There are no words, no pictures, no way to possibly describe how beautiful the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway are in the rain.
We had spent the morning at MR Motorcycle getting the tire replaced. The rain had poured down in sheets as we rode to the shop, and while they worked on the bike, Bill took off his boots and poured the water out. He replaced them, and a few minutes later, had to do it again. This time he wrung out his socks, which couldn't have been wetter if we'd gone swimming in a lake. We were absolutely drenched. We had stopped often on the trip, going into coffee shops and other places to get warm. But in July in North Carolina, raining or not, everyone had on their air conditioning, so we were better off outside.
So we sat on the bench outside the shop, covered at least by the eaves of the building, and waited. While we sat, though, we could see blue skies to the left, and it appeared the weather for the day would improve. We excitedly planned our afternoon--the Pisgah National Forest and some of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and on to Maggie Valley Bikewear to thank them for their help yesterday and to eat at Chris-the-tow-truck-driver's parents' restaurant. From there we were going to go to Cherokee before heading back to the inn.
Soon enough, the sun came out fully, the parking lot dried up, and we were going to have a beautiful day. I was getting a safe, new tire, the sun was shining, all was good. Neil came out to say, "He's balancing up your tire now. Shouldn't be too long and you'll be on your way." And as we waited for those finishing touches, we watched the clouds roll in, the sky blacken, and the rain started again.
By the time we pulled out of the shop parking lot, the rain came down steadily, and we pulled into Asheville traffic and headed off to the Parkway. I was breaking in a new tire, and when they handed the bike back to me, there was a bright yellow piece of paper attached to the key that said, "We have installed a new tire. Drive gently for 100 miles, taking extra care at turns and when stopping. We recommend EXTREME CAUTION," with those last two words in a much larger font and all caps. Hello, people, we're in Asheville. It's all turning and stopping.
We swung on to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I drove gingerly and gently around turns. It's actually perfect, with the 45 mph limit, and on a Friday in the rain, there were hardly any other cars. The motorcyclists, relatively few though there were, were very friendly, with enthusiastic waving and beeping as we drove past. We made a wrong turn at one point and found ourselves on a much more challenging downhill, with tight tight curves, and lush greenery right up against the road. The mists and the rain brought out the gazillion shades of green, and the wet wood made for a higher contrast in the browns, blacks, and grays of stems and trunks. We stopped at a narrow waterfall where a stream fell through the thick vegetation and traveled under the road, flowing straight in spite of the essing turns of the pavement. We looked up through the fog at enormous trees stretching tall and straight over head. We marveled at the many shades of green, more than I could have believed.
I love to think of how people lived, how these roads and paths were originally cut on foot, and then eventually horseback. How people before us might have first happened on these lands, seen the beautiful forest undisturbed. The Witch in me feels the energy in the trees, the resonance in the rocks, the strength in the habitat. It was beautiful and moving and spiritual and amazing. The sound of the rain on every leaf, the stream's trickle, the pavement's tick as the rain bounced off... There is no way to describe how beautiful it was.
We realized our mistake (thank you iPhone maps app!!) and turned back up the hill. For me, I am much more at ease traveling up hill, and I felt confident tilting the bike, swooshing around curves, pulling ourselves up the wrong-turn road and back onto the Parkway.
We had a similar experience coming out of Cherokee many hours later when a wrong turn sent us through a wooded area with a large stream/nearly a river on our right. The greens were an intense contrast against the brown and bubbling water, and the road bent and curved alongside the flow, with trees bent over, creating a tunnel of green. Again, we rode on for some time before turning back into Cherokee to find the right road.
We had also been to Maggie Valley to thank the bikewear folks -- I introduced myself as "yesterday's damsel." They were incredibly sweet, and we promised to return. Please be sure to stop by and give them your business any time you find yourself in Maggie Valley.
Cherokee was also fascinating, and we promised ourselves we would return when we had time to stay for several days to soak up all that the town had to offer. This was the end of the relaxing part of our journey. Our tomorrow would be an early rise, packing, checking out, and then many, many hours of riding back to Durham. I knew we would be beat by the time we got back. Rest was much needed, and we looked forward to a soak in the deep, claw-footed tub in our room.