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A Fall Century down to The Big Country(35 posts)

A Fall Century down to The Big CountryAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:24 PM
or ... Lamentation for the Last Day of Daylight Savings

On Saturday, I took a long ride through Big Country, so called (by me) mainly for lack of any official name. It's a cluster of high mountains, by east coast standards, on the Blue Ridge in Central VA. There is nothing there but big climbs, big descents, big views, and empty roads, not to mention the largest waterfall in the state. The first 40 to 50 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the spine of the Big Country, and the road doesn't cross more rugged, uninhabited, scenic areas until down into North Carolina.

Who knew my car hood was this reflective. I cropped what was a normal photo (except for me being in it) down to this strange view.
The RoadAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:26 PM
I said "empty roads" earlier, but the Parkway was a bit crowded this weekend. The leaves are withering up around here and people have swarmed in to look. I saw a lot of plates from all over the east coast. Give them another two weeks and I'll have the road to myself again.
A summary of the routeAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:27 PM
I started at Rockfish Gap/Afton and followed the Blue Ridge Parkway south for about 28 miles. Descended the Ridge on Irish Creek road, then headed northwest to Vesuvius. Back up the Ridge on the Vesuvius climb, through the ridge-top locale of Montebello, then descended the Piedmont side along the Tye River. At the bottom, I rode left route 56 over little known Ramsey Gap, then returned to the Parkway by climbing up to Reed's Gap.
Rockfish ValleyAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:28 PM
A view near mile zero of the parkway.
A Mountaineer history exhibitAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:30 PM
... by the Park Service. This was one in a little "community" of cabins here, not far from the start. Recently there's been some controversy claiming that the Park Service has exaggerated the mountaineer image as overly rustic and isolated.
Typical view into the Shenandoah ValleyAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:31 PM
Swooping down to Reed's GapAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:32 PM
Swooping down to Reed's Gap, a saddle on the Ridge. In the center you see the road that comes up from the Piedmont on the left, intersects the Parkway, then goes down to the Valley to the right. I'd reach this spot again a few hours later...
A view to the EastAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:34 PM
Still on the Parkway, but not much longer.
Irish CreekAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:35 PM
Irish Creek Road is a lengthy way to leave the ridge. It starts out at the top with a couple of miles of gravel road, and reaches the bottom after another 10 miles of descending along the creek. Pretty isolated, except for the ol' mountain folk. I passed by a house with a yard full of yipping hound dogs. They howled at me for a while, then the owner howled at the dogs for a while, then everything was quiet.
The Historic Clampett Home (ante-texas-tea)AllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:40 PM
"Jethro, the roof's a-leakin again. I told ye to patch it up nigh sixty years ago."

I imagine many a pint of moonshine has been enjoyed within these four walls. Maybe it still is.
South RiverAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:41 PM
At the bottom of Irish Creek, I rode along the South River for a while, slowly gaining elevation all the way to Vesuvius. The damage down here from Isabel was surprising. Tall piles of sediment and debris were everywhere. One field had the stalks of corn matted down in the direction of the river flow, coated in mud, with somebody's gas grill plopped in the center.
Tye River GapAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:43 PM
Here at Tye River Gap I crossed under where I'd been a few hours ago. Route 56 passes under the Parkway after the treacherous climb up from Vesuvius. I was feeling pretty spiffy before the climb, and pretty lame after. Pressing onward ...
The other sideAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:44 PM
The descent along the Tye River is too good to stop for a photo. Halfway down the drop is the trailhead to Crabtree Falls. This shot from the bottom shows The Priest, at 4038 feet, the highest peak in Big Country. The summit is over 3200 feet above this vantage point. The AT makes a steep 5 mile hike up to the summit, starting near this spot on the Tye River.

Check out the lone crimson tree in front of the farmhouse.
Ramsey GapAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:46 PM
I guess you could also call this area Clergy Country -- some of the larger peaks all in a cluster are The Priest, Little Priest ( = the alter boy?), The Cardinal, The Friar, and Little Friar. Not to mention Saint Mary's Creek.

The unpaved climb up Ramsey Gap is pretty steep, and it's not a short climb. But it's dwarfed on the profile in between the Vesuvius and Reed's Gap climbs.

Just after the descent of Ramsey Gap. The ridge at center is the Wintergreen ski resort. The photo doesn't give enough detail to make out the condominiums jutting off the peak.
Average speed, down the toiletAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:48 PM
The road up to Reed's Gap isn't easy when you're fresh. It's a long pilgrimage when you've already put in 80 miles. I was seeing Elvis. This is a shot looking back down the climb and up to the ski resort, still 1200 feet higher than the gap.
Great report, thanksFree2Pedal
Oct 28, 2003 5:55 PM
I was wondering why someone would name a decent, "The Toilet." Next time, just plan the trip so you can go down that!! :-)
re: Average speed, down the toiletAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:56 PM
I don't know if 15% is accurate but whatever the slope is, it's sustained, not a brief spike in the pitch.
Over too soonAllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 5:55 PM
A twilight view of the dilapidated town of Afton. This is where several major roads meet on the mountain top. In the center, running left to right, is I-64. Crossing over it is the Parkway, right where it transitions to the Skyline Drive and enters the Shenandoah National Park. Below the interstate, somewhat parallel with the Parkway is U.S. 250. Waynesboro is in the distance at left; the hill on the right is the southern tip of the National Park.

The route was about 95 miles, so I poked around Afton until I rounded off the century.

The Numbers

Climbing: 12,700 feet
Max Elevation: 3330 feet
Min Elevation: 800 feet
Miles: 100.3
Time: 6:50
Cookies: 4
Bottles: 2
F1@+$: 0
7 hours on 4 cookies and 2 bottles?CritLover
Oct 28, 2003 6:11 PM
Wow, that's amazing! I drink about a bottle an hour on average and at least would have two really BIG cookies. I guess you're part camel.

Beautiful shots (love the scarlett tree), would love to do that ride over the winter. What kind of temps do you get there January-Febuary?
7 hours on 4 cookies and 2 bottles?AllUpHill
Oct 28, 2003 6:27 PM
Yeah, that's it, but I had a large breakfast. Three large bagels with cream cheese and a bowl of pinto beans.

The winter temperatures vary quite a bit, but it's often pretty rideable in January and February. Just have to catch it when there happens to be no snow or ice on the ground. They don't clear the Parkway in the winter, they just close the gates.

Speaking of snow, here's a shot I took from Wintergreen, looking down on Reed's Gap. The road is the silver streak gong up the hill. I shot this back in March.
nice ride, great pics... I have a question...rwbadley
Oct 28, 2003 10:41 PM
what site do you go to find the cool topo map of your ride?
Most likely...Xeo
Oct 28, 2003 11:53 PM
Its a computer program such as Topo map that created that graph. My friend has a Garmin GPS with topo and he can make elevation and distance maps like that.

Just my .02 cents

nice ride, great pics... I have a question...AllUpHill
Oct 29, 2003 4:25 AM
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. The profile's not from a web site, it's from map software called TopoUSA ( I added the labels in Adobe Illustrator.
Day light savings time lamentations...Psalm 147-10_11
Oct 29, 2003 6:57 AM
Loved your report.

Last year I rode a solo century marking the day the clocks changed back and will do another one tommorow with a cycling buddy. I can't stand the loss of daylight in the afternoons and taking the day off is one way to deal with it. I just wish the route we plan to take was as beautiful as the one in your report.
That is really beautiful country--great report! Thanks! (nm)The Walrus
Oct 28, 2003 7:37 PM
Looks like a great ride! Thanks for the report, AllUpHill. nmMike P
Oct 29, 2003 4:20 AM
Looks like a great ride! Thanks for the report, AllUpHill. nmmorkm
Oct 29, 2003 4:59 AM
Great report. Having grown up in NOVA (Northern Virginia, to the uninitiated) and attending UVA (University of Virginia in Charlottesville, 20 miles from Waynesboro), your report brought back a lot of memories of why I love VA so much. Living in Austin, TX since graduation (7 years now), I do not miss the winters, but the fall and the spring in VA is about the best place on earth.

Good luck to your Hookies in football (I noticed the VAtech jersey) and keep enjoying the Parkway. I visit a few times a year, but never bring the bike. Now I'm VERY tempted to bring it with me when I'm back in a few weeks, but dread trying to deal with the airports and/or shipping it. Know of any bike rentals of good bikes in the c'ville area???
Looks like a great ride! Thanks for the report, AllUpHill.AllUpHill
Oct 29, 2003 5:09 AM
Thanks. I live in Charlottesville but don't know if there's a place that rents. You could try contacting the LBS in town, They probably don't rent but might know of a place that does.
Love to see the Hokie Jerseyhokie_biker
Oct 29, 2003 6:33 AM
good to see someone sporting the right colors around here.
Wow, that was gorgeous.Alex-in-Evanston
Oct 29, 2003 7:29 AM
I think this report claims supremacy for the Blue Ridge as the best riding in the U.S. Beauty, tranquility, terrain, history.

Anybody in the Rockies care to rise to the challenge? How about folks from the White Mtns? Green Mtns? Smokies? Adirondacks? Cascades? Bitter Roots? Wasatch? Sierras? Sangre de Cristo's? Sedona? Ozarks? Porkies? Iron Mtns? Alleghenies? San Juans? Piedmont? Texas hills? Black Hills? Badlands? Great Basin?

How early in the Spring can one ride on the BR Pkwy?ms
Oct 29, 2003 8:01 AM
Last Fall, some friends and I rode the Skyline Drive from North to South. This Fall we couldn't do it again for various reasons. But, we have been talking about a Spring ride that would begin where we left off (that is, at the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway). (We can ride one way, the wife and sister of one of my riding buddies are willing to pick us up at the end of the ride and ferry us back to the beginning). How early in the Spring can we safely plan a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway? In other words, when will the snow be over and the roads open?

The Skyline Drive ride that I did last year was one of the best rides I ever have done. Even though your report covered the territory to the south of the Skyline Drive, it brought back many happy memories of my ride. Thanks for posting it.
The winter is too unpredictableAllUpHill
Oct 29, 2003 3:27 PM
MS - There's no good answer. The road could be clear all winter (and I believe VA will have a mild winter this year), but you'd only be safe to bet money on April.

Others - If any RBR readers plan to be in my neighborhood some weekend and are interested in a ride like this, I'll be glad to join in or lead the way. Page me on the board and I'll get in touch. Maybe we should put on a RBR gathering some time in central or sw VA.
Thanks, . . .ms
Oct 29, 2003 6:17 PM
The logistics of getting the group together, the one way pickup, etc., demands that we set a date well in advance. So, it looks like we'll have to wait until April. However, if the weather is mild, I may do a spur of the moment trip to the Blue Ridge (I'm in Baltimore, so its about a three hour drive to Charlottesville). I would take you up on your offer of doing a ride together, but I remember your time on the Mountains of Misery versus mine (8:49).
Hey, no worries on speed. I'm slowing down in my old age. nm.AllUpHill
Oct 29, 2003 7:16 PM
That's a realy great ride reportLive Steam
Oct 29, 2003 8:42 AM
Actually many of you post great ride reports with excellent pics. I have to get out alone more so I can take my camera and stop to smell the roses once in a while. It seems that everyone I go out with just wants to hammer and get back. Some of them don't even have kids yet. I try to tell them that there is no need to hammer and rush back, but do they listen? NO! They still keep doing the same thing :O(

Thanks for the cool shots and report!