May 6: "Hwy 80"
Once cyclists pass through Marion, they take a quick left then right (Hwy 70) onto Hwy 80 and head toward the grueling ten miles at the 80-90 mile stretch, about miles 82 through 87 include strenuous climbing with three miles that are truly taxing with switchbacks and grades of 8-10% and more. Hwy 80 is a different kind of climbing than the Blue Ridge Parkway (Hwy 80 is similar in some respects to the front side of Caesar's Head riding from SC toward Brevard), so riders will do well not to become too excited if riding well or too discouraged if struggling. I have had dramatically different "rides" on the Hwy 80 segment from the parkway segment and have come to believe that the parkway segment, since it is much longer, is way more likely to define the day you have. The top of Hwy 80 rewards riders with a rest stop, but cyclists then have to pound up a steep grunt to exit onto the parkway.
Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor