Day 3: March 31, 1999
Well, what a day. The pictures won't do it justice. Because I didn't make my destination yesterday, I needed to tack on the extra miles today. So I was faced with about an 80 mile day today, but it would be all on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway follows the continental divide on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia all the way down to southern North Carolina. It's a beautiful road...
But not today. The forecast was rain. I got on the road by 9:00 on a cloudy, but cool day. The first five miles were virtually flat terrain ‚ beautiful bicycling. I scared up a couple of whitetail deer, heard the loudest woodpecker known to man, and enjoyed the southern vegetation and the views. That five miles took about 20 minutes.
Then the day started to go bad. First climbing, climbing and more climbing. I was soon way behind schedule. Then no restaurants. Nothing on the parkway opens until late April-early May. I wasted a lot of time looking for one. Finally found the only one open on an 80-mile stretch. Then after lunch, the rain started. Not bad at first, then heavier. Then more climbing. And more. And more. Then the temperature began dropping the higher I climbed. Soon it was in the low 40's. My rain gear worked well, and with all the climbing my body was pouring heat. Finally a 2-mile downhill section. 30-35 mph. I was seriously cold by the end of that stretch. Never did recover. Then the fog set in. Went to about 25 yds. visibility, giving an eerie feel to cycling. There was NO traffic: maybe one car every 10-15 minutes. Then the headwind, and more climbing. Add to that my water supply was seriously low. The parkway has no public concessions of any kind and their picnic areas donĚt open until April 15, meaning no way to replenish my water. That is a serious problem.
It was now 5:00 and I had 35 miles left to Asheville. My average speed was 8 mph. You do the arithmetic as to my arrival time. I was also getting worried about hypothermia.
The coup de grace came when a car coming the opposite direction stopped to tell me the road was closed ahead due to a landslide. They asked where I was going. I said "Asheville". They said they were, too, and could they give me a lift? It was the only solution.
So, Nancy and Joe, from Tennessee, thanks for being my guardian angels for the day. We piled the bike into the back of their car and they drove me right to Ralph Draves' house. One long hot shower, one borrowed pair of pants (Ralph is 6"5', so it's pretty comical), one gourmet chicken dinner with he and his lovely wife Christine, excellent dinner conversation, a glass of Drambuie and a Belgian chocolate, a piece of Ralph's 75th birthday cake, and all's well with the world.
Here's some pictures from this most interesting day.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is like driving on that automobile route at Disneyland. 2 simple lanes, no commercial traffic allowed, no billboards, just beautiful scenery and attractive infrastructure. Not made for speed.
I thought this was an interesting link to history.
When you ride the Blue Ridge, you are literally riding the crest of the continental divide. That meant that, heading south, when I spit off the left side of my bike it went to the Atlantic Ocean, and when I spit off the right side of my bike it went to the Mississippi River. EXTRA CREDIT again (5 pts. On this one.) Why isn't the Appalachian continental a true continental divide?
This is a fairly typical view from the parkway. You can see in this picture, taken at about 1:30, that the clouds are beginning to look ominous.
Taken about 15 minutes before I was picked up. Visibility was B-A-D. That's snow on the left side of the road. I was cold, wet, and beginning to get a little worried.
Back to the Spring Trip Main Page