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MY BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY STORY

 Sarah A. Liddle

 Having grown up in Carroll County, VA in the 50s, the Parkway has always been a part of my life. Now in my 60s, a greater appreciation has developed for the permanence felt when on that road.

My earliest memory of a Parkway experience is at the age of four sitting at an end table in the Mabry’s Mill dining room looking out the screened window watching the creek flow by. Today the creek has been rerouted by design of man or of nature and the dining room expanded. However the floor still marks the original footprint of the room dimensions all those years ago.

Coming from a rural farming family, money was not used for the want of vacations but for the need of survival. The Parkway gave our family places to go for picnics complete with Mama’s fried chicken and Sunday drives with Daddy opening glass Coca Cola bottles with a pair of pliers from the tool box in the trunk of the family ’57 Chevy.

Returning to the area after getting an education in the flat lands of Richmond, VA, having a career and returning with my best friend/husband, we joined Friends of the Parkway, bought our first Miata and began an adult love affair with the 469 miles now called by the full name, Blue Ridge Parkway.

We proudly received our Blue Ridge Parkway 469 Mile Award in 2008 documenting our numerous travels from September 1998 through June 2004.

My husband, Martin Maples and I discovered Pisgah Inn on one of many trips from Fancy Gap to Gatlinburg, TN. This began our annual May (anniversary) and September (Martin’s birthday) trips to stay at Pisgah and drive ‘our road’. The peace and permanence of the mountains renewed our faith in the cycles of nature and the assurance of a life force in a world of increasing speed and uncertainty. One of our special overlooks is the Saddle in Floyd County. Watching the sun set behind the Buffalo and the 360 degree appearance of stars in the heavens always brings peace to our souls.

On 12-8-12, Martin passed away sitting next to me as I drove through the mountains of northern Kentucky. This trauma was almost three years ago and the only place I have found that truly gives me peace is being on the Parkway and staying at Pisgah.

The permanence of the mountain views, the backlight of the sunsets, the majesty of the sunrise and the barely perceptible crawl of spring up the mountain from the valley is what we shared and I can still experience.

These attributes are there for me, for Martin, in another plane, and for all those who long for a place to feel the protection of the mountains and the need for a place of peace.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is most assuredly a place for the next generations to experience a respite from a fast paced, tumultuous world.

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WHY DO I LOVE THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY?

Debbie Gragg

I moved from neighboring Tennessee just as the Linn Cove Viaduct was being completed. I was immediately taken by the drive, the endless views, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  Even though I had grown up relatively close geographically, I had never driven or ridden a single mile on the Parkway.   But that would soon change.  I began to use the Parkway primarily as a convenience for driving and getting around small mountain towns.  It was also my escape from a long, hard day at work.  I would turn up the music, open the sunroof and enjoy the ride.  But even this would change.

Here is the real story, the story that has forever changed my life for the better.

I had dated a young man in college, but after a few short months, we would go our separate ways.  Some thirty years later our paths would cross again.  The more we talked, and the more time we spent together, I began to learn that we both shared the same love and passion for the Parkway.  He had ridden and driven it many times from end to end, all 469 miles.  He is a big motorcycle rider and he quickly introduced me to his love of riding.  Completing all 469 miles soon became my goal and I placed that at the top of my bucket list.  I didn’t want to just ride in a car.  I wanted to ride it on a motorcycle.  Not any motorcycle, but a Harley. Why a motorcycle you ask?  In a car you are protected from the elements, the sudden climate change, the elevation, and you still get to see all of the beautiful views.  But on a motorcycle, you become part of the landscape.  Not only do you see and smell the landscape, but you also feel the elements, you feel the sudden climate and elevation changes.  You become part of the parkway.

I have so many wonderful memories of the two of us riding this extraordinary stretch of road…curves, twenty-six tunnels (25 in North Carolina and 1 in Virginia), small towns, and beautiful scenery. One will not be disappointed, and neither was I.   One particular day he surprised me with a map of the entire parkway and we began to mark off our progress.  We often meet for lunch and this is the first place we always go.  One particular day we were out riding, and he presented me with a commitment or pre-engagement ring.  That was a very special day!!  Another special time was being able to spend the night at the Pisgah Inn.  We even dodged a hail storm that day.  That’s a wonderful day on a motorcycle!   Seeing the Mabry Mill in person was also a very special treat.  I have seen so many beautiful photos of the parkway, but none of them have compared to experiencing it, being there, and seeing it in person.  Boone and Blowing Rock will always be some our favorite stops.  But the two most amazing memories of all is being able to mark off all 469 miles on my map and being able to share it with the most wonderful partner and companion ever.  Each mile holds a memory that will forever be burned into my mind for years to come.  After we completed our ride, he had one more surprise in store for me.  I received a packet from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Inside I would find a sticker, a patch and certificate stating that I completed all 469 miles on a motorcycle.

I think our love story is very similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway spans 469 miles, 2 states, many climate and elevation changes, beautiful scenery, and countless small towns.  The love story of my college sweetheart spans more than 3 decades, dozens of states, thousands of miles, and millions of memories.  Memories all made possible by the parkway.   Our love story didn’t end with the completion of our motorcycle journey; we became engaged in May of 2014.  I look forward to the future and I’m sure our future will always include traveling on the parkway every chance we get.

No matter how many times I get to experience the Parkway, it’s always brings a new surprise.  I see something different that I have never seen before.  And each season brings a fresh new landscape.

If I had one thing to pass on to the next generation, I would encourage everyone regardless of age, to get out and see what the Parkway has to offer.  There is camping, hiking, picnicking, small towns to explore and countless people to meet along the way.  Whether you go by car, bicycle, motorcycle or camper, there are millions of adventures waiting to be explored and uncovered.  And then you will have your own stories and memories to share.  Memories that will last a lifetime and stories that are worth telling around the dinner table.

 

 

 

 

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