The Blue Ridge Parkway

Above:  I said goodbye to my cousin Gary and his wife Alice and headed up Interstate 85, then drove up to the Blue Ridge Mountains and visited Asheville (for a few moments).  From there I took the Blue Ridge Parkway north and camped that night at a State Park in Tennessee.

I had a nice time with Gary, Alice and their cute little dog Crispy at their place in Lawrenceville and said goodbye to them all the next morning and headed north:  up to Greenville, South Carolina on Interstate 85, then on to Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which I reached around noon. 

I’d heard lots of interesting stories about Asheville over the years, especially about its music heritage, so I wanted to see it for myself.  I didn’t have much time to spend there, however, because I had a camping reservation that evening several hours away, so it was just a quick drive-through.  It’s an interesting town, quite hectic with lots going on, and I wish I could’ve explored it more, but my main goal that afternoon was the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’ve traveled on portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway before during previous road trips, and I think it’s one of the most interesting and scenic routes in America.  The two-lane Parkway winds 469 miles from Georgia up to Virginia along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing amazing views along its entire length.  Best of all, it’s managed by the National Park Service, so there are no commercial facilities, such as gas stations or motels, anywhere along the route.  Sure, if you need to get some gas or want to buy groceries, there are lots of places where you can pull off onto intersecting roads and do that.  But along the narrow corridor of the Blue Ridge Parkway itself, there are no commercial developments, so it's a unique driving experience.  There’s a similar National Park road, called the Natchez Trace Parkway, that stretches over 400 miles between Natchez, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee, which I’ve driven before (see my story), but the Blue Ridge Parkway is, I think, even more scenic.

I left Asheville around 1 p.m. and pulled my truck onto the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of town and headed north, winding for a few hours along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains with spectacular views on either side.  It was a cloudy day, though, and a bit cool with sprinkles dappling my windshield occasionally.  Late in the afternoon I pulled off the parkway and dropped down into the tiny hamlet of Spruce Pine, where I stopped at a Quik Mart and got some ice for my cooler along with a bag of Doritos and a gallon of milk, then drove on a desolate and lonely road, passing countless fields and small farms while winding up over Roan Mountain.  The sight at the top of the pass, with the Appalachians extending endlessly off into the distance, was amazing. 

I was now in Tennessee and after dropping down into Roan Mountain State Park, I pulled into the campground just as the ranger station was closing for the evening.  I found the campsite I’d reserved online several weeks earlier, picked another one that had more privacy, and made dinner:  bratwursts with lots of relish and mustard (no surprise there).  The campground was about half-full, mostly with RVers, but thankfully most of them were in another loop.  It was a quiet evening and I started a small campfire, then read my Kindle while sitting under the towering hickory and oak trees.  After the fire sputtered out a couple hours later, I climbed into the back of my truck and, as I do every night, read my AAA Tourbook to plan out the next day's adventure.  It looked like there was going to be a lot to see and do tomorrow, so I switched off the overhead light and went to sleep.  

Into the Blue Ridge Mountains



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