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Bicycling the Blue Ridge – Family Style

by Mark and Sally Archibald and Family
June 2010

469-archibald-1It was my husband’s dream to bicycle the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. He had ridden it the year he turned 40, and looked forward to riding again in his 50th year. That dream became our latest family adventure. The trip grew to include the Skyline Drive and the Great Smoky Mountains – 682 miles of the beautiful mountains so dear to us.

Our oldest son, Drew, dropped us off in Front Royal, VA on June 19th where we began riding the Skyline Drive. My husband Mark and our 11 year old son Max rode a tandem that Mark designed and
built. I was riding my Terry bicycle and our two other sons, Kevin, age 17 and Samuel, age 14 were on their own bikes. Our first night was at Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park, where we had a wonderful dinner and delicious breakfast at their restaurant before starting out on day two. The temperatures were in the 90’s those first couple of days and it made the climbs even more difficult. We stayed at Wintergreen Resort for the second night, which was lovely, but we were surprised to see the 15% grade sign as we turned off the BRP. The ride down was exciting, but we found our way back the the BRP the next morning by walking our bikes along a section of the AT to avoid that hill!

469-archibald-2The third day – our longest – we rode 77 miles to the Peaks of Otter. It also included our longest single climb, from the lowest point of the BRP at the James River to Apple Orchard — the highest point on the Virginia section of the parkway. We were delighted to arrive at Peaks of Otter Lodge that evening before the restaurant closed. We enjoyed all the lodges along the parkway, but in order to keep our average mileage below 60, we also stayed in a few motels. On day five, we rode to the Rocky Knob cabins, which were built by the CCC and were quite cozy. This is the point closet to Christiansburg, where I grew up, and our friends drove up to meet us for dinner at Mabry Mill. That was a real treat. The next day we were riding to Doughton Park when we realized Kevin was not going to be able to continue because of pain and swelling around one of his knees. The same great friends came to pick him up and keep him at their house for the
remainder of our trip. We spent a rest day at Bluff’s Lodge where Mark was able to make so me repairs on Samuel’s bike. We also attended one of the ranger programs that evening, and saw the most fantastic sunset I think we have ever seen!469-archibald-3

From Doughton Park we rode in to Blowing Rock. Mark was able to ride Samuel’s bike into Boone to a bike shop for some more permanent repairs while the boys and I walked into town for some fabulous ice cream. The next day we enjoyed riding across the Linn Cove Viaduct where Samuel rode ahead, climbed a boulder and waited patiently for a photo. We stayed in the Alpine Inn at
Little Switzerland where we a voided an afternoon storm and had a lovely breakfast on the balcony the next morning. After riding through some of the larger climbs in NC, we enjoyed our 10-mile descent into Asheville. We learned that a 7-mile section of the BRP was closed since the previous August due to a rock slide and had to take a 25-mile detour through Pisgah National Forest to get back up the the Pisgah Inn where we had reservations the next night. We were concerned about some of the grades on that road but it was beautiful riding past Looking Glass Falls and we even stopped at Sliding Rock so that Samuel and Max could slide down and cool off in the creek. At the beautiful Pisgah Inn we watched the clouds roll up over the mountain and shroud us in fog. The final day took us up Richland Balsam, the highest point on the parkway and Waterrock Knob, which is the steepest climb. We were pleased and proud to have completed this leg of our journey when we reached milepost 469 and spent the night in Cherokee.

469-archibald-4The last day we rode through the Great Smoky Mountains and they were as beautiful as we anticipated. Drew, Kevin and our dog, Sadie, met us in Gatlinburg, TN on July 1st. It was quite an adventure!

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