Just completed a trip that I've been longing to do for a long time..ride the Great Smokey Highway, the Blue Ridge and the Skyline Parkways..to include riding the famous 'Tail-of-the Dragon' http://www.tailofthedragon.com
and the Cherohala Skyway http://www.cherohalaskyway.com
The trip basically started from from my boat that is presently in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore then 'slabed' it down I-95 and I-64 to Portsmouth, Va. for a couple of nights to visit the wifey( on company time..
Took Rt 58 west, out of Portsmouth, a very nice road thru some rural and rolling hills of southern Va., and eventually picked up I-40, another slabber, to Asheville, N.C....and this is where the fun really began...
North Carolina's Rt 19, 28 and eventually Rt 129 are a rider's dream..more twists per mile than a 14" x 12" motor prop..or..for you non-nautical types..a fine wine bottle cork screw. Pavement was almost perfect,considering the temp changes at those varying altitudes, no frost up-heavals as found on our roads.
I highly recommend the Cherohala Skyway (N.C. most expensive 50 mile road) for those who want to cruise and take in the scenery at a more relaxed pace. A nice cool-down ride after a spirited run on the 'Dragon'!
Next was Tennesse's Rt 441, better known as the Oconaluftee/ Great Smokey Park Highway. Now I was expecting some nice scenery that this road is known for..but the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg..I thought I had transcended back to Atlantic City..miles of 'honky tonk' amusememnt rides and gambling casinoes kinda took away the ambiance of the area..but anyway back to the 'ride'...
The beginning or the end of..depending on which way your heading..the Blue Ridge Parkway, 460+ miles of this nation's first civilian constructed parkway, built in 1935 during the depression era. This road travels thrue some very high country, Mt. Mitchell, elevation 6668'. By-the-way..this section of the Parkway was closed due to icing and a mudslide from last years hurricane(supposed to be repaired by next March). Though the speed was posted @ 45 there are sections that surprised me of impossibility..double loop backs and decreasing radius curves made for some extreme leans..not-to-which..tourists crossing over into your lane..or sudden left turn pull-offs..make for some fine evening chats over a beer afterward to sooth the nerves.
Continuing along..the Shenandoah Parkway, better known as the Skyline Drive, emcompases about 110+ miles of the northern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway..but it's not a free by-way..however I was lucky..no one was out on the southern end collecting my 10 bucks @ 8 am in 32 degree weather..did I mention the ice! Yes..I was concerned for the sudden icing which did occur..especially on the shaded side of the mountains. However, around 10 am temps rose to a comfortable 40+ F..by 2pm temps where hitting a balmy 55-60F. Another concern,especially on the northern portion of the parkway where falling leaves which covered 90% of the roadway. With fall'n leaves and sudden icing it made for some tense moments especially around curves!
Of my 600+ miles on both the Blue Ridge and Skyline Drive, I only encountered 3 LEO's..two of which where running RADAR, but my trusty V1 paid its way. Though I had my detector on in Virginia's portion of the Parkway(detectors outlawed)..I wasn't sure if they (Park rangers) enforced that State law in a National Park...just a thought.
My prime reason to take this trip was to fulfill a goal: To travel the full length of the Parkway on a bike..not only that but in a time frame that the fall foliage was at it's height. However this is impossible because of the vast temporate zones this Parkway passes through. On the southern end, I was about 2 weeks early, where as on the northern end I was about 1 week late..or..if in the valleys, the leaves hadn't turned, where as, at 4000ft+ the trees took on that winter barren look.
Though I completed my goal, probably in record time, I realize now, that the time spent on this great American road passes through not only vistas of great beauty but also some rather large varying social and economical diversity by which this By-Way was built through.
All-in-all, though the trip was outstanding and I'll probably will never have an opprtunity to do it again, the one thing I did NOT miss... Frigg'n Trucks (signs posted: No Comercial Vehicles)!!