Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway? or Heaven? You be the judge...

After our rotten and rainy Saturday on the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) we awoke in Boone, NC with bright and sunny skies. Seriously, it was like a whole other country. First, we backtracked a short way to visit Grandfather Mountain. They actually make motorcyclists read a half-page "Hazards Warning" upon entering the park that basically explains that this is a Mountain with twisties and possibly even SWITCHBACKS on it and that you should neither take these things too fast nor too slow, lest you fly off or fall down. This, of course, made me grin from ear to ear with gleeful anticipation. So we took off (at a reasonable pace) and cruised up to the first building on the mountain, which was the Nature Museum. They had some really fantastic displays there. My favorite was the dendrochronology. They had used a tree cross-section as a timeline and marked rings on the tree with historical events that took place in the year the ring formed. Informative and aesthetically pleasing! Also, based on their displays of native plants, I'm fairly certain that I have strawberries growing in my flowerpots out front. They were supposed to be asters, I think. That's what I get for using my compost as fertilizer.

The Nature Museum also included a number of live critters on display. We saw the otters, but they were asleep in the shade and not out being cute for our benefit. How rude! They had some zoo-like animals and others that were quite plainly rescued animals that were unable to survive in the wild. Like this majestic guy, a bald eagle who was maimed by a gunshot wound. Our favorite, however, were the genial black bears. The bears were quite interactive, at least as long as someone on our side of the wall had a packet of treats in hand. Yes, at Grandfather Mountain you are encouraged to feed the bears! This seasoned pro was working the crowd of tourists quite handily. There were kids competing with each other to see who could toss their food closest to her mouth, because if it was close enough she'd snatch it out of the air. Too far away, and she'd let it roll off, to be licked up later, when she got around to it... We sat down in a shady spot and considered our options at that point. We could:

1) Eat a bear and hope nobody noticed
2) Gnaw each other's arms off
3) Go back to town for lunch

We, quite reasonably I think, pointed our headlights down the mountain. We stopped for a quick photo, where you'll notice the pointy bits sticking out of the mountain behind us. Those are, apparently, the nose and beard of the Grandfather. If you look at the mountain from the right vantage, it's supposed to look like an old man in profile, complete with bushy beard. Who makes this stuff up, anyway? We rolled back into Boone, NC for lunch at Tupelo World Cafe where I had Roasted Yam Jalapeno Soup. It tasted as fascinating as it sounds. The menu looked startlingly similar to, but more diverse than, the one at Coyote Kitchen, and it turned out that's because Tupelo's owners were the founders of the Coyote Kitchen. They know good food, that's for certain.

Thence, it was ON WITH THE CURVES, ALREADY!!! We didn't get too many more pictures that day, because we were "burdened" with riding mile after mile after relaxing mile of sweeping curves through mountains, glens, passes, and meadows. After the 13-hour slog from Dallas to Atlanta on the previous Saturday, and the treacherous rainy riding the day before, the BRP on a Sunday was exactly what I needed. I got into my groove. I even have an iTunes playlist especially for this mood, appropriately titled "Sunday Morning". I jammed, I rolled around curves and over hills, past waterfalls and cabins, wineries and horse pastures. It really was heavenly.
Oh, and the forest? The rain from the day before had given everything a clean glow, a little lift. It smelled fresh and fertile and green. How I can describe a smell as green after making fun of someone for seeing a Grandfather in a mountain is surely one of the Great Mysteries of the Internet. We whiled the hours away cruising through some of the prettiest territory in North Carolina. We did get some scenic overlook shots that day, and there was some mighty nice scenery to look over.

There's really no way to photograph it and ride it at the same time, but we had the distinct pleasure of riding the Linn Cove Viaduct that day. I will leave it to your trusty Googling skills to find more photos of it, if you're interested. It made my enginerd senses tingle because the construction of that particular bridge was used as an example of first rate work in some of my engineering classes back in the old school days. It made Rose's biker senses tingle when she recognized, halfway down the viaduct, that her desktop wallpaper for a darn long time had been a publicity shot of her motorcycle riding that same stretch of bridge. This would be the geek equivalent of waking up in a closet full of stuffed animals plus one wrinkly alien and realizing that you were IN THE POSTER with E.T.

It was getting to be arm-gnawing time again, so we grabbed one more scenic overlook shot and scooted on across the border into Virginia, where we both worked for the week. How mundane!

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