11 days and 3149 miles through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma before getting back to Fort Worth, TX. We rode along 3 scenic parkways/byways: the Cherohala Skyway that extends across both Tennessee and North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway that extends across North Carolina and Virginia, and the Talimena Scenic Byway that extends between Arkansas and Oklahoma. While on the Blue Ridge Parkway we also rode the Diamondback Motorcycle Route (226A). Over a week later and my head is still spinning from the excitement! Everyday was different and filled with its own adventure and beauty. From the beginning we decided to stop at every state visitors center. I snapped a picture of the state sign and sent it in a text to our kids. I wanted them to feel like they were part of trip and get an idea of where we were and what we were seeing. Day 1 and 2 went from Fort Worth, TX to Chattanooga, TN.
Those first two days were all interstate, sometimes through big cities. Scott did his best to keep us out of these areas during rush hour but it was still more than I am use to dealing with for that long of a period. There were times even doing 75-80 mph that cars we rushing around us, cutting in front of Scott and don’t even get me started with entrance and exit ramps. Scott deals with that all the time but those situations still make me a little anxiouse. Cars and trucks are often oblivious to the fact that a motorcycle is there. Throw in some grooved pavement that makes your bike pull and yep, I am griping my handle bars and clinching my teeth so hard that I am leaving ridges on my tongue. But we made it and I have a little more experience under my belt. At one point Scott asked me if I was doing okay, my reply “yep, I am Blue Ridge Bound, baby!” I love riding small country roads but sometimes the only way to make a trip happen in a specific time frame means hopping on the busier roads and dealing with it.
One of the highlights from from day two was a fun stop at Ruby Falls. Signs for the falls inundated the roadside for about 30 miles leading up to it. So when we pulled over at a roadside Scott and I both were eagerly agreed to check it out. It gave us a break and a chance to get out of the heat. Little did I know I would have to stop several times on steep inclines. One seemed to be about 90 degrees. Okay, maybe not that steep but sitting there with cars behind me it felt like it. Scott looked over at me, smiled and said “it’s time for some massive clutch action.” He wasn’t kidding! I found my friction zone and prayed that I wouldn’t slide back or loose my balance when I lifted my feet up because I was also at a slight angle and we had to immediately turn to the right. When he shouted go I took off cheering “I got this”. When we reached the top I was so relieved! What a confidence boost it was. Only a year ago a hill much smaller than that was how I dropped my bike. I haven’t dropped it since but that fear is still very real. The tour was about an hour long. I tried to get some pictures but lighting was an issue and since we were on a guided tour with a large group I couldn’t really stop for long. The formations were pretty but the main attraction is the falls. They have a light show that plays against the falls which was pretty cool. I took a picture of each stage/color but the red was my favorite. After leaving the falls you exit and go out upstairs and can either go into the gift shop or out to an overlook. We went out to the overlook and were able to look out over the city and beyond. After the tour we were cooled down and ready to hit the road again. Day 3: Chattanooga, TN to Asheville, NC
We began by riding the Cherohala Skyway. The interstate was swapped for a slower road with some twist and turns, gorgeous scenery and lots of flowers. You’ll notice a few of them in the slideshow. One of the other fun things about parkways and byways are all the interesting people you meet along the stops, you don’t get that when riding on the interstate! From the Skyway we moved on to Cherokee, NC. This is the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and began our ride along the parkway. We made sure we had plenty of gas because once you get on the parkway there are no gas stations unless you get off and find a small town. The scenery is breath taking, the speed limit is 45 mph, and when you look out along the overlooks you can see for miles. I also noticed a temperature change almost immediately. As we made are way to Waterrock Knob visitor center the temperature dropped a little bit more and my ears popped a few times. I wonder if that was a sign of what was about to come? One minute it was clear and the next minute intense fog. I ran into the rangers station and bought us some patches and put on my rain suit. The ranger I spoke to said “welcome to the Blue Ridge Parkway”. “It will pass as quickly as it came.” Hmmm, I hope so was all I could think. It is one thing to get stuck in a little rain but fog, no thanks! After a short discussion Scott and I quickly put away our cameras and took off.
The ranger was right just as quickly as it came it was gone. After about 30 minutes of rain we rounded another curve went into a tunnel and come out into….thick fog. I could hardly see, I kept my focus on Scot’s tail light and the yellow line. I was scared but we took it very slow as did all the other traffic. the fog lasted another 30 minutes and then we went around another sharp corner leading us into another valley with nothing but sunshine. This weather pattern was experienced several times during the day. As met other riders we were told it is common in the mountains We rode into Ashvilelle and arrived at our first bed and breakfast, A Bed of Roses. After unpacking the bikes we decided to give our legs a stretch and we headed downtown. There was lots to see and hear. We had dinner at a fantastic vegetarian place, The Laughing Seed.
Day 4: Asheville, NC to Sparta, NC.
We got started a little bit (3 hours) latter than expected because of when breakfast was served. This was the only day we had really planned to do a lot of specific things so at first we were both frustrated but in the end what can you do but enjoy the day. The first stop on our list was Craggy Gardens. I was excited because it was peak bloom time. Shortly before reaching the gardens the rain and fog began to settle in. We went inside the visitors area and found out because of the weather this year there wasn’t much blooming and the fog would obscure the view from the lookout. On-wards then! Next stop was an unexpected one, Crabtreee Falls. The signs showed a 1.5 mile hike to get to the falls. We knew we were in trouble when we began passing people returning looking exhausted. At one point I heard Scott with his GoPro saying “do you see what Margaret got us into?”. It was steep, downhill, and in some places we were walking over wet shell and rocks. we did get to see some interesting mushrooms and even a bright orange lizard on our way to the falls though. When we got to the falls we were able to relax for bit and take in the beauty. I’ll refrain from discussing the trudge back up the hill! Our next stop was going to be lunch at the Little Switzerland Inn and then to ride the Diamond Back route. Sadly we arrived too late for lunch and it was raining hard so riding the Diamond back was also skipped. Onward yet again this time our only goal was to find food, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now around 3:30. Fast forward to about 7:30 or so and we reach our bed and breakfast, Glade Valley B&B. It was lovely to roll up on but I was really too tired and hungry to appreciate it and we needed to find food and a place to do laundry. The day didn’t go as planned but that night we reminded each other there is always a reason. The next morning we spent several hours walking around the property taking pictures, looking at the cabin, talking with the inn keepers and getting to know the other guest. It was a great way to start the day.
Day 5: Sparta, NC to Roanoke, VA
Today was beautiful, no rain or fog the entire day! The views were incredible and it was nice to relax on the bike. We stopped at Mabry Mill to walk around and take some photos and learn a little about that areas history. Next we stopped at an old fort like structure. We grabbed some more photos and videos, talked and stretched our legs. As we were getting ready to leave another couple pulled in. They happen to be locals out for a ride on their trike. We visited with them for a bit, they then suggested we could all have lunch together up the street a a farmers market that serves lunch. By the time it was all said and done our table had 6 people at it. It was fun to relax and get to know a little about each of them.
We arrived at Rose Hill B&B in the early afternoon enabling us to spend some time relaxing on the front porch and playing with the inn keepers new puppy, Teddy. That evening, like many of the others on this trip, I saw fire flies begin to appear right at dusk. We don’t have fireflies in Fort Worth so it was a special treat for me. It brought back memories I shared with my grandmother. She lived in Ohio out in the country and on my visits there during the summer she caught fireflies with my brother and I. Getting to share that with Scott was very special for me. At one point I decided I was going to capture them in a picture but it turned out to pretty much impossible. That’s okay because I have the memory.
Day 6: Roanoke, VA to Waynesboro, VA
YES, another beautiful rain-less day! It was full of tunnels, curvy roads and more breath taking vistas. The tunnels on this trip were a fist for me. The first day or two I was scared but then I began to get excited when I saw one. I did however find it very intimidating when there was oncoming traffic because their headlights made it harder to see the lane area. Like the previous days we met some interesting people including some Appalachian trail hikers. It was funny because I thought 11 days on a bike was hardcore, this couple, along with their dog, has been on the trail for two months and has three more to go! You can read their story at Boots to Birks. We made several more vista stops and at one we saw two guys preparing to fly off the cliff on hang gliders. Since we had never seen anything like that in person we decided to hang around and watch them take off. One funny note about that stop: As we were gearing up to head out another group of bikers pulled in. I start backing out and two of the guys with smirks on their faces decided to watch me. Ha, I got news for you two, I can back my bike up! I pushed backwards, cranked the handle bars around and straightened up while Scott got pulled out. One looked like he was impressed the other a little disappointed. Scott and I later laughed about because it is pretty common for people to assume I can’t. Of course if I have to back up on a steeper incline it is an entirely different story but those guys don’t need to know that! Our day ended with a stay at Belle Hearth B&B. Since we were only a few blocks from the downtown area we walked to a local restaurant and had dinner. We relaxed, talked, laughed and just enjoyed the time together. The rest of the evening was spent writing post cards and hanging out together on the porch.
Day 7: Waynesboro, VA to Spruce Pine, NC
Today was great! Scott made some route changes that put us right back near the Little Switzerland Inn and the Diamond Back route. The day started off pretty but as we approached the inn the rain started up again! Grrrr, we decided to eat lunch hoping the rain would pass so we could do the route. It let up but it didn’t stop. Scott and I talked about it and decided to go for it. The road was CRAZY but I am glad I road it! I took it at my own pace and despite being scared I didn’t let fear win out. Scott road it faster than me and waited around the curves for me to catch up.
Day 9: Nashville, TN to Dickson, TN
Day 10: Dickson, TN to Hot Springs, AR
Day 11: Hot Springs, AR to Fort Worth, TX
We were instantly reminded it was summer when we came down out of the hills! I did not miss the heat one bit. We took a few extra breaks to make sure we stayed hydrated and despite reapplying sunscreen we both got a bit of sunburn. Our last stop before heading home was for dinner but I was too hot to eat much. We arrived home to be lovingly greeted by our youngest son and a puppy that had missed us, A LOT! I don’t think she let Scott out of her site the rest of the night.
Blue Ridge Bound & Cherohala Skyway
Blue Ridge Parkway Part I
Wow, this post is long yet I know I am leaving so much out. This trip was truly amazing. It was a once in a life time event for both of us. I got to know my bike better, I leaned more than ever before in fact I scraped my floor boards several times in curves and turns, stopped on an incredibly steep incline and handled it, backed-up and parked my bike, road on gravel and handled almost every type of weather condition, all in 11 days! Scott did a wonderful job planning the entire ride. The route was great, meals delicious and the Bed and Breakfast’s the he picked out perfect! This trip was especially special because it was how we chose to spend out 20th wedding anniversary! Thank You Scott! You continue to amaze me.