Our hosts in Bryson City, NC (Raquel and Jack) insisted that we visit Tuggle’s Gap Cafe for amazing pie. Raquel also insisted that there was nothing wrong with eating pie at any time of the day. As it happens, we arrived at the cafe 15 minutes or so after breakfast, so naturally we engaged in second breakfast.
Between the hills and the weather, we were definitely ready for a rest day or two when we started our decent into the Roanoke Valley to meet our WS hosts Rob and Lisa.
Only 20 miles outside of the city, we ran into Bob and Kris. Both sporting the brightest orange shirts imaginable, we mistook them for a couple of construction workers, who for whatever reason, were traveling around on bikes, of all things. Turns out they were a very charming older couple (not that construction workers can’t be charming) who were training for their tour across the Northern Tier this summer, west to east. After chatting for what turned out to be 40 min, we bid our farewells and began the descent.
We arranged to meet our host, Rob, at a park just a few miles off the parkway for a mountain biking race he was taking part in. Being a kind and inclusive host, Rob asked if either of us would like to enter the race. Ben accepted the offer. Having acquired a mountain bike from one of Rob’s friends, Ben signed up for the beginners section (youth, beginners, sport, and expert all rode the same track but did a different number of loops). Before he rode off to the start, I told Ben one thing, “Don’t get hurt.”
To my surprise (Ben has never competed in a mountain biking race before, let alone ever done any real mountain biking) Ben was the first person to cross the finish line. I guess all those mountains payed off!
However, my astonishment was short lived – I couldn’t help but notice all the blood.
Okay, there wasn’t a lot of blood, and he didn’t “feel” hurt, he just ripped a few holes in shirt. Seeing him totally elated in adrenaline from both racing and placing made it all worth it – for the both of us. The gold 8 track trophy didn’t hurt either.
Part of the reason why we decided to stop in Roanoke was to duck out of the forecasted rain. The other reason was because of the song, Wagon Wheel, which we were both singing through the entirety of the parkway. Country Roads was also popular.
Finally, the forecast did what it was supposed to do, and we spent the whole day in a coffee shop watching our bikes get a much needed wash.
After some grocery shopping and sightseeing when the rain cleared, we went out to dinner with our hosts and their sons, stopping for dessert at an old soda fountain shop called, Pops. We both got the Broadway, which is a chocolate soda float with coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks. It was absolutely delicious.
Next day, after much detouring due to some serious flooding on the bike path, we made it back to the park where Ben won the race, and decided to stay in the campground not to far away to avoid getting to Charlottesville too early. Or at least that is the excuse we used.
The park had a beautiful overlook of the city.
Do you see what I see?
30 miles or so to the Peaks of Otter, the location of the only hotel ON the parkway, rooms going at $112 a night, without a TV, without cell reception, without a phone. Literally a bed and a bathroom. We stayed at the closed campsite not to far up the road for free, with pretty much the same accommodations (or lack thereof). Before dinner we took a hike up Sharp Top Mountain, which had a 360 degree view of the valley. Apparently back in the day, Virginians thought Sharp Top was the tallest mountain in Virginia and even sent a piece of it to the Smithsonian. Turns out the mountain right next to it, Flat Top Mountain, is about 300 ft taller. Whoops!
We ran into the first tourists we saw on the entire BRP, two young guys, between high school and college, traveling from New Hampshire to Columbia.
Lots of fog over the next couple of days…
At parts you could only see 20 ft in front of you. It was so dense that any exposed hair was immediately coated with dew/frost.
Spent the last night on the parkway at yet another closed picnic area, this time pitching our tent shamelessly out in the open. We met two AT hikers who were a little more stealthy about their tent placement, but glad that they weren’t the only ones breaking the rules.
Last day, only 9 miles, ALL DOWNHILL. We stopped at a working farm exhibit and saw a spring house, which is literally a house built over a spring, using it to refrigerate things like milk, cheese, and beer. Pretty neat.
We were hoping to find a nice little diner at the end of the parkway to have breakfast (we had depleted our once overflowing bounty of food). No such luck. But! Only 4 miles away, once again ALL DOWNHILL, was a nice little place called Blue Mountain Brewery. All thoughts of pancakes and bacon flew right out of our non-existent windows.
Only 20 miles to go to Charlottesville!