Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway

I spotted a trail at an overlook parking lot near Mile Marker 123, outside Roanoke. I determined it check it out with Cheyenne.

I figured she would enjoy a walk in the woods, several thousand feet up, a little cooler and full of smells.

I love the shade of green in these sunlit forests.

I am told these flowers are related to rhododendrons, though I am not a botanist of course and have no clue.

I was fascinated by the proposed thirty minute walk to the top of a "knob" as they call hills, but Cheyenne lost interest.

The trail was neat and graded and easy to stroll even though it went more uphill than you might think.

She said no thanks and it was back to infernal combustion for me.

The Parkway is a recreational tool nearly five hundred miles long from Front Royal in Northern Virginia to Cherokee in far western North Carolina. It is simply a strip of Federal roadway winding along the hill tops surrounded by private property:

People live alongside the parkway, use it as their driveway almost and as long as vehicles are non commercial they may use it, respecting 35 and 45 mph speed limits.

The views range from pleasant to stunning and the roadway is
lined with pull outs and overlooks and a few picnic areas with toilets.

I am not the first person to comment on it's loveliness though this section is bucolic where the sections I've driven in North Carolina tend to be more mountainous and rugged as the Appalachian Mountains there are newer and more jagged and steep to my eye than here in Virginia.

This is actually Mile Marker 149, from Front Royal.

The road itself, free of heavy trucks is smooth and winding and it does have passing places with dotted yellow lines where appropriate. Cell coverage is delightfully spotty so texting is problematic for drivers. Bonus!

Side roads, paved and unpaved crisscross cross the parkway. There are no tolls, no gates (except to close access in snowy icy conditions) and no hours of operation. There are no gas stations and billboards are prohibited.

Motorcyclists love it, despite the speed limits.

And locals amble along it.

Twenty years in California and I had never seen it, just heard of it. Now I've driven chunks of it in both states. Cool.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Signs Of Virginia

Wherever I go I try to keep an eye open for human made oddities. This one I loved in a thrift store in Monterey, Virginia.

I wondered how the thermostat reacts to being "bothered." Signs for public consumption should be proof read and spell checked.

I always want to make Virginia whine. It's not well known but there are lots of wineries in Virginia and if the wine has eighty percent locally grown grapes it can be called Virginia wine.

Outfitters and yuppy coffee. Sounds about right.

The Roanoke Times seems to be a thriving local paper and judging from these boxes it's been around a while.

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Roanoke's Greenways

The city of Roanoke Virginia has established a bunch of walking and cycling trails around and across the city.

They are a way to get out into nature in the middle of the urban sprawl of a city of a hundred thousand, but as I am quite unfamiliar with the geography of Roanoke I can only tell you I walked a couple of them wherever it was they went... The Murray Run started through a patch of wild strawberries.

The trail wandered between a school's sports field and a street of suburban homes.

The dirt and gravel is well graded to make for easy running or cycling, though some runners prefer the athletics field.

I took a seat and watched the action of which there wasn't much.

It was a delightfully peaceful spot on a weekday evening in the middle of the urban hustle.

I found some strange flowers, or whatever they are...

And the trail became wooded like a real forest. A hell of a commute!

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the city I found a similar greenway under the Memorial Street Bridge.

This one was more popular.

Quote a bit more popular yet hardly crowded!

People everywhere.

I paused for pictures while my dog hustled along seeking new smells.

Huckleberry Finn was out learning to kill fish on the Roanoke River.

Quite the spot.

Deep green grass to refresh a hot Labrador.

I don't think Cheyenne was missing mangroves and mugginess and limestone...

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Roanoke Mountain

There's a turn off the Blue Ridge Parkway that leads to the highest spot overlooking the Roanoke Valley around Mile Marker 120.

The four mile loop really isn't that bad but the parks service doesn't tell you that.

Cheyenne liked the altitude on a spring evening but the views didn't impress her.

Mill Mountain is the location of the world's largest artificial star, the usual hyperbole. The star is a cute way to give Roanoke a nickname. Birmingham Alabama is the magic city, Roanoke is e star city.

The sunset was okay but it was also an indication that the place was going to get dark and the parks service would sweep through the loop and hustle us out before they locked the gates.

It was pretty out there.

Virginia is filled with fields, narrow lanes and scattered houses.

The parking lot at the top was empty until my Labrador made an appearance and started prowling.

There was a narrow trail through the woods but it was too late to explore.

It looked intriguing with it's slate steps and handrail into the void.

So we came back next day and the wildlife was out in the sunshine.

It looked positively Hansen and Gretel in the light of day.

Cheyenne was wondering when the hills would stop.

She gamely climbed the steps my sweet aging girl.

The local undertaker came by and waited patiently,

...but Cheyenne easy to go just yet. We sat on a knob and admired the view together.

The hill was waiting for us on the return trip to the parking lot.

The view remained excellent.

We sat in the grass and I read while Cheyenne watched people come and go. I like the company of my dog.

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