Last Blue Ridge Parkway Section Opens Friday – Personal Road Report

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151

Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151 on the south side of the closed area.

For the first time in 18 months or more the entire 469 miles length of America’s favorite motorcycle ride, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will be open for travel. I’ve patiently watched and waited for this day, trying to sneak peeks at the progress on clearing the slide area near milepost 400 without success. Despite a grueling bicycle ride to make first hand observations, I was put off by the high fence and $5000 fine for trespassing, and have had to simply wait for the announcement. Work is still being done and there will be temporary traffic lights to manage traffic at a nearby tunnel.

Photo - fence near closed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was put off by the high fence and $5000 trespassing fine from getting a first hand look at the progress.

Work continues elsewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway clearing the damage from one of the most severe winters on record. One of the worst hit areas near Linnville is now pristine again, an amazing job considering how badly it was affected. Ice and wind storms had covered the road with fallen trees and debris. Riding through now, you’d have to know what to look for to see evidence of the devastation now hidden by fresh summer greenery.

Photo - View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

Paving continues between Mt. Mitchell State Park and Asheville, most concentrated near the Craggy Gardens area. The southbound lane is nearly completed and the quality of the new roadway is outstanding. You’ll hit a few delays and a mile or so of road that has been top-scraped in preparation for new asphalt. There are some rough sections and pot holes. The north bound lane still has a way to go and while the killer pot holes have been filled, the road is rough for many miles. It has also been prepped, but the pot holes are more numerous and it’s a bumpy ride.

Photo-section-of-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-damage-near-Linnville

The volume of trees down on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linnville was amazing. You wouldn't know it looked like this riding through now.

A recent hazard to be aware of is near Mt. Mitchell State Park where guardrail replacement is being done. A very slick sand is found in places near this work and motorcyclists should be vigilant and exercise caution. This video shows what to watch out for.

http://americaridesmaps.com The best Blue Ridge Parkway maps

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Motorcycle Friendly – Shady Valley Country Store and My Video of The Snake

Photo - The Tower at the Shady Valley Country Store

If you miss the tower at the Shady Valley Country Store you've been riding way too long. Time to stop for a rest.

I passed through Shady Valley, Tennessee on my motorcycle earlier this week and finally took the time to stop in at the The Shady Valley Country Store , see the place, and meet Kimberly and David Dail.

Photo- Shady Valley Country Store

Just look for all the motorcycles at the Shady Valley Country Store. Everyone stops here, it's the best place for miles and miles.

Don’t worry about having difficulty finding the Shady Valley Country Store while you’re out motorcycle touring. If you miss the tower in the parking lot at the crossroads of US 421, TN 133, and TN 91, your probably fixin’ to die in some horrible accident, you’ve been out in the sun too long.

Photo - Snake Burger

Three bites wide and thick as your thumb, a Snake Burger will satisfy. It was really good.

Come inside the spacious building, find a table, and get Kimberly or Dave to fix you up with something to cool your brain. While you’re at it, try a Snake Burger. They’re huge, they’re good, or you might want to try a heaping fried bologna sandwich instead. David’s not stingy when it comes to portions, you get your monies worth.

Photo - Inside view of the Shady Valley Country Store

Plenty of room, lots of tables, good food, a great place to either cool off or warm up inside the Shady Valley Country Store.

I filled the tank with Snake Venom at the pump outside, then headed back to finish my motorcycle ride home. I shot a little video of the section of US 421 between Mountain City and The Shady Valley Country Store to give you a taste of the kind of motorcycle riding you’ll experience on The Snake. There are some better videos at the store as well as T-shirts and other Snake charms to help you remember your visit.

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

While I was there I got an education on The Snake and learned it encompasses more roads than I’d thought. I’m amending the maps now and new versions will be available at The Shady Valley Country Store. There’s some great motorcycle riding found here and The Shady Valley Country Store sits at the crossroads of it. Add it to your list of places to visit and ride on your motorcycle vacation. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, exit at Boone and follow US 421 north.

Photo - Kimberly and David Dial at the Shady Valley Country Store

Kimberly and David are friendly and will insure you get what you need. Come see them.

The Shady Valley Country Storehttp://www.shadyvalleycountrystore.com

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– 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 – Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge in Deals Gap

Photo - Iron Horse Lodge Sign

Ok, so the flash washed out the sign lettering - it's really easy to see, evidently reflective, so also at night.

I found myself back in Deals Gap today making another run on The Dragon. For the first time in a long time I did not see any troopers on the road, though I behaved myself nonetheless. It was a nice day for it, hot, dry, and the road was clean making for some nice carving. Stopping at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, I ran into Bill Kneigge leading a group for Edelweiss Tours – that guy gets around.

Photo - The Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

The Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

On the way home I stopped in at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge near Stecoah. As I live so close, I’ve never had the need to take a campsite on my motorcycle vacation to ride the Dragon, and I’ve always ridden by in the past. It was mid afternoon and I had time to spare so I decided to check it out for myself.

Photo - Grounds at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

The stream in back of the lodge building.

The turn off NC 28 is well marked and it’s easy to find the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge on Lower Stecoah Road. First impression as you enter is the place is it’s really nice. I pulled up in front of the main building and found it to be even nicer inside. Large open comfortable roomy lodge building to hang out in. Well manicured grounds with a rushing creek through the heart of it. Everything is in top condition, looks new, and it’s a very pleasant atmosphere. I found the bathrooms clean, the showers looked nice, nothing out of place. It appears to be a very well run motorcycle resort and campground.

Photo - inside view of the Lodge building

A view of the Lodge interior. It's huge with several rooms you can group into.

Yet it’ so much more than that – there are some really nice cabins and rooms available, RV hookups, a store and cantina, and breakfast and dinner meals available for the campers with something special like prime rib on Saturday nights. I met Charlene Powell, one of the owners, and spoke to a few patrons. Everyone was very happy regardless who I ran into, even what must have been the hired help were smiling.

Photo - Check in and store at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

Check in and gift store at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

While I’ve not actually stayed there, I’m impressed enough from a quick visit to recommend the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge as a good place to stay near Robbinsville and base out of to ride the Dragon or any of the hundreds and hundreds of miles of great motorcycle rides in the area. Icing on the cake was discovered when I turned left out of the driveway instead of right (back to NC 28) and enjoyed a really nice little loop ride that returns to NC 28 a couple miles north of NC 143.

Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge – http://www.ironhorsenc.com/
Phone: 828-479-4589

John and Charlene Powell
1755 Lower Stecoah Road
Robbinsville, NC 28771

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– 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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Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville – Beer City Explodes with Nitro Porter

Photo-Lexington-Avenue-Brewery-Sign

A first visit to the LAB - Lexington Avenue Brewery

The crowd was spilling into the street as we approached the Lexington Avenue Brewery in the heart of downtown Asheville Saturday afternoon and for a moment we debated whether this might be more than we’d bargained for. Tempted by the reputation of the recent batch of Nitro Porter, my wife thought it was something I should sample as I do have a fondness for the creamy brown ale. While my compatriots hesitated on facing the chaos, I barged on in, the lure of a tasty fresh beverage worth the price of the noise and congestion.

Photo-Outside-view-of-the-Lexington-Avenue-Brewery

Outside view of the LAB

On reaching the darker interior of the large open building, I paused and quickly surmised the likelihood of securing a place to park our keisters was dim.

“You ride a Triumph?”, a tall, thin, and somewhat disheveled man asked having spotted the logo-strewn shirt I was wearing.

“Yeah, a Tiger. How about you?” I half shouted back above the din.

“Speed Triple. The World Cup just ended and this crowd will be thinning out.” He took a cursory glance of the room. “Let me get you a table”.

Ahh, the brotherhood of motorcycles. He pounced on one just being vacated, gave it a quick swipe with his towel, and presented it to us just as the rest of my comrades came in looking to rescue me. We took our seats and waited as the waitresses cleared other tables and settled tabs from the departing sports fans. A young lady stopped at the table to let us know they were changing shifts and our server would be with us shortly. Good thing I thought, the departing crew appeared to have played in the World Cup, not just served the hooligans who still roamed about in their jerseys and face paint.

Photo-Wayne-starts-a-nitro-porter

The Nitro Porter tasted as good as it looks

Photo-the-band-at-the-lab

Didn't get the bands name, couldn't spell it if I did.

A fresher server brought the freshest of beverages including a nice tall glass of the brown and foamy Nitro Porter. It was excellent. Smooth and creamy, neither bitter nor sweet, round and savory sliding down the gullet with all the satisfaction of mothers milk.

Photo-World-Cup-fans-at-the-lab

Futbol has been berry berry gud to me!

The energy of the place never subsided. Within minutes a band started playing some funky West African music on the corner stage. This IS Asheville after all, funky, cosmopolitan, eclectic, and avante gaurde, one of the best little cities in the south in so many ways. A cheese tray arrived, then a meat platter, both way beyond what you’d expect in the typical pub or watering hole. After all, this IS Asheville, where the bar for food quality is so high and the variety of offerings so broad, it’s hard to get a bad meal here. You could spend all your time chasing down the best food in town and never decide on a winner for all the great choices.

Photo-Jackie-enjoys-a-half-pint

Half-pint jackie with a half-pint o'brew.

The World Cup soccer fans were shortly replaced with new bodies drawn in by the rhythmic beat of the music,  some swayed and danced, and the beer glasses emptied and filled then emptied again.

I’ll return to the LAB. On leaving, we stopped in for dinner at a french restaurant just down the street, “Bouchan”. The canard (duck) was exquisite. After all, this IS Asheville. Beer City is only one of it’s claims to fame. There are many more tales to tell.

Photo-Bouchon-sign

The Bouchon french restaurant - another good story

Lexington Avenue Brewery – http://www.lexavebrew.com
39 N. Lexington Avenue, Asheville NC 28801

Chowhounds Review – http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/679415

The Beer Guy – Asheville Citizen Times Comments – http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20100611/ENT/306110005&theme=THEBEERGUY


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Motorcycles in the Fog at Fontana Lake Near Deals Gap

Photo - Fontana Lake draped with fog

The bridge across Fontana Lake on NC 28 floats above a cloud of fog over the chilly water on a hot day.

Hot, overcast, occasional spits of rain, it was still a nice day to hop on the motorcycles and cruise over to Deals Gap at the southwest corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the summer heat comes on it’s not unusual for a fog to form over the chilly waters of Fontana Lake as you near the Dragon.

Photo - Fog on Lake Fontana

The fog hugs the waters on hot days.

I shot a few photos on NC 28 to capture the phenomenon. Maybe the clouds put off some of the usual weekend crowds, there were relatively few motorcycles out for a Saturday. There were times the Dragon was quiet for a minute or more, a good day to pay a visit.

Photo - Motorcycle on NC 28 at Lake Fontana

A motorcycle cruises the lake shore on NC 28

Maybe the sportier riders stayed closer to home today. The Harleys, Gold Wings, Beemers, and other dressers  were out in force on the twisty roads at Deals Gap. It was a good  day for motorcycle touring.

Photo - Motorcycles along foggy Fontana Lake

Rarely does the mist rise high enough to have much effect on the roadway, at least in the middle of the day.

The lake section of NC 28 bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful, but it’s the curvy and twisty parts that make it one of the best rides in the Smoky Mountains. I hope you get to see sights like these on your next motorcycle vacation.

For the best maps of motorcycle rides the area look no further than America Rides Maps .

http://americaridesmaps.com

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Motorcycle Friendly – The Shady Valley Country Store at The Snake

There’s a reason my wife rarely tags along with me while I’m out working from my motorcycle – I only stop for two things, one is fuel. The other can be remedied at any clump of shrubbery. Rarely do I ever stop to eat, drink, or grab photos. It’s all about covering the miles. Those creature comforts can wait until I retire for the evening when darkness makes any further progress futile. I think that’s about to change and one of the first places I’m going to visit is the Shady Valley Country Store the home of “The Snake”.

Photo - Shady Valley Country store

Shady Valley Country Store serves thousands of motorcycles weekly who come to ride "The Snake" and surrounding roads.

Located at the junction of NC 133, NC 91 and US 421 (a.k.a. “The Snake”), the Shady Valley Country Store is at the hub of some of the best motorcycle rides found in the Smoky Mountains where North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee meet. Serving thousands of motorcycles every week, it provides a convenient fuel stop with regular as well as premium “Snake Venom” for your thirsty motorcycle. I’m told the 1/2 lb. black angus burgers, the thick bologna sandwiches and great chili dogs will keep you going full speed as well.

Backbone Rock on TN/NC 133

Backbone Rock on TN/NC 133 not far from the Shady Valley Country Store

I’ve blasted past the Shady Valley Country Store enough times. Next time I’m up there I’m stopping in to check it out, maybe get me a T-shirt or some other Snake memorabilia. Expect to get a first hand report ASAP.

The Shady Valley Country Store

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Brighten Your Day With Some Motorcycle Parody Videos

Is Harely Too Cool For Buell?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izzlN2zC8PU

Teutonic BMW Trick or Moped Magic?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh1wnZrSVq8

We Can Always Use A Little More Training, Can’t We?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryqse5mX1Nk

CHiP’s Off The Block (of cheese)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYTucV5kYsU

And If you haven’t wasted enough time, the exciting CHiPs CHaSe!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tXR-kq2BEw&NR=1

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New Deals Gap Motorcycle Map Nears Completion – Your Chance For Input

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

Smoky Mountain Rider and BMW Girl at the Dragon

Having completed a series of motorcycle ride maps covering the full scope of the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end describing more than 3000 miles of the most outstanding motorcycle rides along its entire length, I’ve now been commissioned to produce the ultimate and best map available for the motorcycle rider planning a motorcycle vacation trip to Deals Gap, home of the infamous “Dragon” motorcycle ride.

Due to the success of the Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle ride maps as well as others which expand the areas covered into Georgia and South Carolina, I invested in new hardware and software to take America Rides Maps to the next level. This new Deals Gap map will be the first to take full advantage of the improvements and I am impressed with the output to date.

Maintaining the handy pocket map size which makes the maps easy to use and conveniently accessible, as well as the most affordable motorcycle ride maps available at the ridiculously low price of $5 each, this latest America Rides map will guide the Dragon rider to a dozen or more additional great motorcycle rides in the surrounding area including the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the most notable rides in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina and touching on north Georgia and South Carolina.

The scope of the map covers the largest area yet tackled to include approach routes to Deals Gap from all points of the compass making navigation to reach the Dragon easy. Once there, it leads you to enough additional good motorcycle rides to fill a week of vacation time or more. The back side of the map will describe the various routes as well as give details about riding them.

image-raw-map

The Ultimate Deals Gap Map Nears Completion

As I wrap this project up, now is the time for your input as to which features are most important to you. I typically include out of the way reliable gas stations, notable attractions, and a handful of selected eateries, campgrounds, and motorcycle dealers and repair shops. Unlike my other maps which are only available online, this Deals Gap map will be provided by vendors in the area. As such, the frequent updates I normally provide to the maps will not be as easy to accomplish and I want to get this first edition as complete as possible as once maps are distributed they will not be updated as frequently.

Send your suggestions to info@americaridesmaps.com . If your suggestion is incorporated into this new map, I’ll send you a copy in appreciation. It should be wrapped up in about a week, so if you’ve got a great idea shoot it to me immediately. I’ve got to get this done, the open road beckons and I’m itching to get away from my office and ride.

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Motorcycle Gear Review – Fieldsheer Mercury 2.0 Pants – I’m Liking Them in the Mountains

A sunny day, blue skies, balmy temps, what a great day for a spin on the motorcycle. We all revel in such opportunities, but when it comes to motorcycle vacation plans, your schedule does not always fall on those perfect days. All too often the weather is questionable, and with limited time you set off to make the most of it come what may.

Photo-rain-happens

Don't let a rain storm ruin your travels. With the right gear, you just keep on going.

I’ve given up on counting on the predictions. There are days when I must ride regardless. With most of my time spent in the Smoky Mountains, you can rarely trust a forecast or plan with certainty on what’s happening over the next hill or ridge top. Best to adapt the Boy Scout attitude of “Always be prepared”. Leathers and chaps have long been retired. Nor can I be burdened with always packing a decent rain suit. A good one is not only bulky but costly. You have to stop and put it on, stow it when wet, I can’t be bothered. I have embraced synthetics and come to value the gear produced by Fieldsheer.

Case in point, a situation I see repeated all too often. I got a call last week that some magazine writers from Florida were in town and wanted someone to show them some great rides. I knocked off for the day, and headed over to meet them. Who can’t use a little more publicity.  The storm clouds were gathering and there was obvious rain to the southwest. No problem, we’ll head for the blue skies to the northeast and skirt around it.

By the time we saddled up and got ready to leave, the first wave of rain had hit up high near the Blue Ridge Parkway where they were waiting. It was still sunny a few miles down the road and I knew we could pass through the shower and get ahead of the storm which would hang to the south. Dressed in blue jeans, T-shirts, and skid lids, they were not only saturated by the time we reached the bottom of the hill but couldn’t see where they were going with their open faced helmets. I lost them at the first gas station as they sought shelter. I circled back, and we waited for the shower to let up to return them to the motel. Their day was ruined. I headed out, rode for a bit, and returned home bone dry in my synthetic gear. How many have wasted their valuable motorcycle vacation time waiting in shelter or cutting things short when they become wet, cold, and miserable from a brief shower? Don’t let it happen to you, plan ahead and be prepared.

Photo-motorcycles-shelter-from-rain-at-gas-station

An hour wasted at a gas station that could have been better spent for proper gear.

I’m long acquainted with Fieldsheer motorcycle gear. It’s my everyday year-round riding apparel. My jacket, now 4 years old or more is still waterproof, and the ballistic cloth has survived going down at highway speeds without significant damage, the protective armor built in insuring I walk away from spills with little more than my ego impacted. After three years I’d done enough to my old pants to warrant a replacement. The occasional knee down and a spill or two had loosened the stitching in the crotch and I had a minor leak. Santa blessed me with a new pair of Mercury 2.0 pants, and after six months, I can give them a preliminary rating – stellar.

The quilted lining served me well through the winter. Comfortable and warm, it has been removed now that the summer heat is here. I really appreciate the small zipper controlled thigh vents that are easily opened while riding. Full side zippers insure that should the temps really climb, I can add even more ventilation. With repeated forays through some heavy downpours I can attest to their being waterproof. Sizing runs a bit large, though that probably contributes to comfort – plenty of room to move around without restriction. The velcro waist bands make for quick cinching when I make those trips into the weeds to commune with nature. The fly is so well gusseted as to be useless as an avenue for quick relief, but in exchange water tight.

photo-filedsheer-mercury-pants

Available in black or silver, Fieldsheer Mercury 2.0 pants are versatile and practically indestructible while offering comfort and function..

You can find FIELDSHEER MERCURY 2.0 PANTS online for under $150.00. They’ll serve my purpose for 95% of the riding I do, with a set of mesh pants as back up should I decide to head for more tropical climes (not likely). I no longer plan around weather, waste time parked under overpasses or sit out storms slurping endless cups of bitter truck stop coffee. They also come in silver, and womens versions.

Rain is temporary. Good gear endures and keeps you riding and should be part of your motorcycle touring kit. If that’s important to you, I highly recommend these pants.

Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27f3Uq49PcU

Fieldsheer Site: http://www.fieldsheer.com/site2009/IE/product/mercurypant.htm

Other Reviews:

http://www.stromtrooper.com/showthread.php?t=27272

http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/gearbox/122_0901_fieldsheer_adventure_jacket_mercury_pants/index.html

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– 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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