Ride with Norman Reedus Recap: "Appalachia: Blue Ridge Parkway"

Norman Reedus rides to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Credit: AMC

“My first time, I was 13,” says Reedus at the intro in the latest installment of Ride with Norman Reedus. He could be talking about biking, or he could be talking about something else, until the next few sentences. “I borrowed my buddy’s YZ80 and sped off to my junior high school to show off. I was riding a wheelie on a hill when bam, I hit a bump and went airborne, flipped over backwards and came down hard. They took me to the hospital and stitched up my knee. And soon as I was out, though, I was back on that hill. Half an hour later I was back in that hospital. That’s the thing about bikes; once you start you just can’t stop. They connect you to the road.”

The next road Reedus takes on is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs between North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. The journey kicks off in Atlanta, Georgia, some 200 miles from the Parkway, with a visit to Brother Moto, a co-working building with rooms to rent for enthusiasts who want some space to work on their machines. He’s there to check out the space, but it’s also his meet-up spot for Jason Paul Michaels, a custom bike builder joining him on this adventure.

Michael gets Reedus pumped on the trip, and also tips him off that some bikers like to push their rides to the limit on the route. “Guys will just blow by you at 100 miles an hour,” he says. “Also, I’ve heard that shit gets crazy when the sun goes down. Some whiskey and some jumping through fires.” His ride is an Alabama-made Motus, which rocks, in essence, a Chevy engine that’s been chopped in half and slammed into a bike frame. Reedus' own ride is a beastly Confederate Hellcat Speedster, built in Louisiana.

The guys mount up and head 80 miles north to the Apex Cycle Shop in Ellijay, Georgia, a garage focused on restoring vintage BMW and Ducati. There they meet up with the badass couple that founded the business, Wes and Rachel Burden, and pick a couple classic bikes to test out. Michaels nabs a 1954 BMW R513, and Reedus picks a shiny rebuilt 1954 BMW R69S, which gives him some issues initially. Eventually he is able to kick start it and they’re off, swooning about how smooth the drive is, on their way to eat at a local spot Walkers Fried Pies. While snacking on their treats they tell the Burdens about their plans to drive the Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile stretch with 318 curves in Deals Gap, North Carolina.

They head out on their trip again, and during the scenic drive Reedus explains how The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple does a “courtesy call” at the beginning of every season to talk to each actor about their character. Reedus says he only has one question every time: “Do I still get to ride a motorcycle?”

The next location is Fontana Dam, North Carolina, which was founded as an “out of the way place to build airplanes” during World War II. From there they take in the view of some stunning mountains and the 11,000-acre reservoir. Reedus calls an audible and to stop to get some panorama photos. They get back on their bikes and head through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park — “a biker’s wet dream,” says Reedus. They stop to take in the sights and run into a huge crowd of people, fans swarm Reedus quickly, including one lady who says that he kind of looks like “Daryl from The Walking Dead.” They decide it is too busy to actually drive the nearby Tail of the Dragon, but end up catching a crazy race where people drive tiny 50cc bikes around a parking lot in pitch black darkness.

The guys do a bike switch before taking on 70 more miles on their way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The elements take a turn for the worse, and pouring rain forces them to pull over where they end up at an abandoned building. When the sky clears up they drive through Cherokee, where they see a giant Native American statue in front of a local tattoo shop called Indian Ink. They get a history lesson about the Trail of Tears from a tattoo artist inside after asking about the giant tourist attraction.

Back on the road, they finally hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, where they coast through the many bends and curves all the way to the top, where they are able to find some peace. After taking some time to decompress, they head to the last leg: Asheville.

Though they have a final destination on the agenda, they are pulled off course by a visit to a religious biker meet-up lead by Pastor Bulldog. They take in a sermon where the pastor relates the biking lifestyle to God. Then in an amazing turn of events, the guys end up in a race where they are strapped into port-a-potties dragged by motorcycles. After their outhouse stunt drive, they head to the Howling Moon Distillery, which produces authentic moonshine, and where prohibition–era bootleggers entertain the crew with their stories.

The last stop is A Broken Spoke, a vintage shop that specializes in Harley-Davidsons. The owner takes them through a tour of rare and retired machine parts. They soak in the scene, and sip on some beers with the gang, even partaking in a little tradition known as the “chopper chug.” The next morning, the trip is over, but not before grabbing some ice cream. “I can’t think of anything we did that wasn’t awesome,” reflects Reedus.