After becoming disillusioned with the weather in Roanoke and not wanting to sit in a motel for two days waiting for the skies to clear and knowing I didn’t finish what I started I needed to get myself in gear and plan a ride that I knew I would complete. Planning to bicycle 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway on my first self-supported bicycle tour was a healthy goal, yet I still had a desire to do more bicycle touring in the mountains. So I set my sights on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
In hindsight I should have started my bicycling touring on the Skyline Drive, you know like learning to walk before you run. I did this bicycle trip in August, 2016 and planned to complete this trip in two days. The Skyline Drive is 105.5 miles long and runs from Front Royal, VA to Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, VA, and seamlessly continues on as the Blue Ridge Parkway. The longest climbs are on the northern and southern entrances, but once you reach the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains the elevation varies, so don’t think you won’t have some climbing to do, but the climbs are not as long as those on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I started at the northern entrance at Front Royal where elevation is 1,390 feet. From there you climb 10 miles to Dickey Ridge before connecting with the Blue Ridge mountains at Compton Gap. The climb continues to Hogback Overlook at an elevation of 3,385 feet. So in the first 22 miles you climb nearly 1,995 feet.
The day I began this ride the weather was spectacular. Clear blue skies and visibility from the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains was endless. From most overlooks looking west you can see the Massanutten mountain ridge that divides the Shenandoah Valley for nearly 50 miles. Beyond Massanutten you see mountain ridges for as far as the eye can see.
I enjoyed this ride more than my experience on the Blue Ridge Parkway because I understood the effort it took to climb these mountains, I finished what I started, and I took time to enjoy the scenery and views from many of the overlooks. The climbs were hard at times but I made sure to enjoy the experience instead of focusing on reaching the next hilltop. I took more pictures, breathed in the fresh mountain air, and was not pulling my trailer. My wife accompanied me by driving our van to serve as a support vehicle so I only carried a small backpack with snacks and water.