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The Blue Ridge Parkway 

(Reprint from News: July 16, 2001)

July 15, 2001


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 News: 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.

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For the 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.


I 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.  Unfortunately, the 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 very sticky.




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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