Day 1

For my first real tour I rode to my sisters house and back. Since I live in Asheville NC and she lives in Arlington VA, I started by riding north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I actually started from the parking area where the road to Mt Mitchell intersects the Parkway. There is almost a mile of climbing in the 30 miles between my house and that overlook. I ride it regularly, but I didn't want to start my tour doing that climb on my loaded bike. From there heading north is downhill for several miles. A good way to start a tour.

As I rode north I was a bit scared about what I was getting myself into. It sounded like a great thing to do, but I'd never done an overnight ride before and here I was heading off for a 1,000 miles of rather hilly riding. Could I do it. Would something break? Where would I camp and where would I eat? Actually I had a pretty good idea of where I could stop because I had read and was carrying 'Bicycling the Blue Ridge' by the Skinners. I was also exhilarated by the adventure that I was starting and that helped overcome my doubts about the wisdom of doing it.

After I crossed highway 80 and headed towards my planned lunch stop at Crabtree Meadows, I saw a sign saying Roanoke 228 miles. It seem like an awfully long way to ride a bicycle, yet it was only half way to where I was headed. The distance to Roanoke became my measure of how I was doing on my tour.

At Crabtree meadows I stopped for a mediocre lunch. The Pisgah Inn south of Asheville and the restaurant on top of Mt Mitchell north of Asheville both have much better food than the restaurant at Crabtree Meadows. Still. it was an enjoyable break from riding and hot food is always good on tour. After eating I rode on north. Riding was pretty easy till I got to the long hill up to Chestoa View. That hill just keeps going and going. It lasts roughly 10 miles with the steepest climbing in the end. I stopped twice on the way up: my 80 lb bike really made itself known on that climb! It was a beautiful day and the views were great, but I was hurting. The sign that marks the end of that climb was welcome.

After Chestoa View things are pretty nice as the Parkway descends towards Linville Falls at milepost 317. I stopped for a snack between Linville and Pineola and then, fortified, I headed up the next long hill towards Grandfather Mountain. By the time I got to the Linville Cove Viaduct I was quite tired and hungry. I looked in vain for a restaurant, and settle for another snack. There are not a lot of services on or near the Parkway. Fortunately most of my days work was done. After the Viaduct, the road is downhill almost all the way to Julian Price Campground which is near Blowing Rock NC..

I stopped for my first night on the road at Julian Price. I'd only ridden about 60 miles (milepost 355 to milepost 297) but I had climbed, with my 80 lb bike, well over a mile. I rode around the camp looking for a good site and ended up choosing a relatively flat patch of land that was part of an RV site. This caused some confusion when the Park Ranger came by checking to make sure that I had paid, but it also led to my meeting some nice folks with an RV who come up to Julian Price for several weeks each year. I enjoyed visiting with them that evening and the next morning.

I rode into Blowing Rock via 221 rather than the Parkway because my book indicated that there was a convenience store on 221. It was closed and my routing meant I rode a dozen hilly miles just to find a place to eat supper in Blowing Rock. Ah well, it was a good supper and I still had time to make it back to my camp before dark. That was just as well since I discovered that I hadn't packed any light source! The folks in the RV loaned me a flash light for the night and I spent a fairly comfortable night in my small tent which I had pitched on slightly sloping ground. I did keep sliding to one end and having to hunch my way back up. Next time I'll be more careful about finding a level spot.


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