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Blue Ridge Parkway is an engineering marvel

It has been awhile since my wife Mary and I traveled on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But it was a pleasure to travel on it to Asheville, North Carolina a few years ago. I believe it was the second time we had taken that route to Asheville. Perhaps you who are reading this column have also viewed the mountain vistas that can be seen from that winding road. The parkway was a great feat of civil engineering. It is 469 miles long, meandering along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains through North Carolina and Virginia.
I’m only guessing, but I imagine there are a lot of folks viewing the autumn leaves along the Parkway now. According to the Blue Ridge Parkway folks, mid to late October is usually a good time for leaf viewing. Since the Parkway varies from 650 feet at the James River in Virginia to over 6,000 feet in North Carolina, the leaves change in higher elevations first and later in the lower areas.
You really don’t have to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway to see beautiful foliage. With all the tree-covered mountains and woodland here in Johnson County, usually there is a plethora of fall colors. But the elevation of the Blue Ridge Parkway as it hugs the mountain crests makes for a special experience to drive on it. The variety of colors is another draw the Parkway has.
The Parkway is owned and managed by the National Park Service. It joins Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive near Waynesboro, Virginia at its north end and winds south through Asheville, North Carolina and ends near Cherokee, North Carolina. The speed limit on the Parkway is 45 miles per hour, with some areas as low as 25 miles per hour. One of the closest entrances for Johnson County folks is about 10 miles east of Boone, North Carolina off Highway 421. The road consists of 27 tunnels: one in Virginia and 26 in North Carolina.
When you consider that the Linn Cove Viaduct was only finished around Grandfather Mountain in 1987, it took over fifty-two years to complete. Work started September 11, 1935 during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. The project provided welcomed and much needed work for many who during the Great Depression were having a hard time making a living.
The Linn Cove Viaduct is considered an engineering marvel. It is a 1243-foot concrete segmental bridge that snakes around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain without disturbing the wooded slopes of the mountain. It cost $10 million and was the last section of the Parkway to be finished.
In the early days of the construction of the Parkway, road building was much slower and more difficult than it is today. It was before the giant trucks and earthmovers that are used to build roadways today. Progress on the Parkway was slow of course, but it was a boon to those who needed employment. I think I’ll drive a few miles on the Parkway in the near future.