The Blue Ridge Parkway

I had a couple setbacks this last week which I will get to shortly. But here are some last shots of Tennessee.

Last shot of the Great Smoky Mountains.

An old covered bridge.

It wouldn’t be Tennessee without moonshine and tobacco. I don’t smoke but the peach moonshine was delicious.

  

Replica of Christ’s tomb?

   

I crossed into North Carolina still in the high mountains and had to camp out one night on a hillside. Note: do not try to camp on the side of a mountain. You just slide down and end up in a fetal position at the bottom of your tent throughout the night. But I had no other option.

The next day I had a fall. My left shoe had cracked open so the clip that holds it to my pedal was loose and not easy to unhook. I have to twist my shoe to unclip it from the pedal. As I was struggling uphill I decided to stop and walk my bike for a bit. I unhooked my right foot but my left one got stuck. The bike stopped and fell over on my left side. My elbow hit the pavement and then my rib cage jammed into my elbow. It was quite painful. A car stopped and said it looked like a nasty fall. He offered to call 911 but I felt around and it seemed I had no broken bones. But I was hurting, that’s for sure. My elbow pain went away soon but the bruised ribs are still very sore 5 days later. I thought I broke a rib, or at least cracked one. But apparently there is not much the doc can do with a cracked rib. Just let it heal naturally. So that is what I am doing. But sleeping, coughing, and certain movements cause excruciating pain in my side.

I made it to Boone, NC and rested for a day letting my bruised ribcage heal up and replacing my cycling shoes. Then it was on to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic National Parkway that runs through North Carolina and Virginia. It runs for 469 miles through the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Park Service. It is the longest, narrowest National Park in the world and is the most visited unit in the United States National Park System. In many places, the park is bordered by land protected by the United States Forest Service. Here is a map of the Parkway.

Work began on the parkway in 1935 and took fifty-two years to complete. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph and lower in some sections.

The parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no direct interchanges with interstate highways, making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. There are no traffic lights or stop signs and all commercial vehicles are prohibited on the Parkway.

The Department of the Interior, manager of the National Park Service, proposed a unique method of acquiring the land for the Parkway and ensuring that it remained undeveloped to protect the wonderful vistas. The state governments were responsible for purchasing land to be incorporated into the Parkway, and scenic easements were placed on land near the Parkway. These easements allowed the government to avoid directly purchasing the land, but placed restrictions on development and building that would degrade the quality of views from the Parkway. So there are very few commercial entities visible from the Parkway—not a single gas station, very few stores or restaurants, and a handful of inns and campgrounds. It is really a unique experience. Very few cars pass by me during the day—sometimes only one every ten minutes or so. I see several deer and other wildlife every day.

Here is when I first linked up to the Parkway.

Some views from the Parkway.

I stopped at one of the rare inns along the road to fill my water bottles. As I was waiting I noticed a bar with craft brews on tap. I decided to take an impromptu lunch break.

I spoke with John the proprietor who told me some of the history of the Parkway. His building was there before the road began so it was allowed to continue, but there are strict regulations about signage and construction. He said it was virtually impossible to get a permit to do any building near the roadway. Normally I resist government regulations but somehow I agree with them in this case. This roadway would be spoiled if developers were allowed free reign.

Here is John, the owner of Park Vista Restaurant.

I camped that night at a colorful RV campground called Wild Woody’s. They have tons of antiques and memorabilia from all over the US.

My campsite at Wild Woody’s.

The next day I met another long distance tourist. Here is John from Spain.

He was cycling from Atlanta to New York City so we decided to ride together for a bit. It turned out to be very short. Within minutes he had a flat tire. But we met up later that night at another campground and traded stories.

He took this shot of me crossing into Virginia.

Then I started having trouble with my rear derailleur. It wasn’t shifting properly. Plus there were strange clicking noises coming from my rear hub. I adjusted my derailleur several items but the problem continued. Finally I took the cassette off and examined the hub. It was full of metal bits, dirt and black grease. The shaft was scored as if some foreign debris had gotten in and just tore up the insides. I was sick. I had a similar hub failure in Japan in 2008. I cleaned it out but when I tried to ride the cassette skipped all over the place. I finally found one sprocket where the cassette worked, so I had to leave it on that one gear. I could only adjust the front derailleur. So I had three gears: low, high and walk. Fortunately I was approaching Roanoke where I figured I could find a bike shop with the skills and parts to fix the problem.

The next day was foggy. It was incredible and I could hardly see 20 yards ahead of me.

  

But I continued on, trying to get to a motel 40 miles up the road. It wasn’t bad until late afternoon. That’s when it started raining. It was the worst of all worlds: My side was aching because of my bruised ribs, I was nursing my bike in hopes I could make it to Roanoke before the hub broke apart completely (and with only two gears), it was hilly so I had to walk my bike uphill many times, and it was cold—45 deg, and raining. I walked/rode in the rain for two hours and finally I limped in to the motel at 6:00 pm, soaked, freezing and exhausted. But I got a hot shower and a good meal at the restaurant so it ended well. That was May 12.

Luckily the motel room had a space heater so I could dry my clothes. But the TV did not work and there was no wifi or cell signal. So this was my view all evening.

The next day I rode into Roanoke and found a bike shop. The entire rear wheel needs to be replaced. Somehow the hub got damaged and destroyed the axel. So they will need 3-4 days to get parts and make the repair. On the plus side, Roanoke is not a bad place to be stuck for a few days. Here is my current position.

Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!

8 Responses to “The Blue Ridge Parkway”

  1. Capt. don Sr. says:

    Hi Kev,

    Man o man, the joys of biking long distance. I don’t know how you prevail.

    We are leaving in the morning and heading to Denver. Noel is graduating on Thursday. It will be really nice to visit family and especially your dad.

    I’ll add more after we get settled. Meantime, rest up. Bruised ribs are very painful as you noticed. I once tried golfing after bruising mine. Ouch.

    Uncle Don

  2. Mike Kilpela says:

    Nice timing to for rib repair while waiting for bike repair. I’m sure the knees can use the break as well.

  3. Jim Kilpela says:

    Mike and I we started our ’76 trip in Radford, VA (Western edge). Just checked my notes: after Radford we cycled to Troutville then Lexington where we entered the Parkway. On to Waynesboro (steep downhill off and on) where we left the parkway heading for Charlottsville. I think that we were quite a east bit from your route.

    Your pics show a relatively flat Parkway…we experienced some pretty tough hills in VA. I still have very fond memories of the trip and really liked VA.

    I cycled on Cape Cod today and it was a beautiful day…about 650 miles YTD. Bonnie and I are heading to Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow for 3 days cycling on our tandem.

    But, I could never handle the tough, but interesting, trails and roads that you show in your blog. Unbelievable! And, watch out for those tics when camping…the Long Horn Tic is aggressive and we now have them on Cape…probably traveled from down south. I’ve had Lime’s twice and don’t recommend it.

    A few of my friends are also watching your blog and are in awe of you as much as I am.
    Unc. Jim

    Please b e careful and stay safe …..thanks for taking us with you on this incredible adventure.

  4. Kevin Koski says:

    OK, sounds like you were not on the Parkway for very long. It is actually an easier ride if you stay on the ridge. Once you leave the Parkway it is much hillier. The grades on the Parkway don’t go above 8% and there is rarely a gain or drop of more than 400 feet at one time. Off the ridge you can go up or down well over 1000 feet so your route was probably much more hilly than mine. Keep cycling!

  5. Bernard Gaulier says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Love to read your blog, congratulations on your new adventure. You’re bringing back fond memories of when Laura and I lived in Virginia for 2 years (in Richmond, where our youngest, Marc, was born in 1989). We made several trips with them to the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the ways to get away from the heat of Richmond.
    Looks like you have another 3000 miles to go with 9 weeks left before the reunion… Here is wishing you safe and speedy travels! (if you decide to cut through lower Michigan, please come see us at our new place by Sylvan Lake).
    Bernard

    • Kevin Koski says:

      Thanks Bernard, yes VA is really a beautiful place. I’ll be riding the Parkway as far as it goes. But I think I misjudged the distance, or I am going slower than planned, because I will not be able to follow my original route and get to Copper Harbor by July 19. I still want to go through Canada but it looks like I will cross over at Niagara Falls. On the plus side, I just got my bike back. New wheel, new chain, new cassette, and fully tuned up. I’ll be back on the road tomorrow after a five day rest.

      • Bernard says:

        Glad you have your bike back, enjoy the ride! Looking forward to seeing you in CH.
        (please forgive my senior moment: Marc is the second of our 3 children -not our youngest- but indeed born in Richmond in 1989).
        Bernard

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