Monday, July 24, 2006

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Today, as I mourned the horror of my blessed laptop going to be with the Deity. . . sigh . . . I sought out the internet's finest entertainment values - I needed undepressing after considering how much a new laptop was going to cost me. Oy.

Well, Yahoo's The Spark! threw me a serious bone with this entry on, yes, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I have many, many memories of the ol' Parkway. Key among them for me? Well, hmm. I remember the region of the Parkway (and its Northern continuance, the Skyline Drive) around Waynesboro, Staunton, and Charlottesville in Virginny. Now, I remember brief jaunts off the interstate there when I was a kid, usually on my way to Eastern Virginia to see my Dad's folk, but it was during my two years at UVA that I came to know the road intimately. I'd jump on the Parkway at any one of a series of points: Roanoke Mountain, Humpback Rocks (where Whittaker and I walked after Mom died), Whetstone Ridge, Peaks of Otter, Indian Gap, and so on. And while I have riden and driven on many of the truly astounding stretches of the North Carolina Parkway, I have to say, nothing contends, to me at least, to the experience of sliding around the long curves of the Virginia Blue Ridge in deep fog, when the whole world is white and green and the concept of a time-of-day seems alien - those rare moments when you really know what the mountains (and the rest of the Earth) looked like before our species came a'conquering. Plus, when the fog comes - not to mention rain, snow, or ice, well, admittedly I enjoy the extra advantage - the flatlanders (God bless 'm) stay home. The Parkway, when it is deserted, well, it really is something of a religious experience - I've worked out more problems and come through more trials by driving down the Parkway while listening to Johnny Cash and considering the Mozi and Taoist philosophy than I care to admit.

Well, the Spark! site I linked to above is pretty darn good - there are a number of interesting links which, most likely, will give anybody ten, fifteen minutes of pleasure. Minimum. If you have a low attention span. that said, I decided to see what else I could dredge up for you. Here's what I found.

To start with and All-Important,
The US National Park Service Blue Ridge Parkway Official Site: Everything you think would be here, including the magical, mystical, exciting list of road closures. Laugh it up - you won't be laughing if you get halfway down the Parkway and find yourself turning around thanks to a snowstorm when its 50 degrees in the valleys.

The Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection (The University of Texas, Austin): Scroll down just a bit and you'll find scans of the length and breadth of the Parkway in substantial detail. The maps were originally the product of the US National Park Service, so you know that they'll be "dumbed down for idiot who never used a map before BUT detailed enough for someone who has" quality (which is good).

Blue Ridge Parkway & Skyline Drive
: Put simply - functional guide with tons of data - of specific interest? Chamber of Commerce-style lists of businesses and events, and, not to mention, a list of free internet access points along the way (which, like a blessing from the Dahli Lama, is nice). Also, for bonus points, there are pages that show-off vintage post-cards and brochures. Neat.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Association: This one is pretty awesome. First, it has a history of the Linn Cove Viaduct - reason number 4623 why Appalachia is one of the best places to see awe-inspiring, practical architecture. Also it reminded me to use the term "viaduct." Of course, the site has some pretty decent maps, a list of developed areas actually on the Parkway, and an interesting (if unusual) Trip Planner.

Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway
: Basically, an organization that helps to maintain the Park. Way. On the other hand, consider the . . .

Blue Ridge Foundation: Which serves as an organ for raising funds for the Parkway. Additionally, it maintains an archive of families who formerly and currently lived along the roads that now constitute the Parkway.

The Roanoke Times: :Miles, Mountains, Myths: The Blue Ridge Parkway"
: Great stories, some truly fantastic multimedia jonx, and yes, a brief discourse on the "myth of the hillbilly". . . and how early Parkway administrators exploited that myth to increase tourist appeal. Really a must see.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mile-by-Mile Travelogue
: A seriously detailed list of the Parkway's sights. . . it really has the potential to allow for actual "stopping the car" traveling that isn't based simply on whims. Really cool data.

"Highways in Harmony": Read this quote:

The Blue Ridge Parkway (BLRI) was documented in 1996-97 by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), a division of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. This recording project was cosponsored by the the Federal Highway Administration's Federal Lands Highway Office, through the NPS Park Roads and Parkways Program. The collection of drawings, photographs and historical reports is available through the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress.

Point made, point taken.

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