The Blue Ridge Parkway

“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.”

Albert Einstein

I am obsessed with listening to true crime podcasts while I drive. My current new favorite is Park Predators. Yes, as you can probably guess, this is a stupid idea considering my current road trip is by myself (ALONE) living in my converted SUV.

“Lola” in her natural habitat

I pack the car, leave my home outside Washington D.C., drive west on Interstate 66 and exit in Front Royal, Virginia. This is the most northern point for the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.

Shenandoah National Park is the first section of the drive. The third episode of the podcast, unbeknownst to me, is entitled The Hikers. It begins to play just after I took the above photograph of the entrance and begin my adventure south. The episode is about two female hikers that were killed in the 1990s inside the park while sleeping in their tent, on the right hand side of the road next to me. Seriously? What are the odds of that episode playing at that moment?

Roanoke, Virginia

Is the pepper spray still in my cup holder? Yep.

Baseball bat within reach? Yes.

Skip to a different episode? Definitely.

Roanoke, Virginia

I’ve camped multiple time in Shenandoah National Park and my favorite spot is at Big Meadows Campground. It’s the perfect base camp for anyone who wants to day-hike a section of the Appalachian Trail or relax in your campsite hammock and read a book.

Roanoke, Virginia

Camping is relaxing… blah blah blah… It’s also the best excuse to cook an entire package of bacon in your cast-iron pan over the campfire and eat E V E R Y piece by yourself. If you’re camping with a friend, bring a second package. For some reason, eating this much bacon is frowned upon on any given day inside a home where there are witnesses.

Roanoke, Virginia

SLEEPING: It isn’t legal to park overnight anywhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I took little side trips off the parkway into small towns like Roanoke, Virginia.

A decent sized storm had rolled through this part of the country a few days before I set out and multiple downed trees blocked portions of the BRP. I was forced to detour four times during the 469 miles.

But, this gave me an opportunity to seek out rest stops along major interstates. Sleeping overnight in your car at rest stops is allowed unless you see posted signs at the rest stop entrance. It is actually my preferred location to sleep in the car. They have 24-hour restrooms, great lighting in the parking lot, and vending machines for those who don’t travel with a cooler packed with goodies.

Blacksmith Shop

My best advice for anyone who sleeps in their car: If something doesn’t feel right, move. Trust your gut.

If someone is watching you clean out your car, like he is literally standing still watching you, simply ask the guy if the state you are in is an ‘open carry’ state as you place your hand on your hip. He walked away and left me alone thinking I was armed. Yeah, I was armed with the clean socks I stuffed in my pocket when cleaning the car.

If you think someone is a creeper or innocently likes to watch women bend over to retrieve trash out their car… just leave. There are plenty of other places that will feel safe. Sans creepers.

Mabry Mill

I’m a sucker for a historic site.

Doesn’t matter what it is.

If I see a brown sign while driving, the Pavlovian Response kicks in and I do what the sign says. Turn right or left. Doesn’t matter. I’m going.

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