Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blue Ridge Parkway, all the way (Day 3)

Day 1 and Day 2.

It was the morning of the final day of my journey.  I still had 180 miles of the parkway to look forward to, and another 120 or so miles to get home.

In some ways, this was the best day of the three.

As suggested by the kind owner of the Blue Ridge Motel, I had decided to have breakfast at the nearby historic Mabry Mill.  It was an old mill now converted into a store and a restaurant.  He had told me that it got filled fast.  I checked that the restaurant opened at 8am, and started from the motel at 7.45am.  The restaurant had just opened its doors, and I was among the first to be seated.

There were four people of varying ages at a nearby table discussing the political mistakes of Mao, and an old couple was next to me looking like they had been here many times.  I got the "Long haul" breakfast: pancakes, eggs, sausages and home fries.  The waitress recommended that I try the buckwheat pancake.  Always up for new things, I said sure.  When the food arrived, I noticed that the buckwheat pancake was dark brown in color.  It was slightly bitter in taste but eminently edible - with generous helpings of maple syrup.  I couldn't finish it.  There was too much food (like every other time I eat out).

The hostess personally checked on each table.  She was a genuinely caring person and made sure everybody was having good food and a good time.  Sometimes these little touches go far in making an impression.  I probably won't have an opportunity to eat there again anytime soon, but I will surely recommend it to everybody.  She wished me best of luck on the road, and was concerned that it might rain.  "Fingers crossed!"

With both the tummy and the gas tank full, it was time to hit the road.  There wasn't any rain, but the road was slightly wet.  It was perfect, almost like the roads they show in motorcycle and car ads.  Absolutely no traffic, and a canopy of bright green trees on both sides of the road.  I was in heaven.

Just ten minutes into the ride, and heavy fog engulfed the road.  I turned on my blinkers, and the high beam, and continued at a slower speed.  I could only imagine the green valleys around me.  The air was pristine and pure, and the fog only made it more dreamlike.  The fog disappeared as I came to a lower elevation, and reappeared as I climbed back.  Sometimes, the visibility was just 50 feet.  I had to repeatedly wipe my visor with my gloved left hand to see where the road was going.

There was absolutely no one on the road at that hour going in my direction.  None, for the next hour or so.  Where were the parkway bikers?  I was alone, hurtling down the blue ridge, my mind silent and meditative, with no words to express the sheer beauty of the forest.

This went on for two hours.  I crossed the "Smart View" which overlooks the "Fairy Stone State Park".  I crossed Roanoke, without a hint of having passed a large city.

At milepost 86, in Jefferson National Forest, I stopped at the "Peaks of Otter" restaurant for a cup of coffee.  It is a set of three peaks: Sharp Top, Flat Top and Harkening Hill.  From the Wikipedia page:
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "the mountains of the Blue Ridge, and of these the Peaks of Otter, are thought to be of a greater height, measured from their base, than any others in our country, and perhaps in North America." Of course this later turned out not to be the case, but not before Virginia had sent stones from the peaks to be its part of the Washington Monument.
They had the most delectably soft blueberry muffin I've ever had.  It was a small cafe with just a few tables, but the lady at the counter was extremely warm, welcoming and friendly.  I praised the muffin no end, and she implored me to have another, but everything in moderation, as they say!

I continued further north.  The road went up and down the hills, twisting and turning and it was sheer joy to lean one way and then the other on the motorcycle to take the hundreds of turns.  Once in a while a car would be in front of me, but I would soon overtake it.  I was the fastest thing on that road that morning.

I was reminded of my first few months of motorcycling in the US in 1999, with a group as part of the famed "Doc Wong Riding Clinic".  Dr Wong is a chiropractor in the Bay area, and on weekends takes groups of bikers of all experience levels through the twisties.  Just like there is a famed Skyline Drive in Virginia, there is a Skyline Boulevard in Bay area as well.  And both are huge favorites with motorcyclists.  It was on that road that Doc Wong and others in his group taught me how to lean the motorcycle and turn the corners at high speeds.

Only 80 miles of the parkway were left.  And now the landscape was varied: farmland, forests, pastures, rolling hills, distant views of the Allegheny mountains, ...

I continued leaning, and turning.  Going up a hill and then down, a roller-coaster straight stretch, and then again hills and turns.  At a few points I relaxed a little and had a bit of scare when suddenly a tight corner presented itself and not prepared to lean, I went wide over the double yellow line.  That was scary and I resolved to pay more attention to the road.  There wasn't any traffic, but that wasn't an excuse!  Accidents happen when you take the road and traffic for granted.

I was getting closer to the end of the parkway, and though there was exhilaration at having done it, there was also a mild sadness at having to leave this friendly, beautiful road for the impersonal freeways.

But all good things come to an end.  And so did the parkway.  It then turns into the Skyline Drive and goes through Shenandoah.  But I had rode Skyline last fall.

I parked my motorcycle near the north end of the BRP, and got a few pictures taken...

Goodbye dear BRP.  I hope to ride on you again some day, maybe in autumn, when you are draped in fall colors.

East on I-64, then North on US-29.  Lunch and resting the sore butt at Shadwell, VA.  Then on through to I-66 East.  Corporate buildings, apartment complexes, big business.  Through the Manassas battlefield region, and on VA-28N, the home stretch.

I was home at 7.  Trip meter 1176 miles.  Home sweet home.  Wine!  Chocolates!  Celebrations!

The motorcycle behaved flawlessly through the long ride and didn't as much as sputter once.

A shirt maker from Bombay, with the archaic name Charagh Din, used to have kitschy magazine adverts for its horrendously designed shirts.  But they used to have this memorable tagline in their ads: "Beautiful Great Day.  Beautiful Great Shirt."

At the end of the third day, and at the end of my journey, with some wine in my system, I couldn't stop muttering: "Beautiful Great Experience.  Beautiful Great Ride."


Anonymous said...

Again, great writings that feeds another traveller's imagination. Thanks for sharing. We all have vicariously now visited BRP thru' you.
You look better now, than then:-)

Anonymous said...

Magnificent trip! Thanks for sharing. Street viewed every stop. Definitely on my bucket list now. And yes you are wearing your years well :)

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading your blogs long back, but this one caught my eyes. Reminded me your detail travel blog on your Goa bike trip! Here you go, nothing has changed. Neither how you looked years ago nor your style of describing each moment you lived during your road trip. Your story telling is so strong that it keep readers to “ask for more” :)