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  1. #1
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    Blue Ridge Parkway to Philly in two weeks?!?

    I'm looking to do my first extended tour starting this May. My plan is to start in North Carolina and head north to a commitment I've got in Philadelphia at the end of the month (and then further on after that). I'd love to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting from the NC/Virginia border.

    I will have exactly two weeks of riding time to get from here to Philly, and can't leave any earlier due to other commitments. I mapped it quickly online, and the entire trip is ~500 miles using Google's bike mapping function (aside from the BRP and Skyline Drive, I assume I'll actually be riding other roads than what Google suggested, so will likely be a bit more than 500 miles). BRP and Skyline, from my starting point to its end, is about 260 miles.

    I'll be alone and unsupported, and will be camping as much as possible. This will be my first extended and unsupported tour. I'll be using an 80's trek 620, and I expect roughly 30 lbs of gear. I have done supported tours, including two 300-miles-in-3-days tours, but those were in the midwest, carrying no gear, with rest stops every 15 or so miles. So I've got experience riding long distances, but not touring per se, and not in the mountains.

    Is this time frame feasible? Ideally I'd like to have more time, but this is just the way my schedule is working right now. 500 miles / 14 days is ~36 miles per day, which is totally fine... So I'm thinking it'll be ok, but these are the mountains, and again this is my first stab at real-deal touring. Thoughts? Cautions? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    All those ups at 4 mph have downs at 25. You'll probably get to Philly early and stress free. Might even squeeze in a rest day.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nebuer16 View Post
    I'm looking to do my first extended tour starting this May. My plan is to start in North Carolina and head north to a commitment I've got in Philadelphia at the end of the month (and then further on after that). I'd love to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting from the NC/Virginia border.

    I will have exactly two weeks of riding time to get from here to Philly, and can't leave any earlier due to other commitments. I mapped it quickly online, and the entire trip is ~500 miles using Google's bike mapping function (aside from the BRP and Skyline Drive, I assume I'll actually be riding other roads than what Google suggested, so will likely be a bit more than 500 miles). BRP and Skyline, from my starting point to its end, is about 260 miles.

    I'll be alone and unsupported, and will be camping as much as possible. This will be my first extended and unsupported tour. I'll be using an 80's trek 620, and I expect roughly 30 lbs of gear. I have done supported tours, including two 300-miles-in-3-days tours, but those were in the midwest, carrying no gear, with rest stops every 15 or so miles. So I've got experience riding long distances, but not touring per se, and not in the mountains.

    Is this time frame feasible? Ideally I'd like to have more time, but this is just the way my schedule is working right now. 500 miles / 14 days is ~36 miles per day, which is totally fine... So I'm thinking it'll be ok, but these are the mountains, and again this is my first stab at real-deal touring. Thoughts? Cautions? Thanks!
    Go into this with your eyes wide open. Your supported tours are completely different from solo loaded touring. You are responsible for everything you do...or don't do...on a tour. You are in charge of logistics, route planning, cooking, cleaning and riding. It's not impossible nor even all the daunting but it is very different.

    I would suggest you be open to route changes. The Blue Ridge may be pretty but it is on top of the ridge so there's a lot of going up and down. There are also few services up there so you have to come down off the heights to get supplies and then climb back up. Don't be fooled into thinking that the Appalachia mountains are 'little' mountains. They may lack altitude but they make it up in attitude. I've not done the Blue Ridge directly but I did do a tour in Appalachia that crossed over those mountains and they are brutal climbs. I've done other ridge lines on tour and they tend to require climbing all day long. It gets old. Even with downhills, you are just facing climbing to the next peak.

    I'd suggest carrying a smart phone. Don't carry it for emergencies...you are in charge of problem solving as well...but for the information. If the Blue Ridge is anything like the Natchez Trace, there is no information in the park. No signs directing you to services, no signs telling you where you might find food, nothing. A smart phone will help you find food and services in the middle of the woods. It will also let you plan options if you find that riding on the tops of mountains just isn't for you.

    500 miles in 2 weeks is doable but don't make your life harder than you need it to be. Good luck.

    Also
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Get a copy of this book -- Bicycling the Blueridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and the Blueridge Parkway. It will tell you everything you need to know and only costs about $10 in paperback.

    The BRP has few services and they are spread out. That means you have to schedule your stops at locations where there are inns or campgrounds, or drop down off the parkway -- which you want to avoid. The steepest and longest climbs by far are the roads leading up to or down from the parkway. So, if you have to drop down to town to food or lodging, you will pay dearly on the ride back up. The parkway itself has a lot of long climbs but they aren't exceedingly steep. The pavement is rather rough and the road is narrow with no paved shoulder. There are very few flat sections, so you are riding uphill or down almost all the time. You should plan to carry plenty of water because places to get it are also spread out.

    The park service requires cyclists to have lights (front and rear), for good reason because the road has a number of tunnels. Fog is also common, particularly in the mornings. Campgrounds do not have showers, to my knowledge, but the inns along the parkway are very nice and have restaurants as well. Traffic can be heavy, particularly on weekends in nice weather. Speaking of weather, temperatures are considerably colder than lower elevations and winds can be much higher. It is not unusual to have snow, sleet or freezing rain well into late spring. It also rains more often at high elevations.

  5. #5
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    I live in Philly. Do you have a link to a map of your planned route?

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    When? This time of year the Skyline Drive may or may not be open due to weather conditions. Campgrounds are not open etc.

    The advice about no/limited sevice up top is right on. The ride down to get supplies terrifyingly fast, the ride up, as stated- brutal.

    Once off the Drive the riding is no cakewalk. That area of VA into Md and SE Pa is all rollers. They can sap the life out of the strongest legs. Again ,just so you know what you are getting yourself into to.

    Good luck, have fun!!!!
    I'm just trying to be the person my dog thinks I am.

  7. #7
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    Get a copy of this book -- Bicycling the Blueridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and the Blueridge Parkway. It will tell you everything you need to know and only costs about $10 in paperback.

    The BRP has few services and they are spread out. That means you have to schedule your stops at locations where there are inns or campgrounds, or drop down off the parkway -- which you want to avoid. The steepest and longest climbs by far are the roads leading up to or down from the parkway. So, if you have to drop down to town to food or lodging, you will pay dearly on the ride back up. The parkway itself has a lot of long climbs but they aren't exceedingly steep. The pavement is rather rough and the road is narrow with no paved shoulder. There are very few flat sections, so you are riding uphill or down almost all the time. You should plan to carry plenty of water because places to get it are also spread out.

    The park service requires cyclists to have lights (front and rear), for good reason because the road has a number of tunnels. Fog is also common, particularly in the mornings. Campgrounds do not have showers, to my knowledge, but the inns along the parkway are very nice and have restaurants as well. Traffic can be heavy, particularly on weekends in nice weather. Speaking of weather, temperatures are considerably colder than lower elevations and winds can be much higher. It is not unusual to have snow, sleet or freezing rain well into late spring. It also rains more often at high elevations.
    Great book and good advice!

    EDIT: But it would be much more fun if you could spend the whole summer on the BRP! As it is - the weather will potentially make or break your trip.
    Last edited by Burton; 03-02-13 at 02:54 PM.

  8. #8
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    It's doable. Worst case is you deviate to DC on the W&OD(?) rail trail and take the train up to Philly saving a couple of days or so. You could also catch it in other places, i.e. Harpers Ferry I think, if you wanted to leave the bike and come back after the engagement to finish your ride. Yes, the ride back up to the BRP is tough but there are several places to eat on top so if you plan deligently you should not have to get off the route that much. My only advise is to be in fairly good shape as that will make the riding much more enjoyable.
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  9. #9
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    Just a thought.

    If you alter your route to start in Damuscus, you could follow USBR 76 northeast which roughly parallels Interstate 81 and have adequate services for your trip. Pick up a map from Adventure Cycling that describes those services. Eventually, 76 will climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and follow it for some 30ish miles where you will connect with the Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. Once inside the park, there are several campgrounds and places for water and groceries without having to drop down into the valley for food and water.

    Like stated before, make sure you check with the park service to ensure road through SNP has not been closed. If they have, you could just continue on 76 eastward and pick up the East Coast Greenway, which will take you directly into Philly. Check the web as the ECG has an online PDF for the routes in VA and PA. At least following 76 and the ECG, will give you a tried and true route with plenty of services available all the way to your destination.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the advice, this is really helpful! I've got a couple days free next week, so will head out to spend a night and two days riding on the BRP in North Carolina to see what I'm getting into...

    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    Get a copy of this book -- Bicycling the Blueridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and the Blueridge Parkway. It will tell you everything you need to know and only costs about $10 in paperback.
    Yup, actually ordered it about 5 minutes before starting this thread! Should be here on tuesday.

    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz
    I live in Philly. Do you have a link to a map of your planned route?
    No, I do not yet have a planned route other than the BRP. Any suggestions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Burton
    But it would be much more fun if you could spend the whole summer on the BRP! As it is - the weather will potentially make or break your trip.
    Yes it would, but unfortunately that won't do with my schedule. However, after I get into Philly, I have no other plans until September. I think I'm going to work my way up to Maine and potentially tool around in Canada before coming back down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fullcount
    If they have, you could just continue on 76 eastward and pick up the East Coast Greenway, which will take you directly into Philly.
    Thanks for the alternate routes, I'll look into those. The ECB might even be a good option provided I can get through Skyline without problems.

  11. #11
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    Sounds like a great trip. I live in Philly and went to college in the Shenandoah Valley not far from Skyline Drive. I've been wanting to ride from Philly to Harrisonburg whenever I get the time. I'd be really interested in your route from the northern end of Skyline Drive to Philadelphia, especially where/if you find places to wild camp.
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  12. #12
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Couple other books I picked up myself that aren't bicycling specific but that do outline some of the attractions on the Blueridge that might interest you are:

    Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge -A Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway & Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    (In short - there are over 100 waterfalls of various sizes along that route - most not visible from the parkway itself)

    Walking the BlueRidge - A guide to the Trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway (In short - there are over 175 trails within the Blue Ridge Parkway - including lots of very short 5 or 10 minute walks that, in spring, take you through tunnels of blooming rhododendrons to some great lookouts and rest stops.

    My versions are kinda old, but I've done that route a half dozen times and would've missed out on some really great experiences if I hadn't read up ahead of time and put some specific things on the agenda.

  13. #13
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    It's a challenging tour you've picked. It'll boil down to your fitness, which none of your readers can assess remotely. PacTour blows through the BRP area on a supported tour at 100 miles per day; more modest supported tours average about 50 miles per day. You'll need to be fit to finish while carrying your gear.

    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    Get a copy of this book -- Bicycling the Blueridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and the Blueridge Parkway. It will tell you everything you need to know and only costs about $10 in paperback.

    The BRP has few services and they are spread out. That means you have to schedule your stops at locations where there are inns or campgrounds, or drop down off the parkway -- which you want to avoid. The steepest and longest climbs by far are the roads leading up to or down from the parkway. So, if you have to drop down to town to food or lodging, you will pay dearly on the ride back up. The parkway itself has a lot of long climbs but they aren't exceedingly steep. ... You should plan to carry plenty of water because places to get it are also spread out.
    Getting that book is probably the best equipment investment you can make. Pay attention to the profiles and where you can get water.

    Quote Originally Posted by TulsaJohn View Post
    It's doable. Worst case is you deviate to DC on the W&OD(?) rail trail and take the train up to Philly saving a couple of days or so.
    I think it would take 1-2 days to divert from the northern end of Skyline Drive into DC -- National airport, one Metro ride to Union Station, 2 more hours on teh train and you're into Philly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fullcount View Post
    If you alter your route to start in Damuscus, you could follow USBR 76 northeast which roughly parallels Interstate 81 and have adequate services for your trip. Pick up a map from Adventure Cycling that describes those services. Eventually, 76 will climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and follow it for some 30ish miles where you will connect with the Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. Once inside the park, there are several campgrounds and places for water and groceries without having to drop down into the valley for food and water.
    That's a nice ride from Damascus to Waynesboro, but it's got a totally different character. I love the Parkway, and with a bit of planning you can make it from the start to grocery stores in Floyd, to Vinton, to Waynesboro, and into Front Royal so you only have to carry a couple days' supplies at a time.

  14. #14
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    In you ride through SNP, check out Adventure Cycling's Atlantic Coast Route Section 3. That will take you from Rockville, MD to Conshohocken, which is about 12 miles from Philly. The way in from Conshohocken into the city is a nice way to get into the center of town. Most of it can be done on tails/rec. paths and a road that is closed to cars if you arrive during the weekend. Some modification can be made if there is not sufficient camping in that part of PA, a lot of which is through Amish country. Routing to French Creek State Park is one such option. Once your plans firm up I could probably plot you a route from the Lancaster, PA area into town. Early to mid-May is usually the best time to ride through that area. Once June rolls around, it can be horribly hot and humid with little shade.

    Google bike directions from Front Royal, at the north end of SNP, to Rockville gives an option using the C&O Trail and one using the W&OD trail.

    Note that only two camgrounds in SNP are open before May 24th:

    http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisi...g-schedule.htm

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