Share the journey — read the Blue Ridge Parkway Ride blog series.
The final leg of the parkway yesterday proved to be some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. We left Asheville under cloudy skies but as we rode south the sun came out and shone on us from blue skies as we climbed to the highest elevation on the parkway.
The most dramatic view yet came at Buck Springs Gap Overlook, just as slivers of the morning sun appeared from behind the clouds. It wold have been worth the ride just to see that.
We stopped at a few more overlooks as we wound up and down the mountains towards the end of the parkway, meeting a particularly delightful grizzled rider near the highest point. As we chatted with him he told us that he participates in Civil War reenactments.
“Which side do you play?” I asked.
His blue eyes made big “O”s. “The SOU-OUTH!” he replied, clearly incredulous at my ignorant question. I guess it was a foolish question at that.
We left the parkway a little after noon. I was sad to have finished this part but excited to finally ride the Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap that I’ve heard so much about. I knew there would be a lot of motorcycles but was still pretty amazed to round a corner on a country road and come upon a sea of motorcycles in a little parking lot. Leather-clad men and women talked and smoked in little groups before (or after) taking off for the 11-mile stretch of curves we were all here for. I checked out the Tree of Shame, where bikers hang their souvenirs from mishaps on one of the 318 curves, and questioned our sanity for a second.
I went inside the store/restaurant to use the restroom and couldn’t help giggling at the continuous thunder of engines I could hear roaring from inside. I felt a bit like an imposter at this biker hangout despite my chaps and bandana (my biker ‘costume’). Munching on my picnic havarti and baguette sandwich outside on a bench didn’t make me feel any more like a rider. But what a show — one after another bikes took off up the first hill of the dragon.
After we ate it was our turn. The big bike growled up the hill and rounded the first curve. All I could think was how I wished I could drive. This wildly curving road is better than a roller coaster. I was tempted to hold my hands above me like you do going down the first plunge on a coaster. Too soon we came upon a slow truck and SUV and pulled off to let them get ahead. Little sport bikes (aka “crotch rockets”) screamed around a curve and blew past us, leaning into the curves until their knees almost touched the ground. What a blast that must be!
We got to enjoy of a few curves of our own until we got back behind the trucks again — on the bright side, we were behind them as we passed the police car shooting radar. We stopped at a pull-off near the end and gave police reports to the the riders waiting to tackle it from the other end.
From here it was on towards home. I rode in a t-shirt to catch up the color on my arms with my sunburned hands and cheeks. We avoided the super slab (that’s some of my new lingo) and rode home via state highways 411, 68 and highway 27. We outran some rainclouds in the last stretch and rolled into the driveway by 6:30, where my mom (bless her heart) had a home-cooked dinner in progress for us.
It was a great trip — fun riding, beautiful scenery, interesting people — my only regret is that I never did get to have the obligatory ice cream GoldWing riders are supposed to enjoy on a ride.