DAY66 - the glorious Blue Ridge
To use an age old phrase, "you would have been hiding under a rock" in order to have never heard of the Blue Ridge Parkway....................which make up the bulk of todays ride. Ever find your self wondering as to the splendor of Gods Creation, well if ever you do, just take a short ride on this fabled piece of American HIghway and see for your self that we have a Glorious and Imaginative God working in our lives.
I had foiled old man cold thru last nights camping, I had as I said placed my camp inside of a ball diamond vendors hut and slept in a cool but not near as cold as it could have been night. For it was indeed a quite cool night. I rolled up camp and headed out to the nearest quick stop for coffee and a muffin to call breakfast. Then as soon as I could I got into the Buchanan Library to work on the blog once again. I worked strait from a few minutes prior to Nine, till exactly 5 minutes before 1pm. I went right across the street to a little town Cafe, of the sort that I have been missing so much on this trip, and I had a nice Chicken Fried Steak before I tackle Bear Wallow Gap.
The road that heads out of Buchanan to the top, is a rated climb of 9% with some steep sections in it. If my research is correct it is one of the 5 primary climbs out of many along the Blue Ridge that avid cyclists rave about for its difficulty. I found myself anxious, not in a fearsome way but rather in anticipation. I had parked my butt in a chair thru the morning and now find myself in one of the cleanest sunny days I have seen in few. They have a news type show out this way called " Catch the Color", and in this news report they rate from 1-10 the areas along the parkway in regards to the quality of fall color that will be seen..............and my destination and entire ride for that matter are rated a 9 out of a possible 10.
When you leave you follow and cross the James River several places, and feel the start of the climb within just a few short yards of Buchanan. I was ready, I had the right amount of groceriess in me, the right amount of wieght in the trailer I really felt good today. I just climbed, no hitches except for plenty of cars and no real shoulder to get off on. The shoulder is gravel which is firm but not real packed and it starts right at the white lined edge. There you are, climbing in amongst what feels like a painting in the works, you look ahead out on the road seeing the reflection of intense sunlight on the spiralling blacktop.................which gives way to resplendant color as you slowly make your way up the grade and on too the next bend in the road. The overarching camnopy of trees is made up of Beech, Oak, Maple, Ash, BUtternut etc.......so the colors are rich , glorious and in a wide array on the Master painters pallette today. I cannot say that I really had a day in which I have just wanted to quit.........but if you did this sort of day would give you inspiration to keep on going. WOW, what a beautiful day to ride a bike and know without fail that you are riding in Gods hands.
The climb up is stiff but even pulling a trailer I did not find it to be unbearable. The other thing is that I have been in constant practise trying to stand into a climb as I pull this trailer. And in the begining as you know I have stated that it is impossible, and indeed it was when the trailer was heavier. But I have reduced the trailer to some 30 plus pounds and I now find the climbing quite easy with the trailer. So as YOU would have already known the wieght does matter greatly.............I stood into the climb for a distance of 3.2 miles of the total 5.6 mile climb.............and I stood without stopping a single section. And on this grade you leave brilliant collor and climb into splendor at the top.
Almost that easily I was there at the top of a fabled piece of Americas road system the Blue Ridge Parkway, the entire piece of highway was constructed to do nothing but explore and appreciate the gifted hand of Gods creation and it runs for some 1000 plus miles. And do not make the mistake of thinking that once you have climbed to the top of the ridge that the climbing is over and a easy ride thus begins.............for it is not that way at all. There are plenty of climbs that are in the "grunt & fart" catagory. I took a left at the top out onto the Parkway from Hwy 43 that I had come up on. The road is constantly undulating and wending its way amidst the peaks of the Blue Ridge, my destination for the day was the Peaks of Otter area.
The down side of todays ride was the volume of vehicular traffic on the quite narrow roadway. In most cases the drivers were going quite slowly since they too were out to see the colors. But there was also a lack of careful attention on the part of the drivers and a alot of kids out driving way to fast for the weekend color watch that was in process. Given all of that, I found myself watching the color very little and really keeping an eye on traffic around me, by Peaks I was tired and needing a break. From my side of the trip, I can say that it was the beauty of it that proved to be the ruin of it..............the Peaks is such a beautiful area that the car and people count up there would rival that of LA, and so it was that finding a place to take a picture without ten thousand of my human brothers in the same pic was difficult. The traffic according to a Park Warden I talked to is heavy and more congested going north since many folks are returning that way towards the DC area making a weekend trip out of the "Catch the Color" weekend.
I made a decision to turn off the PArkway a little earlier and head down some backroads towards Lynchburg. And so it ws that I peeled of onto a steep downgrade and headed down towards road #634. The pitch down was much like the one I rode coming up, and I had to ride the breaks to keep from over running the corners. I turned left onto #634 and stopped at a family orchard to eat a few apples. The road is a narrow and winding affair that snakes it's way across the foothills of the Appalachin range and comes into Lynchburg from the north side. There are several intersections that I have to watch for and several turns that need to be made. As I ride the road is constantly deteriorating, getting narrower, no paint, no shoulder and soon enough no blacktop iether, I am down to a gravel road single track width. Very few folks or places to stop and ask as I ride. I met a lady out walking with her muzzled dog, and I stopped to ask for some directions................well the lady panicked and made gestures she was going to unmuzzle her dog on me. Now folks I dont want to be too harsh here, but really some folks could stand to watch a little less of Law&Disorder............and I know that there are bad folks out there. But really a man in spandex riding a fully loaded bike would hardly seem to be the best candidate for an axe murderer.........but this lady apparantley seen me as "Jeremiah the Ripper"...........so, no directions and a feeling that the lady could use an infusion of air pressure.
I rode on and down into a deep holler that was called Lister Mill Road. The grades were steep and all gravel, it was washed out in many of the corners and that forced me to get off and walk around the washed out areas........I was really beginning to wonder about the road I was on. It was almost dark when I finally pulled over and pitched camp amongst the trees on a ridge that I was riding down . I gatherd a few dry pieces of wood, and scrapped away a very deep layer of leaves exposing rich wet earth and started a fire to cook some sausage over. I sat by the fire and had a cuop of tea, headed for bed at about 10 after listening to both Coyote and Fox compete for air space in God's Amphi-theater. The sky was clear and stars were out in abundance, Owls hooted and dogs barked away the night time intrusions of the wild animal kingdom that haunt thier yards each night.
Good Night and God Bless