Blue Ridge Parkway

A Two Wheel Dream


Ok, Picture this. You're on a bike, leaning into curve after curve, mile after mile. You're in the mountains, sometimes above the clouds. The curves keep on coming. Next thing you know you're going through an unlit tunnel. (ensuring you play the concert of those drag pipes a little) There is no sign of civilization other than an occasional vehicle, and the only thing that changes is the altitude. You've ridden 20, 40, 80 miles and it's more of the same.

Don't wake me up, it must be a dream. It's not. It is what you would experience if you rode the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are many natural treasures in the USA that few know about and even fewer have experienced. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of these treasures. If you ride on two wheels, be it motorcycle or bicycle, you'd think you've died and gone to heaven.

The Parkway is 469 miles long, starting near Waynesboro, Virginia. It follows the Appalachian Mountain chain along the Blue Ridge Mountains, across the Black Mountains, and finally ends in the Great Smokies in North Carolina. This ride is a cyclist's dream come true. With over four hundred miles of two-lane twisties, spectacular mountain scenery and very little traffic, you can't believe you usually have the road to yourself. Commercial traffic is not allowed. You won't see a golden arch or convenience store on the parkway. As a matter of fact, they're no buildings at all except for a few tourist info centers and historical sites. Usually down a beaten path.    

Need gas? You'd better plan ahead. You have to get off the parkway and sometimes travel ten to twenty miles to find some. This is not as bad as you think as the roads leading to the parkway are usually more radical than the parkway itself. Most of these roads are without posted speed limits. I guess the limit is proportionate to how big a set you got. As for the parkway itself, the speed limit is 45mph all the way, and in most cases that's fast enough.

The scenery is spectacular. You start off in the foothills in Virginia, but once you hit North Carolina, it's all mountains. There are numerous overlooks where you can turn off, take a break, enjoy the scenery, and occasionally hope to lose Aunt Mable and Uncle Jeb, who are out for a Sunday drive. It's bound to happen.

Some places of interest you might want to detour to are Mt. Mitchell State Park, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi, Linville Falls and Grandfather Mountain. One of the most interesting detours is around Grandfather Mountain. It's called the Linn Cove Viaduct. This is a true engineering marvel. It was built connected to the mountain, but it's not actually part of the mountain. It's literally a ride in the sky. It is a very unique experience, to say the least. Probably the most known detour, especially to cyclists, is a little stretch of road know as `The Dragon', or officially, Deals Gap. The Dragon is internationally famous for its 318 curves in just 11 miles. (Note: beware of the occasional idiot using up both lanes trying to beat the Dragon's record.) Come back to MO for more on Deals Gap in the near future.    

If it sounds like I think the Blue Ridge Parkway is the greatest ride east of the Mississippi, I do. The parkway is a special place for me. After giving up riding for a lot of years, I didn't think I would ever own another motorcycle again. A few years ago I moved to North Carolina, and decided to take a vacation in the mountains. I happened to rent a cabin on one of those great roads leading to the parkway. Rode the parkway everywhere I went that week, fell in love, and thought the only thing that could be better than this would be riding these roads on a bike. A year later I bought another bike, and try to go back every chance I get.

Everyone has their own personal Mecca, a place to get away from the traffic, the noise, and the craziness of everyday life. You can guess where mine is.

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