Thursday, September 30, 2021

9/29 Blue Ridge Parkway - Price Campground to Mt. Pisgah Campground & Some Warnings!

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.

And in some places, the fall color was out and brilliant.  


 I stopped at one small minerals museum. 

It was a small museum, but I thought this map was interesting because you can see how the land in the state of North Carolina is  pushed together, forming the Appalachian Mountains.

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 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 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. 

Here also.

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.



Wednesday, September 29, 2021

9/28 Blue RIdge Parkway - Rocky Knob to Julian Price Campground

I got only about an hour sleep last night, so was very tired today.  Luckily, this middle part of the parkway is relatively flat and less curvy then the northern chunk, so it was an easy drive. Did see a couple of interesting things along the way, but much of the drive looked like this!

Weather has been terrific--sunny and a bit cool because of the altitude.  Nights are good for sleeping.

Hope you can read this, but this sign tells you about the cabin owned by "Aunt Puckett."  She was a midwife who lived to 102 and was said to have delivered at least 1,000 babies, all safely.  The photo shows her holding the last baby she delivered. 

A small cabin, but typical of those built in the 19th Century in the mountains.  Note that there was only one window.  The door is also quite short. 

What I found interesting, as I posted in yesterday's posting, is that the logs have large cracks between them, so the spaces are filled in with split logs.  This gives a better picture of the detail than yesterday. 

The back of the house.  There was a partial attic, but it was probably just used for storage.

Also notice that there is a gap between the chimney and the log home. That was done to lessen the danger that the heat from the fire would catch the logs on fire.  Sometimes, if there was a chimney fire, they would pull the chimney down, away from the building.

This is the parkway in front of Aunt Puckett's home.

Just more scenery.

A gift shop and ranger information building. 

This is supposed to be a restaurant, but it was closed.

This lone tree is beginning to turn to fall colors.

And more scenery!  Love these long distance views.

 Arrived at Julian Price Campground about 4:00 pm, so had time to relax.  Nice thing was that there was very good cell service here, so I was able to catch up with online stuff using my mobile hotspot.  The camping sites in the first two campground on the parkway were tight and very unlevel--typical of very old campground built mostly for tenters and small camping equipment. I have learned that the photos of the campsites on were misleading.  Each time I have arrived at a campground, the registration person has suggested a different campsite than the one I had chosen, based on it being too small for my rig.  This one was large enough and perfectly level!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

9/27 Blue Ridge Parkway - Peaks of Otter to Rocky Knob

Much better driving today:  much less traffic and road was less curvy and steep.  I was also able to park at every pullover that I chose.  A lot of motorcycles on the road, however, and most wanted to pass me.  Did my best to let them through but hard to pull over with no shoulders. 

The northern part of this section looked a lot like the section I drove yesterday--heavily forested, steep and curvy roads, and no homes. 

However, after about 30 miles, the road leveled out a bit and there were more meadows and farms.  Easier to drive closer to the 45 MPH speed limit.  Apparently some of these farms were there before the road was built and others were on land that the federal government leased to farmers.  And other were just off of the national park land and had access from roadways that followed the parkway. 

This is a happy motorcyclist who has just passed me because there was a straight section of parkway.

This was an interesting farm and grist mill. 


The farm had water from only two small creeks because it was so high on the ridge.   As a solution, the owner built this sluice to carry water from one creek to the other to produce enough water power.  It must have taken a lot of effort to build and also maintain it so it would not leak.

Picture of a blacksmith shop. outside and in.

The grist mill itself.

This is the two-story home from the site. 

Notice the tiny window in the attic.  Glass was very expensive, so few houses had more windows than absolutely necessary.  Also notice that the logs are laid with about 2-3" spaces between them.  This would have been too much for mud chinking, so they added split pieces of logs and then chinked around them to keep out the cold weather. 

Sorghum is a king of syrup made from sugar cane.  It served as the only source of sweetening available to most homes in the south. 

When I was a small child, my family drove to Florida, and I remember my dad pulling over when he saw someone making sorghum.  The long end of the horizontal pole was attached to a mule who walked in circles, crushing the cane so that juice dripped into a container.  The juice was boiled down and used on pancakes or biscuits. My dad gave the man some money and brought us some sugar cane which we peeled and sucked on. 

A quick note on campgrounds.  There are quite a few campgrounds on the parkway, but all are very old and have no hookups.  This is not a horrible problem, but sites are also very small since they were built for campers 50+ years ago.  I have so far found that neither of the sites I have reserved in the two campsites fit my rig, so I have been relying on the advice of the registration rangers to suggest other possibilities.  Campground roads are still narrow and tight, as are their biggest sites, but luckily there are very few campers so I have been able to find sites that are doable.  

The National Park system has been starved of funding for such improvements for the past couple of decades, so I hope the stimulus bills has some cash in it so they can improve facilities across