Planning Your Motorcycle Vacation Trip – What Will The Weather Be Like?

Photo - Rain clouds swirl over Waynesville, North Carolina

Rain clouds swirl over Waynesville, North Carolina

The weather on your motorcycle vacation trip will probably be better than you think or what the weatherman says, – or not. I swear that guy drinks. I know I would be hitting the old mason jar if I had his job. Predicting the weather in the Smoky Mountains is tough. Sometimes, there’s little question about taking that great ride. When there’s a massive front coming through or some system stalls for a while, you can pretty much go with what’s obvious.

In the Smoky Mountains each little valley has its own weather. It can pour down rain all day in one spot, ride your motorcycle over the hill, and the sun is shining. If I had a dollar for every time they’ve predicted rain and I’ve spent a dry day riding the great roads…

My advice – if there’s any question, get on the bike and go for it and always have some rain gear and a warm jacket or fleece in the bags. The highest elevations, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, see the most intense weather. If something’s going to happen it’s going to happen up high first. Coming down, or staying low when planning your motorcycle rides on the iffy days will often do the trick.

Weather also stalls when it hits the mountains and can’t quite make the climb over them. Try heading in the opposite direction and you can often avoid it. Bottom line, when planning your motorcycle vacation, be ready for anything.

Useful Web Resource:

One of the best resources for weather in North Carolina is Ray’s Weather site -http://www.raysweather.com/

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True History – How The Blue Ridge Parkway Was Stolen

photo - view from Waterrock Knob, one of the highest sections in North Carolina

Morning clouds blanket the valleys in this view from Waterrock Knob in North Carolina

The concept of the Blue Ridge Parkway was to build a scenic connection between Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Even before it was approved by Congress, controversy reigned over the route and clouded the possibility the nations favorite ride would ever be built.

There were strong proponents for building the scenic highway from three states – Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Originally, they more or less worked together to get the idea launched. Virginia’s route was fairly clear. It would course south from Shenandoah National Park following the highest ridges of the Smoky Mountains. The problem came on which way to go once the border with North Carolina was reached. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is divided right down the middle between Tennessee and North Carolina sharing equal portions in each state. In which state would the parkways southern end of this now classic ride reach Great Smoky Park?

Photo - a view of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Nothing in Tennessee can compare to the views from the North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Tennessee argued the route should be shared between the three states arriving on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park about 40 miles south of Knoxville. North Carolina had different ideas, and a powerful lobby arose from the city of Asheville who wanted the road to pass near it. Reeling from the depression, Asheville felt it’s future relied on tourism and without the parkway, it would would not survive.

Two routes were laid out. North Carolina proposed following the highest passages through the tallest mountains in the east, a route which would not only maximize the views, but come right by Asheville. Tennessee chose a route further north which included both mountains and scenic valleys highlighting various features along the way. It would leave Asheville, the only city of size in the Carolina mountains, in isolation.

Right up to the last minute, it appeared the three state route would prevail. In the end though, it was the powerful and well connected proponents from Asheville who convinced the legislature to favor the route which avoided Tennessee entirely thereby stealing the road from Tennessee.

Riding the parkway it’s easy to see the right choice was made. The highest, most scenic and breathtaking views are found in the North Carolina sections both north and south of Asheville. What a different park we would have now had it been otherwise.

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Why Is Riding the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap So Dangerous?

Photo - Smoky Mountain Rider and BMW Girl at the Tail of the Dragon

Smoky Mountain Rider and BMW Girl at the Tail of the Dragon

If you’re convinced the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap in North Carolina is “too dangerous” or “ too challenging” a motorcycle ride, you’ve been deluded. If you can negotiate a crowded parking lot without panic, navigate city traffic, or confidently explore unknown back roads, you can ride the “infamous” stretch of US 129 at known as “The Tail of the Dragon”.

While riders are killed on the Dragons Tail almost every year (once you visit you’ll know why) it’s not the road that does them in. It’s a great motorcycle road with more than 300 curves in 11 miles. The pavement is nice, the road is well engineered, and it sees little commercial traffic. Still the motorcycle accidents at Deals Gap keep piling up.

Truth is, motorcycle riders crash here due to their own expectations. The Tail of the Dragon near Deals Gap is so hyped as a challenging and dangerous motorcycle ride people believe they have to make it one. Too many bikers push their limits on this great ride to fulfill the myth and prove something to themselves. Those limits of skill and reason are exceeded far too often resulting in motorcycle wrecks that would not have otherwise occurred had the rider not been so persuaded this was the ideal place to test his mettle. Truth is, I can direct you to roads far more dangerous, all of which make for good motorcycle rides you will enjoy and savor if you don’t consciously try to kill yourself.

That said, the Tail of the Dragon may not be for everyone. If your bike was on the showroom floor last week, and your warm license stills smells like fresh plastic, think twice, break in the tires and get a few miles beneath them. The Blue Ridge Parkway will give you all you need, and I’ve mapped hundreds of miles of other great motorcycle roads in the area.

There are certainly TIMES to avoid the Tail of the Dragon. A rally can turn it into a suicidal circus. Weekends bring out the squids and posers. Safest bet is to go mid week, early in the day. Be warned, it’s heavily patrolled by overworked troopers who have absolutely no sense of humor left.

With hundreds of posted videos to choose from, you can be sure I’ll be posting more. Here’s one of the longer ones that not only shows the entire ride, but demonstrates why this good motorcycle ride has earned such a bad reputation. Is it the really roads fault?

For lots more info about the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap visit http://tailofthedragon.com

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How Long Does It Take To Ride The Blue Ridge Parkway?

Photo - Detour sign on the Blue Ridge Parkway

It's not a detour, it's an opportunity to explore!

10 Hours, 47 minutes, and 27 seconds, so long as you get at least 469 miles from one tank of gas, don’t eat, wear a diaper, and they miraculously resolve all the Blue Ridge Parkway closures and detours. Obviously, that’s not the answer you are looking for.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway end-to-end on a motorcycle is a goal for many. It’s our nations classic motorcycle ride. But in planning your motorcycle trip, it is a goal that should be approached like sex – you don’t try to see how fast you can get it done and really enjoy it. Realistically, you could do this great ride in two long days, just to say you’ve done it, but the “I’m an idiot award” would be waiting for you at the end of your scenic ride.

Photo - motorcycle on a Virginia section with caption "Never rush the Parkway - it's meant to be savored".

Never rush the Parkway, it's meant to be savored.

The more time you put into it, the more pleasure you will get out of your motorcycle vacation. It would be better to focus on exploring small sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway and truly enjoying them. It’s not going anywhere. You can always come back to it. The same spot in the morning is a new experience in the evening, another view with a change of seasons.”

Look at those detours as opportunities to explore the thousands of miles of great roads that surround the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountains are full of good rides which are devoid of traffic, chock full of scenery, and often more challenging and rewarding to explore.

Image - idiot badge

Slow down and avoid the "Idiot Badge"

If you must hurry through, or cover the distance for whatever reason, note those places that were special to you and plan on coming back. The Blue Ridge Parkway is best when you’re not moving at all.

For info about Blue Ridge Parkway Road Closures,
go to http://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm

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Celebrate Blue Ridge Parkway Anniversary 75


Photo - View of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Waterrock Knob overlook

View of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Waterrock Knob overlook.

2010 kicks off with celebration of our nations most popular national parks 75th anniversary. Construction on the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway scenic road was started in September, 1935 at Cumberland Knob near the border between North Carolina and Virginia (milepost 217.5), though it would take 52 years until the last section was completed in September, 1987 not far from where it all began.

The mission of the Blue Ridge Parkway is to provide a scenic link between two of the easts grandest parks, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Inspired by great rides built in the parks of the American west and patterned after earlier scenic roads in the east, the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed utilizing native materials to emphasize and highlight extraordinary views worthy of national recognition and preservation. In making that link, the Blue Ridge Parkway in some ways eclipsed these other national parks and opened up the isolated and remote areas of the Smoky Mountains for all to enjoy.

Nowadays, more than 18 million people each year come to enjoy the relaxing and inspiring views found along this two lane ribbon of asphalt, more than 1/4 of them on motorcycles. The Blue Ridge Parkway has become our nations most classic ride. What better year to celebrate and enjoy it?

I’ll be highlighting some of those celebrations and relating the often controversial history of one of the best rides anywhere in future posts. Here’s a video to get you started.

For more info about the Blue Ridge Parkway go to http://blueridgeparkway.org

For info about celebrations and events go to http://www.blueridgeparkway75.org/


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Planning Your Motorcycle Vacation Trip – Do I Need Reservations?

Photo - Motel sign, motorcycles welcome

Make sure the Welcome Sign is On for You

If you’re visiting the Smokies on your motorcycle vacation trip during the fall, particularly at peak leaf season, I strongly urge you to plan ahead. Rooms on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway go quickly and people reserve them a year in advance at the popular places.  Even if you don’t want to make reservations now, or only have a general idea of where you might end up, it’s worth doing a little research to be sure your motorcycle vacation plan goes well.

Here’s a tip that may save you some headaches on that motorcycle vacation trip – call ahead to a couple of potential lodgers and ask about room availability during your visit. Just because you checked for motorcycle or Blue Ridge Parkway events doesn’t mean the rooms aren’t all booked for the Wooly Worm festival, the Trout Fest, or some other local folk celebration. Mountain resorts are popular places for conferences and meetings who sometimes try to book rooms when other events are not scheduled. Don’t forget Chambers of Commerce and Visitor Centers (easy to find online) are great resources and will often send you free visitor guides.

A few extra moments planning your motorcycle vacation trip can greatly improve your enjoyment.

Here’s a couple Chamber links you might want –

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Looking for the Thaw

9 degrees this morning. There’s been snow on the ground, which is frozen rock hard, since December 18 last year. One of the furnaces is out and space heaters roar to keep the rooms tolerable. The repairmen are swamped and we’re in better shape than some. They’ll get to us.  What firewood is left is reserved for emergency use and used sparingly when needed once the sun goes down. I can’t remember the last time the daily high was above freezing or even close. Temp’s in the 20’s are starting to feel warm. When we got our most recent newspaper, before the  snow covered the road again, there were hints that warm weather was coming. I hope so.

Photo - Lake Junaluska frozen and snow covered

Lake Junaluska, NC, frozen and covered with snow

We’ve made the most of the situation, and had to get out to relieve the cabin fever from time to time. I still keep several hundred pounds of rocks in the back of the truck to get traction when needed on the icy patches and when the roads are  still white in the shady sections. The motorcycles sit frozen like statues in the car port and I fear I’ll find the batteries have succumbed when I go to start them once warmer weather returns. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed of course, and the reports coming in tell of significant damage from downed trees which may take months to clear. Parts remain inaccessible even to the snow plows to evaluate the conditions.

The photo shows nearby Lake Junaluska on a Sunday walk. It’s frozen over and covered with snow. For the first time in my experience I foolishly dared to walk out on it to find the ice quite solid. Only a pure idiot would dare a crossing, and would likely discover there are parts which are only thinly covered. I may be foolish, but fortunately there is a limit. The video was made by my wife playing with her new toy, a “Flip” camera. It only took her a few minutes to put it together and I suspect we’ll have a lot more video to show for it.

Everyone eagerly anticipates the return of normal weather and rumors of highs in the 50’s later this week fill my heart with both joy and dread. There are chores waiting to clean up the damage and set things back in order, plumbing repairs, yard work, and then there’s the motorcycles. I hope they’ve survived.

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Southpark Takes On Loud Pipes

Photo - Straight pipes on a custom bikeWant to get a discussion going in your favorite forum? Just post a comment about loud pipes and the threads will go on and on and on. “Loud pipes save lives” vs. “Loud pipes give motorcycles a bad rap”. It seems the chatter is going main stream with this recent episode of Southpark. Leave it to the cartoons to embrace social commentary. Considering the widespread distribution of the TV show it’s an episode you should watch. I  suspect it’s not the last we’ll hear about it and I’m waiting to see the first T-Shirt offering.

Southpark episode “The “F” Word”

http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/251889

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