Blue Ridge Parkway and Dragon by an Aspiring ADV Rider

Discussion in 'Day Trippin'' started by RockinTheRVA, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. RockinTheRVA

    RockinTheRVA Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2012
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    Location:
    Central VA, USA
    Hey there!

    I've been lurking ever since I've started riding 2 years ago, and I finally have something remotely interesting to share with everyone! So, with a new ADV account, plenty of pictures, and some good experiences to share, here is my first RR!

    Hometown: Richmond, VA
    Destination: The Dragon- Deals Gap, NC
    How to get there: Blue Ridge Parkway - End to End

    The Group: Two Riders and a Cager
    -2007 Honda 919(myself)
    -2012 Kawasaki ZX6R
    -1994 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo

    This might not be your typical Adventure Rider group, but I wasn't about to turn down some good company! We had 4.5 days to make this trip, starting Friday after work and returning the following Tuesday. The goal being to ride the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, ride the Dragon, and return with enough time to recover for work on Wednesday.


    Day 1: Richmond, VA(RVA) to Montebello, VA ~120 miles

    Needless to say, the day at work Friday was quite restless in anticipation of our departure. We geared up, packed up, and set off for the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Waynesboro, VA. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we reached the parkway but I insisted we stop for a picture anyways :D . We rode about 20 miles down the parkway to a wonderful Bed and Breakfast called the Dutch Haus. The crew highly recommends the Dutch Haus as a cheap but very home-like place to spend the night; truly a home away from home with your typical B&B amenities. Could not wait to get going Saturday morning!

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    Day 2: Montebello, VA to Hillsville VA ~ 200 miles

    Saturday morning we suited up, braved the brisk morning air, and set off down the BRP. My cold weather gear consists of FirstGear Kilimanjaro Jacket(highly recommended), some generic windproof overpants, Venture Heated Gloves(battery power), and plenty of underarmour. I forgot my balaclava somehow, but thankfully the rest of my gear kept me plenty warm. With only a hint of clouds the first day, we were blessed to see nothing but blue skies and sunshine! It even got warm enough to shed the outer layers and trade out gloves in the afternoon.

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    Anywho, the real reason we're here, the ride. We could not have asked for more beautiful weather this entire trip. The Parkway really is a beautiful ride, with nothing but gorgeous vistas mile after mile. We were immediately impressed at how fun the parkway is to ride while keeping an indicated 55 or below. The parkway is not a racetrack of course(that's what the Dragon is for!) but it's nice to have some good curves to keep your mind busy(if the views weren't entertaining enough!). 469 miles of parkway riding and not once did I worry about uneven tire wear!

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    One fun stop for anyone heading down the parkway is ‘Tuggle’s Gap’ near Roanoke VA. Mile Marker 165 on the Parkway. An awesome curvy road I discovered while attending VA Tech that I like to call the “Mini Dragon.” There’s also a motel, some decent eats, and gas while you’re there.

    We made sure to stop at the scenic overlooks and be typical tourists(minus the leaf peeping). We made the obligatory stop at Mabry Mill. We snapped an amazing picture, bet you’ve never seen anything like it!! The number of cagers on the road increased as the day went on, but was never enough to detract from the experience. I would LOVE to make this trip on the weekdays when there is no traffic, but alas I can only take a few days off. We made our way to Hillsville VA where we indulged in delivery pizza and relaxed with our good friend Jim(…Beam that is). There was not enough room for 3 males and motorcycles, so the bikes had to stay outside!

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    Day 3: Hillsville, VA to Asheville, NC ~200 miles

    Sunday began with some more gorgeous weather as we headed further south beyond the NC border. As much as I love my home state and its mountains, I must say I was very impressed with the sights to be seen in NC! Each section of the trip brought new geography to marvel at.

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    In the trip’s planning stages, I worried that the Parkway might become monotonous. However, this worry disappeared as our second big day brought us to some of NC’s most beautiful views. I quickly determined that there is no such thing as too much time-away-from-work-vacation-riding, especially in such a beautiful locale. The mountains surrounding Asheville were stunning as we neared sunset and made our descent down to Asheville to stay with some family friends. A few good burgers, some good company, and a few good beers and we were ready to retire for the night.

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    Day 4: Asheville, NC to Deals Gap, NC, and back to Asheville, NC ~275 miles

    Day 4 was to be our longest day of riding so far. This was of no concern because we were determined to make it to the Dragon, and there were awesome sights to be seen along the way. The final leg of the parkway proved to be some of the most beautiful sights as others have said. We stopped for a short break in Cherokee, NC and set off for the Dragon. Route 28 was quite the fun road en route to Deals Gap.

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    As cliché as the Dragon might be, we all had to admit that we had a lot of fun. Our first run was obnoxiously slow with traffic, but the subsequent 3 runs were good clean fun! Being from Richmond VA I rarely experience such elevation change and hairpin turns. Any hint of chicken strips on this back tire is gone, and I had a blast working on them. I have not given into Killboy's pics of me yet, but if I do I'll be sure to share.

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    ~20 miles of fun Rt. 28 + ~100 miles of superslab, and we were back in Asheville resting up for the journey home. Maggie the English Lab will be sad to see us leave, and the feelings will be mutual.

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    Day 5: Asheville, NC to Richmond, VA ~ 375 miles

    The trip home was a long one, by far the most miles I’ve done in a day @375. I realize this only one of many long days as my trips will only get longer from here out! I was thankful I chose the 919(over my other bike, the 600RR) as my buddy on his ZX6R was feeling the fatigue. Our friend in his 300ZX was definitely enjoying being able to relax in the car.

    After 1274 miles round trip, we agreed it was a blast but over too short. The trip, while not nearly as epic as many folks’ RR’s here, was proof that ADV riding is for me. I can’t wait for longer more adventurous rides in the future.
    #1
  2. kitesurfer

    kitesurfer Long timer

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    good RR...thanks!
    #2
  3. JoshS

    JoshS Adventurer

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    Nice RR. I'd love to be able to drive a Z through some nice twisty roads, but I think I'd get jealous if my friends were on bikes!
    #3
  4. RockinTheRVA

    RockinTheRVA Been here awhile

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    Thanks guys. We had a blast, and I'm glad to get a small taste of the ADV world. I definitely want to do longer trips in the future. California keeps coming to mind when contemplating destinations...but I'll take whatever I can get :D

    @Josh - Funny thing about that is that he went out and bought a Honda 919 no more than a week after the trip. I offered him the 919 for the trip, and I'd suffer through riding the 600RR, but not having as many miles under the belt he wanted to take the Z. I was happy to have his company, so no complaints here!

    **Does anyone have any suggestions for trips of similar length/excitement from VA? It is much easier to take 2-3 days off work than ask for a week at a time. That would leave me 5 to 5 1/2 days round trip for traveling. Let me know!
    #4
  5. CharlestonRider

    CharlestonRider Adventurer

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    Nice RR! It reminds me of my trip to TN / NC to ride the dragon on my Honda 919 a few years back. The 919 is a great bike for that area...It is fast, light, smooth (enough), and handles great. The only problem is the seat (which must have been originally design as a torture device and later modified into a motorcycle seat :D). My arse hurt for days after that ride!

    Thanks for sharing.

    CharlestonRider
    #5
  6. Goldburg

    Goldburg Been here awhile

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    The Dutch Haus is a good place with good folks. It's a hostel mostly for AT thru hikers, but it's just a cool place. Stayed there on my BRP run several years ago. Montebello has some good roads around it too!
    Glad you enjoyed the ride!
    #6
  7. RobbieAG

    RobbieAG Been here awhile

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    Nice report. Some of that scenery looks very familiar since I live in the Greensboro NC area and often ride up to Hanging Rock State Park and then up to the Blue Ridge Parkway through Tuggle's Gap stopping at Mabry Mill. How do you like your 919? I see it as sort of a successor to my bike (2002 CB750) and often think about picking one up.
    #7
  8. RockinTheRVA

    RockinTheRVA Been here awhile

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    We definitely enjoyed the Dutch Haus. It was like a home away from home, and fun in its own way. The hosts were very accommodating and even had wood planks for the kickstands ready when we got there. I enjoyed the very personal experience a B & B offers. And yes, it seemed as though there were a lot of fun roads around Montebello. Had to stay alert on those tight roads first thing in the morning!

    As for the 919, I have not had an issue with the seat yet. On the trip we did 200-375 mile days, stopping every 120 miles for gas, and I was not in pain. I can see how it's not luxury motorcycle seating, but by no means as bad as a 120 mile stint on a Ninja 250 I used to own. I agree that it's the perfect bike for this kind of trip. I hardly had to change gears on the parkway because of the down low torque. It is relaxed enough not to fatigue you, but was able to be ridden sporty on the dragon.

    I really like the 919. I've put 6300 miles on it thus far. As I've heard it said, it's a bike that can do it all but is a master of nothing. Many on the Wrist Twisters forum have their bikes close to and over 100,000 miles with no major maintenance. It's a rock solid commuter and an all around fun bike. You really can't go wrong if you're interested in one. Some mention an 'exhaust stink', but I have never noticed anything in 6000 miles of riding. I haven't ridden a Nighthawk 750, but I think it's safe to say that the 919 is a more sport oriented bike. It has more outright power and the riding position is much sportier. I park next to a Nighthawk 750 often, so naturally I compare the two.
    #8
  9. FishHunt

    FishHunt slow poking...

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    I've rode a NH750 and a 919 and the 919 is much more sporty than the Nighthawk 750. I also ride a kind of sporty standard (2000 Kawasaki ZR-7) but after riding a 919 I was :D with the 20 extra horsepower it has over my bike.

    I live just down the road frm you. Hanging Rock to Tuggles Gap and down the BRP to Meadows of Dan, Squirrel Spur road and loafing my way back towards home/Greensboro is one of my favorite rides to take. Let me know the next time you head that way and don't mind someone following along.

    <>< Fish
    #9
  10. tastroman

    tastroman Long timer

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    West Virginia has unlimited opportunities for adventure with far less traffic than western NC.
    #10
  11. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Good trip; thanks for sharing. I had the BRP and Skyline Drive on the agenda on my "Civil War" trip back there a few weeks ago, but bad weather got in the way.

    Looks like you guys had some excellent weather. Thanks again.

    --Doc
    #11
  12. Haji

    Haji Adventurer

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    Shhh! I like to keep that secret. Seriously, every time I come back from the "Mountains" and people here it was WV they look at me like i'm stupid.

    If you went to VT you might be familiar the area around Narrows and Perisburg. There are great roads around there 42, 100. 311 etc. Go through the Jefferson forest down into Bland, to Bluefield, then in to WV. I like to go 52 down into the coal fields and get lost.
    #12
  13. Vinbowie

    Vinbowie Been here awhile

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    Nice ride. :clap:clap:clap
    Thanks for the report.
    I did the top end of Skyline Drive
    a month ago.
    Before the leaf thing.
    Just a day ride though.
    #13
  14. soboy

    soboy Long timer

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    Nice RR and photos. Glad you had fun. I have ridden the BRP many times and it is one of my all time favorite motorcycle roads. I've ridden my friend's 919 and it is a very nice bike, plenty of power and handling.
    #14
  15. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space

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    Nice report, and welcome to ADVrider! I live west of Lexington, VA and have ridden the BRP many times. My wife and I rode to Boone, NC in late August and froze our asses off on the way back - fog so thick all you could see was the center line, rain and mist, ZERO traffic = loads of fun! We were at Tuggles Gap on a Sunday afternoon and had the place completely to ourselves - it's normally jammed with bikes on an August weekend.

    Like another poster said, West Virginia is just ferking AWESOME. If you head west from Richmond, get off the slab ASAP (maybe take the Skyline Drive north a ways, but there's a fee and DO NOT SPEED on that stretch), otherwise work your way over the Blue Ridge to Harrisonburg, then head out on Hwy 33 past Seneca Rocks, etc. and end up in Elkins, WV. Coming back you could head south on Hwy 219, then east on Hwy 250 to Staunton, back over the Blue Ridge to Richmond. If you've got an extra day head a little further south from Elkins, maybe detour up to Snowshoe Mountain (near Marlinton, WV), curl back down to Hot Springs, VA, then head for Lexington on Hwy 39. At Lex you can connect with Highway 60, over the Blue Ridge to Amherst, and home. There are a zillion miles of excellent roads just in that small area and if you slab it to Harrisonburg you can make some great time and save the daylight for the fun smaller roads. We found one road, I think it was Hwy 66 (Cass Highway?) in WV one day that was ferking incredible, high banked curves like a roller coaster! I asked my wife if she minded if I dialed it up a bit, SURE! she said, so we were rocking through there like idiots; I was a little concerned that she might be a bit scared, so I peeked in the mirror and she had her arms out to the sides like she was flying (I love that lady!).

    Just look at a map - the roads that go generally east-west over the mountains will be twistier than the roads that parallel the mountains NE to SW, although those roads are a hoot too (Hwy 220 north of I-64 in western Virginia is awesome!). There's tons of camping too, in the national forest, Douthat State Park, Lake Moomaw, etc. all over the Alleghany and Blue Ridge mountains. The BRP is fun, but it's the cross roads that are the seriously exciting places to ride. If you see a sign like this, you know it's good :D:

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    There are also big yellow signs that say something like "Not Recommended for GPS Routing" or such, you know those are great too!

    I lived in Wyoming for many years, so when I heard that there is a Wyoming town and County in West Virginia I looked it up. I've heard that Hwy 10 in that area is phenomenal (Princeton, WV to Wyoming and beyond), but so far I haven't had time to go check it out. From here I'd probably take I-64 to Beckley, WV then head SW on 16 and catch Hwy 10 that way. Check out the map, lots of delicious twisties out there! All I need is more time and money....

    Great report, let me know if you guys are headed this way sometime and maybe I can sneak away and ride a bit with you!

    Doug
    #15
  16. RockinTheRVA

    RockinTheRVA Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the suggestions guys. I am looking forward to planning another trip. Hopefully I'll be able to get a whole 7 days for my next trip. I definitely want to go out west. Unfortunately 7 days won't get me to the west coast and back. Life is full of obligations(not necessarily a bad thing!), gotta split my time-off wisely. Perhaps I can plan a route that hits some of these good West Virginia roads on my way out somewhere.

    @Doug if I am out that way I'll surely let you know. It's always nice to make some new friends.

    We definitely got lucky with the weather on our trip. Every day was gorgeous, and not too cold for late October. I will be back on the BRP at some point that's for sure. It was a great road to get my feet wet with road trips. Very nice scenery and low stress riding. Our trip was tons of fun but pretty tame in comparison to some here. I yearn for some adventure...some big miles to get far from my hometown...can't wait to make it happen. :D
    #16
  17. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space

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    Man, I feel your pain. I worked for my former employer in Wyoming for 27 years and had built up HUGE amounts of leave time, comp time, sick :evil time, and professional trust and freedom so that I could literally disappear once a month for a week or ten days at a time and my boss was fine with it. The last year I was in Wyoming I put 28,000 miles on my various bikes in the abbreviated riding season we have out there. I took a new job here in Virginia and literally started all over at square one, like a recent graduate in my first job - probation for a year, minimal leave time, no seniority, no history/trust, etc. That has been hard to say the least and has seriously affected how much free time I have to ride or do other things I like. I would LOVE to get back out to the Rockies and ride some of my favorite routes, but the four+ days (and those are 1000 mile days...) it takes just to get there and back is too much time to make it viable to ride. And no offense to the folks in Flatistan, but riding across the Great Plains just sucks ass. Sorry, done it a few times and it sucks. I have family still in Wyoming but we fly out to see them.

    I've been happily discovering all kinds of riding out here, and it's fantastic, but it is very different from the wide open, full throttle, peg dragging high speed sweepers through the mountains of the west and I miss that a lot. There's a stretch of road through the Bighorn Mountains between Tensleep and Buffalo (don't you love the names?) that is ~75 miles (one way) of WFO sweepers, from 6000 feet to 10,000 feet elevation and back, unlimited visibility, stunning views, and NO TRAFFIC that is one of my all-time favorite stretches of road.

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    I need to go ride that again. Then there's the Sunlight Basin north of Cody, linking you to the Beartooth Highway and NE entrance of Yellowstone, ferking unbelievable roads and scenery.

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    Yellowstone is awesome, Grand Teton is exceptional, all the roads around them are unbelievable. And that's just a small taste of Wyoming; expand out from there to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, and it just gets more and more amazing. I'll bet you recognize this little ditch:

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    I miss it immensely, but that ride from here to there makes it impossible to get out there given my current work situation. So, I have been exploring the option of flying out and renting a bike. I used to work in Jackson, WY a lot and there was a rental place there that rented (of course) Harley cruisers and BMW K-LTs; I worked on their property for some time and got to know the owners, so I asked them WTF, how about renting some different kinds of bikes that would be more fun, like the BMW GS series, V-Strom, etc.? They said hmmm.... we'll think about it, but don't hold your breath because people have a tendancy to crash sportier bikes and we don't even want to think about bikes that people take on dirt roads. Crap. My brother lives in Salt Lake, so maybe there's a place there that would rent something besides a cruiser or main battle tank, must research that. Renting is kind of pricey, but so is finding the time to ride 4000 miles round-trip just to get there, plus the gas, wear and tear (burn out the center of a set of tires), motels, food, etc. I've read stories here about people shipping their bikes out and back and flying themselves to meet the bikes, that could work I guess. It's always about time and money, isn't it?

    Well, thats enough of that; just thinking out loud and avoiding starting my work day... :lol3

    Anyway, it would be great to hook up with you guys sometime, maybe this Spring, and tour the western Virginia - West Virginia area. Some day I will plan a fly and ride to the Rockies, but that's a dream at this point in time.

    Go Hokies! Are you going to the game tonight, or catching it on TV? All my co-workers are Tech grads and are Hokie fans. Should be a good game.

    Doug
    #17
  18. RockinTheRVA

    RockinTheRVA Been here awhile

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    @Doug

    We won't talk about that Hokie game haha. I could not attend, and I guess I'm not too sad about that after watching it on TV.

    But anywho, thanks for sharing some pics of your travels. Those are definitely the kind of vistas I'm looking to see in my travels. I think my work time away policy is very good, however I do have to split that between myself, my fiance, and my family so I don't have too much time. I am thankful for everything I have though. Good job, good family, wonderful fiance, and some kick ass bikes. I just take what vacation time I can get! Don't worry though, one day I will 'make it happen' and take some serious time to do the traveling I yearn for. I am young(in my 20's) so there's still plenty of time yet(if I'm fortunate!). The cool thing is I feel like, when I'm older even if I'm not super-wealthy I'll still be able to do some good touring. As many say here, if there's a will, a motorcycle, and a desire for adventure, anything can be done. "Nathan the Postman" comes to mind!

    I have 100 or so pics from this ride that cycle through on a digital photo frame on my desk. I love looking at it, and I can't wait to add more from whatever trip comes next.
    #18
  19. Kawi-Mike

    Kawi-Mike Been here awhile

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    Great trip report. I have done pretty much that same trip four times in the last sixteen months. I live in Cville, Va during the week and Western NC on the weekend. I am always looking for new riding roads so post any ride you are going to do and I am in.
    #19
  20. MGB

    MGB ex. BmwDuc

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    Looks like you three had a great time!

    As manfromthestix said, a lot of great roads in western VA and West VA. Being in Richmond, you're within striking distance of some excellent curvy roads with little traffic - Nelson, Amherst, Rockbridge, Augusta counties have some excellent riding - I'm heading that way this afternoon for a few days.

    Marc
    Hampton, VA
    #20