Weather: Upper 60s to start. Mid 80s to end. Partly cloudy.
Today’s route started with a bike path through downtown Roanoke to Mill Mountain. 800’ of climbing and just under 2 miles later, the riders were at the base of the Roanoke Star. The Roanoke Star is an 88.5 foot tall neon star that the Roanoke Merchant Association had built to kick off the 1949 Christmas shopping season. A viewing platform in front of the star provides a great view of the Roanoke Valley and downtown Roanoke. You can also see yourself on the Roanoke Star webpage. They have a webcam in the star. We were all almost famous today. :)
We finished our photos at the Star, rode past the Mill Mountain Zoo and headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway is part of the National Park Service and is the longest “linear park” that runs 469 miles from Rockfish Gap in Virginia (where we had our SAG stop on Day 1) to Oconaluftee (near Cherokee) in North Carolina. The really big climbs are down in North Carolina but we’ll have plenty of uphill on the section we’re riding in Virginia. Five miles onto the Parkway, about half of the riders took a 3-mile roundtrip detour to Explore Park. The visitor’s center has a large 3-D relief map of the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. While the riders could view dioramas of local history and examples of other non-cycling activities available in the area, the greatest interest was in the map. It provided a very tangible representation of terrain we’ve been riding, both on the Parkway and in the Shenandoah Valley. Any questions as to why our legs might be tired were readily answered.
We climbed today. 800’ to the Roanoke Star and then another 4500’ along the Parkway. The climb to the star did have some steep sections but once on the Parkway, it settled down. Relatively speaking. It was still plenty of work and plenty of climbing. However, rather than seeing double digit grades, we had 4-6% with some pop-ups to 8%. Extend one of those climbs to 7 miles & realize that we averaged over 100’ of climbing per mile - we have numeric proof that we had a challenging day on the bike. The work was well rewarded with beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains and the valleys below us.
We ended at Peaks of Otter Lodge. It’s a fun rustic old hotel right on the Parkway that overlooks the Abbot Lake. Why is this area called Peaks of Otter? We don’t know. Are otters indigenous to the area? The peaks don’t exactly resemble otters. We stopped pondering this question when we saw an official Parkway sign that specifically states “No one knows for certain why the area is called Peaks of Otter."
Time to stretch, put our legs up and rest for tomorrow we have another 5000’+ climbing day.