April 15 is now the 4th day of our trip.  So as not to confuse anyone… it is the FIRST day of our driving on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway.   The Blue Ridge is quite long, traversing just over 465 total miles.   The road begins (mile post zero) at Waynesboro VA and snakes along the crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina (mile post 469)

Our plan is to cover about 325 miles in 3 days.  Eventually our goal is to end up in Asheville, North Carolina, spend 2 or 3 days in this thriving mountain city and visit the world-famous Biltmore estate.  Linda and I did NOT intend to drive the ENTIRE Blue Ridge.  We figured we would save the last 100 miles or so (from Asheville to Cherokee) for another time. 

We were back on the road in our trusty Miss P (2011 – 911) by 9 am with plenty of time to cover the planned route.  Linda had found some very interesting places to visit in Roanoke VA.   Thus our basic itinerary was to take one day traveling the first 130 miles or so of the Blue Ridge and then stay in Roanoke for 2 nights and 1 full day. 

Much like Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway is a pure delight to drive in a great road car like a Porsche.  Again, since we are traveling in mid-April the roads are practically deserted. Unfortunately, much like Skyline, most of the visitor centers are still not open.  

With limited access to visitor centers and/or places for lunch, this day became what Linda and I call a “goldfish lunch” day.  When we travel, we ALWAYS take along a bag (or 2 or 3) of Goldfish.  So today we enjoy our “goldfish lunch” as we cruise along at a sedate 35 – 40 MPH and enjoy the view.  There are ample places to stop and gaze at the mountains, read the historic markers and just plain luxuriate in having the time to really appreciate this portion of the country.  

Linda had seen some road side signs touting something called “Natural Bridge”.  This was not directly on the Blue Ridge, but was perhaps 10 miles off the beaten path.  We made the detour and I must say the road leading to this rocky edifice must have been designed by a former Porsche owner.  It had more switch backs and tight turns than anything we had encounter so far.  You can tell things are about to get exciting when I switch the PDK down into the manual mode and Linda begins to “hang on” to the passenger grab handle as we swing left and right.  I was having a blast…. Linda not so much… as this exciting road was perhaps 7 or 8 miles long.  All too soon the road leveled out and we came upon a big parking lot and the entrance to the Natural Bridge State Park.  After exploring the rather modest “museum & gift shop” … and observing long lines of school age children waiting in line to gain access to “natural bridge”, we decided it was time to hit the road.  Since neither one of us are into hiking, attractions like Natural Bridge hold little appeal. 

Traveling back down the switch back road was as much fun as blasting up it.  How 45-foot-long freight trucks can make it around some of the curves is beyond my comprehension.  But they must do so as there were numerous signs saying “trucks keep right, tight turn ahead”.   Certainly, the road was more fun in a Porsche 911 than an 18-wheeler.

For the remainder of the day we continued to meander along, stopping whenever the mood struck us.   Yet after a while all the overlooks began to seem somewhat the same.   About 3pm or so I said to Linda...
“you know, all these vistas are nice, but how many overlooks can you overlook”.   In the back of my mind I was beginning to form a plan, but I kept this blossoming idea to myself … at least for now.

By 4pm or so we were pulling in to our Home 2 Home Hilton complex in suburban Roanoke.  This would be our base of operation for the next day.  A nice Mexican restaurant was across the parking lot, so we could walk to dinner, have a drink and not have to worry about DUI.  An ideal situation for sure.

Saturday the 16th we spent all day in Roanoke.  After driving downtown and finding a parking spot we explored the central city area.  There was a 5K road race happening and we watched some of the exhausted runners cross the finish.  Linda and I looked at each other with an unspoken glance thinking… “better them than me”.  If hiking is not our thing, certainly RUNNING (in our mind) is even a more outlandish activity.

During her research into Roanoke activities Linda had discovered a listing for the O. Winston Link Museum.  Mr. Link was formally educated as a civil engineer.  Yet his hobby was photography and his passion was trains (kind of like Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory).  The museum dedicated to his photograph work documenting the final days of the Norfolk & Western steam powered rail road is located in the former Roanoke Railroad terminal building.  We had planned to spend perhaps 2 hours there, and then move on just down the street to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Well as they say… the best laid plans often change.  So it was with the Link Museum.  We arrived about 12:30 and before we even entered the formal gallery there was a great exhibit in the hall.   This hallway display was dedicated to Raymond Loewy, a name well known in the arena of industrial design.  We have all come in contact with some of his work.  For example, Loewy designed the Coca Cola company's trucks, coolers, vending machines, and soda fountains.  He also designed many famous company logo’s … Exxon being just one of many.

Back when I was just beginning to become interested in cars, one of my favorites was the Studebaker Avanti.   Well, what do you know, Loewy was the designer of that Avanti, along with several other well-known Studebaker models like the Golden Hawk. 

What was his work doing being displayed here?  It seems Mr. Loewy designed a couple of radical (for its time) locomotives, so his work was being featured in the lobby as a precursor to the O. William Link display. 

The Link Museum was a real find.  Linda and I spent well over 3 hours here.  The Black & White photography was outstanding.  Many of the photo’s were taken at night, using a clever arrangement of flash bulbs and rapid shutter speeds.  There is a “knack” to capturing a moving image at speed, especially at night.  In many of the photos the trains are in motion, and yet Link seems to freeze them in time.  Only a few images are in color, most are black and white.  When asked why, Mr. Link’s retort was something like “the trains are black, the steam is white, the sky is black at night…. What do I need color for?”

What indeed.  If you like great photography and you happen to be in the general Roanoke Virginia area, you should plan a pilgrimage to the O. William Link Museum.  The 5-dollar price of admission can’t be beat and the time invested in the experience will be time well spent.

Linda and I we walked away from the museum (again they pushed us out the door at 5pm) with a greater appreciation of the “age of steam” and the roll that Mr. Link played in preserving on film the final days of the Last Steam Railroad in America. 

Next time…

Good Roads & Bad Decisions

-Ray Boyer

Related Posts

Skip to toolbar