At age 71, Sam Jernigan wanted to see if he could do it just one more time – ride the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, all 469 miles, on a bike.
“So far so good,” said Jernigan Monday night, after he dismounted his recumbent bicycle to spend the night at the Quality Inn on Franklin Road. Jernigan, a Virginia Tech graduate and retired city planner in Newport, RI, is traveling with three companions. It had been 10 years since the group last made the journey on the BRP. They took off from Cherokee, NC last Sunday, and then headed north.
For 12 straight years Jernigan had made the trip, but not since 1999.
“Its just something I wanted to do. I really love the Parkway,” Jernigan said.
Jernigan became familiar with the BRP during his time at Virginia Tech. The Parkway is an ideal bicycle route he noted, before the summer holidays: “no traffic,” he said from his hotel room Monday. The scenery also helped bring him back, although he admitted he’s sore at the end of each day, more so than in past years.
“I don’t get tired of that. On a bicycle you see a lot more than you do from a vehicle,” he said.
Two of the three riders with him are taking the bike tour for the first time.
“It’s fun introducing new people to the Parkway,” said Jernigan, who expects the trip to take eleven days this time, after making it in as little as nine before – when he camped along the Parkway instead of staying in motels.
Jernigan sees some more wear and tear along the Parkway and evidence of development creeping closer, but “its still a great road … [although] it seems like the hills got steeper, for some reason.”