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Biking the Parkway with Compatriots

By Tom Goff

Where do I begin? I could write 200 pages on our adventures on the Parkway. Let me say, from the beginning, that I never would have ridden the Blue Ridge if it weren’t for Sam “the organizer” Jernigan. It was his idea from the very beginning. He wrote to the Moss Tent Co. to get us one- man lightweight tents for half-price. He planned the route to get to the Parkway and even planned the meals. But, as I will explain, even “the best laid plans” can go awry.

Getting to the Parkway was probably our biggest challenge. After we did all the packing and drove the 500 miles to get to the train station in Charlottesville, VA, we found out that the freight car (for the bikes) was full. At least that’s what they told us at the station. We made a quick decision to box up the bikes and plead with the “baggage master” to try to squeeze our bikes onto the train. With tickets in hand and our fingers crossed, the “night owl” pulled into the station. That car could have held 50 bikes. We uncrossed our fingers and headed south to Greensboro,SC. where Sam’s old friend, Jim Holbrook, was to meet us and drive us in his truck to the Parkway.

We arrived in Greensboro at 4 am, not very rested. Every crying baby on that train was in our car. Help putting our bikes together came in the form of one obnoxious drunk. We couldn’t wait to get away from him. Breakfast and some coffee seemed like a good idea. We headed off to anything we could find at 5 am. Finally some luck brought us to a nice restaurant that was just setting up for the day. Because the sun wasn’t up yet and we needed to get our bearings, Sam decided to ask our waitress, “what direction does the sun come up”? She said,”I don’t know, I’m not from around here”. Maybe she was from another planet.

Then it was Sam’s brilliant plan to bike ahead and meet our contact, Jim, who was coming from Asheville. After we pedaled for about an hour, Sam and I stopped to call Jim. Jim’s wife told Sam that he had already left some time ago. So back we pedaled to the Greensboro train station where Jim and his truck were waiting for us. As we drove toward Cherokee, being new to the area, I kept looking out the truck windows at the landscape. As we got nearer to Cherokee, I commented, straining my neck, “Those sure are high mountains up there” to which Sam replied, “That’s where we’ll be tomorrow”. We said goodbye to Jim and began The WEMPS first assault on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We were The WEMPS before The Rhody Wrinkled Riders. WEMPS stands for Wandering Emu Pedal Society. Our intent, on that first day, was to ride to Pisgah Mountain Camp Ground by that evening. We had absolutely no idea how difficult that would be. Thank God, Ranger Rachael (angelic Park Ranger) came along and suggested leaving the Parkway and to find a local campground named Moonshine Creek. Brilliant idea! We had pedaled for 5 hours and we were still climbing. Moonshine Creek was a welcome relief. They had showers! This was something we wouldn’t experience for another seven days.

The first Parkway ride will always be the most memorable. In fact, unless I am looking at photos of the succeeding trips, they all seem to run together in a colorful blur. When we finished riding the Parkway, the final plan was to bike to Charlottesville and retrieve my truck. Sam promised me,”it’s all downhill”. He lied. It was 22 miles of up and down riding in noisy traffic and congestion. A shocking experience after having biked 469 miles of the most peaceful and beautiful stretch of road in the country.

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