This was to be my last day on the parkway, mostly because after Mile 430, there are some tunnels that are too short for my vehicle. So, my plan was to spend my last night at Mt. Pisgah Campground and then leave via Route 276.
However, this last 100 mile leg was so curvy and steep that I almost bailed out after 50 miles. My arms and shoulders were sore from constantly steering back and forth, and my hands were sore from having to grasp the steering wheel so tightly.
While the two middle sections were fairly easy driving, this last section was much higher, although very scenic. You can see from the next few photos that the mountains were more craggy and less rolling.
There was also an occasional hint of fall color changes.
Still a lot of beautiful distant views.
I stopped at one small minerals museum.
I drove through at least a dozen tunnels today. I had looked up the height of each online, so no danger, but the side walls did look low.
Now, why I almost bailed out today, on my 4th day of driving. Notice that there is no shoulder on either side of the roadway here. Also, the road is slightly more narrow than modern highways. In addition, notice how close the rock walls are on the right and how close the drop-off is on the left side. Also, that safety barrier is not likely to stop even a car, let alone a 14,500 lb vehicle like I drive!! Not even any trees on this side to catch you.
Overall, on this parkway built during the 30s, and there is no margin at all for errors, so white knuckles are the rule. And several hours of driving, with traffic coming toward you and the occasional bike riders on the pavement, you really get stressed out. Also, the speed limit is 45 MPH, but I could seldom drive faster than 30-35 MPH. In addition, having to constantly watch out for oncoming traffic encroaching on your lane and trying to avoid the rock walls and branches hitting your vehicle, really raised my stress level.
I made plans to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway almost a year ago. However, i have to admit that a couple of days before I entered the drive, I did read a warning article written by some very knowledgeable couple who travel full time in a big Class A motorhome, a 22' long Class B van-type motorhome, and occasionally a good-sized boat. They also run a company called Technomadia.com that consults on electronic issues (internet, cell service, etc.) issues for RVers.
They had traveled the entire parkway just about a month ago in their smaller motorhome and strongly recommended no one try it in anything over 30' long or without a lot of experience in mountain driving. My rig is 32' long, and I agree with them 100%. I do not recommend driving this in anything longer than maybe 22', and even that is pushing it.
It isn't so much that it can't be done, but that you can't do it and still have fun driving and enjoying the scenery. I did make it to my campground tonight, but I would not do it again, and if I ever want to drive the last chunk with the low tunnels, I will do it in a car.
Now, about the campgrounds. There are quite a few national park campgrounds along the route, none with any hookups and all designed and built during the 30s for tenters and much smaller RVs. To make it worse, the photos posted on Recreation.gov are misleading because the size is not what you expect, based on the photos. For example, this site looks pretty big, and it is actually one of the bigger sites, but most modern trailers or motorhomes would find this very narrow. Plus, the sharp curbs limit the size and make it harder to back in. Could also mess up tires.
Most sites, by the way, are about half the length of this one and could only fit a popup trailer or a very small trailer, or possibly a small van.
Each time I registered at a campground, the ranger looked at my rig and the site I had chosen and made suggestions to switch to another site. Every single one of the sites I had reserved were too small!! This one was acceptable, but it was still short and not very level, although that is not obvious from the photo.
Note also the tire-destroying curb.
Back to the parkway, notice the curbs here. They are not in all places on the parkway, but appear to be added on curves where vehicles are likely to drive on the grass. The are not nice and rounded, but very sharp. The last thing I need is a blowout on the parkway and have to replace a $250 tire!!
In the next few photos, notice the overhanging branches. There are no UPS trucks or other commercial vehicles allowed on the parkway that help keep such branches controlled on city streets. When a car was coming toward me on the parkway, my vehicle often got hit by branches--some just leafy but some larger and more damaging. I have not really inspected my rig carefully, but I know it must have gotten some of the top gel coat marked up. (Not that there aren't already a lot of gel-coat scrapes from branches over nine years, but these were a lot worse than the occasional branch that hits my rig.)
This photo, especially on the right, shows overhanging branches and branches from shrubbery that stick out over the pavement. Tree trimming is way overdue here! It was impossible to stay in your lane and not get hit by branches.
Nice stone wall. But first a story about exiting the parkway. As I was checking into the campground last night, the ranger lady was giving me instructions on taking Route 276 to get off. Just then, a camper was walking past and interrupted. She said "No way!' and described how she and her husband had taken that route today to get onto the parkway. It was so curvy that they ended up getting serious damage to the right side of not only their Class C motorhome, but the truck they were towing. They are going to need substantial replacement of fiberglass panels and repainting.
So, the ranger lady said if I did not want to drive that route that I needed to head back 15 miles to Route 191 which was only half a mile long and would get me into Asheville, NC, more easily.
The point is that people who drive places with cars or pickup trucks, or even vans, do not appreciate what is involved in driving a big motorhome safely.
Whew! These next two photos show the freeway just south of Asheville. So nice to have wide roads and actual shoulders!
Someday, I want to drive the Shenandoah Parkway, which is north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I am waiting for my RVing compatriots to write their reviews of that area.