Singing the blues...

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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway 1 This is what we came for...the Parkway stretches 469 miles from North Carolina up to Virginia (It seems to have its official start in Virginia as that is mile zero then counts up to 469 as you travel south) connecting the Smoky Mts National Park with the Shenandoah National Park. A road designed to be driven at a slow pace, time to stop, time to enjoy.
Having read umpteen pages on line and picked up what literature we could find, we were still a little nervous about undertaking the parkway in Bree and being able to find campsites that would take a rig 34' long. We know we will be dry camping but that's OK. Some tell us "Oh yes you'll be fine" but we know that there are several tunnels with low clearances and that it is a narrow road with a speed limit of 45 and not much room for manouvre. Could we negotiate the tunnels if we were able to drive through them in the centre of the road? - Probably. Did we want to stress the brakes and ourselves? - Probably not. Anyhow we decided to drive the few miles to the first visitors centre in Toad and ask advice. Did I mention it was a holiday week end? We drove to Cherokee where the parkway begins, between the road works, the traffic jams (there is a Cherokee run casino here) and the lack of signage we got very hot and a little bothered! However we made it and sought some expert advice. I have to say that in all our travels we have found Park staff very knowledgeable and extremely helpful, but our confidence was about to be shaken. Though we did discover that the lowest clearance is 11'3" (Bree is 12'6") and although the tunnel is higher in the middle the tunnels are curved and some maybe 1000' long. So that would be a NO then. The lowest tunnels are at this southern section, so we decided to continue on and  drive this bit in Toad. Those tunnels were LOW, they even seemed low in Toad for goodness sake! But here's a thing: going north, the Big Witch tunnel was 11'3" it had a sign to say so, turning round and looking at it from the other side it had a sign saying 13' 9" Doh! Explanations on a post card please...
Incidentally there are no signs at the entrance to the Parkway indicating that there are low clearances, I know it's famous but that does seem strange. Anyhow, we had a very pleasant drive reaching the highest point along the entire road after about 40 miles.
No one is in a hurry and there are lots of look out points where you can get spectacular views of the mountains. We called in at the next visitors centre to enquire about campgrounds, but sadly they weren't much help on that score...we did discover that a section of the road ahead was closed, no there hadn't been any warning signs about that either!
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