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The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonderful place for a drive, provided you have the time.

April 19, 2006, 11:31 PM

On Tuesday morning, I made a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Roanoke. What a wonderful ride. The time in Roanoke was rather uneventful, but the ride down was awesome.

First of all, I took I-81 down to Lexington. This bypassed the section of the Parkway that I take more frequently, and allowed me to start on the Parkway with virgin territory. Thus I started at the Parkway’s intersection with US 60 and headed south.

I also got to drive through a fog-shrouded Lexington and Buena Vista. My April 19 photo feature illustrated this fog quite well. It was clear on the mountain, but quite foggy down in the valley below.

This was a fun photo trip, too. I photographed all kinds of things both on the Parkway itself, and off of the overlooks. I went through a tunnel, I viewed Otter Lake for the first time, crossed the Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge, stopped at Peaks of Otter Lodge, and kept on photographing.

One thing I also photographed while on the Parkway was the Sable. My favorite Sable photo was this “in your face” head-on view:

Sable on the Blue Ridge Parkway

And yes, my license plate is a contraction of “Schumin Web”.

You really do get a view as you get down towards Roanoke. I saw an oil facility from above that’s on US 460 that I usually see when I go to Lynchburg, after I’m through there and cross to Roanoke. I also saw a quarry from above, and that was just cool-looking:

"The Quarry" overlook

That was from an overlook titled “The Quarry”.

Then as you approach Roanoke, the scenery gets distinctly more urban, as relatively recent neighborhoods come quite close to the Parkway, and businesses are visible from the parkway on roads intersecting with the Parkway.

I also discovered that Explore Park is about a mile and a half off the Parkway mainline. There are about three nondescript overlooks on the way, too.

I ultimately left the Parkway where I’d planned – at the Roanoke Star. Thus I took a three-mile spur off the mainline Parkway to Mill Mountain Park. That led to a quick trip to the Roanoke Star, where I discovered that they were in the final stages of rehabbing the main overlook. They put down new wood which includes an inlaid compass rose, they painted all the railings, and added some more bars around the side of it. Check it out:

The Roanoke Star's overlook under renovation

So all in all, not a bad trip.

Web site: Virtual Blue Ridge

Song: "The Rainmakers" from Today's Special, even though it wasn't raining.

Quote: And a tip: Don't drink a lot of water before hitting the Parkway. Restrooms are few and far between.