So how did we end up on a motorcycle excursion down Skyline Drive & the Blue Ridge Parkway? It actually started when I was planning my annual NSC Conference trip for work, which if the destination city is right I try to take a few extra days and we make a trip out of it (while I’m at the conference, Cathy relaxes hitting the pool, spa, shops, etc., etc., and then when it wraps up we explore the region). Well – this year’s destination was Atlanta (no offense Atlanta, but a destination I typically would have been going it alone). Instead, I proposed that we rent a bike and go riding up into the the Great Smokey Mountains (maybe even hit the Dragons Tail!) and then pay a visit to our ol’ pal Jack Daniels over in Lynchburg, TN. Cathy liked the idea, but a mention of it to Ann & Paul added the possibility of traveling together with them and their new RV down the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’ve traveled portions of the Blue Ridge over the years, but never on our bike, and the thought of running the entire stretch was just too appealing. So the planning began.
Unfortunately, as friends and family who may be reading this know, I had a little “bump in the road” which threatened to derail the journey (for those who don’t know, I had quadruple bypass surgery back in March). Fortunately, the surgery went well and my constant question on the road to recovery: “when can I get back on the bike?” Well, the recovery went very well too and here we are, 4 months later, setting out as planned. [Shout Out to all the beautiful people who played a part in extending my time here and making this possible; Dr. Anderson, Dr. Younan, and their respective teams, the great staff at Riverview Medical & Einstein Montgomery, and of course friends & family who were so supportive and vital, THANK YOU!]
For those thinking of planning a similar trip, and for those perhaps following along, I’m attaching our itinerary. I usually put something similar together whenever we are going away. It serves as a repository for confirmations and various pertinent info, as well as a way for me to “sell” the trip to Cathy. She likes to leave the details to me (personally, I think she just likes to be surprised as to where we are going next; kind of a “Every day’s a new day” attitude). I’ll go into more detail on my infamous itineraries and our travel planning style in the “Travel 101″ section, but this trip required more detailed plans than most (just due to the trip beginning near the first day of fall and the start of fall foliage tourism season, more frequent gas stops required on a bike and no services on the entire stretch of highway, packing logistics [yes, we packed for 2 weeks in a single dry bag], etc.). Anyway, follow us as we travel down a historic and pastoral path along the Appalachians on the Blue Ridge.
DAY 1 (Saturday 9/19)
Plans were to set out by around 10am, a target which of course we missed by about an hour and a half. Quite frankly, its to be expected – first day setting out, last minute packing anxiety, “wait, I forgot the phone charger!”, the famous Schultz goodbys, that kinda thing. But, the bike was neatly packed, we’re all geared up, said goodby to the folks and we set out on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning (see photo inset for Cathy proudly displaying her packing restraint for this trip).
So we set out on the NY Turnpike and headed south. We had about 240 miles to cover so we pretty much stuck to the highways (not our preferred roads to travel on a bike, but we had to get to our first destination and we were already later than I wanted to be). Once we got down to the area, our daily mileage would be less leaving more time to enjoy the sights and the winding roads. The turnpike actually ended up being quite enjoyable (not too congested, perfect temps, sunny, and I guess we were just excited to start the trip), and the first half of the day just flew by. After a rest stop to drain the bladders and fill the tank, we forged on.
Lunch stop was in Bel Air, MD at DuClaw Brewing Co. www.duclaw.com. I had come across the brewpub while planning the trip and then stumbled upon their “Sweet Baby Jesus” chocolate peanut butter porter in the liquor store. Then it turns out that Cathy’s second cousin’s husband (or something like that) owns the place. We had to stop in. Food and beer were great. We had shared the Crab, Apple, & White Bean Chili and the Pretzel Burger (both were very good). They are very experimental with their brews and had over a dozen beers on tap. I was very tempted to run the gauntlet and sample them all but Cathy talked me off the ledge and I came to my senses knowing we had the second half of the trip to go. Our sampler included some memorable brews including; pumpkin spiced lager (Cathy’s fav) and HellRazer IPA ( my preferred brew for the day).
Unfortunately, the portion passing Baltimore and Washington however got a bit congested and the roads were a bit more bumpy (add in the hot sun and it makes for a grumpy Joe). But as in all things, “this too shall pass”, which it did and we finished the day on a beautiful road leading into Middleburg with the most picturesque horse farms I think I’ve ever seen flanking us on both sides (it was hard to focus on the road).