In 2016, I bicycled 120 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the northern terminus on Afton Mountain near Waynesboro, VA to just south of Roanoke, VA. I promised my daughter, Melissa, that I would complete the 350 miles as a fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and as a way to honor her life. I began the trip at Mile Post 119 south of Roanoke, VA on July 9 and it took me 8 days of riding. With a few days of rest in between I reached Cherokee, NC on July 19.
During the preparation for this ride I researched locations for camping, food, water, lodging, and restrooms. I studied and carried with me elevation profiles of the Parkway from north to south so I knew what I was facing each day. What I learned about bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway is you have to quickly learn to like climbing. On the Parkway you are either going up hills or down hills. There are very few level stretches. I watch the Tour de France and am amazed at the ability of those professional riders to climb long stretches in the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Now we all can look like professional riders going down hill but riding uphill separates the men from the boys. There were times when I was going as slow as 4.5 to 5 miles per hour. Going up hill on the second day I got passed by a lightning bug or something that looked like a lightning bug. I think it was laughing as it passed me.
When I first rode the Parkway in 2016 it didn’t take long to realize I was not mentally prepared for long climbs. Each time I thought I reached the top of a climb I was discouraged to see that the climb continued on and on. But this time I knew what was ahead and accepted each climb as a challenge that would not beat me. There were several 1,000 foot climbs and some 2,000 to 2,400 foot climbs and I embraced each climb as it came. As a result I got stronger each day and the climbs were not as daunting.
I had a specific motivation for completing this 350 mile journey but doubt that I will attempt this again. Let’s just say I have crossed it off my bucket list. Melissa told me that once I completed riding the Blue Ridge Parkway that I should take a trip on a flatter, more enjoyable terrain. So during the first week of September we have a trip planned to stay a week in Marathon, Florida in the Florida Keys. I will take Melissa’s advice and bicycle from Key Largo to Key West, about 111 miles, which I will do over 3 days to fully enjoy the trip and scenery. After that I haven’t decided if I will do another long distance bicycle trip or seek some other adventure.
I will complete this blog with pictures taken during this trip. If you are ever in the vicinity of the Blue Ridge Parkway I encourage you to take the time to travel a portion of this road to see some remarkable views.