Thursday, July 23, 2009

Progress On The Virginia Maps

Image - The work in progress

I've got the basic layout done on the first of at least three Virginia maps. At this point I'm only going as far north as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even so, I'm discovering a wealth of great roads, far more than I expected.

One of the greatest challenges has been to reset my criteria for selecting and choosing which roads will be featured on the map as the best rides. The terrain changes as you move from North Carolina into southern Virginia. You leave the 6000 ft. peaks behind and enter the rolling hill country. There are still some dramatic overlooks and long range views, those always make the grade. Without huge mountain ranges to block passage, there are more roads to choose from.

Traffic load is always a factor. I've ruled out several squiggly lines on the map simply because I've yet to experience them without getting stuck behind commercial traffic or some doddering old codger creeping around the curves. While these are pretty roads to look at on a map, they are the only connection between towns so they get heavy use. It's easy to eliminate them.

Others are nice rides once you're out in the country until you approach the major towns. US 221 has portions I really like, but once you get in and around Galax it goes down the tubes. Routing around Galax has been a challenge. Roads like these will probably end up being labeled in blue instead of red - good connectors if needed, but not outstanding rides.

The other frustration has been the lack of progress north. This map still contains a good portion of North Carolina due to the way the mountains run and thusly the Blue Ridge Parkway. I failed to recognize previously how much of the parkway follows along the border in this region. Still, the discovery of some really great roads makes up for it.

I'll spend the day working in the details, the road labels, gas stations, direction arrows, place names, and points of interest. Over the next several days I'll lay out the route for what I hope will be the last visit to complete this map. It's obvious I have a lot of area to cover both revisiting previous discoveries and exploring the few new roads I've identified as likely prospects. The challenge will be to try to do it in one day to keep down costs, though that is looking less and less likely. All it takes is one serendipitous discovery, something unplanned, a road which turns to gravel unexpectedly and slows progress to throw off the whole schedule. Still, those unplanned side trips revealed some fabulous rides on this last trip and are worth the effort.

I have come to realize one thing. All the planning must be done ahead of time. I'm typically on the road before 8 AM and don't roll into the motel until after 9 PM. I find I'm so exhausted I have no energy to revise or create new plans. It's all about the planning.

I'm looking forward to completing this map and moving on to the next. It will be centered on Roanoke, VA., and I expect the terrain will change again as I move north from the city. There are hints of some great roads close in, just as I found around Asheville, NC. No way to tell until I ride them. It's also a section of the parkway I haven't visited for some time. It will all be fresh and full of exciting new discoveries. If there are half as many good roads as I've found to the south, it will take more than one good trip.

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