Fire at The Dragon no Hazard to Motorcycles

Photo - forest fire near the Calderwood Dam at Deals Gap

View of the forest fire from the Calderwood Dam Overlook at Deals Gap

As I passed through Deals Gap yesterday (scrubbing in my new tires) I paused at the Calderwood Dam overlook at the north end of The Dragon to see what all the activity was about. On Tuesday a lightning strike started a forest fire on the steep slope near the dam. It has been smoldering since.

Photo - fire crews at Deals Gap

The fire crews are monitoring and managing the natural burn - "Right now, the information officer is busier than us"

About 35 acres have been involved so far so it’s not a significant fire in size. Fire crews are on the scene and have been managing the burn since, mostly monitoring it to insure it doesn’t affect the dam buildings and at times helping nature do it’s work by setting backfires and encouraging burning along the roadway while keeping it from going out of control.

Photo - Information officer at the site

The National Park Service has stationed an information officer at the overlook to explain what's going on.

As the burn is on property recently acquired by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the park has posted an information officer to inform the public of what is going on and educate them as to how it fits into the park management process. He’s great, knowledgable, has photos, topos, and I enjoyed talking with him.

The fire has had no effect on riding the Dragon, you can still enjoy your visit.

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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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Cycle Sportz in Swannanoa, NC – Great Prices, Great Service, minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo - Cycle Sportz Motorcycle Shop

Cycle Sportz Motorcycle Shop in Swannanoa, NC - just a few minutes east of Asheville

The care and service of your motorcycle is all part of the relationship you have with it. For some, doing all the work themselves is it’s own reward. As for me, I’d rather be riding, and have neither the time, location, nor the proper tools to do the job efficiently. There are some things that I only trust to the dealer. If they’re going into the engine, I want somebody who does the same job day in and day out, who knows every little foible and trick specific to my particular motorcycle year and model. And the little things, like changing oil and filters, lubrication and adjustments, I prefer to do my self. For the rest, I’ve found a place that does the job well and inexpensively – Cycle Sportz in Swannanoa.

Photo - gear and supplies at Cycle Sportz

One section of the storefront at Cycle Sportz. They have a good selection of gear and supplies. What they don't have on hand can be gotten quickly.

I was introduced to Cycle Sportz by Mark Cresswell, one of the promoters of the Asheville Bikefest, Sturgis, Laconia, Panama City, and other large rallies. Having owned a motorcycle shop for many years, he knows quality work and a good shop when he sees one. His recommendation was sound and now it’s my turn to pass it along to you.

Photo - the shop area at Cycle Sportz

I've never seen the shop when it wasn't spotless. Everything is neat and organized, the kind of place you can trust to do the job well.

I’ve used Cycle Sportz three or four times now so I can provide a reliable report. Don can be trusted. His prices are excellent. While you may find a tire online at a lower price, by the time you factor in shipping, mounting, and balancing, he’ll most likely beat it. The work is quick, they are ready for you when you show up, and I’ve always been permitted to observe and even ask questions.

Photo - my motorcycle getting serviced.

New front tire done. He knows his merchandise from experience and will help you find the best for your application.

As to Harley’s, there’s probably nothing I wouldn’t trust him to tackle. He’s built many customs. He’s also knowledgeable with BMW’s and there’s always one or two in the shop. You’ll also see a lot of custom sport bikes in these photos. Don and his staff are versatile and knowledgable.

Photo - installing my new chain

A fresh rear tire, new chain and sprockets going on. So shiny on my dirty bike.

In at 10, out by 11, and ready to go with everything clean and shiny once finished. I drive by several shops and my dealer just to have Don and team do my service.

Photo - wrapping up the job

Quality parts and a little bling. Now to scrub in those new tires on the way home. Happiness!

Cycle Sportz is located on Hwy 70 just a few miles east of Asheville. Exit I-40 at exit 55, then turn right at the traffic light. It’s just a few miles up the road. The nearest Blue Ridge Parkway exit is US 74 which is within sight of I-40. Go east to the next exit. It’s a handy place to know about if you need something while passing through on your Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle vacation.  Put (828) 298-7888 in your cell phone just in case.

Quality work, great prices, and efficient service. Wayne recommends Cycle Sportz.

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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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New US 129 Harley-Davidson Store at the Dragon – Photos

Photo - US 129 HD at the Dragon

New US 129 Harley-Davidson at the Dragon

I paid a visit to the Punkin Center Motorcycle Resort at the Tennessee end of the Dragon yesterday (trying to get the last few miles out of my tire before the new one goes on) and made a stop at the new Harley-Davidson Dragon Store to see what they have to offer. It’s a satellite store for Smoky Mountain Harely-Davidson in Maryville, Tennessee.

Photo - long view of US 129 HD

Located right on the lake on US 129, a.k.a. "The Dragon", the location couldn't be better to serve all the Harley riders who stream by.

I’ve passed by many times wondering what was inside. It’s not a full dealership with bikes nor service facilities. It’s primarily a merchandise store with Harley brand clothing and accessories.

Photo - Dragon sign at US 129 HD

The unique sign emphasizes you're about to "enter the Dragon"

There’s a nice porch to kick back and take a break, or this time of year, a good place to cool off in the A.C. or get out of the afternoon rain showers.

Photo - interior of US 129 HD

The fresh new store is as nice inside as it appears from the road.

In addition to clothing and accessories, there is also a selection of oils, lubes, and thankfully, batteries to help keep you on your travels.

Photo - US 129 HD supplies

In addition to accessories, they stock lubes, oils, and batteries

For you non-Harely riders there’s another good reason to stop – gas. It’s strictly pay at the pump, and the prices were some of the best I saw in the area. I paid 20 cents more per gallon on the ride out.

Photo - gas pumps at US 129 HD

Some of the best prices on gas are another good reason to stop.

Looks like there’s another thing to add to my maps of the area and one more place to see and visit on your motorcycle vacation.

Harley-Davidson Dragon Store

Smoky Mountain Harely-Davidson

Punkin Center Motorcycle Resort

America Rides Maps

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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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Sights From The Motorcycle Road – Sinking Creek Covered Bridge, VA

My recent motorcycle mapping explorations skipped back and forth across the border of Virginia and West Virginia. In my travels I came across Sinking Creek Covered Bridge near Newport, Virginia, and as it was a good time to take a pause to catch up on my notes I stopped and snapped a few photos.

Photo - Sinking Creek Covered Bridge circa 1916

Sinking Creek Covered Bridge circa 1916 near Newport, Virginia

It’s not often I stop for photos as I am usually trying to get in as many miles as I can while the daylight permits. On this past trip I covered almost 1700 miles in 3 days, nearly all of it on two lane roads. I ride hard. I rode long. I only pause to take notes and reference my routes.

Sinking Creek Covered Bridge is located on SR 601 – (Clover Hollow Road) and it’s well marked from SR 42 (Bluegrass Trail). The bridge was built in 1916, then abandoned when a concrete bridge was built over Sinking Creek nearby. The landowner refused to accept the bridge and for years it’s ownership was in limbo. in 1955, Giles County claimed it and now “owns” and maintains it though there are no official documents recording the transfer of title.

Photo - Sinking Creek Covered Bridge

The bridge spans 70 feet and was almost lost to a flood not long ago.

On the side of the bridge opposite the photo above, there’s a stone lined passageway for farm animals to cross the creek. The bridge is closed to vehicle traffic but open to the public to enjoy.

Photo - Sinking Creek Covered Bridge

The bridge is now open for foot traffic only. It would be a tight fit in a modern vehicle regardless.

The back roads are full of sights like this and I am often treated to them in my travels. I should probably stop more often to record them, but time is precious and I have miles to go before I sleep. When they coincide with great motorcycle rides I add them to my motorcycle pocket maps. There’s a pretty good chance this one will make the grade.

America Rides Maps

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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 Touring the Blue Ridge Parkway in One Day – What was it Like?

On Thursday I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle from the start at Waynesboro, Virginia, 469 miles to the southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. As I progressed I paused to snap photos and posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a recap of the experience;

Photo - sign at start of Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts where the Skyline Drive ends near Waynesboro, Virginia.

I chose to start at the north end as I knew I’d need to leave at daybreak. The morning fog has been so heavy at the southern end I didn’t want to chance it slowing me down or making for pictures of nothing but white mist. I spent the previous night in Richmond and left before 5 AM to make the 1 1/2 hour ride to Waynesboro in the darkness.

Photo - sign at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

I took these photos the previous day as I expected it would be too dark to take them on the actual trip. I was right.

I fueled up in Waynesboro, grabbed a cup of coffee and a pack of doughnuts to sustain me, and headed on my way. It would be the last time I stopped to eat or drink. 469 miles is a long way at the 45 mph speed limit. I had no time to waste. At least that was my attitude early on.

Photo - morning at the lake on Otter Creek

The sun comes up at the lake on Otter Creek. Easy ride so far.

I had the road to myself in the early morning twilight. Within a few minutes I’d seen both deer and turkey. The road starts a gradual climb to elevation here though nothing like the heights reached further south. With no other traffic on the road, my speed crept up a bit, something I’d fight the remainder of the trip. As you get comfortable and into the rhythm of the road, the temptation to take things at your more comfortable pace is always there taunting you. Knowing how far I had left to go didn’t help.

Photo - Above the clouds approaching Roanoke

I paused at this overlook to top up on oil, lube what was left of the chain, and take a few moments to savor the views I was rushing by.

I was also facing the challenge of not knowing if my chain would last the trip. It was already shot before I left, adjusted to the end of the swingarm, far beyond the normal limit. It now sagged precariously and was making noises that had me wondering when it would snap. I’d never seen a chain smoke when lubed before, and I took advantage of opportunities to slather it with lubricant whenever my concerns peaked. I prayed it would not jump the sprockets when carving through a turn and catapult me into a rock face or over a precipice.

Photo - me and my bike along the Blue Ridge Parkway

A fellow biker snapped this photo of me at a rest stop. Riding from Florida to Maine and back, he and his wife were enjoying the parkway on their return.

Traffic remained surprisingly light through the morning with few holdups to pass slower vehicles. I watched the parkway wake up, the rangers and maintenance crews come to work and start their labors. Finding cell phone coverage to post my photos was always a challenge. You never know when it will be available, sometimes there in what looks like the most unlikely spots, other times absent where you think it should be a strong signal.

Photo - near Doughton Park

By mid morning there were plenty of other motorcycles on the road. This photo was taken somewhere near Doughton Park.

My first stop for gas necessitated a detour into Floyd, VA. Knowing where the nearest gas stations are is one reason I map the area so throughly. You can waste a lot of time looking for them if you don’t know which way to go. While in Floyd I popped in for a minute to see Derek at the Hotel Floyd, one of my favorite places to stay.

Photo - Historic cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There are a few historic cabins along the road in southern Virginia.

As I crossed into North Carolina and entered the high mountains I knew cell phone coverage would be much more limited. The curves tightened up bit and the road was often wet from spotty showers. It would be another day with temps approaching near 100 in the valleys, but at elevation things remained tolerable so long as I was moving. I somehow avoided all but a slight peppering of rain which felt wonderful at the time.

Photo - Grandfather Mountain

Passing Grandfather Mountain I felt I was back on home turf though still a long, long way to go.

Delays had been brief so far, and I planned my next fuel stop to coincide with a quick stop to say hello at the Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, one of my favorite places to eat or overnight. I fueled up in Spruce Pine. It was tempting to get a good meal, but I forced myself to press on. The real hold ups came as I approached Asheville. Tree crews and road construction caused significant delays and I hit the “commuter section” during evening rush hour.

Photo - French Broad River Overlook

It was a great relief to finally cross the French Broad River southwest of Asheville and begin the climb to the highest and most scenic section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The sun was drawing near the horizon as I carved my way along the high ridge tops of the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway I consider my back yard. Thunderheads lurked and the road was wet in places, but my luck continued.

Photo - at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Reaching the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I knew there was less than 40 miles to go to reach my goal.

I reached the southern end of the 469 mile ride with daylight to spare and took a pause at the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I grabbed a few photos but found the battery was now dead on my cell phone. Here they are now –

Photo - start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The Southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.

While my Blue Ridge Parkway in a day adventure was completed, I still needed to get home. Noting the evening traffic, I chose to avoid going into Cherokee and got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway now headed in the opposite direction. I rode through to Soco Gap, then passed through Maggie Valley to finally get to my home in Waynesville.

Photo - sign at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Go through Cherokee or back the way I'd come? I chose to return home via the Blue Ridge Parkway of course.

My chain lasted the trip. My rear tire is bald. It’s time for some service on the engine. New parts are on order and it will take this week to get the bike roadworthy again. Next week? I might just poke into east Tennessee. I’ve too long ignored the area between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville. If I can locate at least a dozen good rides there it will warrant a new motorcycle pocket map. I discovered some great roads along the Virginia / West Virginia border on this trip, several of which will be added to existing America Rides Maps. It will take a few more trips north to determine how the map of that region will lay out but it will come. For now, it’s catch up on the work I left, update the existing maps with the new rides I discovered, and make preparations for the roads ahead.

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America Rides Maps on Twitter

America Rides Maps – the best motorcycle pocket maps money can buy

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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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Follow Me Thursday as I ride the Blue Ridge Parkway end-to-end in One Day

Image - Join Us on the Road to Adventure!

Follow my progress with hourly photo updates on Twitter and Facebook

To continue my celebration of mid-summer motorcycle madness, on Thursday I will get on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Waynesboro, Virginia, and ride it 469 miles through to the southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina.

As I go I will make hourly stops to tweet a photo and report on my progress so long as I have cell phone service.

Why not check my progress from time to time on Twitter – americaridesmap

and Facebook – facebook.com/americaridesmaps

I’m not trying to set a record or even establish a benchmark for someone to beat. The hourly stops will insure there is no record to speak of. Admittedly, it’s the worst way to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, which should be done as slowly as possible with as many side trips as you can afford.

Still, curiosity has got the best of me, and I’ve never done it before nor heard of anyone doing it, so why not?

Follow along with me Thursday!

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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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Dumb Things to Do on Your Motorcycle – Cades Cove Bears on a Saturday

I don’t know what possessed me to ride through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a warm, sunny, Saturday, but then I’m kinda getting in the spirit to do more dumb things on my motorcycle this week – more on that plan later. Nonetheless, I had a new tire to scrub in so I took off for the Dragon at Deals Gap to do the deed. Arriving early in the afternoon, I found it pleasantly low in traffic. Most everyone had already made their passes and headed out to explore the surroundings and I had a good run through it thanks to my brother riders who waved me to slow down when approaching the police stationed along the route. I arrived at the overlook with the new front tire looking like someone had taken a cheese grater to the shoulders and satisfied with the performance of the new Michelin Pure rubber which now adorned both ends of my ride.

I stopped in to see Jody at the Punkin Center Motorcycle Campground who was deeply engaged in a mid afternoons relaxation on the porch, and had to pass on the cool one offered as I had miles to before I reached home. We talked briefly of roads and riding, then I set out for the Foothills Parkway which runs along the Northwest border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park .

Photo - Cades Cove, Gear Smoky Mountains National Park

A view from the Cades Cove Loop Road which rings the valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway has never impressed me much, but then my standards of comparison are skewed from all the time I spend on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I passed through Townsend, then fell in line with the cattle herd that staggers it’s way through the park. Regardless of the speed limit, there is always some plod who thinks the posted speed is at least 10 mph too fast and there are a dozen cars in front of you. Oblivious to the landslide of perturbed drivers riding up his bumper, he motors right past pull off after pull off where he could let the traffic pass. It’s all part of the experience.

Photo - the Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Freshly paved, the scenic loop road around Cade's Cove is a great place to see the wildlife that is so plentiful here

The purpose of my visit was to lay eyes on the newly paved sections of road so I made a detour out to Cades Cove to see the Loop Road. I started, stopped, started, stopped, started (you get the idea) out the freshly paved single lane but quickly realized at this pace I could throw away my watch and use a calendar to figure when I’d get home. I took the first opportunity to shortcut the loop with Sparks Road, an unpaved cut more or less straight across the valley. Nearing the South end of it, I saw the first bear up in a cherry tree gorging on the summer fruit and stopped to snap a photo.

Photo - bear in tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of several bears I saw on my short visit. They were high in the cherry trees gorging on the summer fruit.

Reaching the south side of the loop road, I fell back into the herd which was held up by another bear spied in another cherry tree at which point people just abandon their cars in the road and walk out to stand beneath the bruin for a telephoto of the bears ass. It’s all part of the experience.

Photo - riding with the herd on River Road

Just one of a long like of bikers on River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The ride back from Cades Cove, along River Road, then across the park on 441 need not be detailed, it was as was already described. All the way. All the time. I finally escaped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway scooting around the next plodder who was doing 20 mph in the 45 mph section with a quick twist and flick, then fell in with another bike that was obviously not a tourist. I felt it my duty to ride along at a matching pace as a safety backup just in case his enthusiasm wasn’t matched by the talent it took to lay a bike through the turns like he was and someone had to make a 911 call. I’m always there for you bro.

Which brings us back to more dumb things to do on your motorcycle. One day this week I’m going to ride the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end. In one day. That’s really dumb, like seeing how fast you can have sex. The goal is not to see how fast I can do it, though my competitive nature would naturally lead to that extreme.  Nor do I want to establish a benchmark which will invite challenge by setting a time. I’m building in a safeguard to prevent me from giving in to that temptation. I’m going to force myself to stop once every hour, take a photo, and tweet my location and situation when I have cell phone reception.

I was hoping to go south to north on Tuesday, but the morning fog has been so heavy lately it might not only delay me, but the photos I take will show nothing but white for the first couple hours. It looks like I’ll come from the North end south on Thursday instead. Don’t ask why, it’s something to do with the summer heat no doubt.

Plan on following me on my Parkway-in-a-day tour this Thursday.

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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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Blue Ridge Parkway Construction – Plan on Letting the Motorcycle Cool for a While

With the new paving done, I’ve been using the Blue Ridge Parkway more often for my motorcycle touring rides north. It’s actually about as quick as taking any other route if you’re heading for areas between Asheville and Boone, NC, and even if it takes a tad longer, it’s usually so much nicer to go that way. Today though, I hit it at the wrong time.

Photo - line of cars on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This line of cars much have stretched for a mile waiting on the tree clearing crews to let us pass.

I needed to make a run up to Craggy Gardens for a photo. If you’ve been to Craggy Gardens on your motorcycle vacation you know why it makes a good photo spot, if not, I can be confident you’ll stop there if you pass that way and take your own. It’s the first Visitor Center location north of Asheville, though it’s the views people come for, not the facilities.

I had expected the traffic from the work crews would be tapering off. I was proven wrong today and I’ll need to explore a bit further to find out why.  I just plain didn’t have the time this morning.  As soon as I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville I found myself behind a dump truck. I was shortly joined by a string of motorcycle riders as we putted along behind said truck for creeping uphill mile after mile. Just as the truck managed to pick up speed it caught up to another.

Photo - the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lots of parking, it's a popular stop.

The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I don’t know where the trucks were headed, the last work I saw was near Mt. Mitchell State Park. If they are working on the stretch of road north of there, more power to them and I have no complaints. It needs some attention, though not as severely as that south of Craggy Gardens. The hold up today was the tree clearing crews. I waited for 1/2 and hour to pass. Must be the same slow crews which worked through Asheville last week.

Photo - The Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel

I was looking for and got a nice photo at the Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel for a new "The Best Rides North and South of Asheville, NC" map cover.

Anyway, be aware there are still delays through this section and take it in stride on your motorcycle vacation plans. Spend a little more time at the overlooks, appreciate the improvements to the road, and remember there are  few places better to have to pause and wait. I’ll be at the north end of the Parkway in Virginia next week to update what’s going on there.

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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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