Returned Saturday, April 15th, from a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway with my 11 y/o son, Jean-Luc. Posting here because I'm pretty sure others are wondering about the BRP this time of year.
Had great weather and great trip.
Saw / did a lotta stuff. Rode the entire Blue Ridge Parkway (I'd never managed that before - weather issues), visited Green Bank Radio Observatory (walked entire place, as they're closed on Monday), visited Mt. Airy NC and met the sherrif of Mayberry; rode down into the New River Gorge, toured some mound-builders sites in Ohio, rode Deals Gap and around Santeetlah Lake, hiked a bit in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Wheels through Time motorcycle museum, and finally got Jean-Luc (he's 11.5 y/o) his first massage in Hot Springs NC.
Missed all the BAD weather in TN on Saturday, and points east. Rode slow, to avoid running into the back side of the system. Rewarded the next day in WV with every creek flowing, every waterfall running, and blue sky. Saw some kayakers running the waterfalls below the mill at Babcock State Park in WV - I always thought it would be do-able, if the levels were just right. Turns out it is.
Mostly camped, except for a night at a cheap motel in Columbus, a night at a run-down 1930's era hotel in Gauley Bridge WV, and a night in Brevard NC at a home. Had heavy frost a few nights while camping, but no worries - good sleeping bags worked well, and since we took the small tent our body heat kept it warm in the morning till we got up and about.
Gene and Julia S. put us up in Brevard NC one night. Literally wined us, dined us, let us soak in hot tub with their sisters / daughters, gave us a room, directions, breakfast, charged PDA & cellphone, let us wash clothes, and sent us on our way. Felt like part of the family for a day.
BRP was nearly empty. Tiny leaves, redbuds blooming, dogwoods blooming. Sometimes we'd park in a pullout, and there'd be 1-3 cars or bikes there already. Quite a change from my memory of doing it in warm weather once.
Camped one night on the BRP in a closed campground. Not much choice by the time we got there. Hard to get to sleep when you're hiding / camping in the woods like that, but once you do get to sleep you sure sleep well with all that quiet... I think Jean-Luc liked the idea of being a couple soft-core outlaws.
Lots of high points on trip. Not much dead-air time.
And had our first m/c crash together. Low-sided on a two-lane road, while doing a really tight full-lock low-speed U-turn. Jean-Luc and I put our left feet down as the bike's crash bar scraped the ground, and at 0 MPH we simply stepped off. We looked at the GS laying there, and I told Jean-Luc that it was a g****mned stupid thing I'd just done, and he agreed. Then we picked up the GS, kicked the crashbar back into proper position, climbed aboard and continued on.
And hooked up with Alan Bennett and his wife at Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley NC. Great place! The owner tends to start the bikes while people visit, and it's amazing the sound that can come out of a big 190X flathead V-twin with 2" long exhaust pipes. Big blue flames sometimes, too.
For the final night out, Friday; the Bennetts and Jean-Luc and I all camped at Hot Springs NC. Jean-Luc and Jennifer got a massage (all Jean-Luc could do was laugh as the massuese worked him over), then all 4 of us rented a hot tub by the river and soaked. All was right with the world at that point...
And Jean-Luc, the kid who hates photography, took about 100 photos of the trip with a little $25 digital. It did pretty well, actually. Each night we'd swap memory cards between the PDA and the camera (in the tent before sleeping), and I'd critique his work. Amazing thing is - he listened. And quite a few of his shots are pretty nice. Really nice, stuff I'd be proud to show people as I brag him up. At first I thought he was just copying my compositions, but then in the motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley I didn't take a single shot and he took lots of nice ones all on his own.
And now he wants a better digital. Probably get him something for his birthday in August, maybe around $100-$200 that can take a memory card like my PDA, and shoot video clips as well. Some manual overrides / controls would be nice, too - some of his shots aren't average scenes, and are thus weirdly exposed. Just like mine used to be before I got involved in fully manual cameras.
Got Jean-Luc home around 8:00 PM on Saturday after over 8 days on the road, and after riding 514 miles in just over 10 hours. New record for miles-in-one-day for him. Nice ride, starting off with sweaters and vests and such in Hot Springs and climbing to around 80F-90F around Cinci OH, finally cooling down again as we got near Pemberville OH.
Really, really, really nice trip. Even though Jean-Luc was a bit, well, bitchy. Several times, I think I understood why Pirsig went crazy in "Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." But it all worked out in the end.
Oh; my new-to-me panoramic (Widelux, the wide-angle lens pivots to include about 120 degrees) camera worked well. Some shots just can't be taken with any other camera....
I probably didn't miss much here, did I?
NW OH / SE MI
PS - There is a big detour down there due to road damage, just north of Asheville. Check it out, I think somebody could find a better detour than the way the highway department has you go. Their version is about 50 miles...