Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville

From New York City I finally made progress toward the west coast and headed southwest with a plan to ride a somewhat southerly route all the way to California — and only using back roads — two lane highways or country roads exclusively. I will do my best to avoid any interstate travel and make my way home through Americana. A perfect time too, as our country prepares for and watches for one of the most exciting presidential campaign and elections in our history.

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Riding New York – Photo by Tim Amos

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View from Tim’s place.

At a guess station I met a local rider who contributes to the Adventure Rider community of motorcyclists, 2ndSpace, he offered to put me in touch with other locals who could help with maintenance or repairs — even put those tires on — but Doc’s been running good and I just wanted to ride. I took some local roads, grabbed a bit and eventually put myself back toward Shenandoah. Where I popped onto Skyline Drive, a beautiful road that winds its way through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Riding this time of year and with the latest heat wave they’ve had here in Virginia, I’m a bit too early for seeing the fall colors express themselves on the hickory, elm, and hemlock trees that line the beautiful drive.

My first night I settle into a park service campground and while I haven’t camped since Sudan, I seemed to fall right into place. With dark skies and thousands of stars and just a basic meal of noodles and broth, it just feels a little funny to be stateside once again with Doc. And wow! What a campground!

With a 35-mph speed limit, Skyline Drive isn’t the road to make time. Besides, there’s so much to see as the road is built nicely with plenty of pull-offs sporting panoramic vistas. Skyline Drive quickly ends and segues into one of the longest parkway in the country – The Blue Ridge Parkway. With great weather and more primitive campgrounds I continued my drive into North Carolina.

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Good old camping food along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway

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The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way through 469 miles of forest, meadows, valleys and mountains from Virginia through North Carolina and ending in Tennessee.

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The old Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Road Food In Floyd, Virginia – Pulled Pork BBQ

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Along the way many bikers stop to chat with me at the pull-offs. With a stack of tires on the back and a bike that is quite different than 99% of the bikes I saw for the first few days of my ride, I still seem to attract attention — even here in the USA. I first met a couple more local guys on sport bikes — one the new Triumph Triple. And a group from St. Louis on Harleys. It’s the tires that attract the attention. Though I have to admit, I’d only seen one other “adventure” bike in the few days I’ve been riding toward California — and he was going the other way.

Lots of Harleys. Mostly. And a sport bike or two.

One guy riding a Suzuki 1200S Bandit couldn’t believe the places I’d been. Like many before him, he had to grab his camera and take my picture. Tall with a tinge of a southern accent, wearing a typical motorcycle jacket, but then the rest of his gear? Jeans and cowboy boots. Neatly trimmed hair and a stack on the back of his motorcycle that would make any donkey or camel I’d seen in South America or Africa extremely jealous, Cliff Loose wore an easy smile and spoke with intense enthusiasm and excitement as he told the story of his first “bike camping” trip. Always a sport biker and because he lives just a few short miles from the infamous biker hallmark, Deals Gap, also known as “The Tail of the Dragon,” he gets intense pleasure out of great day rides in the area. But today he was on his fifth day and still two or three days from home. “This has been a life changing experience for me,” he revealed. “But you! I can’t believe the places you’ve been.”

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The Hurricane in Texas seemed to make finding gasoline quite a challenge. Other motorists I spoke to spoke of a greater conspiracy. No matter the reason, we couldn’t find a gas station with fuel in all of Asheville on this September morning.

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Cliff Loose on his Suzuki Bandit. A weeklong motorcycle camping trip from Tennessee to West Virgiinia “changed his life”.

We made plans to connect again the next day where I met him at Willville – an exclusive biker only campground just off the Blue Ridge Parkway 25 miles south of Floyd, Virginia. There I met Will and a group of guys just returning home after a Moto Guzzi rally. But that’s part of what ties the biker community. It’s the camaraderie, the rallies and just the shared passion of wind in your face freedom and the open road.

Riding through this town to find a nice place for dinner after many days of camping, both Cliff and I were shocked as to the extent of the fuel shortage in this part of hte country. Every gas station on Tunnel Road and into downtown Asheville was out of gas. The word is that the refineries were shut down in the prepartions for Hurricane Ike, which sadly has left many people without electricity for several weeks.

Cliff and I shared a hotel room here in Asheville. The next morning we found that the gas shortage hadn’t fixed itself over night. Cliff headed back home to Franklin, and I rode onward to Held USA’s headquarters just outside Hickory.

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