Heading North


22-24 June 2013, 969 Miles

While we’re here we thought we’d see if we could visit enough National Parks etc. to qualify for the IBA National Parks Tour award; we need to go to at least 50 sites in 25 states. We certainly won’t have time to properly visit most of the places, which is a shame as there are some really interesting and beautiful places here, but we will get to ride the nice roads and admire the spectacular scenery that usually surrounds such areas as we collect the stamps.

Saturday was a very short day on the bike as we were both tired and hot. On our way out of Jacksonville we called into two forts – Fort Caroline in Jacksonville, Florida and Fort Frederica in St Simone Island, Georgia. The first one was a French Fort to protect them against the Spanish and religious oppression, the second an English one also to protect against the Spanish. Once again the weather was threatening storms and we got caught in a few sharp showers which were very refreshing; I suspect there aren’t many people welcoming the rain as we do.

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We stopped for a meal in Brunswick, Georgia, and had really lovely tasty steaks. Even more tired after that we decided to call it a day and stopped at a motel to have a sleep and a rest. As soon as we got into an air conditioned room we both felt wide awake and alert so it’s obviously the heat and humidity getting to us again. We also realised that we had more time to get to Washington than we initially thought so we could adopt a more leisurely pace.

The next day dawned bright and warm (just for a change!) and we continued moving north. The two Carolinas whizzed past in a haze of green, the roads being lined with trees on both sides for hundreds of miles.

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We called in at the Congaree National Park where Kevin got eaten alive while waiting for me to get the park stamp. No wonder when you see the ‘mosquito-ometer’!

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As we travelled up the road the countryside was very pretty. It looked much like home but on a more open and larger scale. It was still very warm, but not quite so humid as it had been. Eventually we started to see mountains in the distance and my brain kept singing the Laurel and Hardy Song The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (whether that’s what they were or not!).

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We were a bit undecided where to stop for the night and approached the Blue Ridge Parkway at around 18:30. We’d been warned it would be swarming with tourists this time of the year but decided to give it a go anyway. What a result! We had our side of the road entirely to ourselves and it was fantastic – lots of tight twists and curves. There were a few vehicles coming the other way including someone on a motorcycle dressed in t-shirt and shorts who completely misjudged the hairpin we were both on. Fortunately he managed to stop on the verge without actually dropping the bike but I bet his heart was banging a bit.

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The following day we spent a couple of hours riding through the Shenandoah National Park, where we stopped frequently to take pictures. After taking off our helmets all we could hear was thunder rolling round the mountains (apart from the time when a couple on two HD’s stopped but didn’t turn off their engines, quite spoiling the peace). Once again we were lucky with the weather. So far we seem to have been able to avoid the biggest showers and often find ourselves on wet roads where the rain had just passed through. Minutes later the road is completely dry.

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As part of our National Parks ride we decided to go to the Cedar Creek National Historic Park but the Visitors Centre was closed at 16:30 and we arrived there just afterwards. Instead of getting a stamp to prove we were here this photo will have to do.

As we approached Washington DC the traffic got heavier and heavier as it was still rush hour. It was very frustrating being stuck in traffic that at home or in most of Europe we would just filter through; the lanes are wide so there’s plenty of room. That filtering is illegal in most states makes no sense to us at all. Bikes then become part of the problem – occupying space a car could be in – rather than part of the solution. I hate filtering but I hate sitting in the traffic even more. Still, it’s not our country and when in Rome…

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Our hotel was spacious and, even better, very cool. We gratefully fell into the shower and once we were refreshed wandered off to find somewhere to eat. Tomorrow would be a day of sight-seeing in Washington.

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