Day 53 - Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing - Like 300 Miles On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Published: July 17th 2017
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Day 53 - Roanoke, VA to Asheville, NC

Today seemed like such a simple task, just ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway from Roanoke, VA to Asheville, NC. Should be about 275 miles, no big deal. It was Sunday morning, so we slept a little late, and by the time we ate breakfast and got on the road, it was after 9:00. Since we had bypassed the Roanoke Visitors Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we rode in yesterday, we thought we would begin today by backtracking a few miles north to visit the Roanoke Visitors Center and get our passport stamps. It didn't take too long, but by the time we were finally back on the road and heading south, it was 9:45.

We began the day as expected, riding down the Blue Ridge parkway, stopping at a few scenic overlooks. It didn't take long for us to figure out that as beautiful as these overlooks are, the pictures don't really do them justice, and in fact most of the overlook pictures look about the same. So we decided to try and concentrate on some of the attractions other than scenic overlooks and just keep the enjoyment of overlook viewing to ourselves.

The riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway is just spectacular! There are no straight and level sections of road anywhere that are more than a quarter mile long. So riding Blue Ridge is a constant motion of heading up or down and turning left or right continuously. Since most of the turns are sharp enough to be a blind curve, I must always be on my guard for what might be around the curve ahead. I keep the Garmin turned on so that out of the corner of my eye, I can anticipate the upcoming curve and how long it might be Since it was Sunday morning, there were bikes everywhere as it seemed everyone was riding today.

I generally try to ride the speed limit of 45 mph, though downhill it creeps up to 50 or even 55. Most of the time there was no one in front of me, so it would seem like we had the road to ourselves. Every once in a while, a slowpoke car will hold up traffic as it cruises along at 25 to 35 mph. They usually turn of at a scenic overlook and traffic moves on. One of these times, I came up on a bike that was almost identical to mine stuck behind a slowpoke car. When the car pulled off, the other Goldwing sped up and we followed for a good 30 miles. It was relaxing for me, because the other Goldwing was anticipating all the turns ahead, and all I had to do was mimic his speed and turns. We were hoping they would pull off at an overlook so we could stop and meet them, but they eventually turned off on a side road and we kept going.

Our first attraction was the Mabry Mill. This is a real, once working mill built around 1910 for the use of a man named Ed Mabry. Using a waterwheel for power, Mabry was able to perform multiple functions within the same building. In the first section, he built a sawmill which he used to cut boards to build the rest of the mill. In the second section, he had 2 millstones that he used to mill grain for the local farmers. One millstone was set for fine milling for flour and grain for human consumption. The second millstone was set for coarser grain for use in animal feed. In the third section of the mill Mabry had his woodworking shop. In there he built a jigsaw, a tongue and groove joiner, a grinder, and a lathe. The waterwheel would turn a shaft in the center, and since he was a one man operation, he would attach a belt between the shaft and whatever tool he wanted to use as the mill was designed to use only one tool at a time.

As we were getting ready to leave the Mabry Mill, we were looking at the other bikes in the parking lot when we noticed right next to ours was a similar Goldwing. It took us a moment to realize that this is the one we were following before they turned off. When the owner and his wife came up to their bike, we introduced ourselves and told them that we were the ones who had been following them. They turned out to be a really nice couple form eastern Pennsylvania who we were down her on a combination business and pleasure trip. We talked about bikes, retirement, and traveling, some of my favorite subjects. They had just arrived, they had turned off earlier in search of gas, and we were getting ready to leave, so we said goodbye and we were back on the road.

From the Mabry Mill, we continued on down the Blue Ridge Parkway until we came to the Blue Ridge Music Center. When we arrived, there was a concert of Mountain Music in progress by a group of local musicians. We listened for a while, and they were actually quite good. From there, we continued some more, stopped at a couple of the more interesting scenic overlooks and continued to make progress. Our next stop was the Brinecar Cabin. This is an actual Appalachian cabin lived in by the Brinecars up until the 1940's. They were one of the families that still lived on the land when the Federal Government took over land to build Blue Ridge. They were allowed to live on the land until their deaths, and the original cabin and out-building is still standing.

From the Brinecar Cabin, our next stop was the Northwest Trading Post where local artisans sold their crafts. It was mostly jewelry and pottery, some of it quite good. We didn't find anything in particular we liked, other than a good Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle t-shirt. From there we got back on Blue Ridge and headed for the Moses H Cone Memorial Park and Craft Center. This was a much more upscale 23 room mansion built in 1901 that was owned by the Cone family. The house and grounds have been preserved, and there is a good sized gift shop that also features local artisans.

As we left the Cone mansion, it was getting close to 5:00 and we still had about 90 miles to go. There were a couple of other places we wanted to visit: The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, and Craggy Gardens. But by the time we reached the mineral museum, it was after 5:00 and the Park Ranger had gone home and the place was locked up. By now, both of us were getting a little tired and hungry, so we just decided to press on and head for the hotel without any more stops. The last 50 miles or so just north of Asheville have some of the most spectacular scenery on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The elevation is higher around here, instead of the 2500 to 3500 ft elevation of most of Blue Ridge, as we get closer to Asheville, the elevation rises to over 5000 ft. In this last 50 miles, we also passed through 9 tunnels. Riding through tunnels on a motorcycle is awesome!

By the time we reached the hotel it was after 6:30 and we were both tired. Fortunately, there is a Carrabba's Italian Grill right next door to the hotel, so we knew where we were eating tonight! We are here for 3 nights, so we can relax tomorrow as we have 2 full days to explore Asheville. As I look back on the last couple of days activities, it became apparent that trying to do 250 to 300 miles in a single day on the Blue Ridge Parkway is just too much. We typically can do 250 - 300 miles in a day easily, but I had forgotten that the speed limit was 45 mph, and that all too often we were doing 25 - 35 mph. Also there is a lot more physical and mental activity in riding such a convoluted road as Blue Ridge. If I had it to do over again, I would have split the Skyline Drive to Blue Ridge Parkway from Luray, VA to Asheville, NC into 3 days instead of 2. This would have put us into the hotel before 4:00, and we would have had more time for hiking. But, we made it! And it's all just art of the adventure!

299.7 Miles Today

8537.4 Miles Total

5.136 Gallons Today

213.684 Gallons Total

Additional photos below
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