Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

A controversial viewpoint that looks at motorcycle safety from the other side of the looking glass

I’m a lifelong motorcyclist. I’m a professional rider, I earn my bread from the seat of my bike. I been a trainer, had training, been all over the country and overseas, led tours, coordinated events and rallies, read the books and every accident study I can get to. I’ve had my share of spills, close calls, and mistakes and I’ve got the scars to remember them by.

May is motorcycle awareness monthMotorcycle Awareness Month doesn’t even make the list of  “commemorative months” on wikipedia and is about as effective as “National Ice Cream Month” (which does make the list) – It’s the wrong approach to the problem of how to be safer riding a motorcycle on our increasing dangerous roads.

Image - Watch out for Motorcycles

False Hope

“Watch our for Bikers” is wishful thinking. It puts the responsibility on someone else – “You need to watch out for me”. Believing that little yellow diamond is going to penetrate the brain of a pony-tailed soccer mom with a minivan full of kids rushing to get to the little  league game is quite a leap of faith. Or that the road warrior salesman is going to suddenly take his mind off his next meeting as he’s fighting his way through the traffic on his way to Des Moines. That the old codger in the Buick with a line of traffic a half mile behind him is going to suddenly wake up and recognize there are other vehicles on the road? That teen is gonna put away the cell phone and start driving the car? Not my experieince. Not the real world. YOU need to watch out for YOU.

Even if you could get through and alert every other driver on the road you’re not going to change the laws of physics. Motorcycles are just plain hard to see because they are the smallest vehicle out on the roads. They are comparatively rare so people don’t expect them. They are easy to lose track of surrounded by so many larger vehicles. Every one of us knows a driver can look right at you and not see you coming. Accept it – you’re virtually invisible to others the road.

motorcycle-wreck-maggieThe “motorcycle awareness” that will keep you alive longest is the awareness that you are responsible for your own safety on the road. You need to up your riding game. Distracted driving is the leading contributor to accidents on our roadways. The counter strategy is increased awareness on the part of the motorcyclist, not all the other people out on the road. They’re not going to change, you need to change to adapt to the conditions that exist.

We know the most common causes of motorcycle accidents related to other vehicles – car pulls out or turns in front of motorcycle, car changes lanes on highway into motorcycle, car runs into motorcycle stopped at intersection.

The motorcycle awareness we need is to deal with these situations as riders as effectively as possible. This is what happens – expect it and assume it will every time.

  • Ride as if that car IS going to pull out or turn in front of you. Be prepared to react to it. Every car, every time.
  • Constantly be aware of your position to surrounding traffic on the road and don’t ride in blind spots. Don’t assume that car next to you sees you – if he needs to swerve I’ll bet he’d rather hit you than a truck. Move out of the situation. When they crowd in on you get out of the situation as soon as possible.
  • Position yourself to be visible when stopped. Don’t sit right behind a car, move out to create a silhouette that stands out from behind. Keep the bike in gear and have an escape route ready in case you see that car running up on you too fast.

learn-to-ride-safe

The roads are getting more crowded and more dangerous. There are new challenges to face. People are just going to keep doing what they’re doing, they are not going to change. If you want to be safer, take your safety in your own hands – the others are too busy to bother.

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Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

On a classic “lunch run” ride here’s one option for the lunch stop.

Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs

Motorcycle friendly Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC.

One of the nicest motorcycle rides you’ll do in the Smoky Mountain area of North Carolina and Tennessee is NC 209, a.k.a “The Rattler”. This 30+ mile ride through the mountains and valleys of North Carolina runs from Junaluska (Maggie Valley, Waynesville) to Hot Springs. Scenic, challenging, historic, it makes for a nice “lunch run” as an out-and-back ride or the first leg of numerous loop rides you can build with other great connecting roads.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – you can’t miss it in tiny Hot Springs.

Hot Springs is one of the many historic little mountain towns that dot the landscape. Once  an important stop on the Knoxville, TN to Asheville, NC corridor, it is mostly forgotten now that the Interstate bypasses it to the west. It’s a pass-through town on the Appalachian Trail, a popular place for whitewater rafting, and there are natural hot springs where you can go soak your keister for a few bucks. On weekends, it’s a gathering spot for the bikers who flock to ride the outstanding motorcycle roads in the surrounding region.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – a big comfortable porch, tasty food, and live music on this day.

Comfortable, easy to find, and with tasty food, the Still Mountain Restaurant is usually full of bikers though the occasional Appalachian Trail hiker drops in for some civilized fare on their 1500 mile walk in the wilds. You’ll feel right at home here.

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – Thumbs up!

You’ll find NC 209 and another 50+ great rides in the area on America Rides Motorcycle Pocket maps #6 as well as the 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler".

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler”. Do it as an out-and-back or make a nice loop ride – one of many ways to go on this great biker road

More Rattler info here

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Best 1000 Mile Motorcycle Ride You’ll Ever Do

If you’re looking for that epic ride this is one of the best ever!

Motorcycles at overlook in Smoky Park

Enjoy an overlook in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you link these mountain roads together you’ll spend almost all your time on 2 lane roads, most of it National Parks or on scenic parkways, and you’ll experience some of the best motorcycle rides in the USA.

Skyline Drive – 105 Miles
The Skyline Drive runs the crest of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It starts at Front Royal and runs seamlessly into the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway – 469 Miles

Blue Ridge Parkway View

Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

The Blue Ridge Parkway follows the highest ridge lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina. It ends at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 47 Miles
The most visited National Park in the nation, ride across on US 441 passing from North Carolina into Tennessee at the crest, then turn west on Little River Road. Follow through to the Foothills Parkway.

Foothills Parkway – 17 Miles
Continue west on the scenic Foothills Parkway to reach US 129

The Dragon – 15 Miles

Springtime motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway in TN

Turn south on US 129 to enter the Dragon. Pass through and back into North Carolina. Continue south to Robbinsville, NC to head west again on the Cherohala Skyway.

The Cherohala Skyway – 52 Miles
Climb back up into the mountains and return to Tennessee near the mid-point of the ride. Turn south on 68 when you reach Tellico Palins, TN and follow this wonderful road into Georgia.

GA 60 – 23 Miles
Work your way east on GA 60 to Blue Ridge, GA, then continue on one of Georgia’s best motorcycle roads.

The Gauntlet – 133 Miles

Georgia

The Gauntlet ride in GA

Wrap it all up with a loop around the Gauntlet. You may continue on GA 60 or veer north on Skeenah Gap Road to start the loop.

Of course, this is just an overview. It’s a great introduction to riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, still it only scratches the surface. It’s pretty straightforward to navigate, but you’ll want to do some planning. There are many variations and additions to make it even better.

9 map setYou’ll find this region covered in detail with America Rides Maps. In addition to these well known roads, almost 500 more are highlighted on a series of easy-to-read durable maps that will fit in your pocket with the info you depend on like out-of-the-way gas stations, mileage, and how to best link them all together.

The are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains than anywhere else. Any one of America Rides Motorcycle pocket ride maps is a vacation adventure in itself. With the full set you’ll have the freedom to point your wheels in any direction and know you’re on the best rides. Take a look here and see how easy it is - http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Full-Southeast-Package-All-9-Maps-SE9.htm

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Motorcycle Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Commuter Zones

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway - commuter zones

You have no clue you’re passing through some sizable cities on a Blue Ridge Parkway ride  - 10 minutes ride from a parkway exit puts you in the heart of Asheville, NC, a fun place to visit!

On a 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway ride you will pass through two cities – Roanoke in Virginia, and Asheville in North Carolina. Each has its “commuter zone”.

In both cities, the parkway weaves along the east edge of town then curves around to the south, though barely a hint of the surrounding neighborhoods are visible. Riding along you never see a downtown area at all nor any indication you are near a sizable city. It’s part of the magical illusion of a Blue Ridge Parkway ride. The views have been well protected over the years.

What’s a Commuter Zone?

There will be a handful of exits relatively close together as you pass through one of the cities on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For locals, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just one more road to get through town, a shortcut. A lot of local traffic hops on it to save time and zip an exit or two to the road they want.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take advantage of close gas stations to the parkway in the commuter zones.

What you need to know about Parkway Commuter Zones -

Expect more traffic and more aggressive traffic in the commuter zones on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Locals are hopping on the parkway to save time and they may push the speed limit.

The speed limit drops in some areas and it’s more heavily enforced in the commuter zones. The Asheville commuter zone of the Blue Ridge Parkway went to 35 mph last year to try to slow down the local traffic. Watch for the signs.

Enforcement is heavier near cities, especially in commuter zones. More traffic means more resources assigned to deal with it. Watch your speed whenever you feel you are getting into a populated area. You can also expect more attention near popular areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ranger on the parkway

Watch your speed and be alert in the commuter zones

Here are some places where I tell myself to roll back on the throttle when riding the Blue Ridge Parkway:

  • From the Start of the Parkway  in Virginia to Humpback Rocks
  • Peaks of Otter area in Virginia, near Buchanan
  • From 221 exit to 221 exit near Roanoke
  • Linn Cove Viaduct area near Blowing Rock
  • Moses Cone / Julian Prince Park near Boone
  • Altapass Hwy north of Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland
  • Crabtree Falls area
  • From Craggy Gardens through Asheville
  • The southern section of the parkway into Cherokee

Be aware of and alert for these commuter zones near the cities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are few signs on the road, but if you see any indication you are approaching a congested area be alert and ready to deal with increased traffic with a different agenda than you.

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

Get the maps!
http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Blue-Ridge-Parkway-The-Dragon-Package-BRP12.htm

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Motorcycle Touring – Towns Near Great Smoky Mountains Park

Motorcycles at overlook in Smoky Park

Enjoying  an overlook on Newfound Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Choose the right place to stay on your Smoky Mountain motorcycle trip

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the #1 visited park in the nation. Needless to say there are plenty of places to stay in the surrounding area when you come. Those who make the trek by motorcycle not only enjoy the wonders of the park, but are rewarded with some of the most challenging and scenic motorcycle rides in the country at it’s borders.

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

I previously looked for the epicenter of great motorcycle riding, the central point in the middle of all the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The prime location was Maggie Valley, NC on the southeast edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with Waynesville and Cherokee close runners up. I listed the pros and cons of using each as a base camp for your motorcycle trip. (read about it here)

Truth is, there are so many great motorcycle rides to choose from in this mountainous region you’ll never get to them all. While being at the strategic center of all the riding offers more riding choices and opportunities, it’s worth looking at some of these other places which lay on the borders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Map towns around smoky park

Towns which ring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and classic motorcycle rides nearby.

♦♦♦♦ Maggie Valley / Waynesville – located right in the heart of the best motorcycle rides. Waynesville has great food, but few rooms. Maggie Valley has lots of rooms, places to eat, and the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum.  (previously covered, read about it here).

♦♦♦ Cherokee – It’s where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets great Smoky Mountains National Park. Culture, casino, and crowds.  (previously covered, read about it here)

Photo - Great Smoky Mountains Railway Train

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train in Bryson City

♦♦ Bryson City - Places to stay, camping, good food and drink, the railroad, at first glance Bryson City has a lot to offer. It’s downfall is it’s isolation. It’s located adjacent to 4 lane US 74. It has a nice little downtown where US 19 comes in from Cherokee. Your choices to quickly hop on a good ride without hitting the 4 lane are limited.

- If you’re looking for a nice quiet place to camp on a swimming creek and do a little riding, Bryson City will do you well.

♦♦ StecoahStecoah is a small spot located off NC 28 not far from Fontana Lake. There are cabins available here, though it’s a really popular spot for campers. There are a couple motorcycle campgrounds. NC 28  leads to The Dragon at Deals Gap or you can cut through to Robbinsville and the Cherohala Skyway. There’s a roadside diner. It’s a pretty remote spot so you’ll have to be self-sufficient, the campgrounds have some supplies. The nearest grocery is in Robbinsville, it’s dry county. The Nantahala Gorge is close, the good section of NC 28 starts just a few miles up the road.

- Stay in Stecoah if you’re looking for motorcycle campgrounds near the Dragon.  

Fontana Village Pitstop

Cabins, rooms, camping, meals, Fontana is remote but has all you need.

♦♦♦ Fontana –  Fontana is a good option near The Dragon on NC 28. You ‘ll find camping, cabins, there’s are a decent number of rooms, good meals, a bar, all the comforts. The stretch of NC 28 that it sits on is one of my favorite rides curvy motorcycle rides. You’re only minutes from The Dragon.

- Fontana will serve you well if you want a remote location with all the amenities. Close to the Dragon.

♦♦♦ Robbinsville - There’s nothing but mountains and trees west of Robbinsville and well into Tennessee. The small town sits at the hub of several important roads. US 129 leads north to The Dragon, south to the Nanathala Gorge. The Cherohala Skyway meets it here just north of downtown, NC 143 takes you over the mountain to connect with NC 28. All the good biker roads lead here.

While the town of Robbinsville is small, it’s the biggest small town for miles. There’s a grocery store, a few restaurants, gas station / fast food, one big central chain motel, and lots of biker friendly options and businesses in the town. There are a couple good places to eat.  It’s not a convenient town for walking. There’s no booze here, it’s dry.  Motorcycle rentals in town.

- Robbinsville is the largest town in the area so it has the most to offer. It’s a good base when you want to travel light. Great rides in every direction.

deals-gap-resort-

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

♦♦ Deals Gap - Resorts, lodges, cabins, campgrounds are all available but limited. If you want to be as close to The Dragon as possible you’ll be pretty isolated from civilization. This is where you want to stay if you’ve come to focus on riding The Dragon. Do a couple runs through in the morning then head down to the Cherohala Skyway or cruise the lake on NC 28. Get in another run or two through The Dragon in the evening.

- If you want to get the full Dragon experience, stay at Deals Gap. There may be entertainment, night races in the parking lot. 

♦ Punkin Center – Located at the Tennessee end of The Dragon where TN 72 intersects, it’s an ideal spot for riding The Dragon / Cherohala Skyway loop ride. There is a popular motorcycle campground here, a restaurant, and a repair shop.

- If you’re looking for a motorcycle campground on the north side of the park, this one puts you on some of the best roads.  

♦ Townsend - Townsend gets you away from the congestion of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but you’re still on a pretty major road. It get’s you close to Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend is a good choice if you want to ride The Dragon, The Cherohala Skyway, and poke around the park. It’s a popular base camp for dual-sport riders doing the unpaved roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Motorcycle rentals available in town.

- Townsend is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

Gatlinburg-motorcycles

Tourist attractions in Gatlinburg.

♦♦ Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge

The primary attraction of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is they are so easy to get to. The primary downfall of Galtinburg / Pigeon Forge is everybody goes there.

There’s about 40 miles between the north entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, so this corridor has developed into a tourist vortex. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge host all kinds of attractions. There are lots of bargains on rooms and cabins. The downfall here is the tourist traffic and the scarcity of good motorcycle rides. The mountains quickly become valleys outside the park.

There may be some compelling reasons to stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but you’ll likely spend time riding around the park to get to some of the best rides.

- Stay in Gatlinburg if you’re looking for a deal or want a tourist expereince. Accept the traffic, enjoy the attractions, and learn the backroads that will get you through it all.

 Cosby – Cosby is at the “forgotten” eastern end of the park. You’ll find lots of campgrounds along the edge of the park, a couple motels near I-40, little else of note. This area is popular for the unpaved riding both in the park and out into the national forests.

- Cosby is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky MountainsYou can get a map of more than 100 Great Motorcycle Rides near the Smoky Mountains that will show you where the roads are hiding and how they link together into endless wonderful wanderings through the mountains.

Click Here Now
to see more about the map

 

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides

Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides - 

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler" This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler” – This is some of the best motorcycle riding you’ll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

So you’ve heard about the amazing motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains and you want to come see the best of it it.

Where should you stay to have the best opportunity to ride the greatest number of classic motorcycle rides?

To figure out where the geographic center of the best motorcycle riding was,  I first looked at where all the classic roads were, roads that have been around long enough to have names like “The Dragon”, the “Moonshiner” and “The Gauntlet”. Some of these might be on your bucket list so it’s nice to have them close. I determined the center point between them.

Map of Classic Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains

Surround yourself with classic rides.

Next I moved a large circle around the center point of the classic rides to figure out when it contained the most good motorcycle rides overall. I made rings at 10 mile intervals, made a few adjustments, and came up with the answer;

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

The target falls on Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Cherokee.

Geographically, Maggie Valley sits at the hub of it all, but any of the towns along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is going to put you near some outstanding riding.

Here are some pros and cons to help you sort out which of the three places works best for you;

Maggie Valley 

 

Photo - fall colors at Soco Gap

View heading down from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap on US 19 towards Maggie Valley.

Maggie Valley Pros -

  • There are lots of motel rooms, cabins, and campgrounds in the one road town, it caters well to the motorcycle visitor.
  • The best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is just 10 minutes up the road.
  • The are several good places to eat.
  • Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum is there.
  • The small town hosts several biker events each year, including spring and fall rallies.
  • The town is spread along a 4 lane stretch of US 19 with high mountains on looming on every horizon, you really feel like you’re in the mountains.
  • There are liquor stores in town.

Maggie Valley Cons -

  • 15 min ride to Waynesville for groceries.
  • If you stay close to the middle of town you can walk to some of the restaurants and pubs, but the town is long and narrow so you’ll probably hop on the bike.

Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Waynesville Pros –

  • known for it’s good food and picturesque downtown and atmosphere.
  • There are mountains on every horizon.
  • US 276 leaves from the south end of town and leads to some great rides and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Waynesville Cons -

  • There’s only one motel in the downtown and a couple B&B’s where you can walk to the restaurants, pubs, and stores and galleries.
  • I usually tell visitors – eat in Waynesville, sleep in Maggie Valley unless you can snag one of the few rooms available in town.

Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

Cherokee pros -

  • Strategically located at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the south entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee is obviously worth consideration.
  • There are lots of motels and campgrounds. No outstanding restaurants come to mind, though I don’t pass through Cherokee often.

Cherokee cons –

  • Because Cherokee is a hub of tourist activity it is often congested with traffic. The roads leading in to it are busy, there are few of them, and you’ll end up on riding 4 lane roads like US 441 and US 74 more often.
  • You’re on the Cherokee Reservation, if you want drinks you’ll need to go to Harrah’s Casino.

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky MountainsYou can get a map of more than 100 Great Motorcycle Rides near the Smoky Mountains that will show you where the roads are hiding and how they link together into endless wonderful wanderings through the mountains.

 Click Here Now
to see more about the map

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

____________________________________________________________________

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Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies:

Whether it’s a one day trip or part of an epic adventure, it’s good to have a strategy when setting out on a 469.1 mile long ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are some things to consider based on how long you have to make your end-to-end trip.

1 Day End-to-End

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain south of Boone starts the climb into the high mountains of North Carolina

Some riders look for high mileage challenges. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be one of them – 470  miles with a 45 mph speed limit can be done in daylight on a long summer day. You’ll even have time to stop at a few overlooks for quick photos.

The key is “plan your gas stop so it’s close to a parkway exit to save time.” You’ll have to make a gas stop – choose the wrong exit and you can waste half an hour before you get to a pump.

I eat breakfast before and dinner after the ride, and pack a sub sandwich so I can eat at overlooks when I take breaks. Expect fog / clouds / mist / cool / damp in the morning, have a layer to shed in the afternoon. Go on a weekday, there will be less traffic. There’s no need to speed, but at the same time, if you’re slow through tight curves it’s going to be a long day. The ride is best done from north-to-south as it puts you in the highest sections in the afternoon when the clouds have lifted and it’s warmer.

2 Days Riding End-to-End

photo of parkway

You can really get away from it all on the Blue Ridge Parkway

2 days still means 2 pretty full days of riding.  You’ll want to be efficient with your gas stops and eating or it will sacrifice your time for sightseeing and enjoying the views. You’ll save time if you coordinate your time off the parkway well. Stop for gas where you can also eat lunch. Stay where you can eat or meals are close. You don’t need to feel rushed on a 2 day ride, but you do want to stay on track.

My strategy is to cover as many miles as possible the first day, then relax and enjoy the second day knowing you have less distance to cover. A 2 day ride is better done from north-to-south. Boone, NC is a good layover coming south. The North Carolina mountains really start to reach their heights south of Boone, you’ll be in them constantly the second day and have time to enjoy them. When going north I usually overnight near Hillsville or Floyd, or Meadows of Dan. You’ll have time to stop at Peaks of Otter and savor some of the best views from the Virginia section near the north end of the ride.

3 Day Ride End-to-End

photo  motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

If you want to stop and smell the flowers, plan at least 3 days.

If you want to get a full Blue Ridge Parkway experience, 3 days is minimum. If you’re planning to camp, it eases the pace.

With 3 days you can stop and see some of the cabins, the mill, and other sights along the road that you’d otherwise blow by.

3 days also opens the door to enjoying other outstanding rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some connect to the parkway, some are close to it.

For the road warrior, it could mean doing the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2 days, then looping Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ride the Dragon at it’s western end on a three day blast!

Riding Sections of the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway View

The highest section has the best views

If you see only one section of it, ride between Asheville, NC  and Maggie Valley, NC. That 50 mile arc goes from the low point in NC to the highest point on the entire road with much of it above 5000 elevation. There are frequent overlooks and sweeping views, dramatic drops and rocky passes.

Another great section is the high remote stretch between Asheville, NC and Little Switzerland, NC. Mt. Mitchell State Park makes a nice side trip to the top of the highest mountain in the east. Nice long range views.

The Epic Adventure

yellow motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

In it for the long haul!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one part of the park road system. At the north end it continues as the Skyline drive into Shenandoah National Park for another 105 miles. At the south end, it meets US 441 to take you 30 miles across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can ride more than 600 miles on 2 lane twisty mountain roads entirely within our National Parks.

Leaving the National Parks you can then follow the parkways, skyways, and legendary back roads that weave throughout the south end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d run through the Dragon, out across the Cherohlala Skyway, then down into north Georgia, looping back into the mountains south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The “I don’t want to ride the parkway” strategy

A holiday motel in Maggie Valley

Maybe you already have a favorite place to stay – when you find one, explore all the great roads nearby.

Maybe you’re one of millions who have already enjoyed a motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe you find it’s more enjoyable to stay in one place than be on the move.

The best location to maximize your access to the best motorcycle rides is somewhere along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll find less traffic and congestion, numerous motels, cabins, and campgrounds. There are plenty of rooms on the north side of the park in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but more of the good roads are on the other side of the park. Crossing through or going around Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets repetitive.100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky Mountains

Find a good base camp and get a copy of my 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains map. You’ll spend more of your time riding that way. You’re surrounded by great roads, the map will show you how close they are! It couldn’t be easier!

Get map 100 Great Rides in the Smoky Mountains

see  The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides In NC

Best Motorcycle Rides In NC – winding up Wayah Road from the Nantahala Gorge.

30 mile long Wayah Road connects US 64 near Franklin, NC to US 74 in the heart of the Nantahala Gorge near Topton, NC. It’s a useful and strategic road to know of as it’s the only one that cuts through this rugged section of high mountains and national forest and it points to the Dragon at Deals Gap. While the ride lacks panoramic long range mountain views, there is plenty of scenery along the whitewater river. Clear and sparkling alpine Nantahala Lake is a treat near the top.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – section from Map #7. Only main roads shown. Other great rides near here.

The climb out of the depths of Nantahala Gorge is steep and twisty right from the start by the powerhouse. It follows the  bank of the river as it cascades down the slope from the lake above, crossing it on narrow bridges a few times. You may run into fishermen along the lower stretch, otherwise there’s little traffic.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road - Waterfall along Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – The ride along the river on Wayah Road is spectacular!

When you reach the top of the climb, the road relaxes and rolls across the heights of the mountain passing through the small community near the lake. The road gets tight again along the shoreline of the clear deep lake, then climbs a bit more to reach the gentle run across the high stretches of Wayah Bald. This last short climb has some very tight turns and is notorious for gravel drawn into the road from unpaved driveways. There is a small restaurant on the lake and a few places to pull off for a break or photo.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – Picnic lunch at alpine Nantahala Lake

There’s a steep plunge down the eastern slopes with some true hairpin curves. You emerge in a tight valley that grows wider as you approach Franklin. The east end of Wayah Road is marked by ‘Loafer’s Glory” country store and gas station (click her for Yelp review). Wayah Road ends when it reaches Old Murphy Road. Four lane US 64 is half a mile south on Old Murphy Road or you can follow Old Murphy Road about 5 miles in to downtown Franklin.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road. The curves at the top of the climb are some of the most severe and the most fun. Be alert for gravel in these turns.

Wayah Road is a classic so you’ll find it on the “12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides” pocket map from America Rides Maps. Do yourself a favor and look at Map #7 if you are coming to ride in this area. “The Best Roads South of Great Smoky Mountains National Park” covers this are in detail. I’ve only hinted at the many nice rides near Franklin with the snippet of map I’ve shown.

Get The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Great Blue Ridge Mountain Motorcycle Rides I found this Year

Great Blue Ridge Mountain Motorcycle Rides I found this Year

- Saluda, Columbus, and the edge of South Carolina

Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides - Whiteoak Mountain Road

Nearing the top of Whiteoak Mountain Road near Columbus, NC. View into South Carolina and the flat lands. I-26 cuts through the Green River Gorge here.

In my constant search for the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge mountains, this year I expanded one of my motorcycle ride maps further south and discovered some of the nicest biker roads at the North-South Carolina border.

It’s an easy area to reach as I-26 south of Asheville cuts through the heart of it. For those approaching the Blue Ridge Mountains from Charlotte, NC or Spartanburg and Greenville, SC, both I-26 and US 25 funnel through this gap in the mountains converging near the small mountain town of Saluda, NC.

Good motorcycle rides Saluda, NC

Saluda is a small rail side town that sits atop one of the steepest railroad grades in the east, the Saluda Grade.

Saluda is a historic little trackside mountain town. There are few nice nice victorian-era homes, old churches, ice cream, a couple spots to get a bite, touristy small town stuff on Main Street.  I’ve eaten at the Purple Onion Cafe a couple times in Saluda, it’s very good but can be crowded on those sweet summer Saturdays. Good place for a coffee break, some ice cream, or a lunch stop.

Saluda motorcycle rides map

Section of America Rides Maps #5 “Best Roads North & South of Asheville” shows a lot of nice rides around Saluda, NC.

Section of motorcycle ride map #5, “The Best Roads North & South of Asheville, NC”. Best roads shown in red, good connecting roads in blue.

You can’t take a bad road out of Saluda. US 176 runs through town as Main Street. It’s a good road to ride north, a gentle and curvy climb to Flat Rock. The ride is even nicer going south to Tryon, but not below it.  Leaving the middle of downtown Saluda as Greenville Street, it crosses the railroad tracks in the heart of town to take you west as Saluda Road through the forest to intersect Old US 25, another pleasant ride. If you head east from town, Holbert Cove Road winds through the gorge to reach Silver Creek Road or loop back through the tight switchbacks on Green River Cove Road.

Looking north from the top of Whiteoak Mountan near Columbus, NC towards Lake Lure and Asheville.

Looking north from the top of Whiteoak Mountan near Columbus, NC towards Lake Lure and Asheville.

Once you get north of Saluda and through the Green River Gorge you hit the congestion of Hendersonville which continues north into Asheville. Get on the good back roads sooner and leave the highway near Saluda. You can work northeast to Lake Lure or skirt southwest of Hendersonville on some excellent back roads both scenic and challenging away from the traffic.

Caution – The loop ride north of Columbus on Whiteoak Mountain Road  / Skyuka Mountain roads is steep and has some of the tightest switchback turns you’ll find. No place for the inexperienced rider, hesitation or doubt will get you in trouble.

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Santa - great gift ideaMaps make great holiday gifts! Riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains is made so easy with these detailed ride maps. Give the gift that pays back with the thrills of riding some of the most beautiful and challenging roads in the nation!

See the maps here -> America Rides Maps

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If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.
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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Great Blue Ridge Motorcycle Ride Near Highlands, NC

Great Blue Ridge Motorcycle Ride Near Highlands, NC

Horse Cove Road to Whiteside Cove Road has a short section that is unpaved, but it’s worth riding through on your motorcycle adventures.

Best motorcycle rides

The main traffic light in Highlands, NC. Most riders make a turn. Continue straight ahead to ride Horse Cove Road.

Highlands, NC is just a few lies from the borders with Georgia and South Carolina. It’s a popular riding area with many roadside waterfalls. US 64 jogs to the north from town, NC 28 heads south. Both are great rides. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, try going straight to reach Horse Cove Road.

Best Motorcycle Rides - map

Horse Cove Road leads to a 0.8 mile section of graded hardback road. It then becomes Whiteside Road and intersects NC 107 south of Cashiers. The unpaved section is well maintained.

Section of Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park – EAST.

The plunge down the switchbacks on Horse Cove Road is both challenging and beautiful. It continues to twist and roll through thick forest dotted with homes. The unpaved section is smooth enough, you emerge by the lake beneath Whitesides Mountain. Whitesides Cove Road continues the romp through the woods to join NC 107 south of Cashiers.

Best Motorcycle Rides NC

Parked beside the frozen lake beneath the 1000 ft. cliffs of Whiteside Mountain on a winter ride.

You’ll find the best motorcycle rides in the surroundings on Map #6 and Map #7.

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.
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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com

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