June 2023 - BRP to Mile 0
Blue Ridge Parkway always held an allure for the riders of TLCMC and while we had ridden the southern half and camped in areas around it on previous rides, we had never ridden it to Mile 0. This trip was long overdue, so we crafted a 4 days and 3 nights extravaganza of riding and camping.
First let’s go back a little bit. When we formed TLCMC we all lived in the area of Woodstock, GA. Now, 15 years later, we have become a little further apart geographically, but still as close as ever as riding buddies. This trip brought Larry, Mel, Dave, Bob K, and Dan together again for an incredible late spring trip with a combined mileage between them of over 5,500 miles through north Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Also rounding out the group to six, Richard joined in Asheville for the first evening stopover.
Day 1 – to Asheville, NC
The trip started with Larry and Bob K setting out from Hickory Flat on a beautifully cool, dry Thursday morning and heading for the N GA mountains, stopping at Neels Gap to pick up Mel who rode from Athens. The trio enjoyed NC 64 to Franklin for lunch at the always-great Creekside Deli. But rather than take the short way to Asheville, they rode the infamous Wayah Road enjoying twisties that rival the Dragon’s Tail, then thru the Nantahala river gorge where they took a cool break and gawked at the rafters before picking up the pace toward Asheville. While Larry, Mel and Bob K were riding up from North Georgia, Dave was riding west from his new home south of Wilmington, NC to meet them in Asheville. Richard drove to meet the group in Asheville on his way to other adventures and many thanks to him for being the designated driver for the evening, so allowing the group to explore Asheville’s famous brewery district. Dinner and brews on the (always weird!) town was a nice change from typical campground fare.
Dan, poor sap, had to work all day, so took the slab up to meet the group in Asheville later that evening. The AirBnB in Asheville made for a comfortable night’s rest and minimized the time repacking the bikes and getting underway the next morning.
Dan set out early evening on Thursday in fair weather and not too hot in Georgia. All was great riding until approaching Mineral Bluff where a light sprinkling of rain started, but not enough to be concerned about, so Dan rode on. Heading up Hwy 60 towards Murphy things took a bad turn and heavier rain gave way to a tremendous thunder storm. Dan stopped to don his Frog Togs, and had his first equipment failure when the zipper on his Frog Tog jacket fell to pieces. The jacket had poppers to fasten it shut, so Dan rode on.
While riding through the storm Dan became aware that his front turn signals looked odd. Closer inspection revealed they were both dangling by their wires and swinging in the airflow. The rubber mounts had perished, and wind resistance had snapped them. They still worked though, so Dan rode on. Eventually Dan came out the other side of the rain front and was able to mostly air dry his sodden clothing on the final leg of the ride up to Asheville. The AirBnB provided much needed comfort and facilities after such a challenging ride.
Day 2 – to Willville Campground, Meadows of Dan, VA
The group ate breakfast at a local favorite, Biscuit Head. They arrived early, beat the long line which formed before opening, and enjoyed a very nice breakfast in true Asheville style.
With breakfast over Dan reinstated the correct orientation of his front turn signals in a way McGuyver himself would have been proud of.
Afterward, Richard departed for his own camping tour of the Smokies and the five headed up the BRP. It was difficult to pick beautiful vantage points because well… they’re simply all beautiful! But highlights of the ride included visiting the top of Mount Mitchell, at 6,700’ the highest point E of the Mississippi, Little Switzerland for ice cream (before lunch even!), and the approach and ride across Linn Cove Viaduct… breathtaking doesn’t begin to cover it!
Lunch in Blowing Rock was at The Town Tavern, a wonderful outside dining spot in the cool, high elevation mountain town. We really liked it, but it was rather gentrified (think Highlands, NC) for this group of riders! The afternoon comprised more beautiful mountain roads, high-elevation lookouts (most of our riding was 3000’-4000’ and temps were generally mid 60’s to low 70’s), stone faced tunnels and stone bridges over crisscrossing roads reminiscent of the Black Hill State Park in South Dakota.
Since the typical BRP speed limit is 45 mph, riding was relaxing enough to enjoy the scenery and since northern schools were still in session, we didn’t experience the large crowds which can overwhelm the summer season. The evening destination was camping at Willville Bike Camp (similar to TWO in Suches, but without the restaurant). The gang really enjoyed the peaceful camping and cooking atmosphere and had to layer up as the evening temps dropped.
Day 3 – to Devils Backbone Campground, Roseland, VA
The campers enjoyed cooked breakfasts in camp before breaking down tents and continuing up the BRP. Scenery in the northern area morphed into a more “meadowy” yet still high-elevation look complete with near waist-high waiving grass. The area was ideal for deer so as the day progressed the speeds decreased to account for extra risk, which was caution well warranted as deer did pop-up from the undergrowth and cross the road in front of the group.
In late afternoon, with pop-ups abounding, they reached Mile 0 which coincides with the beginning of the Skyline Drive which travels north through the Shenandoah National Park. Hmmm, maybe another day! An early lunch was taken in Roanoke where Dan split off and headed back to Asheville for an overnight stopover before heading back to Woodstock for his daughter’s birthday the next day. The other four riders continued on up the BRP to their camping home for the evening, the Devils Backbone Brewery and Campground. While the camping was quite basic it was adequate, the restaurant was great and served as a nice reward for their long ride. Now, how to get home…
Day 4 – The Return Home
Everyone had a long ride home, regardless of where home was. To get the earliest start they quickly ate breakfast bars with their coffee (even this group has minimum standards!), then broke camp in record time and were kickstands up at 7:30 (sorry fellow campers!) Their first hour was more enjoyable mountain roads, but those quickly gave way to the fast four lanes and interstates required to get from northern VA to home before dark (nearly 600 miles). The group was most thankful the Lord held off the scattered rain in the area, at least until they made it to Dahlonega! Miles for each were about 1200, give or take 50; this was our longest ride to date by far.
It was an amazing trip, incredible riding and the best company. One takeaway from the trip was that this was probably too long of and “out-and-back” ride which made the “long way home” too long! Next time we do a long ride like this we’ll consider a multi-night stay at a campground part way to save set up / break down time and reduce the return trip length.
And since you’re reading this article about BRP adventures we will let you in on our secret spot… google Mile High Campground but keep it quiet - we can’t let this jewel get out!
Looking forward to the next great adventure.