Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 1

Heaven is surely made of asphalt…and they call it the Blue Ridge Parkway.  A motorcyclist’s playground of 469 miles of twists and turns along a two-lane limited-access road through the Blue Ridge Mountains…it is sometimes referred to as “America’s Favorite Road.”  Construction began on the parkway 75 years ago as an effort to create jobs during the Great Depression (this year is the 75th anniversary).  The idea was to connect the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  The Blue Ridge Parkway picks up with milepost 0 in Waynesboro, VA where Skyline Drive leaves off, then it winds its way through Virginia and North Carolina.  Given a near perfect weather forecast at the same time as an opportunity over spring break, Jay & I decided to check it out.

Saturday began like a typical spring weekend, with a State HOG Rally committee meeting scheduled for early afternoon and a First State HOG Road Captains Meeting/Field Trip to scope out our planned poker run route in the morning.  We showed up to Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson Smyrna at 10:00 AM with the bikes loaded down with gear for a 4-day trip.  (That is to say my Super Glide had its normal tailbag packed and Jay’s Low Rider was loaded up with saddlebags, sissy bar bag, and a duffel bag strapped across the passenger seat with bungee cords.  He was my pack-mule for the weekend!)

We met up with most of the other Road Captains for a short meeting (aka shoot’n the poop in the parking lot), then headed out along the 52-mile route across rural mid-state Delaware that had been planned by our Head Road Captain’s oldest son Nicholas.  Fifty-two miles seems just the appropriate length for a poker run to me for some reason, and this particular route was great…beautiful scenery, easy roads, not too much traffic, and not too many turns either.  The day was a bit chillier than expected (barely reaching 70 degrees when the weather forecast called for 80 degrees), but the company was quite enjoyable and they all bid us safe travels for our trip.

As the rest of the group made their last turn up Rt-13 back to the dealership, we headed the other way down to Dover, DE to check out the host facilities for this year’s DE/MD State HOG Rally.  By the time the day’s obligations had been met, the sun was beginning to make its descent across the sky.  It was 3:15 PM before we got geared back up again and headed out on the road.

The first part of the trek brought us right back along some of the roads that had been included in the planned route for the poker run.  Then we rode down US-301 and across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  After a short dinner/gas break in La Plata, MD we re-grouped and changed up some parts of the planned route.  The sun was getting ready to set and we didn’t want to be trying to read maps and directions in the dark.  So we created a less scenic (and actually longer) route that had far fewer turns. It’s a good thing Jay stopped at AAA and picked up some maps to bring with us.

Jay put me in charge of planning the trip, so I was also charged with leading the way.  At about 7:30 PM we were rewarded for our efforts as we were heading west straight into a beatiful purple pink sunset that was just amazing. By about 8:30 PM after leading for 5 hours and leading along unfamiliar and very dark country roads for near an hour, I was toast and I asked Jay to take over for me.  We had only one more road to go that connected to I-64 which would take us to our hotel for the night. It was a very dark hilly country road that pushed us outside our comfort zone (we usually do not ride at night, especially on out of state trips).

We arrived at the Inn at Afton at exactly 10:00 PM as they were locking the doors to the lobby.  It was old and weathered but clean…situated at the top of a hill overlooking the mountains directly between Skyline Drive (to the north) and the Blue Ridge Parkway (to the south).  And so Day 1 was in the books as 349 miles…

Keep posted for more on this story.