Thursday, October 11, 2012

469milesofgreatdriving!



Day 1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was woken by a bunch of noisy bikers getting ready for their ride. It was ok though as two minutes later my alarm went off anyway.

I hit the road just after 8.30 and started the 446 ( edit- I mean 469!!)mile parkway drive just before 9am. It was a chilly, grey and misty morning and the seemingly bad weather just git worse as I started up the incline that marks the first few miles of the road. The clouds that were above Cherokee town when I started had not risen anywhere and so as I gained height, they enveloped me in a thick fog. So much for great views and stunning scenery!!

The start of 469 miles

1st tunnel

Shit views at the beginning

But they got better

The first few stops were a letdown. There were thick grey clouds and nothing to see except the signposts telling me what was out there through the mist. But as I climbed higher and reached about 4500 feet, the clouds suddenly cleared and I was blessed by clean bright sunlight. The cloud base was between 4000 and 5000 feet and now I was above it, the views were spectacular. Stunning colours suddenly became apparent in the trees – Gold, amber, green and red everywhere. The clouds were now a lake of mist surrounding the hills below with just the odd peak poking its head out to get some air. It was beautiful. But just as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared again as the road declined and I was once again in a murky pea souper!
 It continued like this for most of the day as I went up and down. Stunning views and climbs to the highest peaks were followed by drab greyness and over cautious drivers gong no more than 15mph in the fog, causing more hassle than if they went faster.

The road itself is why I came though. I love roads like this. Long winding curves, followed by steep inclines and hairpin bends, then you put your foot down and pelt up the next hill, before sharp braking to avoid the cliffs edge! Brilliant. Anyone who has driven the snake pass in England will know the type of road that this is...Only the Snake Pass is about 25 miles long – This is 446!!(Bugar I did it again - Its 469!!)
Driving this road also reminds me of one of the best Arcade Racing games ever. Do you remember Sega Rally!? It had three sections, the middle one being ‘mountains’. I swear whoever did the programming must have been here to The Blue Ridge Parkway as this is so similar and as much fun, it has to be based on it! I loved driving the road today and it’s even better that there are no commercial vehicles allowed, so once you get past the RV’s and put your foot down, it’s easy to get well over the 45 mph limit ( I reckon the limit should be a minimum of 45, to make it more fun!!)

Anyway, it’s safe to say I really enjoyed the 190 miles I drove today and with more of the same tomorrow, I’m heading to bed early in my little log cabin and getting plenty of sleep tonight!!

View!

The Parkway map

Thats the road down there...

Waterfall

Jump

I did sleep well even after waking up and hearing ‘something’, moving around outside on the wooden patio of my cabin. I don’t know what it was but it made a hell of a racket as is scratched around. I then woke up an hour later and the whole cabin was shaking, like 20 big burly blokes were pushing and pulling it trying to turn it over. I jolted upright and tried to get the sleeping bag off my head, but couldn’t find a way out. It was a few seconds till I realised I was dreaming. I sat upright properly and could still feel the cabin shaking. Once again, I couldn’t get free from the sleeping bag and the noise of the cabin shaking was getting louder. I panicked and then realised again that I was STILL dreaming!! Haahaa – Finally, I really woke up to find there was a loud wind and a bit of a storm going on outside which I must have felt and misinterpreted in my sleep!! However, as I sat there I could still hear ‘something’, moving outside, scraping its claws against the wood. I got out of bed, turned the light on and typed this all down...That’s where I am now and I think it’s time to set off for the day... It’s just after 7am....Fuck, there is the noise again!!

I made it out of the camp site without being killed by monsters and started day 2 of The Blue Ridge Highway. It was a lot different from yesterday – The clouds base had risen and I got a lot more lovely sunny weather and no fog at all. The road wasn’t as high as yesterday either so instead of views from 6000 feet up and over vast swathes of land, there were lots of old cabins to look at that were built in the late 1800’s as well as The Blue Ridge Music centre, which had lots of cool displays and videos of music played in the region since people first started to live here.

My favourite part of the day was an old water wheel and mill, which was used to power lathes and woodwork equipment used to make wagon wheels and the like, It was still working, really interesting and even had its own ‘moonshine’, whisky still hidden in the woods just behind the cabin. I bet the blacksmith who worked there enjoyed a tipple or two!!

colours

Old Cabin

Blue Ridge music

Waterwheel and pond

Moonshine!!

Inside the mill

The best driving part of the day was right at the end at the City of Roanoke, where there is a one way track leading up to the top of Roanoke mountain. The speed limit of 15mph was easily tripled by me and the trusty little car and the 4 mile road was over far too quickly. There were great views fro, the peak too!

I had a good look around Roanoke City in the evening – a cool little place with (strangely) a missile in one street and some really nice old style advertising on top of the buildings. It’s a nice place to stop and rest for the night before I start off again tomorrow.  

The last day on the parkway was the best.... The sky was blue and the views were the best I have seen.  The driving today was also brilliant. Parts of the road twisted and curved spectacularly as the road first rose and then sharply dipped before hurtling around another sharp bend. It went on for miles and I loved every minute.

I stopped to enjoy a walk alongside Otter lake and also to look at an old style lock gate on a nearly canal, before finally finishing the 469 drive just after lunchtime. Right ahead of me was ‘Skyline Drive’. This is another road that continues north from the Blue Ridge Highway, up through the Shenandoah National Park.  The road is identical to the Blue Ridge Highway, with similar views and viewpoints. However, I did notice a few differences. Firstly, the Blue Ridge is free, where Skyline Drive costs $15. Secondly, the Blue Ridge is 469 miles – Skyline Drive is only 105. Thirdly, the Blue Ridge has a 45mph speed limit – Skyline is 35mph. You can’t have much fun at those speeds! Lastly one is three of the lookout points were closed for repair. After the Blue Ridge I expected so much more, but this was a shorted and less interesting drive. I’m just glad I did the Blue Ridge instead of just Skyline. It was a fantastic few days.

I’m now in a small town called Winchester on the Virginia/West Virginia state line. I popped over the state line for an hour so that I can tick West Virginia off my states to visit list. Winchester is mainly known for apples and claims to have the world’s largest apple storage depot. I drove by it and it does look big! Plus there are apple sculptures all around town too, so they are obviously proud of their ‘apple connections’. 

Missile in Roanoke

1.5 street!?

Last day view

Reflections

Lock

Old guy relaxing by a lake


So that it for the Blue Ridge Highway and all the fantastic driving I have experienced over the last three days. Tomorrow I head east and will visit a couple more states so that I can tick them off my list!!

Start of Skyline Drive

Puppy dogs!! I made them bark..hahah

Another closed look out

Entering West Virginia

Apple

Lots of Apples in Winchester

The last good view!!

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