Saturday, June 27, 2009

NC-90 Turns to Gravel

NC-90 Turns to Gravel
In our quest to find NC roads we have NOT been on, we tried to get to the Parkway via NC-90 West. It looked great on Google Maps and the air cooled as we climbed up, along the river. There was virtually no traffic, which should have been a red flag: No Go. We hit gravel.
Ugh. (Sometimes when you explore, you hit unpaved roads. And evidently, it's eight miles of steep gravel before you hit the Parkway.)
Turn around.
"A dead end is just a good place to turn around." ~ Naomi Judd

Johns River

We stop to catch our breath, get shade from the sun, and enjoy the lush beauty of the lazy Johns River that curves along NC 90 near Mortimer, NC. No one for miles...
"To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment." ~ Jane Austen

Dragon Garden in Morganton, NC

We ate delicious lunch at the Dragon Garden in Morganton. Great service. Loaded up on the water for the ride. I hated to leave the air conditioned restaurant and head off on the asphalt. It was so hot in Lenoir, NC that I felt like a fireball.

Glenwood, North Carolina

Glenwood, North Carolina

We did almost 300 miles in nine hours, about 75 miles and two hours over my desired limit. We took the back roads through the fertile but blazing hot tree farms of Glenwood toward Lenoir. We then headed up to Blowing Rock, then home via the Parkway.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

French Broad River

Another great late afternoon ride... This time, we explored northwest of Buncombe County through Madison County. The mostly-rural community is named after President James Madison. Agriculture--wheat, cattle, corn, and tobacco--is the primary source of income.

Here we are crossing the mighty French Broad River. The French Broad's majestic ebb and flow... More than just another snapshot, of the timeless and humbling beauty that surround us...

Marshall Gravel Road

Another ride, another gravel road. This one in Marshall, North Carolina.

"Nature distributes her favors unequally." ~ George Sand

Leicester, North Carolina

Late afternoon, images whirl by. How do I capture it all? We passed this farm in Leicester, North Carolina-- an artist pallet of neon greens and gold on crystal blue. The country air, the fragance of life lived simply.
"When I paint green, it doesn't mean grass;
when I paint blue, it doesn't mean sky." ~ Henri Matisse

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Herrin Knob, Jackson County, NC

Herrin Knob Overlook - elevation = 5510'
(Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 424.0)
Legend says that nearby Tanasee Bald is the home of the mythical, slant-eyed Cherokee giant Tsul 'Kalu, a great hunter who resembled a deer.

Blue Ridge Forest

Pull off the side of the road, and nearby you have all this to yourself...

"I can never feel certain of any truth, but from a clear perception of its beauty." ~ John Keats

Mountain Laurel

We saw beautiful pink Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) today on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

South on the Parkway

"Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe." ~ Gabriela Mistral
This stretch on the Parkway is less traveled, through rugged terrain. How many times am I amazed at all the beauty to soak in?

Flame Azaleas

Orange flame azaleas against the clear, clean blue sky. This picture does not do Nature's magnificence justice. The azaleas are bursts of color amid the purple rhododendron and pink mountain laurel.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mt. Mitchell Rhododendron

Headed north. This morning's ride's revelation: Purple Catawba rhododendron blossoms covered the Blue Ridge Parkway around Craggy Gardens, near Mt. Mitchell. Just stunning abundance of color...

"The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself."--Anais Nin.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Green Tennessee

Down another side road, to a lake at the dead end. Exploration.

Steven turns the bike around and waits for me. Look at all the green!

Cows in North Tennessee

We had to pull over to recheck the map and the cows came over to check us out. Definitely glad I am off the beef.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Cove Lake State Park, Tennessee

We stopped at the Food City in Kingston and had a great picnic lunch (lobster dip, hot wings, and shrimp) at Cove Lake State Park. We had front row seats and watched hundreds of Canadian Geese and graceful cranes move across the lake, which is in Caryville, Tennessee, on the edge of the Cumberland Mountains.

Hwy 61, 62, & Big Brushy Tennessee

We continued north through Sugar Grove to Hwy 61, then 62, through the town of Petros and Big Brushy, site of a State Penitentiary, referred to in John Grisham’s The Firm and housed James Earl Ray. There are 89 inmates on Death Row there.
TN 116 was great for the Harley. No cars, lots of bikes, windy, mountain-forest road. The road soars from 1440 to 2140 feet elevation at Armes Gap in 1.6 miles. The rural spirit of the area permeates. This is old coal mining area and The Devil's Triangle.

Watts Bar Lake

We spent the night in Sweetwater, Tennessee, then continued west on HWY 68, then north on HWY 58 through the Watts Bar Lake and Tennessee River area. Off in the distance, the nuclear plant billowed steam. We made a pit stop at this Marina and Steven was fascinated by how the boats were stored in this building and moved to the lake by crane. Pretty cool.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Cherohala Skyway

With a break in the incessant rain, Steven had the fever, anticipated a breathtaking ride at dusk, so we left in the late afternoon, headed West, toward Tennessee's Tellico Plains. It was quite a ride, not what we expected.

Trying to get over the Cherokee National Forest before dark, we rode through the damp, low clouds that settled thickly over the Cherohala Skyway. No visibility and Steven said, "How about taking some pictures with your camera now."
Sometimes he is such a wise guy.
The clarity was unbelievable once we got down below the clouds. I was able to take this shot on the Tennessee side of the Skyway.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Asheville Sky at Dusk

Dusk paints the Asheville sky with clouds, dreams, and POSSIBILITIES.

Mt.Mitchell Restaurant

Two deer wandered near the parking lot of the restaurant up at Mt. Mitchell, just off Milepost 355...

Mt. Mitchell is 6,684 feet up, in the midst of the billion-years-old Black Mountains. Sitting on top of the world, we had such a relaxing stop, great service, excellent food. How can you beat this view? A very special experience, well worth the trip. Steven enjoyed the chili and corn bread. I highly recommend the mountain trout.

Riding the Parkway Curves

Each curve: Green Magic

Surreal Magic, Blue Ridge Parkway

We took a spontaneous ride through the low-hanging clouds, up to Mt. Mitchell. We had the parkway all to ourselves. The road has been closed for a year and a half and recently reopened.

What a stunning ride to the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains--peaking at 6,684 ft (2,037 m).

Just breathtaking, with a spirit of surreal magic. It humbles you to see all the magnificent beauty. We got back just before dusk, with the Asheville sky awash with glorious colors.