A Foggy Day in Shenandoah National Park… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

Regulations on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive understandably recommend that bicyclists not travel on foggy days. The fog does present some good photo ops, however.

Regulations on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive understandably recommend that bicyclists not travel on foggy days. The fog does present some good photo ops, however.

 

“Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you/Away you rolling River/Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you/Away, I’m bound away/Cross the wide Missouri.”

There are songs that you hear as a child that bury themselves deep in your brain and are forever being replayed. Oh Shenandoah was one such song for me. It had a yearning that even my 9-year-old soul understood. I longed to see the Shenandoah River, and return to it— even though I had never been there.

It isn’t surprising then that Shenandoah became my song of the day as I wrapped up my bike tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway and entered Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. I often sang on my bike. It helped wile away the hours. But this time I sang with the same longing I had felt as a fourth grader.

Peggy and I woke up to a foggy morning on our last day of retracing my bike route along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was glad I wasn't riding my bike.

Visibility can be a real issue when the fog sets in for bicyclists as well as motorists.

A pine tree stands out in the fog along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But fog has a way of shrouding everything in mystery.

Skyline Drive provides the same beauty, lack of commercial traffic and slow speed limit as found on the Blue Ridge Parkway, without the severe ups and downs.

Skyline Drive starts where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends when you are riding south to north. It provides the same beauty, lack of commercial traffic, and slow speed limit as found on the Parkway, without as many ups and downs.

Dogwood in fog along Skyline Drive in Virginia.

Distant vistas disappear in the fog. The traveller is left with views closer to the road…

A tree of dogwood blooming along the Skyline Drive in Virginia.

That bring their own beauty…

Trees along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

With a different perspective.

Pine needles provided an interesting pattern in the fog.

The grey backdrop made these pine needles stand out.

Not sure what these flowers were, but I found their green hue appealing.

Fog or not, I always like close-ups. The yellow-green hue of these flowers, and their abundance, caught my attention.

Tree lichens caught the attention of my camera.

Lichens are always worth a closer look..

Riding along the Skyline wasn’t enough for me, however. Oh Shenandoah was about the river and I had to see it! I reached US Highway 33 and made a snap decision. Instead of following Skyline Drive the rest of the way to Front Royal, Virginia, I would turn left and drop down into the Shenandoah Valley where I could sing to the river. And that is what I did. In Elkton, I picked up US 340 and followed it along the south fork of the Shenandoah River to Front Royal.

A cow and her calf welcomed me to the Shenandoah Valley.

Peggy and I followed the same route in our van as we retraced my route. A cow and her calf welcomed us to the Shenandoah Valley.

Welcome sign to Shenandoah.

As did this sign.

As this pasture land demonstrates.

Spring was bursting out all over!

This old fireplace was all that remained of an earlier Shenandoah Valley home.

This old fireplace was all that remained of an earlier Shenandoah Valley home. It isn’t unusual to find fireplaces standing alone, the one thing that wouldn’t burn when pioneers lost their homes to fires. This one would have gone with a large home.

And yes, I did find the Shenandoah River with its mountain backdrop.

And yes, I did find the Shenandoah River with its mountain backdrop.

From Front Royal I biked on to Winchester where a billboard announced I was entering Patsy Cline’s hometown. I had another decision to make, this one more dramatic than my quick decision to check out the Shenandoah River. I had been bicycling for three months and I needed a break. A friend was supposed to meet me in two weeks in Maine and join me in bicycling through Nova Scotia. I could make it, just barely, maybe. But I would have to push hard through urban areas with urban traffic. Finally, I had developed a sore on my inner thigh in Mississippi and a sore on your inner thigh when you are bicycling is not a good thing. It would not go away.

Old Town in Winchester Virginia has bee turned into a pleasant and attractive auto-free zone. Patsy Cline would recognize the buildings.

Old Town in Winchester, Virginia has been turned into a pleasant and attractive auto-free zone. I think that Patsy Cline would like it..

So I decided to become good friends with the Dog. I would take the Greyhound from Winchester up though Washington DC, New York City, Boston and New England to Bangor, Maine. It would drop the total distance of my trip to around 10,000 miles, but I could live with that— and I would have a two-week break.

Next Blog: I make it to Maine and begin my exploration of Nova Scotia.

31 comments on “A Foggy Day in Shenandoah National Park… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

  1. My parents’ farm was just outside Charlottesville and I graduated high school in Winchester, so these beautiful photos took me “home.” Your and Peggy’s adventures have John and me thinking about hitting the road in an RV! 🙂

    • Glad to take you “home.” 🙂 I was really impressed with Winchester. As for RV travel, I never would have thought I would enjoy it so much until Peggy and I took a year off in 1999-2000 and traveled for a year in out 22 foot Pleasure Way through Canada, the US and Mexico. We still love to get out and about in it. Our three month trip following my bike route was a real treat for us. –Curt

  2. Oh these photos are gorgeous. Visiting Shenandoah is on my bucket list. And your post is certainly convincing. Funny: last year I almost stayed in Winchester, VA and ended up not. Too bad because I love these towns that create pedestrian only areas. On my list too!
    Cannot wait for your New England post.

  3. Great fog shots! I have been on the Skyline Drive one time, but it was in a car. I was in the midst of one of my cross-country moves and when I saw the sign, I had no choice but to go. What a gorgeous country and I am delighted with the perspective you had in such misty weather. Funny how that song is one I remember from childhood too.

    Of course you made the right decision by leaving the driving to Greyhound. Maybe you could have pushed directly through, not allowing yourself any snap decisions, but only pressing forward, counting miles. But…there’s less joy in that. Greyhounds offer their own perspective on America, too. 😉 I hope to hear about any characters you may have witnessed on the way.

    • I always think that fog adds a unique perspective, Crystal, as I am sure you appreciate quite often on the Oregon and Washington coasts.
      Don’t really remember any true characters, which means they probably weren’t outrageously so. I would have made some notes. 🙂 –Curt

  4. Next time we are that way, we will have to see Winchester again. It has been a long time. We worked in DC around 30 years — I recall a close encounter [but no accident] with deer appearing suddenly in the fog on the Skyline Drive.

    • It certainly seemed different when Peggy and I visited this spring as opposed to 1989. I was impressed. As for deer encounters, I bet it was scary when one came out of the fog. It’s bad enough on a clear night. We have to be so careful here in southern Oregon. There are dozens of accidents annually. –Curt

    • Thanks, Sue. It adds another whole level to photography. In addition to the beauty, there is the mystery and slight sense of danger. There are reasons why it makes its way into scary movies. 🙂 –Curt

  5. I love fog. I don’t enjoy driving in fog. But, when it can’t be avoided, it certainly does add a certain strange thrill to a trip. I’m not sure how willing I’d be to bicycle through it.

    As for pushing on and on and on and on a little more, regardless of circumstances — well, that’s often the worst decision. I don’t need to tell you that, of course. Besides, you had a reasonable alternative that wold add it’s own piquancy to the later tales!

    • Fog creates it’s own world, Linda. I find it both mystical and magical, as well as beautiful. But it is best not to travel in it. I am always reminded of the horrendous pile ups on the freeways of the Central Valley of California.
      Knowing when to stop is always important, particularly in wilderness travel. It is all too easy to end up in dangerous situations. I’ve been there a few times. 🙂 –Curt

  6. Can imagine fog for a bicyclist isn’t great – back then with a little less traffic maybe not so bad. You caught the best in and out of the sun. What a great idea to strip 10,000 miles off the trip 😉

    • Fog is always a hazard. Bright clothing and bike lights are important. Dust storms and Burning Man creates the same situation. 🙂 But then again, driving in fog, as I am sure you often face, isn’t much fun either! It does make for interesting photos however. And I chuckled at your 10,000 miles. That was one more zero than I eliminated. –Curt

    • Your mere mention brings the tune back into my mind, Rusha. (As does each of the other comments. Strange how powerful music can be in our memories.) And thanks. It was definitely time to get off my bike for a week or so. And it worked. –Curt

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