The Iris Inn was pleased to welcome a group of cyclists as our guests, and we were even more pleased to learn of the travel journal they kept while biking Skyline Drive. The following excerpts were written by Kevin Martin, and we are delighted to share them with you in hopes of enlightening you with one person’s Skyline cycling experience:
“Skyline Drive (Front Royal to Rockfish Gap) – 108.5 miles/Road
For full disclosure reasons I decided it was only fair to let everyone know what we could be getting ourselves into, but I buried it in a cheery email with a fun-filled itinerary that I hoped would distract likely participants from clicking on the link.
The Skyline Drive is a scenic highway that runs the full length of Shenandoah National Park, from Front Royal to Waynesboro, VA for a total of 105.5 miles. The elevation gain is over 11,200 feet. In fact, the first 4.5 miles is a steady 8% grade climb of over 1,500 feet.
Day 1- The Agony: Front Royal to Big Meadows Lodge (52.5 miles)
We were all aware that the first 4.5 miles would be the longest and steepest climb of the entire route, but that didn’t make it any easier. But the day was cool and the air crisp so we took our time and steadily conquered the climb making it to our first check point at Dickey’s Visitor’s Center. Rested from what we thought would be the greatest challenge of the day we confidently set off again to tackle the remaining 48 miles.
It’s difficult to describe what transpired over the next 15 or so miles as we made it to the second highest peak on the route, Hogback Overlook (3,385 ft), but the realities of the challenges ahead were becoming imminently clearer.
We had approximately seven miles of gentle rolling hills before we hit Thornton Gap. Thornton Gap was the overlook at the foot of what was supposed to be the second hardest climb, but that’s only true if you haven’t ridden 30 miles before and had a big lunch. This was over a 1,000 foot climb with weary legs and full stomachs and it was pure torture!
The next 10 miles would be dramatic ups and downs with a final 1.5 mile ascent to our final resting place – Big Meadows Lodge.
Day 2 – The Joy: Big Meadows Lodge to Rockfish Gap (56 miles)
There are no words to adequately describe the next 25 miles because it all seemed so surreal. We stopped at check points not because we needed to out of desperation, but because were compelled to. It was a Zen-like experience that was perplexing and mysterious like some sort of Middle-Earth Eden. We practically floated over the next 12 miles toward Rockfish Gap with a joy in our heart as opposed to the tightness we felt the day before.
Epilogue: The Celebration!
Just four miles from Rockfish Gap was a wonderful Bed and Breakfast waiting for us, the Iris Inn. The Iris Inn is someplace that I find myself keep coming back to…This will make my fourth visit and I was thrilled to share it with my friends.
The place was tailor made for four weary cyclists and their support team to celebrate and chill. Dave and Heidi are incredibly gracious hosts who I knew would make everyone feel right at home. Turns out they’re used to cycling folks like us being so close to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.”