50th Birthday Solo Ride – The Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 1

“To some, turning 50 is anticipated with dread.  Me?  I started planning my 50th birthday celebration a year or two before I even reached that age.  I considered 50 a milestone to celebrate; a time to revel in the joy of feeling young and alive with endless possibilities!”

Day 1 - 50th Birthday Solo Bike Trip!

This blog entry is based on my 50th Birthday Solo Ride journals and emails.  Each summer when I take my solo ride, I send an email to the folks back home – to let them know I’m okay (they worry) and to share the joy of the ride.  I was not blogging back then and have been wanting to post about the ride ever since I started this blog in June of 2012.  Since 2010, I have taken two other solo rides.  I rode to, from, and along the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2011 and in 2012, I rode through Tennessee.  The Tennessee story can be found in the August 2012 archives. 

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I have used journal entries and publications to write this post.  My ride was featured in The Roanoke Times http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/community/wb/258574,  WomensRidersNow (http://www.womenridersnow.com), and my local HOG chapter.  

All pictures were taken with my old Canon power shot.  This is the first of two posts about the 2010 trip.

I decided to simultaneously celebrate my big 5-0 and the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway by riding the North Carolina portion of “America’s Favorite Drive”.  This route offered me the spontaneity I longed for while never being more than 400 miles from home … the perfect way for an intermediate rider to venture into solo riding.  Yes, other women have gone farther and stayed out longer, but my 925 mile / 5 day / 3 state ride were perfect for me and one that I think any woman would feel comfortable attempting.

T-Minus one day “til the 50th Birthday Solo Ride

Tomorrow morning I leave on my very first solo motorcycle trip (and actually only my second long distance trip altogether).  I am so excited … mostly because of the trip, but also because I have two weeks off of work.  I know that some are nervous about me traveling on the bike on my own, but I am taking every precaution and I am well prepared.  I’ll only be gone for 5 days and will never be more than 400 miles away.

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My plan is to tour many of the places along the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I have no specific schedule nor do I have any hotel reservations … I’m looking for a bit of spontaneity!  I do know that I want to ride a lot, eat some good local food, enjoy a cold beer in the evenings, hike and swim along the way, and end it all by riding the Tail of the Dragon on the NC/Tenn border … 319 curves over 11 miles!

Day 1 – The Adventure Begins

I can’t believe that the first day of riding is done!

I was wide awake at 6am – so ready for vacation and this long planned ride.  Michael and I pulled out of Radford at 9am (after taking pictures and making sure that my bags were tied down well).  He also rode behind me for quite awhile to make sure things stayed tied down.  I’m so glad I had such a great friend to ride part of the first day with!

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We rode to Stations Inn in Laurel Springs, NC where I ate a “Harley Dog” (hot dog, bacon and cheese – no calories there, huh?).  That is where we parted and I have to confess to a few tears as I headed off on my own.  But within 5 minutes I was fine and ready for my adventure.

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I got caught in my first rain storm and spent 20 minutes hanging out under an overpass.  Guess I’m a real biker now – ha!  The rest of the ride went smoothly and the NC portion of the BRP is beautiful!

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I rode on to Blowing Rock, NC (200 miles the first day).  What a cool place!  There are lots of shops and restaurants in this little mountain town.  I found a cute little motel where the owner offered to bring out towels to wipe down the bike in the morning.  My clean comfortable little room , with a porch out front, only cost me $69!  How cool is that?

I just finished a couple of cold beers and some Fish and Chips at a local pub.  I plan to read a bit on my little porch and then I promise you, this woman will sleep well tonight!

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Day 2 – Exploring the BRP on Bike and on Foot 

I slept better than I have in weeks!! And started the day by enjoying scrambled eggs on the porch of a cute little coffee shop … And for only $2!  I really enjoyed my short time in Blowing Rock.

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I was on the BRP by 9am and rode back and forth several times across the Linn Cove Viaduct, a part of the parkway that swings out adjacent to the mountain.  It was designed to preserve the scenery and the fragile environment and I just laughed and hooted out loud as I rode, it was so cool!!

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From there I headed to GrandfatherMountain and walked over the mile high swinging bridge.

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I followed that by hiking to LinvilleFalls. It was overcast all day so the pictures won’t be great but my memories are wonderful.

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I knew that today would find me stopping a lot but when 1p came and I’d only gone 40 miles I decided I’d better head on down the road.  The NC part of the BRP is beautiful – so much different than VA.  The route is full of constant elevation changes, curves, tunnels and gorgeous views.  Makes for very fun riding!!

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Next stop was 40 miles later at Mount Mitchell, where the elevation is over 6500 ft.  Even though I couldn’t see far, it was neat to have the fog swirl around me as I walked around up there.  From that point it was a curvy ride back down out of the mountains.

Highest Elevation in North Carolina - Mt Michell

Mt Mitchell

I checked into a hotel in Asheville (where I was able to talk down the price by telling the desk clerk about my 50th birthday solo ride – my friend Dave told me never to accept first price and it worked!!).  I enjoyed beer, fried pickles and bluegrass in a place called the Fiddlin Pig. They even played the Hokie Pokey!  And I just happened to have a VT shirt on! Life is good!

13 thoughts on “50th Birthday Solo Ride – The Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 1

    • Too true! The spontaneity and being able to make all decisions based on what I want to do (something we all need to do more of, but rarely do) was incredible!! It was pretty momentous for me! Thanks for stopping by

    • Thanks … I sure wish I had my current camera! Putting this post together sure made me realize how far I’d come as a photographer (still have a long way to go though). Thanks for commenting. It was an amazingly fun trip!

  1. Age is only numbers they say. What matters is how we feel inside. What I see here is a young woman with an amazing zest for life and adventure. Your thoughts and hopes inspires me. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Pingback: 50th Birthday Solo Ride Part 2 – The Tail of the Dragon | Life on the Bike and other Fab Things

    • I loved that place, too! That lovely breakfast, in such a welcoming place, was the perfect start to the day! Blowing Rock is a fun place to visit.

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  5. Now I see I missed this fab account of your milestone trip so I’m really glad I popped back. I keep saying this, so I probably sound like a broken record. But man O’man it’s so beautiful there. It’s awesome how the infrastructure that enables you to enjoy all the glory that is the BMP, melds right into nature. It doesn’t seem obtrusive one bit. I really like that. Like the tunnel with the rock facade and swing bridge (although I’d be shaking in my boots on that thing). Even the underpass is more attractive than plain concrete.

    Loving the multitasking they once did there in NC, LOL. Do they still do weddings for fun there? I’m always impressed by your sense of adventure Laurie, I probably wouldn’t take a trip on my own but if I did, I’d hope to be seeing sights like this. So much more memorable than Shopping or going to a spa. BTW, the rolling mountains do look like a Giants fuzzy green blanket 😀 xok

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Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

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