Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday


[From Rally to Ridgecrest]

As I have written previously, the Rally to Ridgecrest over Memorial Day weekend was a great time of riding, fellowship, learning, worship, singing, and eating, all in the pleasant surroundings of the Ridgecrest Conference Center. It is run by LifeWay, the people behind the Christian bookstores of the same name, and they are, in turn, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Aside: You might be confused by the word convention up there. Although the official name of the denomination is "Southern Baptist Convention," the convention itself is actually the annual meeting that normally takes place each June. "Denomination" more appropriately describes the daily standing of Southern Baptists, as in, "Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination in the United States."Activities on Saturday have been scheduled, hour-by-hour, for us, so everything flows smoothly. The first thing in the morning is an early risers devotional. We meet at the flagpole and hear a homily, then pray for veterans, and for that weekend activities to be dedicated to the glory of God. After that, we scurry off to a hearty breakfast in the dining hall of scrambled eggs, grits, gravy on biscuits, fruit, and sausage. Yum, again (except for the grits -- I am a northern boy).

Shortly after breakfast, I start out on a ride. Many others are doing the same, but I don't like riding in large groups and with people whose riding skills and style I don't know, so I strike out by myself. Understand that I am not the greatest rider on the street, but I enjoy going at my own pace. I have picked out a possible route on the rally website and expanded it a bit. I want to go further north on the Blue Ridge Parkway than I have been before, at least to Grandfather Mountain.

The route I have worked out begins on I-40, and sweeps at high speed down hill to the east. I divert on US-70 through Old Fort, then take US-221 north near Marion. As I approach the Parkway, the road gets more curvy, but sweeping and quite manageable. I enter the Parkway and head north. Here is the first of several segments of the complete route referenced above:

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I have never been on this section of the Parkway, so it is all new to me, though it continues to be less scenic than further south. Nevertheless, the ride is enjoyable. I move along at a comfortable pace, stopping whenever I please. Some of the overlooks are great for just spending a few minutes relaxing, stretching from the journey, and maybe having a snack and a drink of water.

View Larger Map

There is an interesting website that has panoramic views taken at Parkway overlooks. It also has lots of other interesting Parkway information, including printable maps.

Here is some information about the origin and construction of the Parkway, taken from the Virtual Blue Ridge website:
"The Blue Ridge Parkway...resulted from a [government jobs program that needed]...trained engineers, architects and landscape architects left unemployed by the Great Depression, not to mention the thousands of mountain families already verging on poverty. In addition, the recent openings of two popular eastern parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, were already attracting tourists to the naturally beautiful but financially poor area; and the increasing availability of the automobile foresaw a new generation of motoring vacations.

"Actual construction of the Parkway didn't begin until late in 1935, although the plan had been in the works for two years. At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had visited Virginia's first Civilian Conservation Corps camp while they were working on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Liking what he saw, he soon approved the concept of constructing a scenic motorway linking the two new parks, Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After much wrangling in Congress over acquisition, funding, and the location of the road, it was decided that the Parkway should follow the crest of the southern Appalachian mountains through Virginia and North Carolina, and that the necessary rights-of-way should be purchased by the states and then turned over to the federal government to be administered by the National Park Service as a park. Although the Parkway differs from the usual national park in its narrow land-holdings (at times shrinking to a width of only 200 feet), it is still managed like any site in the National Park Service.

"Progress was slow at first, as CCC crews surveyed deep into the mountains and realized the enormity of the task at hand. No maps, reluctant landowners, extreme weather conditions, rocky terrain, and snakes were only a few of the obstacles encountered. Many mountain roads were little more than ruts and could not even accommodate the equipment needed for construction. Foremost in the minds of the crews was to create as little scar as possible, and great care was taken to design and build the roadway so that it blended into its natural surroundings. Construction took place in sections as land was purchased, rights-of-way approved, and contracts secured. Progress was steady until World War II when funds were diverted for the war effort. The 1950s and 1960s saw a slowdown in construction, until by 1968 the only task left was the completion of a seven-mile stretch around North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain. In order to preserve the fragile environment on the steep slopes of the mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,200-foot suspended section of the Parkway, was designed and built. Considered an engineering marvel, it represents one of the most successful fusions of road and landscape on the Parkway.

"Overall, some 26 tunnels were blasted through the mountain ridge, with dozens of bridges needed to make rivers and creeks passable. More than 200 parking areas, overlooks, and developed areas were incorporated into the design so that motorists could enjoy a leisurely ride through the mountains. The road itself ascends to more than 6,000 feet at Richland Balsam overlook in North Carolina, and descends to just over 600 feet at the James River in Virginia. Hundreds of easements and agricultural use permits were negotiated with Parkway neighbors in order to ensure views of rustic rail fences, livestock, and shocks of corn and wheat, with no intrusive billboards and minimal residential development. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was officially dedicated on September 11, 1987, fifty-two years after the ground breaking, although various sections had already been in use for decades. In one sense, though, the Parkway may never be completely finished. Efforts continue to acquire property near the boundaries continues in an effort to provide better protection for land and views that the park service already owns."
So it was a make-work project started during the Great Depression, and continues to this day, consuming ever more taxpayer dollars. The Parkway is nice. I enjoy it immensely. But I also know that the make-work projects that made it possible helped prolong the Great Depression by many years, since none of us, and certainly not the government, can spend itself to prosperity. FDR's dictator-like running of the government welfare programs was much like our current president, whose fiscally irresponsible actions will prolong the current recession by many years as well. We all suffer for the benefit of a few.

OK. Back to the ride, now.

I stop at Linville Falls, near milepost 316.4. It is really a series of waterfalls. This is the upper falls, a fifteen-minute walk from the parking lot.

There is a larger falls further downstream, though I did not walk there during my visit. This is it, here:

[Photo by Ken Thomas]

On the trail, I spot this tree and decide to become artistic. The sun is directly behind it, causing it to be silhouetted.

Neat effect, I think. ...and I didn't have to enhance it.

I continue my ride today on the Parkway, and next get off to visit Grandfather Mountain. It is located only a short distance off the Parkway. I find the entrance and note that the fee to go in is $15 a person. That seems a little steep. I wonder what is inside these gates that would warrant the high fee.

Here is a description from the Inn at Mill Creek blog:
"What is Grandfather Mountain, you ask? Grandfather Mountain, 5,946 feet above sea level, is a park and...nature preserve with great diversity in animal and plant life. Grandfather has hiking trails, a nature museum, environmental habitats for wildlife, great areas for picnicking, and a "Mile High Swinging Bridge" where you can take in some spectacular views."
For reference, the summit of Mount Mitchell, one of the places I went yesterday, is 6,684 feet above sea level, 738 feet higher than Grandfather.

I spot some other bikers nearby, so I idle over, take off my helmet and ask them about Grandfather.

They say that, indeed the tariff is high, but it is worth it to see the view from the top. I ask about the road condition, and they say that it is a well-paved road, but is challenging near the top. Another motorcycle joins us, his having just exited the park. The people I have been talking with look over to him and ask what took him so long to get back down here. He declares his very strong opinion of the road. I finally gather that his opinion is based mostly on negotiating tight downhill switchbacks.

It sounds as though I will get some additional practice on some downhill turns today.

I thank the group, put my gear back on, and head to the gate. The woman there asks if I have been here before. I tell her that I have not, so she starts into a detailed description of the road, including a firm admonishment that motorcycles need to be careful, and not speed. I tell her that I will be good, take the literature she hands me, and start out.

The road is in fine condition, but there is a paved ditch on one side and a dropoff of several inches on the other in many places, so it would not be good to run off the pavement in any vehicle.

About half way up, there is a parking lot for some of the other attractions here. They keep several types of wildlife in rather natural looking exhibits, and there are eleven hiking trails of greatly varying difficulty. You can also hike into the park from the outside (without having to pay the fee).

I take some pictures of the strange rocks near this parking lot. This one is called Split Rock.

That, it is.

This one is called Sphinx Rock. Can you pick out the smiling face looking to the right?

This parking lot is the place to see the animal exhibits, but the weather looks as though a storm is coming, and it will be worse at the top, so I don't take the time today.

I continue toward the summit. So far, the turns are not very sharp, but soon enough they become very tight indeed, near the upper parking lot. Of course, going up is much easier for most of us bikers, so I don't have too much trouble. In fact, I'd like to go a bit faster, but slow traffic prevents it.

Once I park in the upper lot, I find that the true summit is a further hike up, but that the trail is closed. I settle for the view from a lower point called Linville Peak, which is accessible across a pedestrian suspension bridge. Former North Carolina Tourism Director Charles J. Parker coined the name " Mile High Swinging Bridge" at the Bridge's dedication in 1952. The term "mile high" refers to the structure's elevation above sea level (5,280 feet), and "swinging" refers to the fact that suspension bridges do sway. The original cost of the bridge was $15,000. It was rebuilt in 1999 to the tune of $300,000.

Now you might think this 228-foot long bridge is quite a wonder, being a mile high. Do realize that even though we are a mile above sea level here, the local elevation difference immediately beneath the bridge is about eighty feet. Here is a view looking back from Linville Peak toward the parking lot.

And this is a 200-degree panoramic view taken by Ken Thomas looking south from Linville Peak, labeled with the other peaks visible.

[Photo by Ken Thomas]

Mr. Thomas' description of his April 30, 2008 photograph:
"To the far right (west) you can see Roan Mountain on the Tennessee border. The Black Mountain range, nearly 40 miles away, looms on the distant horizon to the center right. Grandmother Mountain, crowned by the WUNE-TV tower is to the right in the foreground. Near the center of the panorama is a small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To the far left (east) you can see the famous Grandfather Mountain Mile-High Swinging Bridge."
There are quite a few people climbing around Linville Peak, me amongst them, doing the best I can with my bike boots on. There is really no path, so we are indeed scrambling around on the rocks. I manage to stay on my feet, and live to see the parking lot again. I am amazed at the number of people wearing flip-flops or sandals on these rocky, uneven surfaces. Maybe they are more sure-footed than I am.

The weather is threatening, but there has been no rain. I mount up. As I begin my descent, I happen to be leaving when there are no other vehicles starting out from the parking area. I find that I am fairly confident, using the rear brake with a little throttle on the downhill switchbacks. I don't feel wobbly and out of control when using this technique, and I don't gain too much speed either. Thank you Irondad and Andrew Trevitt!

I make it to the entrance, and nod at the woman in the booth, an assurance to her that I have been good. Bye, now.

I get back on the Parkway, and travel over the Linn Cove Viaduct at milepost 304. This is a 1243 foot curved bridge over the last section of the Parkway to be completed, in 1983. By that time, the tree huggers had gotten into the act, preventing an on-grade road from being built that would have required significant cutting and filling to accomplish, but would have been much less expensive. This bridge cost ten million dollars.

Here is a picture of the viaduct:

[Photo by Mehmet OZ on Panoramio]

View Larger Map

I go a bit further north, then cut off onto US-221 and follow it south, in the general direction of Ridgecrest.

View Larger Map

This road roughly parallels the Parkway, and at one point the road has a view of the Viaduct from below. It looks like this, only not with the fall colors:

[Photo by Appalachian Encounters on Flickr]

I continue on US-221 until it crosses the Parkway again, then follow that all the way to Little Switzerland. The roads near here are the favorites of some sportbike riders down where I live. I can see why that might be, with all the twists and turns.

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I miss the turn I want and go a few extra miles, but soon realize my mistake and find the correct route, NC-226A. At the right spot to turn, I see a group of others from the rally, but they appear to be going a different direction so I don't join them.

NC-226A is a very twisty road that requires care. As usual I take it easy because of my ability and the fact that I am unfamiliar with the road. I hit US-221 to US-70 again to get back.

View Larger Map

I have not taken many pictures on the road today, riding mostly, and not expending the time to stop, double back, and make well-composed pictures. Please forgive me.

I reach the conference center about 2:15, clean up a little, and go right to the breakout sessions I had picked out that I thought might be of interest.

Here is the list of the sessions I attended through the weekend, each about an hour long:
Road Photography Randy Hughes -- LifeWay staff photographer, Honda ST1300
How to take good pictures on the road.

Planning & Organizing a Group Ride
Jeff Estes -- member of National Board of F.A.I.T.H Riders, veteran of Hillsborough County Florida Sheriff’s department, Certified Rider Coach, Harley Davidson Low Rider.
How to properly organize a group ride. There is much more to it than "Let's ride!"

Event Evangelism
Dave Burton -- preacher, Director of Evangelism for Florida Baptist Convention, writes Gospel tracts including the 'LIFE DEATH CARD' below, riding motorcycles for over 40 years: 1967 Sears Moped through current 2002 Fat Boy and Ultra Classic.
How to evangelize to the lost during your motorcycle event.

The Cycles We Ride
Danny Moats, national Chaplin of F.A.I.T.H Riders Motorcycle Ministry.
Not the cycles you are thinking of. Marriage cycle:

The two build on one another. Without both, there is trouble.

Intentional Evangelism
Sammy Gilbreath, Director of Evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions.
Intentional Evangelism it is meeting people where they hurt just as Jesus did. You must go out and find the lost, then maintain meaningful contact with them, in an effort to have them accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

And some I wish I had time for:

Tire Tread and Tongues; Get A Grip!
Michelle Newsome -- Lakeland Police Department Internal Affairs
Are you glorifying God with your words when the rubber meets the road? Failure to conduct a safety check on your tires as well as on your tongue can have disastrous results on your life. Are you using your tongue to bless or to blast? Sticks and stones hurt. Words do, too.

Family to Family: Reaching and Keeping our Kids
Jerry Pipes -- leader of the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team at the Baptist North American Mission Board.More than 70% of kids who grow up in evangelical churches are leaving by age 18. Here is how to experience meaningful family time, true purpose, while passing on your faith in Christ.

Leading Your Friends to Christ
Larry Gilmore -- Director of Evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Convention
Have you wanted to impact the lives of your unsaved friends for Christ, but just don't know how to begin? You already have a relationship with them. Here are some ideas on how to approach them in a way they will listen. You don't have to "make them" do anything! You have a responsibility to give them an opportunity to receive Christ.
After the sessions, there is -- wait for it -- dinner. Well, actually supper -- this is the south, you know: Dinner is the mid-day meal. See:

I am ravenous and the food is again yummy. The cafeteria here manages to make their food quite tasty. I might also say that the whole conference center is generally well maintained, clean, and the service I received from everyone I came in contact with was courteous and efficient.

I go outside to walk off my supper a bit, and notice a sportbike on a trailer. The bike is significantly damaged and there is grass in where the clutch lever used to be. Later, I meet the fellow, Clay, who owns the bike. He had overbraked for a turn, crashed, and broke his wrist. Even so, he is present in the evening worship; sore, but thankful that he was not hurt worse. I also learn that another rider, Ken, crashed and broke his neck today.

At evening worship, I am not very enthused with the music beforehand. The music is rock. I don't think you can worship God with rock music. I certainly can't. I can't even hear myself think when it is going on. Even if the words are inspirational or motivational, it is difficult to understand them and the sound level is too high. Musical preparation for worship can be upbeat, but it must get you into a receptive, contemplative mood to more effectively receive the message.

The message that follows tonight is good, however.

Overall, it has been a full day of riding, worship, learning, and fellowship. I am tired, but filled. I talk with my roommate for a while, then turn in, thank God for the day's activities, for our safety, and ask Him to comfort those who were injured. I also ask His blessing on the remainder of the weekend.

I am asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow.

Sunday activities and the ride home are coming up next.

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.


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