Saturday, July 23, 2011

Again: Can the Blue Ridge Parkway be Ridden in an Extended Weekend?

Adventures of Day One

Adventures of Day Two

Day Three dawned after another wonderful night in a hotel room with air conditioning and a comfy bed with sheets.  Oh yeah and a running shower.  I didn't have any difficulty sleeping after my cocktails and dinner last night.  I woke up refreshed and ready to climb onto my mighty steed and get moving.  Oilburner was ready, but I still chuckled at his groans of soreness.

Forecasts were predicting chances of rain today.  We didn't take that seriously for the morning hours that had a very low percentage.  We were more concerned with the evening hours when the percentage was nearing 70% at home.  So we left the hotel with a light heart and light clothing under the armor.  We quickly became aware of the error of our ways since the ridge road we were on was shrouded in a cold, damp fog.


Why is it "fog" when you are in it, but someone looking up from the valley would say the mountain was shrouded with clouds?  No need to answer, I looked it up and it has something to do with how it was formed (four types of fog formation) and proximity to ground.

Either way, we stopped and climbed into warmer gear.

Our biggest dilemma for today was defining what it meant to "ride the BRP".  We had ridden a large portion from the bottom up last year.  did we just need to ride what we hadn't ridden to say we have "ridden" it?  or did we need to ride the entire BRP in one shot to claim that victory?

Technically speaking we only needed to ride a handful of miles now to reach the spot where we had turned around last year.  We could do that and then do whatever we wanted.  But we were a mere 180 or so miles (290 km) from the end.  At yesterday's average we should be able to do that in 4 hours.  (Then home would be another 2 1/2.)  Or...we could just stay on the Parkway however long we felt like it and get off when we wanted.

Funny.  We were both still on our high from the twisties yesterday and really wanted to say we had ridden the entire BRP on this trip.

We will not go into my stubborn insistence that I don't really feel like we can say we rode the entire BRP this time.  I mean there is an 18 mile (29 km) section that was closed for renovations that our tires have not touched before.  Can we, in all good conscience, say we have "ridden" it?  I think it might be a different in definition.  Legally we were not allowed to ride this section.  Which is very different from choosing not to ride it on our own accord.

I took "riding the BRP" seriously and would always backtrack us to the location we exited from.  And my strict nature still wonders about the 20 to 50 foot (6 to 15 meters) difference of where my tire turned to leave versus where it was when we re-entered.  Yes.  Sometimes I can be very exacting.  hehe.

The bragging rights won out and we thrilled at the prospect of riding the entire BRP in two days.  As I asked last year: Can the BRP be ridden in an extended weekend?

Why yes.  Yes it can.  IF you don't dawdle with all that sightseeing stuff and are willing to ride a teensy bit faster than the posted speed limit to make up for all the times you are stuck behind someone going far below it.

We had a few slow drivers.  But generally the Parkway was quite empty since it was mid-week.  What really slowed us down was the fog.  We encountered some wispy fog that just blew across our path. 

And we encountered thick, pea soup type of fog that reduced visibility to 20 feet (6 meters).

The temperature plummeted from 68F (20C) to 53F (12C).  We had shrugged into the warm gear already, and now it was time to wriggle into the rain gear.  This was thick, dense fog that was producing some good rain or clingy water droplets.




Strange how our eyes have a more difficult time penetrating the fog, identifying objects, seeing, than the cameras do.  The pictures don't do justice to how much [human] visibility was impaired.  We had been crawling along with our flashers on.  This was my first time in fog.  What an interesting experience.  I discovered that I had a tendency to hover near the center line simply because I could not see the right edge well.  (The BRP doesn't paint a white line on the edge of the road.)  We can also attest to the light reflecting quality of the newly painted center stripe on a section that was recently repaved.  Much easier to see!


After squinting to see I remembered we had amber lenses and we had to stop yet again to install them.  Hopefully someday I will figure out to do these all at the same time.  I can also attest to the beneficial difference an amber lens makes for visibility in fog.  I was able to make out more looming objects in the fog than before.

We rounded a mountain into an unexpectedly clear zone allowing a glimpse to an adjacent peak still shrouded in fog, with a dense field flowing down into the valley.  I stopped at the next overlook to see if we could capture it.



It was breathtaking to see the blue sky, wisps of fog swirl around, dense banks down the mountain that were bright white as the sun reflected off them, but gray ones up the peak that the sun wasn't reaching.  This unexpected reprieve led us to find a comfortable spot on the bikes and close our eyes for a few minutes.


What can I say?  The remainder of the trip was perfect.  Aside from a few people that refused to let us pass, it gave us the chance to slow down and look around.  Otherwise it was a perfect trip carving some twisties.  In our ever ongoing discussions of riding technique through the helmet communications Oilburner reminded me of another "form" of connecting with the bike for better turning.  It had been on my mind the day before, but I wasn't sure how to go about implementing moving my tush across the seat into a lean.  He gave me a pointer of not "moving" but at least "shifting" the weight to that cheek a little.  WOW!  Huge difference that made me feel a more solid connection with the bike.  I was able to lean and turn into the curve without any handlebar input.  Then, if I felt I was coming in a little hot and fast I still had full use of the handlebars to push down and steer a little more into it.  It instantly transformed how I felt with the bike through curves.  Much more solid and stable.

Talking about it over lunch I was very aware of the thought processes behind this that could lead someone into trouble.  While I had much more confidence in the turns and was taking them at speeds I had only dreamed about before, I was completely conscious of the fact that I didn't have the experience to recover from a road obstacle at those speeds.  So don't think that I am getting a swelled head and will be running the Dragon at 60 mph or anything.  I will fold this new knowledge slowly into my arsenal and practice, practice, practice.

And Yes, we did ride the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.  :)



More images available on Flickr.


  1. Congratulations on meeting the letter of the "law" on riding the BRP. Kind of like folks riding up to Alaska and wanting to ride the Dalton Hwy. For some, they are happy riding to the Arctic Circle or Coldfoot. Others are really upset that you have to cross private property to get to the Arctic Ocean (they won't let you ride across it).

    At least you didn't have to deal with the oppressive heat & humidity.


  2. Well done on your achivement, it appears that you were"becoming one with the road and the bike" enjoying corners more and more. There is certainly more to cornering than just going around one. Learning the tecnique is part of the joy of riding. Rolling on a bit of throttle also settlers the bike down and helps with your lines.

    Great stuff Lori.

  3. Some awesome shots on the earlier bits - sorry for all of the fog, though!

  4. Hey, now I have ridden the BRP, too as virtual pillion rider. Maybe one day I will get the chance to ride it for real. Until then your road report will have to suffice, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you, Lori.

  5. Hi RichardM,

    I know! When I saw the maps of Prudhoe Bay I couldn't believe the road didn't go to the Arctic Ocean!

    Thanks for the kudos. It was definitely a good ride.

    Are you recovering from the wild temps at the rally? That was unbelievable. People are starting to post videos to YouTube...and they all show thermometers. :)


  6. Hi Raftnn,

    Thank you! And yes. I'm enjoying the practice. hehehe So many things to think about that sometimes you can only put one thing into practice at a time. So adding them into the arsenal is enjoyable.


  7. Hi David,

    Thank you! The fog was good and bad. Good to get the experience. Good because I couldn't focus on the scenery. Bad because I couldn't even SEE the scenery. ;)


  8. Hi Sonja,

    Such a nice compliment! Thank you. I definitely hope you will be able to ride it someday. You would definitely do it justice riding and photography.


  9. Steel CupCake:

    with boiling temperatures you were lucky to be cooler and have to put on your warm weather gear. Easier to put on than to take off. Our temperatures have moderated and it is a welcome relief to have spitting drizzle for a change.

    congrats on riding the whole BRP in a weekend, minus of course the exits and entrances, so technically you are right. You have missed a few feet. You could always exit from the entrance.

    I always worry about fog and lack of visibility. glad you made it home safely

    Riding the Wet Coast

  10. The first time you ride in the fog and they don't paint fog lines on the road? That's what they're for...fog! Glad you were able to complete your goal safely and learned a new tip to riding in the process.
    Thanks for the ride.