My Quick Visit to Paris – A City Full of Motorcycles

Obligatory Eiffel Tower Photo

Obligatory Eiffel Tower Photo

I was gone all last week. To celebrate one of my wife’s milestone birthdays I gave her the gift of a trip to Paris. Her birthday was in August. As she’d recently started new employment, we delayed leaving until she had some time at the job accumulated.

We flew into London, then took the high speed rail Eurostar train beneath the English channel crossing the rolling farmlands of France into the heart of the city of lights.

* This blog is supposed to have at least some relationship to motorcycling, – don’t worry I’m getting there.

We spent 3 days in the heart of the city. We had no set plan or itinerary. Each day we woke up, enjoyed a wonderful european breakfast spread, and walked out the door of our hotel. Afterwards the day just happened.

So what has Paris got to do with motorcycling? Apparently a lot! The city is awash in all sorts of 2 wheeled travel.

Photo - motorcycles in Paris

Paris is abuzz with motorcycle traffic. It may be one of the best ways to get around.

Photo - Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

When you ride a motorcycle, you’re more aware of them. You have a deeper appreciation and your eye is drawn to anything with two wheels. Walking the streets of Paris you can’t help but be impressed with how many motorcycles tangle with the chaotic flow of city traffic.

At first take it appears the vulnerability of being on a motorcycle would make riding in this turmoil more risk than it’s worth. Streets are narrow, lined with cars, I don’t think they even bother with posting speed limit signs – it would be futile in any case.

Photos - motorcycles at night in Paris

Night, day, it doesn't make much difference. When a light turns red, the motorcycles filter to the front.

Photo-Wayne-in-Paris

French food deserves its reputation.

The more I watched, the more I became convinced a motorcycle was the ideal means to take advantage of the opportunities the traffic held. Rapid acceleration, quick handling, and the capability to squeeze through most any gap make tackling the Paris traffic on a motorcycle look like a video game. It think it might be fun in some strange way.

Mopeds, Vespas, and scooters, you might expect.  They do make up a decent fraction of the two-wheeled traffic, but are not the bulk of it. There are bikes of all makes and sizes. I was surprised so many dual-sport bikes were present. A good number of big bikes, particularly BMWs, were fairly common. Most of the sport bikes I saw were moving. I even saw several Harley-Davidsons.

Photo - Motorcycle Champs Elysees

The Setting - the Champs Elyees. Arc de Triomphe in background. Motorcycle passenger on white Goldwing. White helmet. White fur coat. Motorcycling is not done exclusively for economic reasons.

Image-Mona-Lisa

Mona Lisa at Louvre

What a contrast to what I’m familiar with. It’s a whole different environment. Urban vs. rural. It’s almost a combat environment when it comes to driving.  Still, it wasn’t long before I was wishing I had access to a bike. Heck, I’ll give it a try. I’m confident I’ll survive.

It turns out Paris is a pretty easy place to be when you’re off the motorcycle. We walked a lot. We also took the Metro. We managed to do the whirlwind tour hitting many of the tourist spots without even trying. As expected, you can get by without knowing much french. Another day to explore more would have been nice. I think saying that is a sign of a successful vacation.

photo - motorcycle parked along a Paris Street

An assortment of motorcycles crowds any small open street corner. Parking is a treasured commodity.

Photo - Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower viewed from atop the Arc D Triomphe

One day I’m going to make that motorcycle trip across Europe searching for the best rides. I’m convinced the Appalachian Mountains of the US have more to offer the motorcycle adventure tourer than all the Alps of Europe. This trip gives me more confidence about passing through the city of Paris on that future journey, though I’m not sure it will be needed. I may stay further south. It’s good to know I will enjoy revisiting Paris if needed. I may just make a detour.

The short vacation was a nice break from America Rides Maps. With Christmas coming orders pick up, then really start to grow once the new year comes. I’m playing the weather day by day, choosing the best days to get out. I need three good days out on the road to finish up the Hot Springs map revision. With luck, I’ll have the companion map done by the start of the new year.

The break did us both good. Now it’s back to work.

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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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Photos From Another Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Riding Day

Photo - 15 mph road sign

15 MPH NEXT 6 MILES - You've probably discovered a good ride when you see signs like this.

So I’m wrapping up this new motorcycle ride map which covers best motorcycle rides in the eastern half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I’m finally to the “get out and ride” stage. Most of the really tedious work is done, the stuff that keeps me in front of the computer. Today I took the afternoon to go out and ride some of the closer roads and it was superb.

When I do a map revision, I typically re-ride almost all the roads from the existing map to re-familiarize myself with them.  I think it’s the best way to judge newly discovered roads against the others I already know by making a fresh comparison. As some of my maps now have more than 50 featured roads I’ve got a lot of miles to cover. Sometimes a road I once considered top-notch pales a bit when new and better ones are discovered. When I do find a new road, I then seek out the best routes to connect them all together. All-in-all it adds up to a lot of mileage.

With a good frost this morning and temperatures that never creeped out of the 40’s, I saw only a few other motorcycles out on the road.  It was warm enough to leave the heated gear on the coat rack. Mid-week traffic was light and it was a great day to be out on the bike. Recent rains had helped clear the roads of the de-icing coating and gravel that had been laid down during the last cold snap.

Photo - Mountain view from one of the roads

I snapped this photo atop the climb one of the great new roads made over a mountain. Views are sometimes better once the leaves are off the trees.

As is usual only a few of the new roads were really good rides though the two I found were so outstanding either would have made for a successful day. I routed my commute between them to include NC 215 so I could shoot some more video along the way for the upcoming production. Damn, that road is fun now that the south end has been repaved. The fresh asphalt has been exposed long enough that the oily surface has aged and the grip on the baby bottom smooth tarmac is outstanding. It’s a Jeckyl and Hyde experience though – as soon as you pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway the new pavement ends and the road quality becomes dangerous in places. Be on your toes where they started patching and paving the north side. I wonder if it didn’t get compacted enough as the gravel in the asphalt is loose. It’s really hard to see how bad it is until you’re in it and by then you’re slipping and sliding just as you enter the hairpin curves.

Photo - NC 215 winter view

Winter riding has it's own beauty - I enjoy the contrast to summers lush growth. This is NC 215 south of the parkway, one of the better sections.

The first road I added was one surprisingly close to home – Crabtree Mountain Road. The last time I explored it there was a long section that wasn’t paved. That’s not unusual in the mountains. The easy sections along the valley floors get paved. The steep sections that climb up and over the mountain passes don’t as it requires so much effort and expense to prepare and then maintain a decent roadbed in the steep and rocky terrain.

Photo - View from Crabtree Mountain Rd

Outstanding views from atop the pass on Crabtree Mountain Road. The smoke plume from paper mill in Canton is easy to spot

Crabtree Mountain Road connects NC 209 (now known as “The Rattler” video here) to NC 215 at the town of Canton. It not only makes a connection between two already great rides, but is a great motorcycle ride on it’s own merits. The scenery in the valley is picturesque as the road winds along with the course of a stream through a collection of nice curves, then darts south to start the steep climb over a high pass. Two of the photos included were from the high point on the road. It then plunges down the mountainside through a series of hairpin turns and switchbacks before it runs into Thickety Road and connects to NC 215 near I-40. Watch for gravel near the top of the pass, but otherwise the road is in good condition and a nice ride.

Photo - Silversteen Road

High quality pavement on Silversteen Road gives you the confidence to exploit the unending series of curves.

The second road I added was near Lake Toxaway and I suspect it may become one of my new favorites. Silversteen Road connects the fabulous riding on NC 281 to one of the twistiest sections of US 64. This road had me thinking of The Dragon at Deals Gap. Though a third shorter than the Dragon at at 8.1 miles in length, the tight curves are relentless throughout the ride. Also, like the Dragon, while it doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery, you’re too engaged in just maintaining control to let your eyes wander to the horizon. It’s easy to find from NC 281 as it intersects on a hairpin curve, and the southern end at at US 64 is marked by a gas station.

Progress is going to have to wait a week as I’m taking a short vacation. I be back in the saddle after Thanksgiving. I posted some of the video I shot today at my Youtube Channel – http://youtube.com/americaridesmaps. Until then, enjoy the ride.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1HbSTAk7C4

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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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Practicing for Motorcycling in Paris – I’m not ready (videos)

On Sunday I’m flying ‘cross the pond for a much needed vacation in Paris, France. I’m a little disappointed to miss the Paris Motorcycle show, but I’ll try to make up for it as I can. I’ve been looking for info so I can be prepared for the experience, but after reviewing these videos I’m not quite sure I’m ready;

Obviously, I’m going to need to brush up on my traffic skills to fit in. From the looks of this next video, tires must be really expensive – they tend to use just one at a time in the French City.

Maybe its time to rethink this. I only know a couple French words – gendarme and bastille come to mind.  It’s my first visit. Maybe I’ll just stick to the motorcycle taxis for now, but then I’ve still got a couple days to practice up.

PS – you might want to stay off the roads this week or at least pull over if you see a crazy biker approaching with a beret taped his the helmet.

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Rain Welcome Following Nice Motorcycle Riding in the Smoky Mountains

You’ve got to appreciate the great weather we had this past week in the Smoky Mountains. It was a good time to be out motorcycle riding and most riders seem to have taken advantage of the opportunity. I’m not complaining now that a couple days of rain have moved in.

Photo - clouds in the Smokies

When the clear blue skies went to cloudy Sunday morning, it was the end to a really nice spell of weather.

It’s was hard to spend time in the office while the sky was so blue, the sun was shining, and the air warm and still. I managed to squeeze in a few days of motorcycle riding including some time up on the Blue Ridge Parkway . With this rain, maybe I’ll get a little more work done now that I’m not so often glancing out the window and stepping outside to insure the motorcycle is still ready and waiting. A few good days of inside work should do it.

Photo - Canada Geese

A still warm morning at Lake Junaluska soon clouded up and now is nothing but wet and gray today.

Here’s a couple photos from this weekend that I’ll be looking at over the next week to remind me of those good times, and inspire me to get the business done so I can get out and enjoy some more. Hope you like.

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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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Motorcycles Flock to Blue Ridge Parkway with Warm Fall Weather

The weather in the Smoky Mountains lately has been stellar. While there may be a nip of frost in the mornings, by the afternoon the temps are in the high 60’s, the wind is still and dry, and the summer haze that gives the Smokies their name has taken a holiday. It’s been hard not to get out and ride your motorcycle.

Photo - November view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

This is what the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway look like in mid-November. While almost all the leaves are down, it's still inspiring. Look close (click the picture for a larger view) and you can see the Parkway.

Jackie is in off the road for the weekend (like me, she travels with her work), and with the afternoon free we hopped on the bikes for a “La La” ride. In other words, no agenda, just cruising along, enjoying the  scenery, going wherever the whim takes you, “La la la”. You shouldn’t be surprised we ended up spending a little time on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s the epitome of “la la” rides.

Photo - November view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cool and clear weather makes for great long range views. The feature in the center of the photo is Looking Glass Rock. The mountains on the horizon are in South Carolina and Georgia. Summer haze and green leaves hide so much which winter reveals.

I’m often surprised by the number of motorcycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I didn’t expect to see so many today this late in the season. While I didn’t do an official count, I can confidently say motorcycles outnumbered cars while we were there.  We stopped at a couple overlooks and talked with a few people from Florida and South Carolina who had come north to enjoy the views.

Photo - Looking at a map on the Blue Ridge Parkway

These guys from Florida really needed the help. The map they had was of such a large scale it didn't show many of the local roads. I hope the maps I gave them made the rest of their afternoon enjoyable.

I can’t help myself when I come across motorcyclists looking at a map, it’s the cartographers curse. We ended up spending almost half an hour at one overlook talking with other motorcyclists who pulled in, suggesting alternative rides, and handing out old versions of my maps. I usually carry an assortment in my bag to give away as promotional material and I parted with a bunch this afternoon.

Photo - Devils Courthouse

Jackie pauses to admire the view of Devil's Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I shot a little video on the ride home to use later. It looks like our winter video ride project will be NC 215. It’s not only close to home so I can get a good collection of shots to choose from, but amongst locals it’s the most favorite ride and one you should know about.

Just because winter is coming it doesn’t mean an end to riding in the Smoky Mountains and it appears as many as possible are making the best of what warm weather remains.

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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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Did Blind Kenny See Your Motorcycle on the Diamondback?

Blind Kenny is the official Diamondback and Diamondback Loop photographers. The powersports photography business is owned and operated by Ken and Donna Behm of Marion, NC.

Photo by Blind Kenny

Photo by Blind Kenny - Cruiser on The Diamondback - www.BlindKenny.com

Blind Kenny photographs motorcycle riders and sportscar drivers out enjoying the ride on 226A and NC 80.  Their photography captures a unique moment in time from a perspective most riders and drivers never get to see – themselves and their machines performing as a unit and having fun.

Photo by Blind Kenny

Photo by Blind Kenny - Sport Bike on The Diamondback - www.blindkenny.com

You’ll usually find Blind Kenny‘s yellow and black signs on the road one half mile south of Wildacres Retreat on The Diamondback and a mile south of Buck Creek Gap on NC 80.  On warmer days in late winter/early spring, they’re’ out rain or shine from about 9:00 AM until dark and after.  Even when the forecast is for showers, they’ll be under the black and white checkered canopy taking pictures!

Photo by Blind Kenny

Photo by Blind Kenny - A Sports/Touring Bike on The Diamondback - www.BlindKenny.com

When you get back from your ride, go to www.BlindKenny.com to find and purchase your photos.  It may take up to 5 days before the photos are proofed and available, so send them an email and they’ll alert you when they’re ready.  If you contact them in advance, they’ll look for you out on the road.

Image - Blind Kenny Logo

www.BlindKenny.com

Blind Kenny offers all standard print sizes, gift items including gift cards, and high resolution digital downloads at very reasonable prices. Unique multiple shots posters are coming soon.

Blind Kenny – powersports photography

Diamondback and Diamondback Loop

America Rides Maps – Get the most up to date ride maps of the Diamondback

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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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1st Snow – Not the End of Motorcycle Season In the Blue Ridge

Here’s a couple photos I snapped this morning on my post office run in Waynesville, NC. We’ve had the first real snowfall of the winter season, though you’d better enjoy these pictures now – it will all be gone tomorrow and temps will be near 70 early in the week. It’s hardly an end to motorcycle riding season in the Smoky Mountains.

Photo - 1st snow in Waynesville

The first snow storm always causes excitement. Most of this white stuff will be gone by this afternoon.

It’s the extremes that get all the publicity and it may give the false impression the winters are harsh and enduring here in the Smokies. Temperatures fluctuate throughout the season with alternating cold and warm spells. By the middle of the week, temps will be near 70 again and this will all be forgotten. Halfway between the balmy south and the frigid north, the blue ridge mountains live in the in-between zone. Sometimes the northern weather drifts south, but it soon gets pushed back by the warm winds from the south.

Photo - 1st Snow in Waynesville, NC

Most of this will be gone by this afternoon and the warm weather will return early in the week.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed of course, but that’s no real handicap to finding places to ride. With the leaves off the trees it’s a whole different world and you see the things that are hidden during the summer months. Even during February and March you can find those days warm enough to get out and enjoy a nice spin on the motorcycle. So enjoy these snow photos now. In a few days it will be forgotten.

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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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