Sunday, August 23, 2015


All photos taken with Canon SD990IS
I reluctantly packed the bike this morning and left home to start the voyage to the Blue Ridge Parkway to meet friends and share a wilderness experience on two wheels with them.  The road was less than ideal all the way North to Johnson City due to heavy rain.  A turn onto Route 321 off of Interstate 81 North found a break in the heavy rainfall that served to renew my desire to do this ride to that most wonderful road in the eastern United States.  The town of Boone was enduring a torrential downpour but I pressed on and eventually found my wheels on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was still raining but I welcomed the gentle patter of water on my helmet as the bike leaned and straightened through and around that snaky piece of asphalt ribbon that threatens to run off the edge of the world, yet flows across the top edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  And it brings a vision to mind:
The rider had been travelling on the Blue Ridge Parkway since early morning and was approaching Black Mountain Gap when he noticed the lightning bolts off in the distance.   Some were horizontal but most vertical - sky to earth but he continued on, guiding the big Harley around the challenging curves of the most famous mountain road in the Eastern part of the North American Continent.  He pressed his spurs against the sides of the beast he rode and the great heart of the iron steed responded with a roar.  He noticed the sky had turned purple and dark up on the top of the Blue Ridge where Mount Mitchel rose up from the mountain's spine to claim the highest point on the mountain chain, and as the motorcycle neared Craggy Dome, a monster was being spawned on that mountain by the Devil himself and it had assumed a position on the very top and dared mortal man to tempt its patience.  

The rider stared at the dark gray outline of a dragon's head as the beast seemed to rise up from the tallest peak on Mount Mitchel.  The head appeared first and then the shape of the body materialized through the swirling gray vapor - the entire apparition surrounded by misty purple and dark gray clouds.

The rider looked upon this vision in awe but remained unafraid yet aware as he was riding a beast of his own with long bloodlines that proved this iron horse to be a pure bred and a formidable foe to the dark creature on this mountain.  He looked over the windshield at the beast and rolled the power on, thrusting himself and his mount directly into the unknown that lay ahead of them.  Lightning bolts filled the sky and the monster shouted thunder that the rider could hear above the bellowing of his own mount  The iron horse ran straight and true toward the heart of the monster, past the unbelievable thunderous roar and hot lightning bolts that reigned down toward them. The big Harley negotiated each dark turn precisely - first left then right responding to the rider's direction perfectly.

The rain was hard and lightning flashes tremendous but the rider adjusted his eyes slightly above the windshield allowing him to see unrestricted.  The big Hydra Glide Harley bellowed a thunderous war chant of its own designed to intimidate the
monster and invite a final conflict.  As the rider approached and eventually penetrated the gray, smoky vapor that was the essence of the creature, a tremendous explosion occurred followed by strikes of lightning and the rider and his mount exited from the beast and were met by billowy, white clouds and a rich blue sky.  The rider stood up on the floor boards, tilted his head back and raised his arms to the sky with clenched fists and screamed at the top of his voice--------------YES!

I've been riding a motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway since late 1972 and there is one thing I really like about it even today.  It hasn't changed since then.  The ambiance of tall, cool, dusky mountains still remains today and I'm impressed by the majesty of it all just as I was back then when I first rode it and I think I only missed three riding seasons where I did not put wheels on this road.

I arrived at Station's Inn located in Laurel Springs, NC late yesterday afternoon hoping to meet up with two friends, Tom and Joe from Pennsylvania.  They, however, did not leave until this morning, the next day due to foul weather.  So, I'm casually motoring here and there along and on the parkway just enjoying the views.

It was pouring rain the next morning at sun up and I tried to get something to eat but there was nothing, not even coffee.  The rain tapered off into a mist and I mounted up and headed for Sparta which was about twenty minutes away on Route 18 which passed in front of the hotel.  So off I went.
The fog wasn't too bad for a change.  Usually when it rains on the Blue Ridge, the fog follows relentlessly.  I motored along toward Sparta without any problem and actually enjoyed the early morning misty rain.  There was a sign on a building that said Backwoods Bean and I headed on over.
 This place was sensational and they made me a breakfast that I'll not soon forget.  Check it out on the internet.  They have a web site.  Yum!!!

Now, to find some gasoline and head back to the parkway for a little sightseeing.  The gas station was tiny and a little, old guy was sitting behind a short counter with a cash register on top.  He only took cash which was ok with me.  I filled up the tank and went in to pay him when he asked how much money did I owe him.  I said, "only three dollars, hardly worth stopping but I feel better with a full tank up here on the mountain."   I asked him if his read out was broken and he said he didn't have his binoculars with him.  Ha, he couldn't see far enough to read the pumps and had to use binoculars to know what to charge customers.  What about that?
Check out this antique trailer park.  I have stayed here twice and its really "ok."  The Trailers are all 60 through 80 model year vintage.
 All these trailers are for sale or for rent to camp in.

I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Stations Inn and headed North at a brisk 35 miles per hour, stopping frequently for photographs.  I used to blast this entire road from Waynesville, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina at 70 miles per hour and passed everything that appeared in front of me.  Nuts, I know.  
 The parkway that runs through Virginia seems to have a lot of family grave yards for some reason.  They appear here and there along the parkway in fields it seems.  They all can't be family graves because there are too many head stones in some.  I bet they are left from some rural town that disappeared long ago.  I can never find anyone to ask who lives local.

Many BMW and Japanese motorcycles have carried me down this road over the years but mostly I preferred the BMW to anything.  I've never been left down by one and I just like em ----- the old ones, that is.  I drove a 1974 900/6 BMW 78,000 miles in about 16 months and that thing was rock solid.

But, today as in recent years, I am appreciating the spectacular beauty of this very famous road.  Flowers are everywhere along the parkway and I stop often to photograph them.  I find it difficult "not" to stop and photograph the antique looking fences I love, but I'd get nowhere if I did stop for them.

I'm writing this blog entry, or part of it, at the old Brinegar Cabin that sits well off the parkway in a little hollow where I can hear the rain approaching, announcing its presence by pelting the dense foliage of the forest with falling water.

 I started writing here at this picnic table in the Brinegar yard but the rain was coming fast and I had to move to the back porch of the old cabin.
 Its actually pouring rain in the shot below.  I put my stuff on the porch railing and just kept writing.  How neat to write under this old porch roof.

 There's where I was.

Tom and Joe showed up that evening and planned out tomorrow's ride. 
 Above and Below - Dr. Tom at Freeborne's
 Oh ya, he'll be ready to roll in the morning for sure.  Yep!

 In the morning we would ride from Freeborne's motorcycle hotel down the parkway to the Pisgah Inn located on the Pisgah Mountain.  Doctor Tom picked this hotel for its ambiance and spectacular views of the endless mountains that could be seen from the balcony behind each room.  The view was fantastic indeed.  I've never seen anything like it.  We sat on the rockers on our second floor balcony and watched the  clouds move across the beautiful vision in front of us.  This place is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

 The chairs above are located on a patio beside the hotel.  What a place!

I'm using a little Canon SD990 Elph and I can only do so much with it.  Trust me, the pictures are sadly lacking.  The real image is unbelievable!  All these shots are what I saw from my second story hotel room at the Inn.  Just fabulous!

I was up before daylight next morning and I wanted to try to photograph the sun as it came into view in the Eastern sky.  Again, no tripod and only the SD990.  And the view from the balcony in the morning becomes even more beautiful and mysterious as the sun rises slowly casting dark shadows across the mysterious, jagged landscape. The contours of enormous mountains slowly take shape and what appears to be a never ending sea of round, sharp and jagged shapes begins to appear until finally the most beautiful mountain chain in the East is unveiled to be enjoyed by us all for a new day.

 The sun was covered up by clouds in the shot below but then it went wild when the cloud dissipated.

 There is a mountain in the shot below but it can't be identified as a mountain in the shot.

 Believe me - this is a spectacular sight.  I really, really wish I'd have had the 7D Canon with my 35-136 tele lens on it.  Wow!
There were also observation rocking chairs strategically placed in the yard facing out to the mountains.  I did some writing from these chairs the following morning.

 Breakfast is through and its time to leave this magic place and I do so reluctantly.  Tom and Joe have been great riding pardners and Tom sure pulled out the stops by getting this room for me on my birthday.  He had this place reserved for three months.  What a birthday present!

 There are quiet paths and walkways everywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway and each is an adventure in its own way.  The park offers spectacular views and thrilling  possibilities of adventure but it also offers flora and fauna that is both beautiful and interesting.

The Blue Ridge Parkway can be a challenging road that tests the ability of even the most experienced rider.  One can push one's self to the limit of his or her ability or one can simply ease down the road and casually negotiate the twists and turns of that asphalt ribbon at a snail's pace and just enjoy the scenery.

The guy below is Joe.  Great rider and a good, solid comanion on the road.

A quiet walkway I visited for a few moments while resting the wheels.

  I've always loved flowers, especially wild flowers.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is overfull with flowers.

 Problem is that no one slows down to smell the ---------------- flowers.

The viaduct below took ten years to complete and required the creation of a 21 mile detour around the parkway.

I have to decide whether to ride North with Tom or head south toward home from here.  North takes me further away from home and will require a long interstate ride back tomorrow or next day.  Its a tough decision.  The bike is packed and I've gone over to the rockers in the yard to sit and absorb the wondrous views that lay before me.  I've been up and down this Blue Ridge Parkway most every year since 1972 and I've never seen a view to compare with what I'm looking at now at the Pisgah Inn.  So, North or South?  It shall be North....
I had to stop and catch this mileage statement on the little KLR 650.  This is a single cylinder engine.  Tough as nails!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tom still had a surprise up his sleeve.  That surprise is called Lonesome Pine Cabins.  

Just look at these pictures.  The really amazing thing is that Tom, Joe and I each got our own cabin.  Happy Birthday Gary!  Really!  Tom - you are an amazing friend!

 Can you believe this?  What an amazing journey!

 The shot below is next morning.  I'm always up at 4:30AM and on some porch or near a window.

 Below is my writing desk at this place.  I like to write.
I guess its Saturday - haven't been keeping track.  I'm watching the sun come up from the swing on the porch and listening to the crows as they start their day.  I verified this morning that I should stay out of the kitchen because I poured coffee out of the pot into the cup but the cup wasn't there.  I hate cooking!
I'm going to back track South on the Blue Ridge to the folk Art Center near mile marker 380 and head West through the tiny town of Weaverville, NC on Route 25/70 to Hot springs, NC.  No interstates for me for the rest of this ride but its a long, long road to home from here.  
This has been the finest Blue Ridge trip ever for me thanks to Dr. Tom.  He walked over to me as my bike was warming up and he hugged me and I truly felt the camaraderie.  We said our goodbyes and I drove down the road for about five miles and pulled over at an overlook to document the feelings I was experiencing.  I don't do well at all with goodbyes - never did.  I hugged Tom, drove away and looked up the hill at the cabins and felt pressure behind my eyes.  I wouldn't see him for another whole year.  Its 189 miles down the Parkway to Ashville and a long way to Hot springs from there.  Gonna point this thing south and smoke the Blue Ridge all the way.  What a fantastic ride!