Home Base: Buchanan, VA
Buchanan, VA is a very small town about 30 miles north of Roanoke, VA. It’s also only five miles from my campground. So, I figured this would be a great area to start riding!
I decided to make a solo jaunt into town, then figure out how to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Highway 43 from Buchanan is very low traffic, and offers a very steep, rewarding climb. At the top you’ll find the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 5 miles south of the Peaks of Otter.
It felt great to hammer out a more serious climb, and considered a few miles of rolling hills to the visitor center. Instead, I enjoyed a few minutes on the parkway, had a snack, snapped some photos, and made my fast decent!
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an animal of it’s own. It’s long, 400+ miles acting as the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cyclist flock here for a reason! In next months chapter, I will go into more depth on my experiences cycling the BRP. This ride was only my first taste!
Mill Mountain & Mighty Megan
The Roanoke Star stands 100″ tall and sits on the north summit of Mill Mountain. It overlooks the entire Roanoke metropolis and locals like to call it the “Hollywood of the East”. Megan and I have already driven up to the star (at night) and decided it’d be a perfect route for biking. At the time, we didn’t know how right we were!
Megan and I parked at Underdog Bikes, unloaded our gear, then introduced ourselves to the staff at the shop. Shortly after, I was looking at my Garmin display telling me I’m at 11% gradient. Ouch! Our goal is a residential road that leads to a short trail, reaching the summit of Mill Mountain. We could see the star from the bike shop and it was obvious it’s a bit of a climb. The guy at the shop told us it was steep, Strava later told me that our first 1.2 miles would cover 600 feet at a 9.2% grade.
Although steep, the road up Mill Mountain was very enjoyable. Not included in our pictures were some beautiful properties alone the way, and views overlooking the city. We didn’t get any pictures of the singletrack riding back down because it was a bit more serious than we thought. Some of the trails were pretty hairy!
Fall Riding Begins
Rural southwest Virginia is a place of it’s own. Beautiful? Of course! But every now and then you come across a property that is undeniably terrifying. One minute you’re cruising a rural road and the next your flanked by rusty barbed wire fence containing property that doesn’t look habitable, but clearly someone resides there. Especially going into the Halloween season, I’ll go ahead and obey the “no trespassing” signs.
Megan and I have adventured many of the back roads near our campground. Some of these dirt roads must only see a handful of cars a day, making it very safe for easy riding. We’ve also managed to find a dirt road which leads us to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a great 1,000ft climb from our home. Honestly, it’s been nice being able to hop on the bike and not worry about the cars. I’m really looking forward to October as the leaves begin to change!
Coming up next!
Megan and I are saving the best for last in this 3 part series. Megan has agreed to support me for an epic 85 mile solo ride from Peaks of Otter to Shenandoah National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Also, we plan to hit Carvins Cove, which is a main attraction for mountain bikers of all skills, will be featured in our next episode. Roanoke has an amazing scene for cycling!
Thanks for reading!
Bobby & Megan