I finally made my much anticipated trip to Lancaster, PA combining a great ride with a weekend to see my son perform in an air show. The trip was everything I could hope for.
Day one. Tuesday Aug. 18, 275 miles:
I left work at noon and started north. Quick ride up 441 to Cherokee, NC to start the first goal of the trip, ride the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a road built in the 30s and built to maintain as high a route as possible in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you like mountain twisties, then the southern third of the parkway is best. Turns seem to continue forever with curve warning signs frequently illustrating a nearly complete circle. There was so little straight road that it was 100 miles before I saw a passing zone. The 45 mph speed limit was not a major limiter of safe speed. There are warnings of decreasing radius curves and they are common on the parkway. The road was great and the views so awesome to make the ride dangerous as a distraction from keeping eyes on the curving road. I made it a point to pull into the majority of the turnouts to stop and take a safe look before moving on. The sky threatened rain all day but my luck held out with a dry ride.
As the sun approached the horizon I made it to the exit for my first day's destination, the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground, http://www.blueridgemotorcyclecamp.com/. The road from the parkway to the campground made the parkway seem straight by comparison. The web site's promise of a great riding area is true if this road is an example. (I'll be back.) The facilities are outstanding and I highly recommend it. In addition to camping spots it has a number of cabins for $45 a night. They are small with a queen bed nearly filling the room. I splurged with rain in the forecast and rented a cabin. If you want to tent camp but not carry the tent they will rent one and even set it up. Bedding and towels can also be rented with the tent. There are a couple of covered community areas and an indoor area with microwave, TV and comfortable seating. Meals are available on weekends. This would be a great place for a group meet up. The elevation is high enough for comfortable temperatures in August. On a Tuesday night only one other rider was in the campground. He is from Florida and visits two to three times a year.
Day 2. Wednesday Aug. 19.
Blue Ridge Parkway all day.... It doesn't get any better than this. I was going from 8 AM to 8 PM. Lunch was bread and cheese alongside a stream. Shortly after lunch my luck slipped and rain set in. Shortly after the rain started I hit the first of two detours around areas the parkway is under repair. Total detour total of about 20 miles and very well marked with bright orange signs making easy navigation back to the parkway, even in a hard rain. After a couple hours of wet riding the rain petered out. I realized the elevation had dropped and the road was much flatter and straighter. Steep drops beside the road were replaced with farms. The scenery was good but the middle third of the parkway was the least twisty and the 45 mph speed limit felt like a major limiter.
Again as the sun settled I reached my goal for the day, Willville Motorcycle Camp http://www.willvillebikecamp.com/ just off parkway mile 177. This is another great campground set up for motorcycles. As I arrived it started raining and I again chose to forgo my tent and rent the one small cabin which was available. (There are plans to add cabins.) Check in is on an honor system. Put your personal information on the outside of the envelope and money inside (no credit cards) and make yourself at home. If you want a sausage biscuit in the morning note it on the envelope and add a couple bucks inside. Also at the campground was a group of 5 retired guys from north Georgia staying for 3 nights and exclaiming the virtues of the roads in the area. In addition 3 Harley riders were there. A large pavilion made for a great gathering area in the middle of the campground.
Day 3, Thursday, Aug 20
With my sausage biscuit and a couple good cups of coffee I was ready for another day. I continued south initially disappointed in the lower elevation straighter road. In time I realized the road had climbed and again the curves were sharper and more frequent. The overlooks became frequent. Bottom line, for me the first and last third of the parkway are the best rides and views, but the middle third is still a great ride. Around mile 30 I picked a scenic overlook with a great shade tree and stopped for another lunch. I was thankful for bringing along my REI camp chair. The short laid back chair is easy to strap on the bike and the low legs and reclined posture are the camper's equivalent to a lazy boy. Any where I stopped I had a chair.
Mile zero of the parkway is mile 104 of Skyline Drive. I had mixed advice on riding Skyline. I chose to try it planning to get off if I did not enjoy the ride. The speed limit was slower at 35 mph. I found the ride and view great and significantly fudged on the speed limit. With 30 miles left and starting to think about where to stop for the night I received a call from my son and found out he would be in Lancaster earlier than I thought. I decided to carry on and rode until after dark checking into a hotel in Frederick, MD. I took back roads to Frederick and totaled 390 miles for the day. Considering 300 of those were Blue Ridge and Skyline miles it was a long day.
Day 4, Friday Aug 21.
I was up early for breakfast at Starbucks and on the last few miles to Lancaster, PA to be there in time to see my son land and spend the day with him.
Total 1,005 miles home to Lancaster airport.
More to follow.....
Cloudy skies could not block the great views on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Blueridge Motorcycle Campground
Entrance to campground
Cabins at Blueridge Motorcycle Campground
More Great Views
Willieville Bike Camp
My cabin at Willieville
Lunch on the Parkway
Only other scooter I saw on parkway. Rider off in the woods I guess.