Friday, August 10, 2012

Blue Ridge Blues

I love that sign. At one time in my life it was one of the things that kept me sane. Because, when I lived in Roanoke, Virginia, I could drive less than 20 minutes from home to a Parkway entrance. And when I would see that sign, I knew that escape was just around the corner, and soon the stresses of modern life would begin to wash away. I miss that. So even though Buttercup and I have a wonderful life together, I still want to be able to see that sign, and all that it holds for me.

For those who aren't familiar with it, The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of scenic beauty snaking through the mountains of Western Virginia/ North Carolina. It begins or ends at Rockfish Gap in Virgina and ends or begins in Cherokee, North Carolina depending on your geographical perspective. It also connects 2 National Parks: Shenandoah NP, and Great Smokey Mountain NP. I have driven every mile of this road at one time or another, although never all at one time. At maximum speed limits of 35 to 45 mph, it would take 11 to 12 hours to drive it's length, even if you didn't stop to take in the beauty of the mountainous terrain- which if you didn't stop, I would wonder why you were even driving on this road in the first place. So it's best to drive it in stretches. Give yourself plenty of time to stop at the scenic overlooks, walk some of the trails, learn the history of the area. Just enjoy the splendor. 

It's less than a month now before Buttercup and I will be leaving the flatness of eastern Virginia and travel in a southwesterly direction to spend a week exploring the mountains of Western North Carolina.  We have our place reserved just outside of Blowing Rock - complete with a "nice" bathroom; so all that's left to do is pack, get in the car and go. We chose this place primarily because of it's proximity to my favorite sign.  I just can't wait to turn the corner off Rte. 221 and see it: "Entering Blue Ridge Parkway". It will be like coming home.... a feeling of pure and utter joy. 

The Parkway section from Boone to Cherokee is my favorite. The highest elevations of the road are in this section, as well as numerous tunnels and drop dead gorgeous scenery.  We will spend a good part of our week driving the 175 or so miles of this wonderful section. But our time will not be spent entirely on the Parkway. There are plenty of other things to see and do in that neck of the woods which are accessible from the Parkway.  Buttercup wants to go to Grandfather Mountain, just south of Blowing Rock, as do I. The mile high swing bridge at the top is very cool to walk across, and the mountain is also an International Biosphere Reserve. Mount Mitchell, at 6684 feet, is the highest peak east of the Mississippi and is only a few miles from the Parkway. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals is also at the top of our list to see. It is located in Spruce Pine, not far from Mount Mitchell.  We also want to spend some time in Asheville, and wherever else the fates may blow us.

So even though it sounds busy, it will be a week of serenity and bliss. And when it's almost time to leave the Parkway on the last day, Buttercup and I will spend some quiet time together, she wanting to stop one more time "for a photo op", me wanting to stop and stare off into the distance, feeling the wind in my face, and smelling the sweet mountain air.  And the last thing I see before getting off my beloved byway will be my least favorite sign: "Leaving  Blue Ridge Parkway". That's when the Blue Ridge Blues will begin......

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