[posted a day after the fact because I had no internet at the farm]
Share the journey — read the Blue Ridge Parkway Ride blog series.
We left Bedford early (I wasn’t in any hurry to linger at the affordable but grubby Bedford Days Inn) and took Big Island Highway back up to 501 to rerun a few miles of the Parkway. It was so rainy and cold yesterday when we hit the highest point on the Virginia part of parkway we didn’t catch the pull-off until we’d passed it, and had missed some great views.
We stopped at H&H market, where we’d coasted in on fumes yesterday (ok I exaggerate, but not by much). The same woman working behind the counter last night and the same older man hanging out at a table were both still there and evidently recognized me without my “frog togs” (rain gear). I had asked the woman yesterday if she knew who won the Derby, to be met with a quizzical look. You’d have looked at me too if I’d walked into your teeny one-stop-sign town got up in many bizarre layers of clothes and urgently asked you about a sporting event you’d never heard of. “Did ya find out who won the Derby?” she asked in her Virginia lilt. I told her I did, smiled at the man from yesterday, and went back out to gear up. We were headed to 3900 feet – no real mountain, but bound to be cold on the back of a bike at 9:00 in the morning.
Over my light leather jacket I pulled on my loaner leather jacket and began the rather undignified process of climbing into my chaps in the middle of a parking lot. Shoving my booted feet through the legs was the hardest part but I only almost wiped out once. I really looked the part then, clad head to toe in black leather.
We set out, up, up and away for Apple Mountain Orchard, the highest point on the parkway in Virgina, stopping for some breathtaking scenery. I curse my laziness at not learning how to properly use the camera because my pitiful snapshots can’t begin to capture the sumptuous waves of hills blanketed in a thousand and one shades of green.
We reached 53 degrees at the top – I was happy to be in the gear, for sure. Apple Mountain Orchard is not – as I thought when I read it on the map – an orchard at all. According to the plaque up top, the raging winter storms bringing wind, snow and ice have pruned the lichen-covered red oaks, giving the gnarled trees the appearance of an orchard.
After our photo-op we descended to the lowest point of the parkway in the state, at Otter Creek, where we pulled off for Bedford last night. Following my iron-clad rule to never pass up a bathroom, we stopped at the Peaks of Otter Creek Lodge for a break. We’d had dinner here last night – mediocre fried catfish and acceptable macaroni and cheese and sweet potato fries for me (I can’t complain for $6.95 though) and something called a hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for my dad.
It was much nicer to leave in the bright clear morning air than it was to leave last night in the dark amid sprinkles. Deer-spotting for 10 miles in the dark was not a relaxing after-dinner pastime.
I wanted to check out the City Market in downtown Roanoke – it looked to contain a thriving farmer’s market and a number of interesting shops. Well that was a bust. Perhaps on the web site that says the market is open seven days a week they could mention there are about three stalls open on Sunday. We did get to enjoy a couple of white-haired fellows playing four-string tenor banjo. They performed a toe-tapping Suwannee River and Oh Susannah before we left the lackluster little market to get back on the parkway.
We pulled off soon for lunch. My dad, full of confidence in the capacity of his bike’s trailer, and foresight in the lack of picnic tables, brought along two camp chairs. We pulled them out, plopped the cooler between us and munched on sandwiches in under the warm blue sky, with a view to die for. I still had some yummy homemade cheese and bread from the farmer’s market in Staunton yesterday so I had an apple and cheese sandwich. Yum!
We swung by the visitor’s center at Explore Park (see ironclad rule above) and checked out a full length topographical diorama of the parkway. It’s hard to image when you see how the road runs along the ridges how they could have engineered such a thing.
We meandered on down the road, stopping every so often to stretch. I’m getting a little more used to the seat and the spraddle-legged position but I still have to stand up every half hour or so. I also have to tear the helmet from my head and rub my scalp – where my hair lies flat in one place under the bandana and helmet it becomes tender and painful.
We talked to a Harley rider from Maine at Pine Spur Overlook and swapped travel stories while he admired the Goldwing and all its accoutrements. Then a couple guys in a MINI headed north gave us some detour warnings and shared their detour map with us.
A few miles down the road we stopped at Rock Castle Gorge (my dad said, “there’s a GoldWing, let’s stop”). We met Carlos and Pam who recently moved to Floyd. More travel tale swapping ensued. They had our stories beat all to pieces though, with stories of racing camels in Qatar where they’d spent some time with the military. We traded photo-taking duties and chatted with them for a while before hopping back on to head for Mabry Mill.
This Appalachian heritage site is known as the most-photographed place on the Parkway and for good reason. I burned through the memory card like everyone else there. There was no rush to get anywhere so I took my time playing with film speeds and got some nice shots.
We had set up for the obligatory motorcycle-in-front-of-the-mill shot when a couple guys and a woman stopped to ask if we’d like our photo together. Considering that all but one picture we have so far is of only one or the other of us, we were thrilled that he asked. These guys were on Harleys so of course we chatted with them for a while too, comparing IronButt stories. (I have half an Iron Butt for my 500-mile ride on Thursday.)
We turned around and headed back north a few miles to turn off on 8 for Floyd. Like all the roads around here, this curving, hilly road seemed made for a motorcycle.
We stopped at the Old Country Store in Floyd – unfortunately their bluegrass jamborees are only on Friday nights. Then we headed for our B&B (Miracle Farm) another few miles outside of town. I was a little nervous about the gravel drive but we made it. Karen and Ed welcomed us and Karen showed us to our “Creekside Rustic” cabin. This crooked little cabin sits on a creek, which I can hear now as I type.
We decided not to venture back out and risk being out again after dark, so I went up to the main house to borrow some butter to make grilled cheeses with our picnic supplies. “Do you want anything else?” Karen asked. “A pickle would be nice,” I promptly replied. Naturally they had a big jar of homemade pickles, so back to the cabin I went. After a shower in the teensy bathroom I wandered around the property and played in the creek. Not the way I played in the creek when I was a kid, though this reminded me of it. No, I stuck the camera as close to the water as I dared and took pictures of the water cascading over the rocks.
We cooked up our simple dinner and sans tv, radio or internet, I sat down to label photos and work on my blog. And there you have it – the reason for my 1400 word opus. Breakfast arrives between 8:30 and 9 tomorrow so we can’t go to sleep early. Better to write and stay awake as long as I can. The sun will come early through that non-shaded bay window.