Skyline Drive to Big Meadows

THORTON GAP, VIRGINIA

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Tunnel

Yesterday David texted me and told me he planned to do a 40-mile ride on Skyline Drive and invited me to join him. I agreed.

Old Rag Mountain

The only hiccup in our plans was where to meet. David said first parking south of the US 211 entrance at Thorton Gap. I saw the area known as Panorama or the tunnel overlook. When I questioned him he told me it was Mary’s Rock Trailhead, “within 1000 yards of 211.”

Looking west

I entered Skyline Drive and passed Panorama and went to the tunnel overlook. Didn’t see David or Mary’s Rock. I knew I went too far so I turned around. I figured I would go back to Panorama and ride by myself if that was the case.

Skyline Drive at Thorton Gap

Somewhere outside of Warrenton all cellular service is lost. I doubted I would be able to contact David by text. But returning to Panorama, which has a very large sign, is a small sign or Mary’s Rock Trailhead. I was in the right place.

Looking west

We hadn’t ridden together except for a little bit in Fauquier Co. near Remington. And he was on a bonk that day. I did not know what to expect from David.

Big Meadows

It was a perfect morning, probably 65°. If I would have been riding on the flats I probably would have opted for arm warmers. But knowing there was a climb immediately, I went with nothing additional. We started out of the parking lot. I was matching David’s pace but after half a mile or so, he was about five meters in front of me. We went through the tunnel, stopping at the end for a quick photo, then continued up the hill.

Same tunnel – different view

I stayed with David early on but he was clearly the stronger rider going uphill. Using my friend, gravity, I was the faster rider going downhill.

David Thatcher

Our first climb lasted about 4.5 miles followed by a three-mile downhill then a three-mile uphill, passing Skyland, the high point on the trail. There was construction in this section which actually made riding more pleasant. The pave was perfectly smooth asphalt.

Looking west

Four of five times we came to a flagman where we had to stop and wait for a pilot car to come by and lead us, and waiting cars, through. We just tucked onto the back behind the cars. And even going uphill, they held all oncoming traffic until we cleared. No oncoming traffic. No following traffic. It was a beautiful ride.

Skyline Drive Tunnel

Other than a garter snake sunning on the new asphalt, I didn’t see any wildlife. No deer. No bear. But plenty of beautiful vistas.

The distance wasn’t far but we had more than 100′ of climbing per mile. Arriving back to our cars I congratulated David on winning all the hillclimb points on course. He said that’s what he does best. And he did well today.



Distance: 40.1 miles
Average Speed: 13.0
Weight: 183

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