Saturday, July 6, 2013

On to the Blue Ridge Parkway

After a growly night, we woke to a cloudy day. Left the campground about 11:00 (hey, we're on vacation). Ran through some rain and occasional fog. An hour later we left Shenandoah National Park and began the Blue Ridge Parkway. Only 469 miles to go.

Jean wanted to post a letter, so we stopped at the Visitor Center at the beginning of the Parkway. We found out that there is no mail service on the Parkway. So we pressed on in periods of rain and fog.

After about 60 miles, we arrived at the James River Visitor Center --- closed thanks to the Sequester. This is where Virginia's longest river cuts through the Blue Ridge, and is the lowest point on the Parkway (at 694 feet). After a long, ten-mile hill, we were at the highest elevation on the Virginia portion of the Parkway --- 3950 feet. Not a good stretch to be riding a bicycle.

We checked in at the Peaks of Otter campground, about 40 minutes from our home in Forest. The campground is on the side of Sharp Top mountain, a very steep slope. We wondered how that would work out. The campsites are basically carved into the side of the mountain, and were surprisingly level. We shared the campground with a large number of Airstream trailers, and at least four "Land Yachts," large Class A's by Airstream. They were on a Caravan, and we saw license plates from all over.

Next day we dropped off the Parkway to go to a nearby Walmart that we knew about and got some groceries and ice. We also picked up some more fuel, since there is no fuel available on the mountain. Back on the Parkway, we found that this stretch is more like a country road. Much of the Parkway passes through National Forests. Along the sections that don't, the Park property is only a few hundred yards wide. Here you often see farms butting up to the Park, and sometimes other roads running alongside. It is interesting to go from the "wilderness" of the park properties, to the modern, but still very rural, countryside.

Spent the night at Rocky Knob campground. This is probably our favorite campground in the Blue Ridge; it has widely-spaced campsites separated by broad areas of grass and trees. While walking around, Gene spotted a luna moth on the map of the campground. He hadn't seen one in several  years.

After talking for a while with a Canadian couple, we had supper and read until bed time.

Next day we drove less and spent more time at exhibits. The first was Mabry Mill.

This iconic old mill has been used to exemplify rural beauty in many places, but it was built here on 
the Blue Ridge a little over a century ago. The exhibit has grown since Gene was last here several years ago, and is worth spending some time.

Besides grinding corn, the water wheel also powers a sawmill and a wood shop, where Ed Mabry built a special jig saw for cutting out sections (fellows) for wooden wagon wheels in one pass.

After a delicious lunch at the restaurant, we pressed on to the Blue Ridge Music Center, just before the North Carolina line. It was late by the time we got there, and the local musicians just had a half-hour left in their gig. We had put on our dancing shoes, but they didn't play anything we could dance to, so we just relaxed and enjoyed some good old-time mountain music.

We looked around the little mountain music museum, and then pressed on into North Carolina. More about that tomorrow.

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