Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway

You don't have to crisscross mountains, rivers and continents to have a great trip and not all trips have to be epic to be therapeutic.  Sometimes a short trip is just as great to clear your mind.
My good friend Mike recently invited me to visit him in North Carolina.  He lived in New Jersey until a bad accident in North Carolina a couple of years ago and after a long recuperation at a friend's house he never returned to New Jersey.  We used to ride together quite often in New Jersey.  With winter fast approaching I made a decision to go see him before sub freezing temperatures are the norm.  The trip down, 635 miles, was easily done in a day.  I left the house at 7:30 in the morning on a Friday, went west to Harrisburg, PA to pick up Interstate 81 south and then in Virginia took I77 towards Charlotte.  I arrived in downtown Charlotte at 7pm where Mike and CarieAnn were already waiting for me at an Irish Pub.  After a quick fish and chips meal and a Bud Light we retreated to CarieAnn's place.

For Saturday, Mike had planned a ride to one of the most scenic roads in his area.  Mike, CarieAnn and I went out for breakfast but after finding the first place packed we decided to go for a quick breakfast at a Chick-fil-A.  It was my first ever breakfast at a Chick-fil-A.  After breakfast we met two other friends at a gas station and then the five of us headed northwest to catch route 421 in Mountain City, about 120 miles away.  I had never heard of route 421 or "The Snake" as it is better known.  The website describes "The Snake" as 33miles, 489 curves, 3 mountains and 1 valley.
"The Snake"

I didn't take any pictures until we reached Shady Valley, about a third of the way in.  The road twists and turns through the countryside and little towns and it is a spectacular road for motorcycle riders.  We stopped at the Country Store in Shady Valley for a warm cup of coffee and lunch.

Mike on his Goldwing spaceship.  The Goldwing has heated grips, heated seat and two little openings on the side that channel hot air from the exhaust to the toe area for those cold winter rides.  No wonder he's always smiling.

Looking north on 421

Looking south

A beautiful Ducati 996 I saw at the Country Store, perfect machine for The Snake.

and there he goes towards the switch backs

We left Shady Valley and continued west towards Bristol.  I didn't take any more pictures, we rode many beautiful miles and then the return trip was done at night which took us a few hours.  After returning home we did a quick change of wardrobe and then went out to dinner by car to Lancaster's, a local restaurant. This was the appetizer we ordered for the three of us, fries with pulled pork and smothered in cheese, a direct attack on our arteries. I had a pulled pork sandwich which was delicious.

You know you are in Nascar country when the centerpiece of the restaurant is a large V8 engine and the ceiling is decorated with hoods from the race cars.

CarieAnn's beautiful dog, a cross between a boxer and a Mastiff.  This guy is huge and powerful but a very sweet dog.  I love his name, a very royal "Arthur".

Mike's not too friendly German Shepherd, didn't trust me and kept barking at me, unusual since animals always love me.

The look Arthur would give me when I pointed the camera at him, the "Royalty" look.

The next day I started heading home at 7:30 by following country roads instead of the highway.  I went northwest on route 16 until North Wilkesboro, a beautiful country road passing old towns and then picked up route 18 until I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I stopped in North Wilkesboro when I saw the beautiful Wilkes Heritage Museum.
The Wilkes Heritage Museum, Inc. was established in 1968 with the intent of restoring
the Old Wilkes County Jail to its original 1860 appearance and operating it as an
educational center for the community. Since then, restoration of the Old Wilkes County
Jail has been completed as well as the 1779 home of Captain Robert Cleveland, the late
19th century Finley Law Office, and the 1902 Wilkes County Courthouse. Website

My next stop was at the point where route 18 and the Blue Ridge Parkway meet, it was time for a good breakfast and I found it at the Lake View Restaurant.  In the background you can see a bridge, that's the Blue Ridge crossing above route 18.

In the rural areas you can see how bad the economy really is, lots of boarded homes and closed businesses.

After breakfast it was time to enter the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, 255 miles of probably the most scenic road on the east coast.  The Blue Ridge ends where Interstate 64 crosses it in Virginia and where the southern most point of the Skyline Drive starts, another very scenic road.  The Blue Ridge closes during winter.  Visit the site to see a nice video

The Blue Ridge is famous for its Fall colors but this late in the year, most of the leaves are long gone.  Everything is a brown color but the views are still spectacular and the road is beautifully kept.  The speed limit on the entire road is only 45mph, a little too slow for me, luckily the road was mostly devoid of any traffic and I only saw one cop car and a few adventure riders.  I wasn't doing the speed limit.

The road follows along the top of the mountains offering beautiful views at every corner.

This is how I take a lot of my pictures but on this day whenever I removed my glove my hand would freeze, the temperature was only in the mid 40's.

It was getting colder as the day progressed, you can see the sun already low behind the trees.

A tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The late afternoon sun does present some challenges, you get dark areas and at every turn you have to be very careful and keep on the lookout for deer.

This is my favorite picture from the day's ride, the sun reflecting off the mirror.

These pictures really show the beauty of the road at this time of the year.  The leaves are gone and the tourist stay at home.  I was able to park the bike in the middle of the road, take the camera and snap a few pictures, never saw anyone, this is my kind of adventure.

I love this picture taken late in the afternoon, my visor makes me look a little like RoboCop.

Once I reached the end of the Blue Ridge, I jumped on 64 and headed west until I81, then rode north for another 120 miles to Martinsburg, WV where I found a motel for the night.  There were too many trucks on the road and it was already dark, no point in continuing.

The Blue Ridge Highway

The next day I left the motel at 7:30 and the temperature was 37 degrees. From Martinsburg to my house it is still 250 miles, I arrived home a little after 12.  It was a perfect short trip, the kind of therapy I needed to recharge myself.


  1. Sure does look like some nice riding George. As usual great photos to go with it.

    1. It's a great road to ride for sure. Thank you

  2. I like riding best when the roads are free of other tourists. I also like late fall, after the eaves are gone and before the snow comes. The pulled pork on fries with cheese looks so bad, but also so good!

    1. Hi Erik. How's the weather by you? You have some nice roads up there too. Yea, the pulled pork was really good :-)

    2. It's been in the mid 20's sometimes reaching mid 30's. We picked up another dusting of snow last night. That's the 3rd snowfall this season. This one might just stay. They predict more snow this weekend.

  3. Nice trip George. Love the look of your luggage. I must get a big screen like yours, the original screen is useless! What brand is the screen? Martin.

    1. Thanks Martin. I have the stock screen but I put in an adjustable bracket and the screen was set pretty high because it was cold. In the summer I put it down. The Luggage is Trax from SW-Motech.

  4. Beautiful photos and gorgeous roads! I'm looking forward to traveling it this summer. You certainly captured the essence of the location.


    1. Thanks Tina. You guys are riding east again next year?