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  1. #1
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    Blue Ridge Parkway - Am I insane??

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    Very shortly, a bunch of us are going to tackle the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee, NC, to Waynesboro, VA. We're doing a self-supported trip - staying in hotels along the way.
    I've been plotting our route on Bikely, and I'm beginning to think we're all just a little bit nuts for tackling this.
    Here's what our second day looks like. (Be sure to click on "Show" then "Elevation profile".) Let me spell it out: 75 miles...10,100 feet of climbing. And that's after the first day, which is 85 miles, with 10,700 feet of climbing.
    I haven't plotted any of the days yet beyond that. We intend to do the ride in 6 days. (all told, that's 469 miles (plus the miles to/from hotels), with 49,000 feet of elevation gain. Oh...and that doesn't include the side trip on day 2 up Mount Mitchell....the highest point east of the Mississippi...that our ride leader wants to do!
    Frankly, I'm beginning to doubt I have the stomach for it.
    Can a bunch of reasonably fit cyclists honestly do this and live to tell the tale?? We'd be doing this, of course, at a touring pace, with vans following in support (for bailing out, if needed).
    Can someone who's done this road tell me what I'm in for????
    Thanks!
    Last edited by 7rider; 08-04-2010 at 06:16 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Have you included any rest days?

    Would this be enjoyable or would it be torture?

    You are the only one who can truly answer your question.
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  3. #3
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    No rest days - but there is some wiggle room in the schedule for bad weather or other catastrophes.
    It would be very enjoyable....if it's not torturous.

    I'm curious to know grades (I can slog away for a while on a 5-6% grade, but spare me the 12's, thank you), traffic levels. How seizure causing are the tunnels (there's one 5-mile stretch with 5 short (<500') tunnels.)?

    Any other "gotta know before you go's"??
    Last edited by 7rider; 08-04-2010 at 06:29 PM.
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  4. #4
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    I've only done parts of it by moto, but what I've seen of the BRP is that the grades are relatively shallow, but any time you get off the Parkway to go to your hotel or whatever, you're going to be in for some of the steepest stuff the Appalachians have to offer.

    You didn't mention motor homes, either. That's probably the worst thing about the BRP. Traffic really depends on season and day of the week, since there's no commercial traffic. Instead, there are half-blind retirees without CDLs driving vehicles almost as big as semis. If you're planning to do it during the fall foliage season, I just wouldn't. This time of year, on a weekday, traffic should be pretty light.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 08-05-2010 at 03:05 AM.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    Can a bunch of reasonably fit cyclists honestly do this and live to tell the tale??
    Yes. If your definition of reasonably fit matches mine That is, able to ride the distance without elevation and can pace themselves up sustained grades.

    I rode the BRP from Blowing Rock to Cherokee. We only did 60 mile days (my normal ride distance at the time) and we did do Mt. Mitchell. Not only lived to tell the tale, but want to go back and do the whole thing.

    So...gradients? Try 5-8% not 4-6%. The BRP is exempt from the 4-6% gradient ruling of federal roadways. So, put on that 29 in the rear or the 8% stretches will hurt. That said, you're not looking at 10 mile hills, but 2-4 miles and then a rest. Oh, and the road to Mt. Mitchell has 10-11% in spots, but once you reach the restaurant, the rest of the climb is shallow.

    Traffic? We went in fall color and didn't have problems except around Asheville. There, the BRP is used by commuters and it got a little busy. Most cars gave us room. There was an occasional close pass, but alas, that's every ride I ever ride. Because of the tunnels, we always had rear lights on.

    Fog, however, was an issue. We cancelled one day of riding because the fog was so thick you couldn't see the other side of the parking lot. For safety reasons we all shuttled.

    What else? It was an extraordinary trip and I really do want to do the whole thing some day....

    My pictures....
    http://www.cassandrathorn.com/PhotoRoot/2007/2007BRNC/

  6. #6
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    Thanks, Thorn.
    This is just the sort of info I'm looking (hoping?) for! I've got a few 65-100 mile rides in already this season, so mileage (for flats) is not too much of a worry (except for 6 days in a row of them). It's the elevation day after day after day....

    Do you mind if I send your photo link to my co-riders (for a little inspiration)?
    They're beautiful (and a little ominous with the fog).
    Re: the fog....is that more common in the fall - like October - vs. earlier in the season...late summer, say? Or is it likely to occur at any time?

    I'm still debating the bike. On my road bike, the biggest cassette my rear derailleur can handle is a 27 (it currently has a 25 with a 34 up front). However, I SHOULD have my new commuter by the time this trip starts - basically a flat bar road bike with a 32 on the back. And disc brakes for the screaming descents! I'm debating taking that bike on the ride. But it gives me precious little time to break it in and get used to it before I"m placing a lot of demands on it.
    Last edited by 7rider; 08-05-2010 at 05:15 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    I've got a few 65-100 mile rides in already this season, so mileage (for flats) is not too much of a worry (except for 6 days in a row of them). It's the elevation day after day after day....
    Just remember to pack those compression socks for wearing to dinner. Seriously. I didn't have them for that trip, but since then I always wear them. Even our strong climbers got sore.

    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    Do you mind if I send your photo link to my co-riders (for a little inspiration)?
    They're beautiful (and a little ominous with the fog).
    Share away. Personally, I love the fog shots now--at the time it was a little frustrating getting to the top of a climb and not getting to savor the view.

    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    Re: the fog....is that more common in the fall - like October - vs. earlier in the season...late summer, say? Or is it likely to occur at any time?
    I really don't know. I do know that the group we went with does 2 trips a year (spring and fall) and hasn't had the fog since. My guess, tho, is that it isn't completely uncommon, at least in the southernmost sections. After all, it is just outside the Smokey Mountains.

    That said, we have a tendancy to always seem to attract unusual weather when we travel. Rain is the norm for us, even in the dessert and in areas under drought. Heck, we saw rain in Death Valley!

    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    I'm still debating the bike. On my road bike, the biggest cassette my rear derailleur can handle is a 27 (it currently has a 25 with a 34 up front). However, I SHOULD have my new commuter by the time this trip starts - basically a flat bar road bike with a 32 on the back. And disc brakes for the screaming descents! I'm debating taking that bike on the ride. But it gives me precious little time to break it in and get used to it before I"m placing a lot of demands on it.
    As a flatlander, the 34-27 would concern me, but I'm not that strong of a rider. With continuous days of hills, I'd be tempted by the commuter even if it was a bit heavy and new-ish. On day 3, having a gear that normally is too low might provide a nice break and let you enjoy the scenery.

    If it is any consolation, I took a brand new touring bike on a trip once. I took delivery of the bike in February and there were absolutely no days to shake it out before we left. It worked out fine--but then my LBS is really meticulous.

    Oh, are you staying, perchance in Little Switzerland? If so, get the GPS coordinates of the hotel--there is one that is 20 feet off the parkway if you carry your bike over the grass or 3 miles off the parkway on twisty roads with large trucks if you follow road directions. Trust me. Take the grass option.

    But, really, I'm jealous.....and looking forward to your ride report.

  8. #8
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    You're nuts!! Kidding. You are going to do great. You are STRONG. I can't wait to hear all about it.


    Quote Originally Posted by 7rider View Post
    Very shortly, a bunch of us are going to tackle the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee, NC, to Waynesboro, VA. We're doing a self-supported trip - staying in hotels along the way.
    I've been plotting our route on Bikely, and I'm beginning to think we're all just a little bit nuts for tackling this.
    Here's what our second day looks like. (Be sure to click on "Show" then "Elevation profile".) Let me spell it out: 75 miles...10,100 feet of climbing. And that's after the first day, which is 85 miles, with 10,700 feet of climbing.
    I haven't plotted any of the days yet beyond that. We intend to do the ride in 6 days. (all told, that's 469 miles (plus the miles to/from hotels), with 49,000 feet of elevation gain. Oh...and that doesn't include the side trip on day 2 up Mount Mitchell....the highest point east of the Mississippi...that our ride leader wants to do!
    Frankly, I'm beginning to doubt I have the stomach for it.
    Can a bunch of reasonably fit cyclists honestly do this and live to tell the tale?? We'd be doing this, of course, at a touring pace, with vans following in support (for bailing out, if needed).
    Can someone who's done this road tell me what I'm in for????
    Thanks!
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thorn View Post
    Just remember to pack those compression socks for wearing to dinner. Seriously. I didn't have them for that trip, but since then I always wear them. Even our strong climbers got sore.
    Thanks. Don't own them..but we do have a massage stick (and a modified rolling pin courtesy of DivingBiker's ingenuity) to rub the daily rides out of our legs. Those will for sure be packed for the trip!



    Quote Originally Posted by Thorn View Post
    As a flatlander, the 34-27 would concern me, but I'm not that strong of a rider. With continuous days of hills, I'd be tempted by the commuter even if it was a bit heavy and new-ish. On day 3, having a gear that normally is too low might provide a nice break and let you enjoy the scenery.
    Yeah, I'm kind of leaning towards the commuter. It will be heavier than the road bike, but not by much. And that 32 sounds appealing! If I take it, I'd let my LBS know my intentions and they'll be sure to it's in tip-top shape. I'd have about 10 days to commute and ride the heck out of it before we left.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorn View Post
    Oh, are you staying, perchance in Little Switzerland? If so, get the GPS coordinates of the hotel--there is one that is 20 feet off the parkway if you carry your bike over the grass or 3 miles off the parkway on twisty roads with large trucks if you follow road directions. Trust me. Take the grass option.

    But, really, I'm jealous.....and looking forward to your ride report.
    No - Linville Falls, just beyond. Is Little Switzerland a good place for a lunch break?

    I'll be taking lots of pix, so I plan to have a big report!
    2007 Seven ID8 - Bontrager InForm
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  10. #10
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    No, nothing in Little Switzerland that I remember. But the road off the parkway was so busy that there could have been something interesting, but I never saw it.

    In fact, the hotel was not much to write home about either. But, if by some chance you were using it, I thought I'd save the disappointment of that road.

    Enjoy your trip!

  11. #11
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    7 - When will you be there? (or did I miss that?). A couple of us are going to be doing the northern part in a couple weeks ~ August 21ish. Only for one day, but still, it would be wonderful to hook up.

    I have not ridden that far south, but the northern parts are wonderful. Climbs on the Parkway there (Peaks of Otter & north) are 5 - 7%, but mostly 5.....longish (3 - 5 miles) but equal downhills. The surface is wonderful for the most part; traffic is light and cycling friendly.

    Oakleaf was absolutely correct - if you venture off the BRP to go to a hotel or into a town, you are in for some steep stuff - short (3 - 5 miles maybe?) but STEEP. Keep in mind that most of those roads are cart paths they decided to pave way back when. Grading roads? Huh??? That's why I prefer training here, then riding distances in the Rockies. Once the engineers got that far west they had figured out how to put roads over the mountains.
    "When I'm on my bike I forget about things like age. I just have fun." Kathy Sessler

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  12. #12
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    My husband did the whole BRP from N to S last year. Here is a link to his journal... see the last few days for the BRP part. http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/2009Retirementride I met him at the end of his ride, riding from Cherokee northbound to meet him and I had a 10 mile climb out of Cherokee. Mostly it was 5-8% grades and I have a compact crank. I did fine, slow and steady. 65+ mile days every day will definitely tax you. He was self supported so went fewer miles, 45-60 miles per day. The tunnels are definitely scary, or at least were for me. I rode through several on the 12 mile section I rode. They are dark and disorienting as I had no light. I would definitely invest in a helmet light. You need a red tail light anyway for the occasional fog, and he had some foggy days. They helmet mounts are light and stay on the helmet for your ride and are easily turned on and off. It makes alot of difference having a visual of the ground in the dark tunnels. I can't tell you much more except that I rode another section last fall from Fancy Gap to North of Mabry Mills. There is a restaurant at MM but it was full of people off tour buses, pricey, and they said it would be an hour wait! We ended up going off an exit just South of MM towards Meadows of Dan. It is a short distance off the exit and we had a wonderful lunch at a little country store on the right (can't remember the name) and ate in a gazebo out back of the store. It was an easy exit and return to the Parkway.

    Have a wonderful ride!

    Have a great time. When are you leaving?

  13. #13
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    Awesome. Thanks for the info. You guys are helping to allay my fears and just get me stoked!
    I do have helmet lights...but they're more of the "be seen" variety, and wouldn't rely on the front one, anyway, for helping me see through tunnels. So, I intend to put my lights on the bike for the first few days (we're starting south, and riding north) when we hit all the tunnels. I understand there's only one in Virginia.
    We'll be doing this ride in early September, as our intent was to get out ahead of the leaf-peepers.
    We also intend to bring coolers and food and picnic for lunches (and possibly breakfast if we are so inclined and can't find a place for that.). We'll have two vans following us (one driven by a wife who doesn't ride - the other we'll have to split time driving - a half day for each rider). I am the only woman riding this trip. I had one friend who expressed an interest, but backed out early when she thought about the logistics.
    BTW....how is cell phone coverage on the parkway?
    Last edited by 7rider; 08-06-2010 at 04:47 AM.
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  14. #14
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    A tidbit from Wikipedia-


    The mountain was named after Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who determined its height in 1835 and fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, having returned to verify his earlier measurements.


    The ascent of Mount Mitchell is now rather easy, since a road off the historic and scenic Blue Ridge Parkway runs nearby, and a 980 feet (300 m) trail leads through a conifer forest to the summit. The 40-foot (12 m) stone observation tower on the summit was torn down in late 2006. A new observation deck was constructed and opened to visitors in January 2009.[3] Also on the summit is the tomb of Dr. Mitchell.

    Mt. Mitchell- easy!
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  15. #15
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    Please take a light for the tunnels... not so much so you can see, but so the cars can see you. Some of them are very long and pitch black - no light at all. I've ridden short sections of it up to Mt. Pisgah and suffered, but I am a terrible climber.
    ----------------------------------------------------
    "I never made "Who's Who"- but sure as hell I made "What's That??..."

 

 

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