Blue Ridge Parkway offers eastern mountain vistas

A foggy calm morning starts another day of cycling on the Blue Ridge.

The Blue Ridge parkway and its Virginia cousin Skyline Drive constitute nearly 500 miles of superb riding on the ridges of America's southern Appalachian mountains. Heavily forested, the scenery tends to be close to the road itself amongst quaint mills (Mabry Mill is an example) and shops that cater to the heavy tourist traffic. But occasionally you reach a high point and can gaze at the hills receding, like mighty ocean swells, into the misty distance. True clear days here are rare: the trees pump a tremendous amount of moisture and hydrocarbons (no...not THAT kind) into the air, giving the forests and ridges a bluish tint whence comes their names. The parkway is dotted with campsites, small service and restaurant areas, and occasionally is crossed by other highways. Descending to the towns in the North Carolina or Virginia valleys below can be a hair-raising experience; and the climb back up can be a nasty reminder not to do it again. Vesuvius hill, near the virginia town of the same name, is an especially nasty example.

The road quality is good. Take a flashlight for some of the darker, unlit long tunnels. Bears are everywhere, so keep your food away from camping gear and stowed securely away from you at night. The appalachian moonshiner ( redneckus reluctus or his more ferocious cousin redneckus pugnacious) can be found in the smaller hollows but is very rare.

In the Spring the parkway is a corridor of mounatin Laurel; in the fall the colors are spectacular. I got hit by hurricanes David and Frederick the years I was there, and had to take refuge at a Salvation Army hostel in Waynesboro. The next day it was quite clear that the damaging winds were much more severe up at the parkway elevations with many downed trees and wires. It would have been tough to try and 'stick it out' thru the storm. Nonetheless many years later, on a bike tour near Mt. Aso in Kyushu, Japan, I did exactly that...camped thru a 12 hour typhoon that whipped in off the pacific. Not recommended!