October 10, 2016 my friend Dennis and I left Sevierville TN to ride the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We chose to ride south to north which would force us to ride the entire length. If we rode north to south we were afraid we would get close to home and say forget it.
Our start began in Sevierville, TN and we traveled south through the Great Smokies National Park to the southern most point of the Blue Ridge Parkway which is mile marker 469 in Cherokee NC.
Traveling north we rode through beautiful country with breath taking views. Many stops were make to look at the beautiful vistas and attractions like Lin Cove Viaduct along the way. We spent the first night in Fancy Gap at a local Mom and Pop motel with a nice restaurant right across the street. Fancy Gap is at about mile marker 200. At the local restaurant right across the road and during dinner they told us the business was up for auction in a few days. Luckily we were able to get a good breakfast there the next morning before continuing the journey.
A stop at Mabry Mill at about mile marker 175. Marby Mill is a historic water driven grist mill that is an area icon on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Mabry Mill was built and owned by Edwin Boston Mabry around 1910. Also on the grounds are a restaurant, blacksmith shop, a one room cabin, a bark mill, a sorghum mill and an old time whiskey still. The grist mill has been restored and is fully operational. The water flows down the millrace and the giant wheel makes creaking sounds as it turns causing the grinding stone inside the mill to be set in motion.
The following day October 11th we reached the end for us or the northern start of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The northern section above Fancy Gap VA is a lot different that what we have here in the south. What I mean is the land flattens out and you drive through rolling farm land instead of mountains. The road is still beautiful just in a different way. After looking at some 469 highway mileage markers it occurred to me that all of the mileage markers on the Blue Ridge Parkway have Blue letters. It makes perfect sense but it took a while for it to register.
After getting a few pictures at the sign near Waynesboro VA we checked the GPS and headed west with a stop for lunch at Sam’s Hot Dog stand, best hotdogs in town.
Then we continued west through southern VA towards West Virginia. We followed route 39 west about 160 miles to Summersville WV to spend the night. Route 39 is a beautiful twisty road through farm land in the beginning and mountains before arriving in Summersville. It cuts through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Simply beautiful country, those who live near there have some beautiful roads much like we have here in East TN and Western NC.
After spending the night in Summersville we traveled south on 19 headed towards Beckley WV. We stopped at the the New River Gorge to take some pictures of the bridge. Bridge days were the following weekend and fortunately we were early enough in the week that we did not experience any crowds.
Continuing on 19 south to Beckley WV then to highway 16 through coal country and then to the famous Back of the dragon. One of the coal towns we went through was Mullens. There was a coal miners memorial there and it was very moving to look at the names and dates on the bricks honoring the lost miners. My grandfather and uncle were coal miners and this memorial had special meaning for me.
These coal towns we very depressing stores and businesses were boarded up and what looked to be relatively new coal mines were shuttered. You wonder what these folks do for a living today since you can’t farm the land they live on and there are no mining jobs, it must be tough for those families in these small towns.
Next we passed through Coalwood. The town is the setting of the best-selling memoir October Sky by Homer Hickman and the movie based on the book. This movie also has special meaning for me having grown up in South Eastern Ohio coal country.
Then on to the Back of the Dragon which is between Tazewell and Marion VA. with a lunch stop for a Scooter Dog at Thompson Valley Market Tazewell VA. The Scooter Dog lady pulls her cart with a Harley.
The back of the Back of the Dragon is 32 miles over three mountain range and claims to be very technical. Well in my opinion most of the back roads in Western NC are more technical and just as fun to ride as the Back of the Dragon. I guess if I lived near there and had not experienced the fun rides of Western NC I might feel differently.
A total of 1046.5 miles and three days of fun riding. If you have the opportunity the Blue Ridge Parkway is a fun ride and I would encourage you to drive it in what ever vehicle you have be it a Kawasaki Versys like me, a BMW GS like Dennis or a mini van. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has an End to End certificate for all those of us who have had the pleasure of riding this beautiful road. Get off the couch and get out there and enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway.