Tag: southern tour 2012

Day 3: The Highest Elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway Motor Road

Day 3: The Highest Elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway Motor Road

Highest Point Blue Ridge Parkway Motor Road

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s highest elevation sign is found at the Richard Balsam Overlook, Milepost 431.

When we stopped to snap a quick photo, it occurred to me that we didn’t have many miles left before our trip down the BRP would be complete. We were just a short hop from where the parkway ended and we’d have travelled the 469 miles of its length. Of course I was excited to see new things, but there is that element of traveling that tugs at your heart strings. Part of you never wants any of it to end.

But, we still had one more place to visit in Maggie Valley before our time on the Blue Ridge was over…

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Day 3: Blue Ridge Parkway Pit Stop – Breakfast at Mount Mitchell

Day 3: Blue Ridge Parkway Pit Stop – Breakfast at Mount Mitchell

When I approached the Mount Mitchell State Park sign, it was like the wheels of my bike turned in to the entrance on their own.

My TIger at Mount Mitchell

The past few times we’ve been on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell had been closed or it was too foggy to see 10 feet in front of you. Now that we were visiting with good clear weather, I had to head up!

After our experience with Grandfather Mountain, part of me wondered if I would be pummeled with a howling wind as we climbed higher and higher. Thankfully, the trees did a good job of keeping the winds in check.

Just to be on the safe side, I pulled in to the parking lot as soon as I saw the lodge-restaurant. I suppose it was kind of an irrational action to think that the outcome would be any different if I stopped first and then continued heading up to the peak. But… sometimes that’s the part of your brain that is at the wheel.


As it turned out, that cuckoo part of my brain was on to something.

Kenny and I parked our bikes and walked towards the lodge which wasn’t visible from the road. Boy, was I glad we did. We put our behinds right in front of the window and had a delicious hot breakfast and enjoyed the rolling, green mountains below.

Breakfast at Mount Mitchell

After breakfast we wandered outside onto the open air deck and took in the view.

Sitting on the deck at Mount Mitchell

Once rational thought returned, Kenny and I rode to the peak of Mount Mitchell. From there, we followed the short walking path that lead to an observation deck which offered a full 360 view of the area.

Standing in the clouds at Mount Mitchell

Part of the view was obscured by clouds sleeping on the trees. It felt like we were at the roof of the world, like I could just reach up my hands and tickle the angels in the clouds.

In a moment of serendipity, while at the top of the park we saw two other riders we’d chit-chatted with in a parking lot in Virginia 2 days before. When you consider how your lives have to line up just so to put 4 strangers in the same place at the same time, hundreds of miles away by sheer coincidence, it boggles the mind. One decision, one different turn, an extra 5 minutes spent drinking a cup of coffee and things would’ve been entirely different. Heady.

Heading down Mt Mitchell

When we pulled away from the parking lot, we fell in behind a guy on a Valkyrie and followed him all the way down to the Pisgah Inn. It was fun riding behind him. Every time he dipped his big gal into a deep lean I got to watch the sparks fly when the floor boards touched down.

The day was off to an awesome start…

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Day 2: The Mile High Club at Grandfather Mountain

Day 2: The Mile High Club at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain SignSome would say that putting the words “grandfather” and “mile high club” in the same sentence is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Normally, I would agree. But, not this time, Johnny!

After hopping off of the Blue Ridge Parkway for the day, Kenny and I headed to Grandfather Mountain near Linville, North Carolina. I wanted to go up to the top and give the Mile High Swinging Bridge a look-see. I had seen photos of it perched a mile above sea level and the surrounding view online and couldn’t wait to check it out for myself.

When we pulled our bikes up to the park entrance gate, the nice older lady who was working the booth leaned out and said, “Now, the wind is really gustin’ up they-er. It’s blowin’ 45 miles’n’our,” in a sweet southern drawl.

Grandfather Mountain entrance

She then paused and looked at us clearly waiting for some sort of response. The best I could formulate was a couple quick blinks and an, “okay?” That seemed good enough for her. ::shrug::

I figured that it was part of her job to give sissy-pants Marys a warning so they don’t try to sue the state or something if they should get a little dust blown in their eyes at the top of the mountain. So, we said thanks and began our ascent up the switchbacks to the top parking area.

The road to the Mile High Swinging Bridge

As we slowly climbed along the roadway I wondered why she had tried to scare us. There was barely breeze on the road.

Parking lot at Grandfather Mountain

When I crested the hill for the very top of the mountain I was hit by what felt line a linebacker. POW! The non-stop wind shoved me to the right where my bike and I were almost knocked over as it came barreling across the parking lot unimpeded by anything in its path.

Oh, THAT wind.

It was so windy in fact that since I’d put my feet down after almost being knocked over that I felt like I couldn’t safely pick them up again to get moving. The wind just continued to shove against the broad side of my bike.

Shoved by the wind

I stood there teetering on tiptoes, holding my bike up waiting for a window where the wind would die down and I could park my bike next to the gift shop. I stood and stood and stood for what seemed like an eternity.

It was just a few moments, however. But it was long enough that Kenny had time to park next to the building and walk back over to me and help me get steady and get rolling again. WHEW! Ain’t love grand? 🙂

There were signs on the gift shop noting to hold on to car doors, small children and any loose objects because the wind would surely grab hold of them and carry them away. Man, they weren’t kidding!

We climbed the steps to the bridge and took in the view. It was beautiful. All day long I had thought about being up there and seeing those beautiful green mountains rolling out before us and the sweet, mile high swinging bridge. Now, there we were.

Now we were there, indeed. Oh, lord! Man, was it windy and the bridge didn’t seem to look as sturdy as it did in pictures…

While we stood at the entrance to the bridge there was a howl that came from it as the wind whipped across its cables. It added an extra special touch to the feeling that I was about to die either from being blown off the bridge or having it collapse into a heap of tangled steel cables on the treetops below.

Mile High Swinging Bridge

With nervous laughter I asked Kenny (who is brave and cavalier about everything) to take a picture with me. You know, just in case it was our last one. Ever.

I’m a huge chicken and kind of scared of heights. But, I hate the idea of quitting or letting my fear keep me from trying something. So, I stepped on to the bridge and began slowly and steadily walking across. Longest. Walk. Of my LIFE!

Between the incessant wind, the give of the slats below your feet, the motion of the bridge and the howling of the wind across the cables I just could not wait to get off of the damned thing.

I held on to the railings with both hands, kept my eyes looking directly ahead and steadily and carefully moved forward. I’m pretty sure I must’ve looked like I shat myself as I slightly crouched and walked.

When I stepped off of the bridge on the other side a wave of relief washed over me. I did it – I was part of the mile high bridge club. It was a triumph! I wasn’t sure if I could ever do that again but I was happy to have made it. Except… that I had to walk back across to get to my bike. DAMNIT!

At the Mile High Swinging Bridge

Though it was scary for a yellow-bellied chicken like me, it was so worth the detour for the views alone. If you’re heading down the Blue Ridge, don’t skip Grandfather Mountain. It’s wonderful.

–gallery rem’d

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Day 2: Detour to the Roanoke Muffler Man

Day 2: Detour to the Roanoke Muffler Man

Some time around midday I pulled us off of the BRP around Roanoke, Virginia. When we finally stopped at the first traffic light we’d seen all day, Kenny looked at me quizzically and slowly said, “um,… wherrrrre are we going?

Foolish boy. After all this time, he still has to ask?

Roanoke Virginia Muffler Man

I happen to have the GPS waypoint file-y thing-a-ma-bob from Roadside America. So, Satan’s Compass (GPS) had hipped me to the fact that there was a muff in our midst. Actually, I’m lying. I knew it was there before we even left New York. I’m weird like that.

Sweet, sweet, blue-eyed Bunyan. Face… peeling. ::sigh::

Roanoke Muffler Man

Get with the program people! Respect the muff!

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Day 2: Smooth Sailing on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Day 2: Smooth Sailing on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Don’t you love that feeling of waking up in a place where you don’t live? That feeling of freedom, of being loose, of being able to wander?

When I got up and looked out the window at our bikes in the hotel parking lot, I got a tickley feeling in my stomach. It was exciting to think that we’d soon be heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sun was shining and the cool morning road was calling. With the mastery of a traveling circus, we packed our bags in jig-time and hit the road.

There were several times during the trip I found myself amazed when looking around our hotel room. It often seemed like a motorcycle gear and clothing bomb had gone off. And yet, every morning the ritual of putting everything back into a single bag took place – making everything once again as neat as a pin.

We entered the BRP at Milepost 0 – Waynesboro, Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Sign

The Blue Ridge Parkway rambles along through the mountains, is a generally smooth road surface and with few intersecting roads – it’s just the most relaxing cruise. I find it to be a great ‘thinking’ road. As a matter of fact, I thought/wrote the most amazing blog posts while riding that morning. Tales of excitement, intrigue… adventure. Unfortunately as soon as I turned the key off on my bike, they evaporated into the ether.

Rolling on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Different sections of the Parkway seem to have different personalities. The upper-most portion of the road is pretty laid back and easy going with gentle turns, valleys and long stretches through deep green trees.

We were blessed with almost no other traffic on the road all day long. Considering it was Sunday, I thought for sure we’d run into a lot of other drivers and riders. While we did see a handful of other motorcycles, if we saw 30 cars all day, I would say that would be a lot. Not too shabby for 300 miles of traveling.

The skies were beautiful and the weather was quite cool at elevation. I actually had to use my heated grips for a little while as the wind whistled through the perforations of my summer gloves.

The view near Linn Cove Viaduct

Sudden Curve Motorcycle Sign Blue Ridge ParkwayBetween Mileposts 36 and 37 is one of my favorite road signs – Sudden Curve Ahead with a motorcycle rider flying off the bike.

While at a stop at one of the roadside exhibit buildings, we found stickers that had the “aaahhhhhhh!” motorcycle man. It was too good to resist. I promptly stuck one on my Givi box. Yay! 

BRP sticker - ahhhhhh!

We rode the BRP into the late afternoon. Our final stop on the parkway itself was at Milepost 304, the Linn Cove Viaduct. It is probably one of the most photographed stretches of the entire roadway.

I finally made a note to stop before the viaduct so that we could take a picture. I usually end up riding right over it and kicking myself because I missed it again. This time I set a point on my GPS to remind me.

I suppose that devil machine is good for something afterall 🙂

Me at the Linn Cove Viaduct

While we walked along a path towards the bridge, Kenny bent down and picked up a small piece of black rubber, a piece of a shoe sole and handed it to me. You just can’t make this stuff up…

Love – it’s everywhere!

Black rubber heart

Our time on the parkway for the day ended at Milepost 305, where we exited and headed for Grandfather Mountain and on to the next adventure.

–gallery rem’d

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