It’s late April, and I am busy preparing to cycle the Blue Ridge Parkway again. In fact, we’ll ride the 470 mile length at least three times this year: In June and August, we’ll do it in in 7 days. And in September, we make the journey over 10 days.
For the entire winter, the large sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Velo Girl Rides home base in Asheville, NC were closed to all users – motorists, cyclists, and even hikers.
The closures included two of my favorite climbs – Mt Pisgah from the French Broad River (milepost 393 to 408) and Mt Mitchell from Bull Gap (milepost 355 to 376), but were required for much-needed tunnel repair work.
I am happy to report that both sections are now open and I am dreaming of the long climbs and sweeping descents that my tour groups will enjoy this year.
To help you imagine the experience, I’ve put together a few memories from past tours…
After driving to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we take a warm-up spin that covers the first 40+ miles of the parkway, and we typically regroup at the Raven’s Roost Overlook to admire the Shenandoah Valley below.
After a good night’s rest at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, we prepare to tackle the first full day of riding including the climb to Peaks of Otter.
First Big Climb
The climb from the James River to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain near the Peaks of Otter Lodge offers nearly 4,000′ of elevation gain in about 12 miles.
This is the first major climb of the tour and, once done, riders know that they can handle anything that the parkway dishes out.
National Park Rangers often check in with our groups to say hello, and answer questions about the area. We appreciate their presence, especially in the three areas frequently used by local commuters — Roanoke, Blowing Rock and Asheville.
Blue Grass Mecca
No tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway would be complete without a stop in Floyd, VA. Original home of the Velo Girl, Floyd is a mecca for blue grass music enthusiast.
We typically arrive in Floyd with a little time for strolling, shopping and espresso after checking to the Hotel Floyd. Even before we eat a delicious local dinner, the streets and sidewalks fill with blue grass musicians.
Because I grew up here, I know the section of the Parkway that runs through Floyd and Patrick Counties so well that I could ride it blindfolded.
It is packed with great views and historical sites, including Mabry’s Mill and Puckett Cabin.
As we near the NC State line, the rolling terrain is a welcomed, but short, break from long climbs.
Crossing from Virginia into North Carolina seems to inspire people to ham it up for the camera.
The weather is often this good! Lots of sun, blue skies, shorts, no sleeves….whee!
See and Be Seen
There are many great opportunities for taking photos along the parkway.
And when we encounter fog, we dress appropriately. Screaming lime green stands out well in foggy conditions. And the bike lights that we use on every ride are very appreciated by motorists when visibility is low.
One of the highlights of touring the Blue Ridge Parkway is riding across the Linn Cove Viaduct.
Reaching the half way point is a bittersweet moment…now you know that you are strong enough to finish, but you cannot believe that the spectacular journey is already half over.
Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Colors
On our September tour, we are delighted when we find early fall colors at high elevation.
A five mile side trip that leads to the top of the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River is option that most riders take.
Reaching the top of Mount Mitchell, which stands at 6,578′, by bicycle after seven days in the saddle is a huge accomplishment that brings major bragging rights.
Crossing the French Broad River in Asheville means that less than 100 miles remains in our tour, but that does not mean that the work is done.
On the final night of the tour, we often stay at the Bent Creek Lodge which is situated at an elevation of about 2,100′. The following day, we will arrive at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Richland Balsam Overlook marks the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a must-have group photo spot.
Meeting other travelers along the way can be a very rewarding experience. Many times we meet people with very interesting stories.
And what does it feel like to know that you cycled every flippin inch (EFI) of the Blue Ridge Parkway?
It feels like this:
And it also feels like this….