Day 5 – Detours

Rocky Knob, VA – Boone, NC

98 miles

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What a wonderful morning. Hitting the Parkway early is just incredible. It’s quickly become my favorite time of day to ride. The temperature hovers in the high sixties before giving way to the sweltering heat of the day. My visor is cracked open about three inches letting most of the cool air rush in. All of the moisture from the past evening brings out these luscious scents of green grass and fading campfires that I can catch for a second as I speed by. The sun is still low so the shadows are long on the parkway so I don’t have to squint like at midday. It’s just a magical time to ride. Again, it makes me feel very lucky.

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However, I’ve been eating on the lighter side (which for me is typically a one ox per day quota) so I decided to pull over for a proper breakfast at one of the Parkway restaurants. I stopped at Merrill House where I treated myself to some pancakes….excuse me, hotcakes.

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And clearly I’ve led a sheltered life. Through the wine tasting regions of California, I’ve learned the art of wine blending. But on the Blue Ridge Parkway you can have a hotcake medley (a meritage, if you will). At Merrill House, you’ll get a stack of cornmeal, buttermilk and sweet potato hotcakes, one on top of each other, butter in between, with a glorious serving of maple syrup. It was hard to stop at one order.

But eventually I shoved off and wanted to get some miles under my belt. The driving through the Parkway was continually mesmerizing and it felt like everyone I saw on the road was smiling. But soon around Mile 232, tragedy hit when I saw that part of the Blue Ridge Parkway was down for repairs and I was led on a detour running through Sparta, NC.

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It felt so weird being in normal traffic after existing in the fairyland bubble of the Smoky Mountains for the past two days. Pedestrian traffic, honking horns and 90 degree turns had been absent from my mindset and riding. You see, that’s the glorious part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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No billboards.

No signs.

No commercial activity.

No stoplights.

Just beautiful black road and lush green, flowering trees with a view to stop hearts every ½ mile.

And that’s all it is. A road designed exclusively for driving pleasure.

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As I’m sure you can understand, stepping back into civilization was difficult. To calm my agitated nerves, I visited my first North Carolina winery. Along the detour I saw signs for Thistle Meadow Winery and decided to pay a visit.

North Carolina winery, you say?!! Yeah, I sort of thought the same thing. But this is a trip about discovery and adventure and clearly the Motorcycle Gods had designs on this afternoon and it would clearly involve wine.

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I pulled in and immediately an elder gentlemen sitting on the porch in overalls began apologizing for the cold spell we’d been having (sarcastically). He welcomed me in and started setting up a tasting flight. He told me they made close to 50 different wines on the estate. I humbly mentioned that I failed to see any vineyards on the property and he explained that most of their grapes were shipped to them in concentrate form. His main business, he explained, was selling Make-Your-Own-Wine kits.

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Folks, I’ve made my own beer before and while you can taste my enthusiasm, you probably can’t taste much else. This winery was sort of the same way. I tasted 6 wines and I actually really enjoyed the sauvignon blanc. Some of the others may have needed a bit more time in the bottle (to put it charitably), but all were drinkable and you could see the passion for this emerging wine region.

The day ended with my pulling into Boone, NC – home of Appalachian State University. I first starting coming to Boone several years ago to go paragliding at Tater Hill, a small launch site owned by Bubba Goodman. Bubba and I became good friends but I haven’t made it down in a while and was excited to see him and catch up. We spent the evening talking about life and chasing down the best slice of pie in town. It was a great end to the day and I vowed not to go so long between visits.

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: North Carolina actually has vineyards and wineries and they’re not half bad (but let’s not push it).

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