Cloud Riding (Gatlinburg, TN- Charlottesville, VA)
Trip Start Jul 17, 2012
41Trip End Aug 22, 2012
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What a great start to the day - but a day with two parts all the same - the accommodation in Gatlinburg was great, and you can see from the dinner we had at the Smoky Mountains Brewery the night before, it was an early night so we could have an early get away to make it to Charlottesville, VA - a total distance of 470 miles (760km) via the extended route we were taking
An early rise, coffee and fruit for breakfast and we were on the road by 8am; our aim was to complete portions of the Foothills Parkway before moving on to sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway via Asheville, NC. A very pleasant ride out of Gatlinburg in the morning - very different to the previous day - high summer and high season equated to a lot of traffic on the road in the afternoon
The Foothills Parkway was a great way to warm-up and start the day. Magnificent road condition, great scenery and no traffic. In no time at all it seemed it was over and we were rolling into Asheville. Now, being summer Asheville was pretty as a picture, but if you can ever make it there in autumn (Fall) you will be blown away by the colours. A quick stop at the Visitor's Centre to pick up the latest maps and check road conditions and closures on the Blue Ridge Parkway (none) - yeah!!! and we were on our way....well almost. Being Australian and with a couple of Australiana items hanging off the bike - we sometimes attract a bit of curiosity and talkative, friendly locals....anyway, we are just about to set off and a Utilities contractor is in a work pick-up next to us and starts having a yarn and is inquiring about our trip. We get to talking about the "Tail of the Dragon" and he asks us if we noticed all the red stripes on the trees on the route...... "errr No" we replied - "Well" he says, " they represent all the fatality locations along the road where people have come off their bikes." Cliff and I make some more small talk about concentrating on the road and not even noticing the red striped tress.....he wished us a good, safe ridehere
We took a great road out of Asheville via Town Mountain Rd - man - what an awesome ride!! The area is primarily residential with 35mph speed limit - which is plenty, the road is twisty, sustained corners and the occasional blind corner - if your passing through Asheville on a bike, this road is definitely worth the trip enroute to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Well after the great warm-up we finally made it to the start of the Blue Ridge, a slow climb and some easy turns greeted us as we just sat back, relaxed and let the bikes do all the work. It was a beautiful day and both Cliff and I decided to just wear our leather vests with long sleeve shirts underneath to keep cool, but to also to enjoy the ride without overheating. What a beautiful ride it was - long lazy turns, a few small twistys and lookouts all over the place allowing you to stop (if you wanted to) or to simply enjoy the view as you traversed. Unfortunately the heat of the valley floor meant that our GoPro camera fogged up when we came upon the most surreal of sights. as we reached one of the ridge peaks around Mt. Mitchell - a group of low-lying clouds were being blown up and over the ridge as we passed through. To be biking as this mass of cloud, moisture and mist roll and swirl around you is quite surreal - the video doesn't do the view justice but you will get the idea.
Well, like everything - all good things must come to and end and soon we needed to descend in order to try and keep on time to make Charlottesville, VA before dark and before we were too knackered to continue. You could feel the heat rise as we descended back down to the valley floor to pick up the small back roads near Marion, Morganton, Hickory enroute to Greensboro. The heat rose and fatigue started to set in - we avoided the Interstate at all costs as the 70mph+ speeds of the SUVs, trucks and cars can be a bit much when you have such a great start. The ride continued and we took US 29N to Charlottesville, VA. As far as a means to an end - it was a good road, dual lane, 55mph speed limit (or more) and light traffic. Good thing we had some great tunes on the headsets to keep us focused until Charlottesville. We got in safely to our accommodation, quite tired and managed to enjoy a swim in the pool - an added bonus that we didn't know about. I got to thinking that we were still only four days into the trip......
***PICTURES AND VIDEOS TO FOLLOW VERY SOON***
A day of two rides today. The first half was through some outstanding mountain country and also to date the only tunnels that we have had to go through which on the Interstate were ok as they were well lit and dry while the mountain ones were dark and slippery and spooked me a little. Sadly these mountain tunnels also fogged up the camera meaning that the section where we rode through fast blowing clouds across the top of the mountain didn't really get captured on film. Sad as it was really beautiful and a massive 3 to 4 minutes of riding.
Lunch was at a Taco Shop which was cheap and tased really good, "Taco Bell"
The second half of the ride was pretty much hot and boring on main Interstate highways which we only ride where required but you can cover some good distances where you average about 80 MPH which = 128KPH.
We got to the hotel and had a swim then dinner inhouse which was pretty good, me - garlic prawn pasta and Glen - pepper steak salad. Then chatted to a Scottish guy for a drink at the bar before having a great sleep. Cheers, Cliffy