Blue Ridge Parkway
Saw a show the other night on "Mountain Highways" & they had a story about the Blue Ridge Parkway. It looks beautiful. I know very little about the east coast.
Have many members ridden this? What is it like? I think they said it was ~400 miles in length. Shoulders? Places to stay along the way? Opportunities for credit card camping? Traffic? What would be the best time of year to ride? Is there a best segment to ride? How hilly?
Rode most of the Parkway with my wife in 1981 on our way from Atlanta to New Hampshire. It's on our list of things to do on a tandem someday. It was fantastic then.
I remember the Northern section in Virginia down to Carolina being pretty sparse along the parkway itself. I have not ridden it but while driving along it I looked at with a riders eye. Plenty of hills, variable traffic but mostly light. For the sections I have been on, I felt like I was trapped. A wonderful place to be trapped but you have very few options to bail.
From another website.
You may have ridden through the Cascades in Washington state or the Rockies in Colorado and figure you're cut out for a long ride through the Blue Ridge. And you may be right. But mountain roads in the east are older and tend to be steeper than mountain roads in the west.
"There are places where the grades are about 10 percent. So if it's practical, visit the parkway for a weekend and do a day ride or two. If you can make it up Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia (a 3,300-foot elevation gain over 13 miles southbound) or Waterrock Knob in North Carolina (a 2,500-foot vertical climb over 5 miles southbound) you can probably handle anything the parkway can dish out."
"One of the drawbacks to a bike tour on the parkway is that lodges, campgrounds and other places to get water are few and far between. Towns off the parkway are often down long hills, and miles away, so pitstops for food and water can be inconvenient and time consuming. Keep this in mind as you plan your ride".
A great place to ride, you'll just have to plan for potentially longer lengths of little/no support with hilly riding.
The Tailwind Tandem Club does an annual Blue Ridge Weekend and their trips are chronicled here: http://www.tailwindtandemclub.com/interest.htm
We've ridden several sections of the BRP between the Pisgah National Forest and Asheville and it's very challenging. The vistas (when it's not raining or foggy) are breath taking, but traffic can be bothersome as it's heavily traveled by tourists who are often times distracted and who have poor motoring skills. Getting to and from the BRP in this part of NC is usually a bit of a climb or fast descent and there aren't any services along the Parkway. Again, at least in the mid-section of NC the terrain is quite challenging even along the parkway.
Masiman - thanks for the link. Though it sounds like the scenery is great, the route itself doesn't look very bike friendly.
I've done from Big Meadows on the Skyline Drive to Cherokee on the BRP. It is one of the best biking roads anywhere. Best time of year to tour is Sept. after school starts and before the leaves change. But really anytime from May to Sept is good.
one of the world's great cycling roads. no doubt.
I rode the BRP from end to end, connecting to Skyline Drive up north.. on my motorcycle though. Not an easy route for tandems IMO.
The greatest difficulty sounds like you have to descend to towns below the road (& then climb back up) for food & lodging.
You can get an idea of the profile from various sections people have posted at Bikely.com:
Might have to look around a bit to find the whole route, or, if you're curious this winter, trace it yourself and upload the results; some of the routes posted seem to cut corners, etc.
I know little about tandems, but I think the following applies to all bicyclists.
By bicycle you spend about 80-90% of your time climbing on the BRP. This is not exageration. Hills take forever to get up, then you fly down them at 45mph in a few seconds. Repeat 1000X for the full 469mi length of BRP.
Nearly all services avail are a good ways off the BRP. Frequently requiring great descents (then later great climbs).
Camping opportunities directly off BRP are fairly limited and not spaced out well. These tend to be either full RV sites or primitive (wide spot in the trail with maybe a spring nearby), nothing in between.
BRP is driven by 2 types of motorists
1. those using it as a shortcut across town - these folks are speeding, usually in large vehicles.
2. tourists, also speeding (usually), distracted by views, family and passengers, the latest disney dvd soundtrach etc.
Most of the BRP has narrow (or no) shoulders that are often not in good condition.
Despite these factors, many still view the BRP as a nice ride due to the views. There are literally hundreds of scenic views and hiking trails in close proximity to the BRP. It would take you a lifetime to fully take in all these recreational opportunities. The southern end of BRP takes you into Great Smoky Mtns nat park, which is a whole other universe of outdoor rec. Most visitors never leave the car or see even 1% of these areas to which I allude, which makes the whole thing seem a little sad after you've spent time at the BRP.
Timing wise, traffic peaks during "leaf season", which is RIGHT NOW. Probably the worst time to ride unless you ride early/late in day. Views are often obscured by weather too. Nothing more frustrating than saying to a pal "yeh, there in the distance is VA, TN, SC...uh you just can't see past my pointing finger through the the fog/haze".
In winter after the tourists are mostly gone, and it gets cold enough to take some of the haze out of the air, the views open up, you get some sense of solitude. It can be nice then on the BRP. Actually, dead of winter probably the best. Except for the freezing part. And ice on the roadway. Many sections of BRP are closed in winter to motor vehicles, but kept open to bicycle, foot and (occasionally) ski traffic.
Here a "bicycling the brp guide" with keen attention paid to the climbing requirements:
Here's the last tour I read of the BRP. The author apparently camped illegally throughout the trip, although its not obvious from reading journal. If you get caught I think they will arrest you (BRP has its own LE staff, so you can imagine how they pass their time/justify their positions).
I've ridden a number of different sections. While there are no shoulders, there also are no commercial vehicles.
Weekdays, non leaf season there will be very little traffic. Even on weekends there tends to be very little traffic in the morning.
There's lots of climbing, but it's all pretty moderate, typically 4-5% grade.
Definitely a nice place to ride.
Now if you want a great place for a Mountain ride, do the Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia. Everything that's positive about the BRP, and virtually no traffic.