The Parkway’s loss of innocence

Rode my Super Glide up to Waynesboro Sunday along with friends from the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group to participate in a gathering of HOG members from all parts of Virginia.

The trip back gave me an excuse to head East on U.S. 250 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and start at mile marker zero for the ride back to Floyd, Virginia. I try to ride the full length of the Parkway at least once a year so a trip South to Mile Marker 165 at Virginia Route 8 would be a good start to the riding season.

As expected on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a number of cars and motorcycles traveled the Parkway.  At Rock Point overlook, several people stopped to look at the place where a madman with a shotgun killed a popular Charlottesville radio personality and wounded his female companion. No one knows yet why Ralph Leon Jackson of Stuart’s Draft is believed to have gunned down Timothy Davis. Maybe we’ll find out at the trial.

Within the first 20 miles, I met two Park Rangers headed northbound and passed a third parked at an overlook — more of a presence than you usually see on the road this early in a season and probably a response to the murder at Rock Point.

I stopped at an overlook to take in the view. A young couple in a sports car eyed me carefully. Every time another vehicle pulled into the overlook, they turned and looked. The couple shot at Rock Point were watching the sunset and had their backs turned when the shooter opened fire.

My Parkway ride came to an end at mile 63 — the intersection with U.S. 501 just past the James River bridge. Park Rangers blocked the road and turned drivers away. They wouldn’t say why. With my Parkway ride aborted, I headed down U.S. 501 and then turned East on State Route 122 and headed for Bedford and stopped for gas and a snack.

As I sat at a picnic table outside the mini-mart, I thought about the couple watching everyone who pulled into the overlook. For them, a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway had become a time to be nervous. Anybody could be a murderer.

For many of us over the years, the Parkway has been a refuge from the trials and tribulations of daily life, a place where the peace of nature overcomes the violence of man. As a teenager, I parked at Rocky Knob with dates. Most of my sex education came at that overlook.

But violence is always lurking in peaceful places. Hikers have died at the hands of murderers on the Appalachian Trail. Someone killed a young couple from Virginia Tech in Jefferson National Forest last year. That murder remains unsolved.

Literature handed out at visitors centers on the Parkway and at national parks remind visitors to beware of predators. That literature talks of predators like bears, coyotes, bobcats, etc.

But the most dangerous predator of all may walk on two legs.

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6 thoughts on “The Parkway’s loss of innocence”

  1. Yes the Parkway has always been a get a way for me, and does a great job at forgetting all my woes
    but all your points are exactly why we should all carry a gun, and can now do so legally when were on the Parkway
    I think it is an excellent change in the law

  2. Bob,

    I disagree with the change in the gun laws. As a single woman traveling alone I can travel all over Europe with no fear. I remember walking the streets of the Madrid, Spain’s capital, at 2 am without fear.

    The reason? Guns are not as easily accessible in Europe. The US continues to have the Wild West mentality and it appears that anyone (no matter how angry or crazy) can carry a gun in this country. (There is the notable exception concerning felons….)

    Having experienced Europes ambiance, I would prefer more regulation on the guns and to have more gun-free places.

  3. Well, did you ever travel to Switzerland? It has one of the highest levels of gun ownership in the entire world, and one of the lowest rates of crime. Now how could this be?

    I believe the problem is the mentality in America, and the fact that everyone isn’t armed. A population in which some members are armed to the teeth, and others are not provides opportunities for rather one sided acts of violence. A better solution is to arm everyone, as this would reduce crime in general and prevent lone gunman massacres in particular.

    You cannot legislate your way into a peaceful society.
    A Swede strolling through a supermarket with an assault rifle.

  4. Hmmm…Arming everyone would produce a more peaceful society? A more paranoid society, yes…but I digress.

    Let’s talk about gun violence statistics. While Wikipedia is not infallible, by any means, you referenced it and so will I. Of the 37 countries listed on its “Gun Violence” page, the U.S. ranks third with 65% of homicides due to gun violence. Only Colombia and Guatemala rank higher. Switzerland, at 37%, is no where near the lowest of these countries in gun-violence homicides. Twenty-seven of the 37 countries rank lower than Switzerland, including Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Compare that with England/Wales, where gun ownership is almost prohibited, and in which gun violence homicides are at 8%.

  5. I don’t think that the US could control guns as tightly as some other countries. 1- There are huge numbers of guns currently in the US. 2- We would have to do something about our borders, right now guns would be fairly easy to smuggle in from Mexico. 3- There are way too many Americans who enjoy hunting and target shooting, there is no public support for the type of gun control necessary to reduce the amount of available guns. In my mind the real question is what is the safest solution for me and my family. My choice is to own and carry a firearm to protect myself and my family. If someone else chooses not to than that’s great also. Everyone should have the freedom to do what they think is best for them.

  6. Fact is States that have made it legal to carry the crime rate has gone down
    Criminals will always have guns, legal or not , thats why they are criminals, so why would you take guns away from someone who has proven that have no criminal record and can handle a firearm safely, and respect the laws, also a fact , people who legally own commit almost no crimes with them, it’s the illegal criminals, who remember will still have them (guns) legal or not.
    Someone kicks your door down in the middle of the night with now only 1 sheriff on duty at night , I’ll bet you wish you had a gun, or tries to stop you in the middle of no where ,again can you protect yourself, if they are armed?
    Crime rates are the highest in cities where guns are illegal for a reason, people cannot protect them selves and criminals know it. I lived in one and criminals laughed at this ,
    getting a license to carry is much harder then getting a drivers license in this state and apparent by the driving skills of most here, which by the way cars kill more people then anything, especially guns.
    Luckily our for-fathers have so much more insight then we do and thank God they did.
    Protect Yourself , take a firearm safety class learn to shoot, and buy a few nice firearms , you’ll be really glad you have one at those scary times as mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s not the wild west but there are a lot of crazy people out there because of our freedoms, and you will feel much safer then ever.
    Lets talk about here home the good ole USA not all other parts of the world, we are as NO other, and I’m very glad for it, no other place has the freedoms we do

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