Segment one takes us through the rural areas of dairy country and Amish communities of northern New York. We are not far from the St. Lawrence River that drains the Great Lakes and is the border between the US and Canada for a stretch in New York. Life is uncomplicated here and we may observe residents beginning to prepare for the cold and long winter that will soon be coming to the area. As we cycle farther south, the townships grow and more activity will be seen. We encounter our first real hills as we sidle along the finger lakes region and approach the Allegheny Mountains. Seven days into the tour we enter Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Dutch communities. We will travel through the heart of coal country and pass through true blue collar towns as we drop into the Susquehanna River Valley. This beautiful route takes us right into the capital city of Harrisburg. From there we cross the western finger of Maryland before crossing the Potomac River into Virginia. We cross the C&O Canal towpath and a chance to learn how the area shaped the transportation advances of the 1700’s, as well as many other historical events that took place here near the nation’s capital. The segment ends as we veer from Route 11 to kiss the border of Shenandoah National Park.
Segment two is a bucket list ride along Skyline Drive, which connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway: 574 miles of gorgeous vistas and dramatic elevations. The parkway snakes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and traverses the states of Virginia and North Carolina, and offers us a chance to challenge and amaze. Our lodging stays as close to the parkway as possible, but we will sometimes have to swoop out of the mountains to find a comfortable bed and a hearty meal. The Timberline van will always be available to help you regain your elevation in the morning to continue the Parkway quest. We spend 9 days on the parkway, and have scheduled the ride to only include one weekend to minimize the competition with vehicles. The foliage should just be beginning to change and the weather should be cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. We will welcome a layover day in Bryson City, NC and a chance to stroll along some Great Smoky Mountains trails, or just wander this laid-back small town.
Segment three will bring us into a different world as we exit Tennessee to traverse Alabama and Mississippi. We’ll experience rural southern hospitality and have miles of well maintained, gently rolling roads to carry us ever farther south. The state of Alabama has more varied geography than is obvious, with deep forests to open prairie, mountain rock outcrops, and water. Did you know that one fifth of all the fresh water in the USA flows through Alabama’s rivers, streams and lakes? By the time we enter Mississippi the roads will have become broad and flat. Before we know it, we’ll be enjoying our last celebratory dinner together at a bayou B&B on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. On our last day we cross the last miles of Route 11, that comes to an unceremonious end at route 90, which we will follow into the heart of New Orleans. The cycling tour ends here, in the melting pot of French, African and American cultures with round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music and spicy, singular cuisine. Why not stay a day or two to enjoy?