Monday, August 22, 2016

Blue Ridge Ramble, Part Three: Glendale Springs, NC to Roanoke, VA

After a great night in Glendale Springs, we headed out on our last day of riding in North Carolina. This was our seventh day of riding and next day was a rest day, which all of us were looking forward to. The riding was a little easier - there were actually a few miles of relatively flat riding. The area around Doughton Park was particularly beautiful. All in all, though, I think all of us were just focused on the destination: Fiddler's Roost Cabins, where we were going to spend two nights and not sit on a bike seat for a day.

Our friend's sister generously met us at the cabin and brought along a box of food and supplies that we had put together before the trip. We went to see a bluegrass concert that night at the Blue Ridge Music Center. On Sunday, she drove us to the grocery store in town for a few more supplies and barbecue for our dinner.
The Blue Ridge Parkway at Doughton Park, North Carolina. This was my favorite part of the day's ride.
The gutters along the parkway. I thought the stonework was pretty.
Brinegar Cabin in Doughton Park. We took a long break here. National Park Service employees demonstrated spinning wool and processing flax for linen, which was pretty interesting.
 A butterfly on Liatris helleri (Heller's Blazing Star)
Entering Virginia. There are two weird things about this spot. First, the sign is broken. Second, there's no sign on the other side of the road to welcome you to North Carolina.
Our cabin at Fiddler's Roost, only a half mile off of the parkway. This was a wonderful place to stay for a couple of days. It even had a small hot tub on the porch. The only downside was the steep gravel road to get there, but it was a small price to pay for such a great place to stay.

Day 8 - Rest Day! After getting groceries, we walked over to the Blue Ridge Music Center to go through the museum. The museum is really good. I highly recommend it to anyone passing through. I could have spent the entire weekend there listening to recordings.
 The entrance to the Blue Ridge Music Center.
We were able to catch an informal performance as part of their Mid-Day Music series.

Day 9: After a great day off the bike, we continued on to Meadows of Dan, Virginia. At only 35 miles and moderate climbing, this was a good day to ease back into riding. Since we didn't have to cover a lot of miles, we took our time and enjoyed the scenery. We rode through a lot of farmland and passed several country churches. The scenery was different than that further south, but it was still really pretty.
Groundhog Mountain Overlook with some traditional rail fencing. You can go up in the tower, but the trees have grown up around the meadow, so there isn't an expansive view. It was still a nice place to stop for lunch.
We stopped at this store, which was built in 1892. The woman running it was really nice. They had ice cream and cold drinks, which was awesome. The rest of the inventory was probably stocked sometime shortly after the building was built. And that might have been the last time it was dusted.
When we finally climbed back on our bikes after our break at the store, we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. This was the view to the west. We only had three miles to go to get to Meadows of Dan. We sprinted as much as we could and we arrived at the Poor Farmers Market store just as the first rain drops fell.
The store has a big porch (above), so we bought more snacks and drinks and waited out the storm. It was almost two hours before we were able to ride to our campground, but we stayed dry.

Day 10: Meadows of Dan to Roanoke. This was the longest day of our trip, the hottest, and probably the hardest (at least for me). We knew it was going to be hard, but the heat added an extra dimension to it. So did the distance from the parkway to our hotel at the end of the day.

We got up early so we could get breakfast at Mabry Mill. We got there just after it opened, so it wasn't crowded, but it must be absolutely insane there at times because there were more parking lots there than at any other single place I saw along the parkway. Breakfast at the Mabry Mill restaurant was a fabulous treat: buckwheat pancakes, eggs, and country ham. 

After breakfast the work began. We actually had a few flat stretches where we could get some momentum for a while, but most of it was rollers that didn't seem to allow us to build any momentum. We had a really nice lunch in the shade at Smart View Picnic Area. We filled up with water there because it was 35 long, hot miles without water until our turnoff to Roanoke. Because we were riding through more farmland, there was less shade and temperatures were near 100 degrees.  Michael got the award for the day for carrying water. In addition to his own bottles, he carried four extra liters. By the time we got to our hotel, we had finished nearly every drop. 

About 15 miles before Roanoke, we had a nice 10-mile descent. It was a lot of fun, but at the bottom, we still had five miles of climbing in the sun back up to the top of Mill Mountain. It was brutal. By this time, we had ridden almost 60 miles, so I was tired and flirting with heat exhaustion. 

When we got to Mill Mountain Road, we had a six mile descent to our hotel. The first sign that our hotel was going to be...interesting...was when the check-in clerk looked at me funny and asked how we had found the place. Let's just say, if we had wanted performance enhancing drugs, we probably could have gotten them at the hotel. Our rooms weren't terrible and the hot water worked in the shower, so it wasn't a disaster, but it was certainly a far cry from the Balsam Mountain Inn earlier in the trip. On the bright side, Michael went down to get ice after we got back from dinner. When he came back, he said the night staff appeared to be the Roanoke Police Department. That's a good thing, right?

A friend who lives in Roanoke picked me up and drove me to three (!) bike shops in search of one that would replace my brake pads before they closed. I should have had them replaced before we left, but it slipped my mind. After all of the crazy descents we had done, I badly needed new front pads. The first one was closed. The second one refused to work on it in the last hour they were open. The staff at the third one stopped what they were doing and spent the remaining 30 minutes of their day replacing the pads and adjusting the brakes (thanks East Coasters Bike Shop!). Then we spent the evening having dinner with our friend and his wife. All in all, a pretty good end to a tough day of riding.
 Mabry Mill.
The guys all napping at Smart View Picnic Area, our lunch stop.
The bikes in the picnic area. This was one of the prettiest picnic areas we stopped at. The evenly spaced trees shaded the entire area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke. 

One more entry to come....

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