June 20, 2008, Friday

Reston, VA to Bristol, VA


It's a long drive from Reston in Northern Virginia to Bristol, in far southwestern Virginia on the Tennessee line, about 6 hours. We started early to avoid the Friday rush to get out of the DC area. There was a steady stream of traffic headed west, including many cars carrying bikes. Bike Virginia this year will be in the hilly Crooked Road area of southwest Virginia. It will be our 12th year with the tour.

The Crooked Road was created to highlight the musical heritage of SW Virginia:

The Crooked Road is a 253-mile driving trail through southwest Virginia that takes you through some of the most scenic and musically significant areas of the United States. Here you will find that the roots run deep and wide. This region is home to the World's Capital of Old Time Mountain Music and the Birthplace of Country Music. There are many musical venues stops along the Crooked Road that include the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, the Norton Country Cabin, the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, the Blue Ridge Music Center in Grayson/Carroll County, the Rex Theatre in Galax, the Floyd Country Store, and the Blue Ridge Music Institute in Ferrum. These are just a sampling of the many great places to see. [From The Crooked Road myspace page.]

The directions from Reston were pretty straightforward; turn right on I-66 and turn left on I-81 and drive to Tennessee. Just before the border we stopped at the BikeVA registration area to pick up our maps, meal ticket, and t-shirts. We watched a short slide presentation on the route and highlights of the trip. Mary Turnbull didn't do her yearly talk; she and Allen are no longer directors of the ride and we'll see how well it fares.

We saw friends from N. VA. Many of the people here are from that area. We then checked in to the La Quinta, prepared the bikes for tomorrow's ride and headed to dinner. Bristow is a strange place. There is definitely no grid of streets; it's not possible in this hilly area. Roads follow the contours of the terrain and we saw much of the area trying to find downtown Bristol. How could a city hide so well? After getting local directions we finally located the block party on State St. in Bristol. We listened to a good but much too loud local band, checked out the old downtown that is slowly being revitalized, ate ice cream, and chatted with a recent college grad named Arturo from Mexico, who is trying to decide whether to return to Mexico or stay in his adopted land, debating the advantages of each. He wanted to know when was the "race". We enlightened him about the "ride".

We also talked to the author Joe Tennis and bought a copy of his book, Beach to Bluegrass: Places to Brake on Virginia's Longest Road. The book is about interesting places along U.S. Route 58, which stretches from Virginia Beach all the way to this part of SW Virginia, including portions of "The Crooked Road".

Finally found our way back to the motel and are getting ready for our first ride tomorrow. We are also using free wireless access.