Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway Ride

7 days, 9 states, 2000 miles.

Day 1
Chicago - Strasburg (OH). 405 miles.

Our journey officially started on Saturday, September 20th. 5 of us - Howard, John, Mark, Grayson, and I - left Hinsdale Oasis on I-294 at 8 am and headed south. It didn't take us long to reach Hwy 30, which took us through Indiana and a good part of Ohio.
Our original plan was to stop in Mansfield (OH), but once we got there, we decided to ride for another hour or so. We eventually stopped in Strasburg.

Day 2
Strasburg (OH) - Winchester (VA). 290 miles.

We hardly left Strasburg when we found ourselves in dense fog. It was so dense in fact that I could barely see the tail lights of the bike in front of me.

We spent most of the day riding Hwy 250 through West Virginia. Hwy 250 is a smooth, two-lane road that curves and winds through rustic woods, dairy farms, small towns, hills, and pasture land. In our desire to stay on schedule and get on the Skyline Drive early the next day, we missed one of the must-see attractions - the Palace of Gold - located near Limestone (WV). The Palace was built in 1973 as a memorial to Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Krishna Consciousness movement.

We continued on Hwy 50; its curves and twists gave us a nice preview of what lay ahead.

Day 3
Winchester (VA) - Roanoke (VA). 250 miles.

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park winds for 105 miles along the highest crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On one side of this crest is the Shenandoah Valley; on the other is the rolling Piedmont area.

Numerous scenic overlooks provide views in all directions.

Virginia is a popular tourist destination. To create a warm and fuzzy feeling for its guests, especially from Chicago, they started road work right in the middle of the Skyline Drive. We had to stop and wait until a flagger let us pass.

More scenic views.

Time for a rest stop.

Blue Ridge Parkway is a ridgetop road that stretches 469 miles along the crest of the southern Appalachian Mountains linking Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky
Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

The northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from near Charlottesville to Roanoke. The 120-mile ride winds up and down along the mountain crests from a low elevation of 650 feet to almost 4,000 feet, with numerous scenic overlooks.

Day 4
Roanoke (VA) - Canton (NC). 300 miles.

Blue Ridge Parkway South stretches from Roanoke to the North Carolina line for another 100 miles.

The winding road has a speed limit of 45 mph with frequent scenic turnouts. By the end of the day I started thinking about what I would write in my blog about this trip and even came up with the first line: "It was a wonderfully uneventful trip". However, the events started to unfold as soon as we reached Asheville.

There was no gas in the city. Not just lines or some gas stations closed. As far as we could see, not a single gas station was selling gas. As we learned later, the refineries had shut down in anticipation of Gustav. Then Ike hit and the gas production and refineries didn’t restart because of power outages. That affected the operation of major pipelines that move gas from refining areas in the Gulf Coast to facilities throughout the Southeast. A local told us that Canton, a town 15 miles from Asheville, might have gas. After some hesitation, we decided to ride there.

Canton had one functioning gas station. After waiting in line for two hours, we finally gassed up and decided to settle at the nearest hotel for the night. Since none of us had any desire to do more riding this day, we ended up having dinner at a nearby truck stop.

Day 5
Canton (NC) - Bowling Green (KY). 310 miles.

The fuel situation made us rethink our route. Grayson and Mark decided to spend a little bit more time in North Carolina, while Howard, John, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. We jumped on I-40 with the intent to ride to Nashville and then take I-65 to Bowling Green. But in Knoxville, a Good Samaritan warned us about gas shortage in Nashville and suggested we take I-75 north and then county roads 92 & 90 to Bowling Green. This would have been a decent ride if there hadn't been a terrible accident two or three miles ahead of us that caused a 2-hour delay.

Days 6 & 7
Bowling Green (KY) - Chicago. 440 miles.

The highlights of the last two days of the trip were a Corvette assembly plant and a Corvette museum. We spent the entire morning touring both.

Howard with Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette chief engineer in the sixteenth and early seventieth.

Overall this was a wonderful trip. Lots of beautiful scenery and winding roads.
What's next? John has already started planning our next trip.


Bluemax said...

Good job Alex.While every thing is fresh in our mind reading and seeing the pictures is almost like doing the ride again. Howard

Grayson said...

Nice job Alex. The story line and pictures are great. Thanks for all the planning you did.