The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America’s favorite drive and no wonder. It is a stunning piece of creation.
We have learned that work on the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935 at Cumberland Knob, near the North Carolina and Virginia border. The Blue Ridge Parkway was part of the Good Roads movement which began in the late 19th century. The essence of a good road is a road that does not fight the mountains. This road clings, winds and weave along in as natural a manner possible. It surely is a good road. It does not fight the landscape, but rather follows every twist and turn, every ascend and descend. The parkway never seems an intruder among these mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one road then kept his promises, lived up to the idea behind it. This Parkway is the showcase of the Appalachian Mountains and the most visited national park in America.
The scenic highway was started in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression. Arnie recalls that his Dad worked for a time on a CCC project as many of the men did during that era just to support their families. Mr. Jaquith worked building trails and AMC huts in the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire, specifically in the presidential mountain range in Northern New Hampshire. He was doing this at about the same time that this Parkway was being built. This road runs along the spine of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain chain.
As you might imagine, it offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. About 35 miles of this National Scenic Highway wanders through the twin counties. One thing that we loved about this drive is that the parkway was built to blend in with its natural surroundings. Instead of steel guard rail, you will find only picturesque stone walls: overpasses are stone as well. There are countless scenic overlooks. along the 469 mile highway so you can pull off and enjoy mountain views at your leisure. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour and sometimes slower as the highway curves across in and up and up and down the rugged mountains. The slower pace allowed opportunity for us to really absorb and reflect on the beauty and history. It’s also a safer pace for the winding Mountain Road. A bonus was that there is no commercial traffic allowed, so we were not holding our breath that a large vehicle would round the bend.
Anyone who has taken a drive with us will attest that we are often distracted from the original plan and follow our noses to discover new places. This happened as we were driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. We decided to take a slight detour and go explore the quaint town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. And, as luck would have it, an opportunity arose. We saw a tour company that takes folks around to see the highlights in replica Barney Fife style squad cars. Having all of the animals with us made taking a tour out of the questions so we did the next best thing………we followed the squad car tour around town! It worked out really well even though they might not have appreciated the “tail”. It also saved us a bundle, I’m sure. Here are a few of the highlights:
Mount Airy is a charming downtown with all sorts of shops to tempt the tourist. We shared a jumbo blueberry muffin at a great bakery that also sold peanut butter cookies for the dogs. We all appreciated the snack before we drove back to the Parkway. Going back, Arnie took a route that we were not too sure of and despite my anxiety over adequate gas, diminishing daylight and ever getting home again, we did finally emerge from the hill country. So what if it was in double the time it would have taken if we had gone the major route! We saw farmsteads, old homesteads, stunning country views,etc that we never could have found on the main roads. I am learing to relax when the GPS doesn’t function, there’s no cell service and most of all, no bathroom. I’m learning to relax, but I have a long way to go! Ask Arnie!