Part VIII: Blue Ridge Parkway

August 27, 2003: BRP Part I

Today I hauled myself back to the mountains. It's good to be back. I took NC-215 south from Canton to where I had entered the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) on the 18th and ridden south. Today I would start riding north on the BRP. As the ride has evolved I decided I wanted to ride the whole BRP in the course of the trip. When I was headed south on I-81 to meet at Deals Gap I was tempted to head for the parkway. I'm glad I didn't. The BRP takes time to appreciate. It's long, it's scenic, it's special. I'm glad I gave it time. I could have given it more.

Well, the part of NC-215 north of the parkway is nice once you get out of the flat lands. It rises up to meet the parkway in nice s-curves and switchbacks. I touched down the fairing again. I've cranked up the suspension, looks like I need to add a few more turns yet. The road surface here is great. I really like this road. I haven't heard anyone else mention it. Go ride it if you're in NC. It's worth it.

I reached the parkway in good shape time wise. I figured I could make it north of Ashville without too much work. Due to the heat I had taken my face shield off the helmet earlier in the day. It was just too damned hot, even up on the parkway, and I was sick of it falling down on me. I must have lifted it up a few hundred time while on the slab. (Lesson one never make an equipment change in the middle of a long ride.)

The weather was interesting. There were some dark clouds coming in from the west, but no rain yet. There was a lot of moisture in the air though. Unfortunately this made things hazy and the views weren't the best, but the riding was great. It's just amazing riding the ridge line, then descending some and riding on one side of the ridge, passing through a gap and riding on the other side and back and forth and up onto the ridge and down and well you get the idea.

I could see the clouds coming in from the west when I'd get a view that way. I've been riding in the mountains for a while now and I've gotten so I have a sense of the weather. I could tell there wasn't any rain falling yet. Just threats of rain. I've been through this for days now. I wasn't worried... Well I passed through a gap from the east side, where it was sunny out into a drenching rain on the west side. Without the face shield I could barely see!!! I was getting pelted. It was a hard stinging rain. I had to slow way down to be able to see, by time I got to a place I could pull off and get my rain gear on I was soaked and cold. The temperature had really dropped, or least it felt like it did. Anyway, I was soaked, cold and about 5,000 feet up in the air. Not good to say the least. (Lesson two if there's any chance of rain leave the face shield on stupid!)

In my current situation it was time to get off the road. I was near the intersection of the BRP and I-40 just east of Ashville so that's where I pulled off. Short of my goal, but at least I was alive. It was very hairy not being able to see riding in the rain with the drop offs that are on that road. I was thankful to park the bike safely for the night.

August 28, 2003: BRP Part II

Up and out early. Today was one of the best days period! I rode from Ashville to Roanoke, VA. The last 40 miles were hair raising. The road was wet, but not cleaned off. It seemed there were deer everywhere. I got to test out the awesome stopping power of the RT's ABS brakes on a slick surface. I can testify they work. I was glad I had them. I got home safe and Bambi is free to roam the country side.

This section of BRP is great. There are lots of parks and things to see. I rode up Mount Mitchell. I felt like I was parking at a BMW meet. There were some other types of bikes up there, but the majority were beemers. It felt weird to be in the majority. They were from all over the place. That seems to be the norm, put a bunch of BMW's together and your likely to find a lot of states represented.

Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The views were not that good though as the air was heavy with tropical moisture. Someone told me October is the month to visit here. So, I may swing by on the way home from the UnRally. I think it'll be worth the detour.

Today I also saw great waterfalls, streams, incredible vistas with the mist rising. I now know why they call some of these mountains smokey. It rises like smoke. Reaching its wispy tendrils towards the sky. Hundreds of them.

At one of the only fill stations on the parkway a gentlemen driving a church van full of kids heading out to go hiking spied the bike and struck up a conversation. He really liked the RT. He's done some parts of the BRP on a friends 900cc airhead a few years ago. He plans on crossing the nation on one when he retires. I love meeting people like this. For me it's an integral part of the ride. People! The bike is like a magnet. People just start talking. They open up.

I found a hotel with some Internet access. I was able to communicate with the crew headed to Killington, VT for the Killington Classic. I'm in. Killington will be my base for getting to ME and Old Orchard Beach. I need to see the ocean. It seems like a fitting way point. My way-point zulu. I will take off the boots and socks and stand in the surf and have someone take my picture. Who knows how many miles are left. Way-point Zulu...

August 29, 2003: BRP Part III & Bristol, VA -- Internet!

The northern section of the BRP is no where near as interesting as what I've ridden so far. It rolls through pastoral farms and hill country. Nothing I would describe as mountainous. It's beautiful, but different and less intense then the southern section. It is very mind clearing and there are very few distractions. It's nice being on a road without any commercial traffic.

I had originally planned on heading into West Virginia when I got done with the BRP. I started in but decided that I couldn't do it justice and make it down to Deals Gap to meet up with Buck and Candi on Sunday. So I headed down I-81 to Bristol, VA. The Motel 6 there has high speed Internet access in the rooms. So, it seemed like a good place to get off the bike. I downloaded a lot of email, caught up on BMWST.com, got food and hit the sack. Tomorrow it would be back to the mountains of NC and TN!