleep to the sound of a gentle rain falling on the tent.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  2. #2
    Dum vivimus vivamus ted's Avatar
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    Man the lure of the mountains was strong this week, unfortunately for me work won out...

    Looking forward to part 2!
    Ted
    "A good stick is a good reason"
    1994 K75RT
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  3. #3
    Registered User PittsDriver's Avatar
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    It's like we were there with you. Nice story telling. More please!

    Wes
    Wes Jones
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    2012 K1600GT, Vermillion Red
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  4. #4
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    The rain had stopped overnight and I got up a little after 7 when there was enough light to not need a headlamp. It was a cool morning but not uncomfortable, and everything was quite damp. I retrieved my food bag from the bear boxes in the campground ÔÇô luckily I didnÔÇÖt see any bears ÔÇô and made breakfast. I packed a wet tent and was on the road by 8:30. My destination was the Doughton Park campground at MP 240.



    I headed south and once again crossed the James River. There was a bit of sunshine on the distant hills, but for the most part it was overcast and cool.



    As I previously mentioned, the road south from the James River climbs and twists for mile after mile. The weather was much better than the previous dayÔÇÖs ride on this stretch of road, but at the higher elevations I ran into more fog. HereÔÇÖs a video of the ride from the James River to Peaks of Otter. In the video I pass another rider on an older bike. When I was getting ready to leave camp that morning, I heard a rumble coming along the Parkway and saw a rider pass. I could only tell it was an older bike but didnÔÇÖt know exactly what it was. As I was pulling into the James River visitor center, he was pulling out, but I caught him in the climb to Peaks of Otter. I could tell it was an older British twin but wasnÔÇÖt sure what he was riding. I met him later in the day, which IÔÇÖll get to.



    There was very little traffic and I made a few stops along the way.





    When I got to Roanoke, I left the Parkway to get gas. This is a divided town.



    The elevation along this part of the Parkway is lower and it was warmer and sunnier. I stopped at the Roanoke River and hiked down to take a look at the river.





    A little further along was the Roanoke Mountain loop road, which I took. This is a four-mile, single track road up to the summit with nice views at the top, and a twisty road down.



    This stretch of road goes through some nice open gaps with some farms.







    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  5. #5
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    As I was getting hungry, I stopped at the Smart View picnic area.





    Lunch of sardines and power bars ÔÇô what a great combination.



    With the sardines battling the power bars in my stomach, I headed south under cloudy skies.



    I stopped at Mabry Mill and Puckett Cabin.





    I was getting close to Fancy Gap, where I planned to stop for gas.



    I pulled into the gas station right off the Parkway and saw the bike I had passed earlier in the day across the street. I was surprised to see him there as I had passed him hours ago. I guess slow and steady wins the raceand not stopping to eat sardines and power bars helps. The rider  I forget his name  was riding a 1956 BSA loaded with gear. He was from Florida and had taken the autotrain to DC and was riding back home to Florida. He had recently done a similar trip to eastern Canada. He had camping equipment and I told him there was a campground 40 miles south where I was headed, but he was done for the day and was looking for a hotel in Fancy Gap. Im sorry I didnt take a picture of his bike.

    I continued south for the remaining 40 miles to the campground, crossing into NC.









    I pulled into the campground around 4, chose a wooded site and set up camp. The tent was still a little wet and I hoped it would dry out some.



    With the bike unloaded and camp set up, I headed out to ride more of the Parkway before dinner. Did I mention how great this road is? I rode south for a while and then headed back.













    Dinner was freeze-dried chili mac and I didnÔÇÖt have to mix it with a stick! The end of another good day riding topped off with a hot meal.



    I turned in at 8:30 and quickly fell asleep.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  6. #6
    Old man in the mountains osbornk's Avatar
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    Glad you are enjoying our little part of the world. On Thursday, our little group of six met at 7:30AM in below freezing temperates to ride the 45 miles to Shatley Springs (http://www.shatleysprings.com/index.htm) that is about 10 miles from the Parkway near Jefferson, NC. for breakfast. After a great country breakfast, we twisted through mountain roads for a hour or two before we got on the BRP around Boone, NC , rode to Blowing Rock and had BBQ before we got back on the Parkway.

    This time of year, there is a lot of traffic on the BRP due to the fall foilage (not so good this year). We saw and talked with a lot of motorcyclists from a lot of places. They were all having a great time in the mid 50s temperatures and sun. I thought there was an unusually large number that were retired and wandering around with no particular destination (What could be better?). They were open to suggestions and several followed us home so they could ride the Back of the Dragon (http://backofthedragon.com/) and surrounding roads.
    'You can say what you want about the South, but I almost never hear of anyone wanting to retire to the North.

  7. #7
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    On Wednesday I stopped for gas in Woodlawn which looks to be very close to Marion. There looked to be a number of great side roads to ride - the ride down from the BRP on 226 was very twisty. I'd love to get back to that area.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  8. #8
    Registered User bluehole's Avatar
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    Looks like you are taking advatage of your retirement. I read your New England trip the other day. This is fun because I live relatively close to the BRP and recognize some of these spots. Sardines and Powerbars? I have eaten both, but not together. Thanks for posting. I enjoy following your travels.

  9. #9
    Registered User dadayama's Avatar
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    Your giving me cabin fever and i just got back from a big trip a couple of weeks ago...

    One of these days i'll have to head east...

    Thanks for the report
    Ich Fahre Nicht Zu Schnell, Ich Fliege Nur Niedrig
    Oklahoma Adventure Trail

  10. #10
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    I awoke to a chilly morning and put on all the clothes I had and was pretty comfortable. The wind had died down a little as I ate my favorite toaster pastry.



    My morning routine of breakfast and packing got me on the road before 8:30.



    I had originally targeted Mount Pisgah at MP 408 as my camping spot for the night, which would be a similar mileage to the previous day. The problem was that would leave 50 miles of the Parkway and then at least 600 miles to home and I needed to get home the following day. Not being able to get really early starts away from camp made that plan unreasonable. I decide to skip the last 20 miles or so of the Parkway and bail at MP 445. This would allow me to see most of the Parkway and get a start on my homeward journey and leave a reasonable mileage remaining for my final day on the road.

    The ride started under mostly sunny skies. I saw more deer than cars.



    It was nice to finally see the sun which made the colors were more vivid.



    The area around the Linn Cove Viaduct was really pretty, though the road was exposed and it was still quite windy. You can see the Viaduct in the left of this photo.



    As I got a little further along and at a higher elevation, there were clouds obscuring the tops of the some of the peaks and there was a very dark cloud higher up, which I eventually rode into.



    I started up the side road to Mt Mitchell, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi R at 6600 feet, but in no time was into the dark cloud. I stopped at the ranger station, which is 2 miles from the summit, due to poor visibility and windy conditions.



    I didnÔÇÖt see any reason to continue so turned around and retraced my route back to the Parkway.

    Heading south on the Parkway, I eventually ran into a thick fog and visibility was poor so I pulled off to take a break.



    After about 10 miles of fog, I came to the Craggy Gardens visitor center, and people that had come from the south said in a mile or so it was clear. Sure enough conditions quickly improved at the lower elevations.



    I got to the Mt Pisgah campground around 2, which wouldÔÇÖve been too early to stop anyway, so I continued on.

    I passed the highest point on the Parkway and had to get in line to take a photo. At least it was all downhill from there.



    Unfortunately, I knew my Parkway ride was ending as I descended.





    I started to get a little hungry so ate my last two cans of cat food. It made for a nice snack as I was quite hungry.



    One last stop



    and then I exited the Parkway at Balsam Gap at about MP 445.

    I took NC 23/74 to I-40 and rode east for a couple of hours to Statesville, where I got a hotel for the night. It was nice to have a restaurant meal along with a tall, cold beer. It was off to bed early as I was still about 500 miles from home.

    The rest of the story is fairly uneventful. I left Statesville on Thursday morning at 6:30 and got home before 5. There wasnÔÇÖt a cloud in the sky the whole day and I wouldÔÇÖve liked to have been back on the BRP. I-77 through southern VA was very nice, though the ride through the mountains at Fancy Gap was quite chilly and I was wishing for heated gloves. I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley is fairly scenic, though it can get crowded with trucks. I detoured around some road construction in southern PA, which made the trip a little longer, but I took the opportunity to ride some roads IÔÇÖm familiar with and enjoy riding.

    Next time I should set aside more time to have more time to spend on the Parkway. I understand spring is beautiful along the BRP.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  11. #11
    MearthA rdalland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by terham View Post
    Next time I should set aside more time to have more time to spend on the Parkway. I understand spring is beautiful along the BRP.
    Think Georgia Mtn Rally
    ride what you've got; enjoy the road you're on!

    Reid - Stone Ridge, NY - MOA #69187 - Turbo Fluffy Motoclub - IBA #50182

  12. #12
    Registered User PittsDriver's Avatar
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    Very entertaining and descriptive write up. It really stuck a chord in my wanderlust. I really like traveling with my peeps but there's also a part of me that's really looking forward to this kind of trip someday. We just got back from a week long ride where we were camping. We always seemed to ride until dark and were always setting up camp in the dark. I'm curious why you would set up camp early and then go ride a loop vs just keep going and stop for the day?
    Wes Jones
    Annapolis, MD
    2012 K1600GT, Vermillion Red
    2013 S1000RR, Granite Gray

  13. #13
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PittsDriver View Post
    We always seemed to ride until dark and were always setting up camp in the dark. I'm curious why you would set up camp early and then go ride a loop vs just keep going and stop for the day?
    In retrospect, I probably should've gone a little further each day, but I wanted to camp on the Parkway and sometimes the spacing to the next campground didn't seem quite right, and I really don't like setting up in the dark. If it works, I prefer to ride as much as I can each day, but this time of year, I generally stop around 4 or 5 to have time to take my time to setting up and eat before it need a headlamp to see. I like to ride as much as possible so when I stop early, I prefer riding more than sitting in camp.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  14. #14
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdalland View Post
    Think Georgia Mtn Rally
    When's that? I have family in Atlanta.
    Terence
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1100S

  15. #15
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    Return to the Blue Ridge Parkway

    Really nice report and pictures. I did the BRP and Skyline Drive in the summer of '09 coming back from Florida on a HD Softail. While I enjoyed having the comfort and power of that particular bike there was some floorboard scraping that made me lust for a Ducati or Guzzi. Now with a 1100RT I have the best of both worlds and look forward to a return trip.
    Thanks for sharing.

    mike wex (wekselblatt)
    '96 R1100rt

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