During the summer of 1996, my family and I spent a week's vacation in Luray, Virginia. During this week, we spent a couple of days visiting Shenandoah National Park. We made a couple of short day hikes in the park, and I also spent one day with my bicycle riding along the Skyline Drive. I enjoyed riding in this area so much that I decided this would be a good location for a longer, self-supported bicycle tour.
I used several references in planning my trip. Perhaps the most helpful was Elizabeth and Charles Skinner's Bicycling the Blue Ridge (ISBN 0-89732-093-X, Menasha Ridge Press). This book covers the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and contains information about campsites, stores, restaurants, bike shops, etc., both on and near the Drive and the Parkway. I also had a set of maps designed for use by cyclists, entitled A Cyclist's Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway, by Anne Sparks and Jerry Baumgartner (ISBN 0-9634475-0-5, Moose River Publishing). While I did not carry the book with me, it was helpful in gaining a better idea of the terrain to be covered. I did carry the maps for the BRP as far south as Roanoke. I figured that this was as far as I would possibly get. For the return trip down the Shenandoah Valley, I removed the relevant pages from a DeLorme Virginia atlas, and carried them.
I also gained much first-hand information from inquiries I made to the Bicycle Touring mailing list hosted by cycling.org. Here I was able to get first-hand information from other cyclists that had themselves ridden the Skyline Drive, the Blueridge Parkway, and various routes in the Shenandoah Valley. Not only recommended routes, but also those routes that should be avoided. Several people on this list made strong recommendations that I include a trip through Fort Valley on my itinerary. This turned out to be a highlight of my trip.
On Saturday, July 12, 1997 I left my home in Meriden CT and made the 7 1/2 hour drive to Front Royal, VA. The previous day, I had called the Blue Ridge Motel and inquired about room rates, and whether or not it would be possible to leave my truck parked while I was on tour. While talking to Debbie on the phone, I immediately had a good feeling. She sounded warm, friendly, and very helpful. After I had finished explaining what I was doing, she said "Oh, you're riding a bicycle all that way. You must not be a smoker, so I'll put you down for a non-smoking room. And you can't leave your truck parked in front of the motel, but you can park it next to my house behind the motel." When I checked into the motel on Saturday, and met Debbie in person, she turned out to be just as nice as she had sounded on the phone. The motel is an older one, and my room was small, but everything was bright and immaculately clean, and the price was reasonable. I highly recommend it!
Day 1& 2: Front Royal to Big Meadows Campground, Shenandoah National Park