Section of Blue Ridge Parkway May Reopen After All

photo - Motorcycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Motorcyclists enjoy the scenic section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the closure site.

Good news for those of you planning your motorcycle trip. While I’m having some trouble finding hard confirmation on this from an “official” source,  it appears the National Park Service will be trying to open one lane of the Blue Ridge Parkway which has been closed due to an unstable slope. The section affected by the closure lies south of Asheville near milepost 400. Design plans to remove unstable material and bolt the slope have been crafted, and one lane could be open again by July of this year.

The current closure prevents access to the Pisgah Inn from Asheville, though it can be reached by backtracking from Wagon Road Gap (US 276) south of Waynesville.  As this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway makes the climb from the French Broad River Valley at Asheville to gain the highest elevations along the scenic roadway, it will be a welcome relief to have it opened and avoid any detours. Expect the remainder of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be open by the end of April barring discovery of any further problems and the continued enthusiasm of the clean up crews.

For the first time in a long while our nations most popular scenic motorcycle ride could be open from end-to-end, just in time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the park.

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50 Great Motorcycle Roads Near the Tail of the Dragon

Photo - Jackie and her BMW

Even #1 Riding Partner, my wife Jackie (a.k.a. BMW Girl), has not ridden all the roads - yet!

I was wondering this morning just how many great motorcycle rides I’d discovered in the areas I’ve suggested as alternatives since the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap closed due to the recent rock slide.

So far, I’ve posted info about several areas;

Photo - Jackie rides

Does this bike make my butt look FAST?

I pulled out my America Rides Maps and starting counting. I hit 50 long before I got to the last maps that covered the great motorcycle riding areas I’d been describing. Closer to 70, probably more. I tried not to count rides where the road changes names along it’s course twice or even three times. It gets a little confusing, there are just so many.

Don’t let the rock slide at the Tail of the Dragon obstruct your motorcycle vacation planning. It could be a blessing in disguise. After all, Deals Gap is not known for it’s scenery, mountain views, waterfalls, or picturesque countryside. Imagine what waits just over the hill.

Visit  or contact http://americaridesmaps.com for more info.

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Tail of the Dragon Closed? More Motorcycle Rides Nearby – Asheville

Asheville, sometimes locally referred to as “AsheVegas” has long been a destination for those seeking refuge from the lowlands in a beautiful mountain setting. Great scenery, a thriving cosmopolitan culture, historic buildings, a wonderfully diverse menu of great eateries, the plethora of microbreweries that have earned it the “Beer City” award, and an artsy / musical / film undercurrent have endeared this “Portland of the South” to visitors for generations. Small enough too be easy to get around yet large enough to still be truly called a city, it has something to offer most every visitor, but none so much as the motorcycle traveller.

Photo - Dining at the Grove Park Inn

Fine dining at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, one of many great places to visit and eat.

Pivotal in the historic creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway which wraps the border of town, it sits in the French Broad River Valley cradled by mountains on every horizon. The tallest mountain in the east, Mt. Mitchell, is close enough that bicycle races are held to it from town and you can find enjoyably steep and serpentine roads climbing from the very heart of the city.

While the city itself is an attraction, it’s the grand mountains which surround it that make it a worthy destination for those seeking great motorcycle rides. Too many are satiated with a relaxing cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway and miss out on the fabulous and challenging rides found on every point of the compass. I’ve already hinted at those to the northwest near Hot Springs and the “Land of the Waterfalls” to the southwest in earlier posts.

Photo - Lake Lure

Scenic Lake Lure, south of Asheville, in the Hickory Nut Gorge

One of the most popular areas to visit is south of the city, the Hickory Nut Gorge area. Home to Bat Cave, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock, it’s a Mecca for tourists and sightseers with it’s stunning scenery and attractions. Don’t be lulled into complacency as you make the approach on the long flowing valley roads – once you hit the mountains the curves, climbs, and descents begin as does the fun. While the main roads may be choked with traffic at times, those who venture off them onto the back roads will discover some amazing rides and the company of local motorcycle riders who flock to enjoy them.

Photo - View from NC 80

Early winter view from NC 80, one of the most challenging rides east of Asheville

Looking west, still more great rides present, many of which are worth the time and travel to enjoy them. Recently dubbed ‘The Diamondback” (you’ll be hearing more about these rides soon), a combination of loops using NC 80, US 226, US 226A, NC 180, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other roads will give the motorcycle tourer everything he’s come for whether you’re cruising along enjoying the sights or looking to to get a knee down and drag some pegs.

Photo - Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee

Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee, north of Asheville

My personal favorite area though lies north of the city. It’s a vast region, crossing the border into Tennessee and will give you some of the longest and most enjoyable rides through the highest peaks and deepest valleys in the east. Sparsely populated, dotted with small towns, the twisting two lane back roads which lace through this area are mostly devoid of traffic and waiting for you to enjoy in solitude. Because most choose to take the Interstates which bypass this rugged region, it’s a hidden gem which gets bypassed and lies mostly undiscovered.

From the city, the Blue Ridge Parkway courses northwest towards Virginia. The roads which intersect it lead out into the surroundings and make it an avenue for including on great long loop rides all along it’s course.

Photo - Bike riding north of Asheville

Long winding rides through lush mountain scenery devoid of traffic lie north of Asheville

Long rides, short rides, nice cruises or challenging curves, stunning sights, great scenery, and a motorcycle friendly city at the hub, the mountains surrounding Asheville should be on your motorcycle radar. Home to the Asheville Bikefest May 13 – 16, it’s one more place to add to your list of great motorcycle destinations.

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Still More Great Motorcycle Rides Near The Tail of the Dragon – Georgia Beckons

A quick look at a map will reveal Georgia is much closer than you thought, and the mountains which make for the great motorcycle rides in North Carolina and Tennessee do not know anything about state borders. While they play out once they reach Atlanta, they do not give up without a strong effort. The region has been a popular motorcycle paradise for as long as I can remember.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs1fk74FmQQ

The most well known motorcycle rides such as Wolfpen Gap, Suches, Blood Mountain, Blue Ridge, are a favorite destination for motorcycle riders from points south. As they are the first that motorcycle adventure tourers reach, and are so easily accessed from the major metropolitan areas, and are such great motorcycle rides, they tend to get all the attention. Like the Tail of the Dragon, they attract thousands of riders who come for the challenging roads and beautiful mountain scenery.

Photo - View from the Nottely Dam

Riding across the Nottely Dam in North Georgia

Because these notable motorcycle rides get all the attention, it’s just like the situation at the Tail of the Dragon – some of the best rides get overlooked. There are plenty more and you don’t have to spend hours to reach them.

Photo - Dales pit stop in Suches, Georgia

Dales, a popular pit stop at Wolfpen Gap is strategically located at the intersection of some of the most popular motorcycle roads.

In my comprehensive explorations of the North Georgia area, I discovered a surprising number of wonderful two lane mountain back roads which either straddle the border with North Carolina or lie just beyond it. Once you get off the main arteries and away from the traffic, there are hundreds of miles of wonderful twisty and scenic two lane roads to discover and enjoy. I had quite the adventures on my many trips into the area.

Photo - Bikes lined up at Dales

The parking lot at Dales is a constant parade of motorcycles here to enjoy the fabulous rides.

Don’t let the videos fool you. It’s not all screaming sport bikes like the Tail of the Dragon, though if that’s what you’re looking for it’s here to be found. There are some really great rides just over the hill you can have all to yourself and make your motorcycle vacation a memorable experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMaBFEg72sk

So far I’ve suggested:

Guess what? There’s still more to come. There are more great motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains than anywhere else in the nation. Plenty more to turn you on to.

Visit America Rides Maps to get an idea of the thousands of miles of great riding just waiting for you to discover.

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Tail of the Dragon Closed – Great Rides Nearby – Hot Springs

No new info on the rock slide which has closed the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. In a previous post I suggested some great rides nearby in the “Land of the Waterfalls” and provided a video sample. It’s just one great spot near the Tail of the Dragon with great motorcycle rides nearby, here’s another.

Photo - View of Hot Springs, NC

Hot Springs, NC - A town so small it fits on one photo.

This time I’m going to direct you to an area which sees little traffic, yet contains some fabulous and challenging motorcycle rides with some enjoyable sights and scenery. It’s an area most motorcycle tourists either drive right past on their way into the region or sample only the most notable road. Trust me, there is a lot there to explore and enjoy.

Photo - A roadside view near Hot Springs

Pausing to admire the view near Hot Springs, NC

I urge you to spend some time riding the great roads found in the mountains east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smoky Mountains do not end at the border of the park, in fact they continue their long run northward reaching their greatest heights north of Asheville, North Carolina at Mt. Mitchell, highest peak in the east just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountains between the park and Mt. Mitchell are spectacular and beautiful, the valleys dotted with rural farms and tiny hamlets, sections of wild national forest, and roads which trace the serpentine courses of rushing mountain streams.

Photo - entrance to the Hot Springs Spa

Entrance to the Hot Springs Spa - Natural Mineral Baths and Massage

The hub of this great motorcycle riding area is the small and historic town of Hot Springs. It’s a good place to pause for lunch, do a little sightseeing, and maybe pay a visit to the natural hot springs which give the town its name. Long popular with hikers (the Appalachian Trail passes through town), fly fisherman, and whitewater rafters and kayakers on the French Broad River, it’s also a popular local motorcycle watering hole as it’s a convenient ride from Asheville.

Photo - French Broad River at Hot Springs

The French Broad River flows through Hot Springs

Honestly, there’s not a lot to the town. No traffic light. One gas station. A few shops and restaurants, a campground, and of course the Hot Springs Spa. You can capture the whole thing in a photo. It’s the roads and the beautiful countryside which surrounds that makes it worth the visit.

Photo - Iron Horse Station, Hot Springs

Iron Horse Station - One of several places to grab a bite and quench your thirst in Hot Springs.

If you take but one ride into the area, do the classic section of NC 209 which runs from Lake Junaluska to the heart of town. It’s such a nice ride. It takes about an hour one way. It’s a local classic. Be aware there is plenty more out there if you know where to look for it.

Photo - Fall Color at Lake Junaluska

One of the best rides, NC 209, starts near Lake Junaluska

I’ve been working on a video to showcase the area, though the severe winter pretty much closed the door on that for a long while. I’ll be getting back to it ASAP. Here’s the sample that gives you a good idea of what to expect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hsCLMCIUOo

For more detail on the area look to America Rides Maps ” East of the Smokies, West of Asheville, All Around Hot Springs” map which catalogues about 400 miles of the best roads in this small area.

Don’t worry, there’s still more great riding alternatives to come in future posts. Closing the Tail of the Dragon opens the door to you discovering just how much you’ve been missing.

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Rob Kinsey – Motocross Art with a Passion and Focus

Image - Rob Kinsey painting

Rob Kinsey Painting - www.robkinsey.com

Rob Kinsey is an artist with a passion for the sport of motocross, defining himself on his website as ‘motocross racer, fan and award-winning artist’.

Image Rob Kinsey painting - Unadilla

"Unadilla" by Rob Kinsey

Art and sport have been important to Rob for many years. He qualified as a technical illustrator in the 1970’s and his artwork has developed in parallel with his participation in motocross. He competed in the British Motocross Championships from 1977 to 1981 and still rides in Vintage Motocross events.

Image - Rob Kinsey painting - "Steve McQueen"

Rob Kinsey painting - "Steve McQueen"

He specialises in painting with acrylic on canvas and produces high quality prints using the Giclée process, which ensures that the colours do not fade over time.

Photo - Rob Kinsey with one of his motocross paintings

Rob Kinsey with one of his motocross paintings

“They are all painted with a passion,” says Rob, and he combines his passions for art and motocross with business acumen. He sells pen and ink drawings, prints and original artworks through his e-commerce website to a world-wide customer base of riders, fans and motocross businesses.

Image - Rob Kinsey painting - "James Stewart"

Rob Kinsey painting - "James Stewart"

To help make his creative enterprise even more successful, Rob attended a business development course close to his home in Derbyshire, England. The ‘Focusing Creativity’ workshops helped Rob and other creative entrepreneurs todevise business strategies which combine their creative talents with smart business thinking.

Photo - Rob Kinsey with painting

Rob Kinsey with painting

“I went on the course feeling that I should diversify my range of artwork away from just motocross because I felt vulnerable by having all my eggs in one basket,” said Rob. However, by the end of the course, after having considered a range of factors such as his competitive advantage, market segmentation and pricing strategies, Rob decided that his best option was to play to his strengths and focus on motocross art. “The course encouraged me to focus on what I’m passionate about and to capitalise on my position in the world of motocross” said Rob. “The message I came away with was ‘Believe in yourself and don’t worry about only working in a niche market – simply become the best motocross artist in the world!’ from the aptly named Focusing Creativity course” said Rob.

image - Rob Kinsey painting - "Magoo"

Rob Kinsey painting - "Magoo"

Despite being a one-person enterprise, Rob’s business strategy is similar to that of some of the biggest corporations. Jim Collins identified that the most consistently successful companies use the ‘Hedgehog Concept’. (The hedgehog is supremely good at one defensive position, and it survives by sticking to its winning strategy.) Businesses using the Hedgehog Strategy have identified the one thing at which they can be world-beaters. This results from an objective understanding of what you can be best in the world at combined with the thing you are deeply passionate about.

Image - Rob Kinsey painting - "Anaheim 86"

Rob Kinsey painting - "Anaheim 86"

This focused strategy worked. Within a year he was appointed as the ‘Official Artist to the 2007 Motocross de Nations’ in Maryland, USA. This accolade will give him the opportunity to exhibit and sell his works of art in the VIP and Press buildings at the event, which is the ideal marketplace at the very heart of this international sport.

Logo - Rob Kinsey Art

www.robkinsey.com

Rob Kinsey has achieved world-class status by focusing on his niche market, concentrating on his specialist creativity and being driven by his passion.

More about Rob Kinsey Art –  http://robkinsey.com

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Motorcycle Vacation Planning – Great Ride Alternatives

SEE SOME WATERFALLS!

Photo - Whitewater Falls Highest in the east

Whitewater Falls - Highest in the east

With the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line now closed due to a rock slide, many who have made reservations in advance may be wondering what to do. Before you cancel those reservations, consider there are plenty of alternatives to discover great motorcycle rides in the area within easy reach.

The Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee’s version of the Blue Ridge Parkway, remains open and is a fine ride, though be aware much of the regional traffic will be shifting onto it. It’s not quite the challenge to ride, but it makes up the deficiency with great scenery as it climbs to over 5000 feet before entering North Carolina.

Of course, NC 28 which intersects US 129 in North Carolina at the southern end of the Tail of the Dragon will be there for those looking for a more challenging motorcycle route. With the Dragon closed, I suspect traffic on it will be light. Don’t let this road fool you, it “bites” more riders than the Dragon in that it is not as predictable. Where the Dragon has one turn after another, you know what to expect,  NC 28 has some more open stretches where you can pick up speed only to find the upcoming 10 mph corner is far sharper than you are ready for.

Many motorcycle tourers who ride this section of NC 28 don’t realize it continues further south into South Carolina and miss out on a great section of road. It grows to 4 lanes as it reaches the intersection with the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, continues a few miles on the highway, then diverts south again to become a wonderful two lane road again. All in all, it’s more than 100 miles of truly great motorcycle riding with but a few interruptions where it passes through Franklin and Highlands.

Photo - Dry Falls

Dry Falls - You can walk behind them

The first area I highly recommend you spend some time motorcycle riding is often called the “Land of the Waterfalls”. Comprised primarily of the wild mountains of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, this area south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts one of the greatest collections of easy to view roadside waterfalls in the nation including the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

This rugged area is laced with challenging and scenic motorcycle roads including the highest and most beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Springtime is the best season to see them before the summer leaves obscure the views.

Here’s a video sample of them from America Rides Maps;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBrB5lrtZ9I

Don’t let the closure of the Tail of the Dragon ruin your motorcycle vacation. There are plenty of great rides just over the hill. These are some of the best, more to come.

Contact http://americaridesmaps.com for more suggestions and advice.

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Tail of the Dragon Closed for Months? Motorcycles Should Go Elsewhere.

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

The rumor mill is churning and I’m trying to sort through it all, but this much seems official. Tennessee has closed the Tail of the Dragon (US 129 at Deals Gap) from the rock slide are to the state line. Even though North Carolina offered to provide traffic enforcement, Tennessee has declined the offer and closed the most popular motorcycle ride in the region until the situation is resolved.

How long will it remain closed, I’ve seen various estimates. Initially one lane was reopened at the site of the slide, but closed the next day. Then there was talk it would be reopened by today. Now the rumors emerging are indicating it will be two months as blasting and bolting are required to stabilize the site. I’ve not seen an official proclamation yet.

I’d like to again urge you re-evalute your motorcycle vacation planning to explore other areas in the surroundings. With all the road closures currently in effect, the traffic loads are shifting onto what few back roads remain and the quality of motorcycle riding in this area will be seriously diminished.

The good news is there are a wealth of fabulous alternatives, hundreds of miles of great two lane uncongested twisty mountain back roads in the immediate area for your motorcycle touring enjoyment that are too often overlooked due to the Dragon’s notoriety. You can get free advice and recommendations on your motorcycle vacation plans by contacting http://americaridesmaps.com. I will be following up with suggested alternatives.

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New Rock Slide Affects Motorcycle Vacation Plans to Smokies

Add yet another rock slide to the long list of road closures in the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. This one in particular will affect many motorcycle vacation plans to visit one of the most popular and well known rides in the region, the infamous Tail of the Dragon on US 129 at Deals Gap. Located along the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the 13 mile stretch of US 129 with it’s 311 curves draws hundreds of thousands of motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts each year who come to experience the challenging stretch of road.

It’s been an exceptional year for rock slides in the Smokies, the most notable being the massive slide along the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which has closed Interstate 40 for months. With both the east and west routes around the park closed, the only route allowing north-south travel from Tennessee to North Carolina is US 411 which cuts through the heart of the park and it too has been the scene of slides. US 441 is presently open, though cleanup continues on the northern spur road.

The Tail of the Dragon is still accessible from the North Carolina side. From Tennessee, the best route is through Tellico Plains and onto the Cherohala Skyway. Expect increased traffic loads on TN 68 approaching Tellico Plains due to yet another rock slide on US 64-74 in the Ocoee River Gorge which has shifted traffic onto it. As far as I can tell, it is still possible to reach Pumpkin Center from Vonure on the north end of the Dragon via the popular Dragon – Cherohala loop ride. Still, even more traffic will now be using these roads and you may want to reconsider visiting the area until things improve.

I’ve been reporting on the status of all the rock slides and road closures in my newsletter which you’ll find archived here – http://budurl.com/3smm. As there are so many, so widely scattered, it may be the easiest place to find all the information without bouncing around to various DOT sites (they are rarely as up to date). With so much going on, I’ll probably post an extra edition or two to keep you apprised of the situation and help with your motorcycle vacation plans. There is a lot going on you need to be aware of including the progress on the clean up to the Blue Ridge Parkway after severe winter storm damage, the closed section there, and all the roads which have been closed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for paving.

If you have early year travel plans to Robbinsville, Townsend, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Franklin, I suggest you consider them carefully. Better alternative destinations for motorcycle touring would include Maggie Valley and Asheville. I’m am working with local lodgers to find you the best deals and affordable as well as luxury motorcycle friendly accommodations. I’ll be stepping up those efforts. Please email me for help. The changes in traffic patterns have severely impacted their business and there are some deals to be had. Watch the blog as I review them.

Finally, for America Rides Maps patrons, I want you to be aware these rock slides have impacted 3 of the 4 loop rides on the most popular map “Maggie Valley to Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway”. I strongly urge you to look at the “Waterfall Package” for the best alternative. These two maps will lead you into some of my favorite areas unaffected by the changing traffic patterns and open up a wealth of fantastic rides which are too often overlooked. These roads are the first place I head when looking for great riding, the first place I take tour groups, and hold everything you’ve come to expect from a motorcycle vacation in the Smokies.

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Motorcycle Friendly Lodging – Blue Ridge Parkway – The Switzerland Inn


Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

The Switzerland Inn - A beautiful Resort on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Switzerland Inn, located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 334  between North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell (tallest peak east of the Rockies) and Grandfather Mountain with it’s mile high swinging bridge, is perfect for overnight stops while traveling the entire parkway, or a good multi day stop if motorcycle riders want to get off the Blue Ridge Parkway and ride some great local roads on your motorcycle vacation.

Photo - Always popular with motorcyclists.

Always popular with motorcyclists, the Switzerland Inn aims to please.

The Switzerland Inn provides a variety of accommodations, dining, and amenities as you plan your motorcycle vacation. If you’re traveling through and want a clean low cost room, the Diamondback motorcycle lodge is perfect ($65.00). If on the other hand a couple are traveling and want a comfortable suite with great mountain views, private balconies, etc. and wish to explore and enjoy the many relaxing and beautiful sights in the area, a luxury suite can be reserved ($180.00).

Photo - A rider heads out for a day of scenic riding

Ride hard all day, rest easy each night. Beauty surrounds wherever you are.

The Switzerland Inn is a full service resort with two restaurants, two bars, hot tubs, pool, concierge service for fishing, horseback riding, golf, whatever a guest needs or wants while on vacation in the mountains.  They have covered bike parking, motorcycle rentals, airport service, and motorcycle tour guides if needed.

Photo - Covered Parking for your bike

Of course, there is covered parking for your bike.

Gary and his wife are both avid riders with a garage full of toys, so they know just how to cater to the motorcyclist traveling through the region. Popular over the years with both sports cars and motorcycles who come to enjoy such unique and challenging roads as “The Diamondback” (NC 226A), the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other notable and challenging roads nearby, The Switzerland Inn has something to offer everyone.

Photo - View of the Switzerland Inn

A spectacular setting popular with car clubs and motorcyclists

Learn more and make your travel arrangements at: http://www.switzerlandinn.com

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