The Blue Ridge Parkway
I left Roanoke after fueling up and headed up onto the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway
about mid-day. The Parkway
is an incredible two-lane road that runs north-south along the
crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 469 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, averaging between 3,000
and 4,000 feet in elevation. Like the Natchez Trace Parkway (see
June 29, 2001), which is
also maintained by the National Park Service, there are no commercial facilities
allowed on the Parkway and trucks are prohibited -- even my trucker friend in Roanoke.
Here's a short
version of the classic American folk song, Shenandoah.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
next several hours, I drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, pulling off every
now then to soak in the incredible vistas, either looking east down onto the
Virginia piedmont or west down into the Shenandoah Valley. That's the same
Shenandoah that I used to play (albeit rather poorly) on my Hohner harmonica.
pulled in that afternoon to Shenandoah National Park, which straddles the
crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The beautiful campground here
was, amazingly enough, only about half-full and I spent a very pleasant evening
there while cooking up my favorite dinner: bratwurst and beans.
black flies came out in force the next morning, so
after doing a load of wash at the NPS laundromat, I headed back out to the Blue
Ridge Parkway and ate a quick breakfast of donuts and Diet Pepsi at a
pullout while overlooking the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley. No,
the donuts weren't Krispy Kremes but they were still pretty darn good... and
Above left: Here's my truck entering the Blue Ridge Parkway in western Virginia.
Above center: Looking east from the Parkway into the John-Boy
Walton country of central Virginia.
Above right: And on the other side of the crest, this is looking west into the Shenandoah Valley.
Above left: View along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Above center: Looks like fun, huh?
Above right: A National Park Service farmstead along the Blue Ridge Parkway,
complete with two goats at the cabin entrance... kind of like Wal-Mart Greeters,
I guess. I thought the guy in the overalls was just some hick but, as I
discovered, he's actually the Parkway Superintendent (and a nice guy).
Above left: Entering Shenandoah National Park.
Above center: Camping at Loft Mountain campground, Shenandoah
National Park, on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Note the extension cord from my truck to my laptop
computer. I have an AC/DC inverter that plugs into my cigarette
lighter to charge my laptop and digital camera batteries. Normally,
though, I charge up my batteries during the day when I'm driving.
Above right: The most amazing coincidence during all of my travels
happened when I entered Shenandoah in 1985. The Park Ranger at the
entrance booth turned out to be Cary Wilson, a former student of mine at the University of
Wisconsin, whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. In fact, Cary told me that I was his
inspiration for applying with the National Park Service, because I'd worked as a
ranger in Colorado.
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