Motorcycle + Ice + Fun = Minor Damage

A minute after this photo was taken my bike lay on its side and I couldn’t pick it up.

Photo-Whitesides-mountain-nc-motorcycle-by-frozen-lake

A minute after this photo was taken my bike lay on its side and I couldn't pick it up. Whiteside Mountain in the background has the highest cliffs in the east.

It was the last of the roads I planned to explore on a winter motorcycle riding dayin the Blue Ridge Mountains. I stopped at this frozen lake to take the picture beneath the 1000 foot cliffs of Whiteside Mountain. As I tried to turn the bike around and leave, my foot slipped on the icy gravel and down it went. Each time I tried to pick it up the wheels just skated on the frozen ground and I couldn’t get the leverage to lift it. Within minutes I was exhausted, out of breath, and starting to seriously wonder just how I was going to get out of this predicament.

Photo-motorcycle-on-icy-US-276

I didn't realize how icy US 276 was until I stopped. My feet skidded on the thin coat of black ice that covered parts of the road. It had been a long slow climb to get this far.

Had I any sense I would have turned back this morning and put this off, but I’ve set a deadline for this motorcycle ride map revision. After several days of a hard cold followed by rain, I figured the roads should be in better shape now with the relatively warmer weather. When the frostless morning came with 33 degrees on the thermometer and the promise of sunshine, I was elated to get back out on the road. It wasn’t as warm as I thought.

Photo-view-of-mountains-in-clouds-from-Blue-Ridge-Parkway

As I looked south when I crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway my destination lay beneath that bank of clouds near those mountaintop islands on the left horizon.

Heading out things appeared to be fine. The rains melted all but the last clumps of snow the plows had skidded to the roadside. The ride out through the Bethel Valley was as usual. Once I entered the Pisgah Forest and started the winding climb to crest the Blue Ridge Parkway it got interesting.

photo-motorcycle-on-snowy-US-276

I thought conditions would get better once I started down the south side of the mountains but if got worse until I reached US 64 in Brevard.

This is where I’m supposed to entertain you
with how hard it was, how bad the roads were,
that it was all harrowing moments
of slips and slides and near spills –
That’s not how I recall it.

I play with conditions like these,
flirting with the balance
at the the edge of control.
Find the sweet spot of the given moment,
do my best to guide the slides,
find the rhythm of the road,
and push as far as I dare let it go.
That’s what I remember –

It took 2 hours instead of one
to reach the South Carolina border,
but once I came down off Caesar’s Head
the ice was gone.

Photo-table-rock-south-carolina

Table Rock in Table Rock State Park, South Carolina, viewed from US 276 coming down through the hairpin turns that descend from Caesar's Head State Park.

I picked up a few new roads in South Carolina for you to enjoy on your motorcycle vacation tour this year including one that was so promising I’m going to research the potential for mapping in that area. While I had to be vigilant for salt and sand, I had lots of fun on motorcycle rides old and new to me. As soon as I crossed back into North Carolina the snow and ice was back.

photo-winter-view-lake-jocassee-sc

A view of Lake Jocassee, SC from the Wiginton Scenic Byway as I climb back into snowy North Carolina. Whitewater Falls, highest in the east, feeds the lake.

I knew it was probably a waste of time to ride out into Whitesides Cove, but I know this great spot to get a picture. There’s always the chance the unpaved portion to Highlands has been improved. Unless I check periodically I don’t know when one of these two lane twisties has had an upgrade and is worth adding to my Blue Ridge motorcycle ride maps.

Photo-ice-on-NC-215

By spring these rocks on US 215 near the Beech Gap exit of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be coated with ice several feet thick.

You already know I got out of the jam. It sure wasn’t pretty. For a second I thought – “take a picture of this”, then a wiff of gasoline told me the longer it the bike lay there the less likely it would start. Little chance of someone passing by to help on this isolated road. The sun was getting low, things were already frozen, it would be a long cold night.  It was time to be working my way home.

Photo-broken-lens

New lens already on order

I flushed with adrenaline when those thoughts hit, carefully considered the mechanics, dug my feet in, and with my back to the bike I half lifted-half wresteled the beast up with a quivering slo-mo almost failed heave. A broken turn lamp lens lay on the ground, the mirrors had twisted out of position, but otherwise the mud would wash away when I got home.

Hooray – I think that completes the roadwork I needed to finish up this new motorcycle ride map. I plan to have it ready by Christmas. It not only combines 2 existing maps into one, but adds more than a dozen new motorcycle roads I’ve never published before. It also gets nearly all the roadside waterfalls on a single map. This will be one of my most popular ride maps yet!

Visit America Rides Maps.com – the most inexpensive & comprehensive motorcycle ride maps available

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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 Todays Tennessee Smoky Mountains Motorcycle Ride 12-10-10

I spent the day riding in Tennessee mostly around Newport. It’s not a particularly scenic area hence so few photos. Most of the motorcycle rides I explored were not up to the quality I was looking for, but I more or less expected that. Even so, I did add a few good connectors and found a couple of outstanding rides.

Photo - Rocky Flats Rd, TN

This is Rocky Flats Road on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's freshly paved and a very nice ride through some tight and hilly country.

There are a lot of little single lane roads, barely paved, in this region. It reminded me of some of the roads in western Virginia. If you’re into adventure riding you won’t run short of options. I strayed down a lot of bumpy little backroads, but few have enough scenery to make me want to revisit them. Unfortunately, when good scenery did present, the winter sun was so low in the sky I couldn’t get a decent photo.

Roadside creek in Tennessee

It's common for the back roads to follow creeks and streams. It was difficult to find sunny spots to shoot photos as the winter sun is so low and the valleys so steep.

I think I covered what was needed for the motorcycle ride map I’m working on. If not, I’ll be back through this way once I get into the next map. I’ve still got to head south again and make a sweep along the border with South Carolina and Georgia. There are a handful of possibilities I want to check on there.

View from the Foothills Parkway

The Foothills Parkway was closed when I rode over this morning, but open on my return. I hit once patch of snow on it but it was no problem. I snapped this photo from an overlook.

The weather is supposed to turn for the worse with rain / snow moving in tomorrow. I’d chance another half day out but I’ve run out of tread on the rear tire. It will be Monday before I can get it replaced, though the coming snow may delay rides for several more days. Glad I got this done now.

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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 Todays Motorcycle Ride in the NC Mountains 12-9-10

It was noon before the temperature finally crested freezing, though I’m not sure it ever reached the predicted high of 35.  The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the roads were dry. I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to get out on the bike.

Photo - motorcycle and snow in NC

Shady spots on the north side of the mountains still held snow, but mostly it was gone. Roads were in pretty good shape. This is at Hookers Gap. Saw a Post-lady but no hookers. Probably too cold.

I ended up covering about 200 miles today, most of it riding back and forth on the roads which run between Liecester and Marshall, North Carolina. The majority of the key roads have already been discovered for this motorcycle ride map I’m working on. What I’m seeking now are  the best ways to link them together and show you how to make connected rides that keep you cruising along without hitting traffic or four lanes or the interstate.

Photo - Potato Branch Rd near Liecester, NC

I think this is a section of Potato Branch Rd. It's one of my new favorites. You can link-ride it all the way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway or out to Hot Springs and beyond.

This area is only minutes from downtown Asheville. It doesn’t take long to “get lost” in the mountains surrounding the city. Outside of paving, these old roads have changed little in more than 200 years. They twist and wind through older neighborhoods, farmlands, homesteads and old barns, following the path of least resistance over mountain passes and along rushing streams and rivers.

Photo - A winter scene near Liecester, NC

Winter riding may not be as frequent as during the warmer months, but it has it's rewards. I enjoy it as much as the rest of the year. This might be Early Mountain Road.

I also took a ride over by Cherokee to investigate a road which I thought I’d overlooked. As is too often the case, there was a good reason to ignore it – it was another one of those half-paved roads that lead up into mountain coves. They start out nice enough but once the grade gets steep the pavement ends. Rarely does one go through and you can waste a lot of time riding up dead end roads. I’m out discovering those roads which DO go through and are worth the ride. It was a very successful day.

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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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Another Cold Winter Day – Photo – Snow on motorcycles

Photo - Snow on motorcycles

Still too cold to ride. It will be better near the end of the week.

Blue Ridge Mountain skies are blue, but it’s barely in the 20’s. I’m going to wait for the weather to get above freezing before I go back out so it has a chance to melt any ice. The roads are salted, but up in the high parts there  can be spots where it’s too wet and shady to work well.

I’m making good progress on this new map revision, it’s almost done. I’ll still need a few more days to finish re-riding all the roads and catalog the new ones. In the mean time I’m getting it as close to done as possible.

Stay warm!

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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 Snow Photos – 12-5-10 Soco Gap, NC

Riding was out of the question today – too icy. Instead, we took a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the recent snow fall.

Photo - Parkway entrance at Soco Gap

The Blue Ridge Parkway access at Soco Gap on US 19 just west of Maggie Valley, NC

Soco Gap is the last (paved) Blue Ridge Parkway exit before you reach the south end of the parkway at Great Smoky Mountains National Park just north of Cherokee (13.3 miles).

Photo - Parkway gates

Don't think the parkway goes unused when it's closed to traffic for the winter. Look at all those footprints. For the next few months it's a playground for hiking, biking, and skiing.

So far, it’s not much of a snow. There was a bit over an inch accumulated with a layer of ice underneath. If we get a couple more inches tonight, there’s a chance the Blue Ridge Parkway may be decent for cross country skiing tomorrow.  It’s just as likely to melt away.

Photo - snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway

That's not a fox, it's one of my dogs - Sophie. I was surprised to see so much snow had stuck at just 4500 feet elevation.

It doesn’t feel cold enough for a significant amount of snow to accumulate. 1000 feet lower in elevation most of it is already gone. I wonder what it’s like up high? If we get more snow tonight, maybe I’ll go up higher tomorrow.

Photo - Snow on Blue Ridge Parkway

This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway makes a steady climb to reach the Waterrock Knob overlook in about 6 miles. That's a bit more than we wanted to walk today. The first overlook hasn't been cleared and there's no view.

We were fortunate to be out of the wind on this side of the mountain. We dressed expecting it, so we were quite comfortable when the extra protection wasn’t needed.

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway Snow

The snow is like a ghost - you can see the yellow lines on the road. Rumor has it drunken ghosts wander the parkway at times - just look at those footprints!

We walked as far as the Thunder Struck Ridge overlook at Milepost 455, about 1 mile.

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway Snow

Thunder Struck Ridge is a great place for sunset photos.

It’s a faster walk going back – all down hill. The dogs love the Blue Ridge Parkway in the winter and so do Jackie and I.

Photo - dog with snow beard

That's my other dog Ajax wearing a snow beard. The parkway is their playground in the winter too.

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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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A Winter Day Searching for Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides

The Smoky Mountains of the Blue Ridge aren’t waiting for the official arrival of the solstice – winter time is pretty much here and now. Last week was messy, wrapping up with a deluge of rain.  When the weather broke a little yesterday, I finally got out to do some motorcycle riding. I waited for the sun to get high enough to minimize any icy patches on the road, then set out on a cold and mostly overcast day. It’s good that I did. It looks like we’re in for a cold wet stretch of dismal gray skies and the constant threat of rain or snow over the next few days. It’s hardly the kind of winter weather that inspires one to go dashing over the river and through the woods on your motorcycle no matter how much Grandma wants to see you. When the skies clear, you shouldn’t chance missing the opportunity to get out and ride. The good riding days will be more and more rare.

Photo - morning clouds bring us snow

After yesterdays break in the weather, clouds are moving back in this morning. Rain will turn to snow tonight, but not a significant amount. Blustery for the next few days.

I spent the afternoon prospecting for great motorcycle rides near Hendersonville, Mountain Home, Pisgah Forest, and Mills River. I’d not paid this area much attention before as it was not a piece of real estate previously included in one of my motorcycle maps.  There’s relatively high traffic and congestion around here and I tend to avoid going through, but I’m already thinking about the Asheville Bikefest in the spring and I want to become more knowledgable of this nearby area. It turns out there are a number of nice roads passing through it and I managed to locate and explore several good new ones I can now recommend as more enjoyable alternatives to the main roads.

Photo - flooded road near Mills River

This area got hammered by recent heavy rains and I forded a few flooded roads this afternoon. While some were several feet deep yesterday and some cars got stranded, the water was only inches deep today.

Located south and slightly west of Asheville, the mountains in this area are not as high as those to the north in the Pisgah Forest. There are a number of rivers which flow through here, some farmland, a few high end neighborhoods, and some rugged and forested areas like the Dupont Forest with it’s many waterfalls. I -26 runs north-south just a few miles east and the border with South Carolina in only minutes away. It’s a pretty area, but the mountains of the Pisgah Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the north overshadow it.

Photo - Looking Glass Falls

I commuted via US 276 from Waynesville to Brevard to reach the area. No ride on US 276 is complete without a stop at Looking Glass Falls.

The areas I have left to scout for this map revision (in progress) are scattered across 4 states. I’ve still got to press a little further into South Carolina then sweep west into the corner of Georgia to look at one potentially good road. The bulk of the remaining riding is in Tennessee, just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ll need two really good days to thoroughly re-explore that area.

If the weather doesn’t break soon, I’ll start working on the next map, the companion to this one. I’ve got plenty to occupy my time. Still, I’d rather be out riding.

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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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