Hurricane Weekend in Maggie Valley on my Motorcycle

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A little cloudy and rainy was as bad as it got atop Mt. Mitchell

While curiousity got the best of me and I did cruise up to Mt. Mitchell to get a close look at the hurricane, the Smoky Mountain weather was beautiful for motorcycle rides and I took advantage of it with a bunch of local favorites. Judging from all the other bikes out on the road, a lot of coastal folks hopped on the hog and ran for the hills. It was a good decision.

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Thunderhawg Motorcycle Rentals, Maggie Valley

Friday found me visiting my friends at ThunderHawg motorcycle rental which just opened at the corner of US 276 and US 19 after my ride north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell. Peggy and Mark rent Harleys and it’s nice to have a local rental place again in Maggie Valley. They’ve got tons of info, maps, and they love to meet and greet motorcycle vacationers to the Smoky Mountains. Stop in and see them when you pass through.

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A Holiday Motel - Saturday night

Saturday, I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway the other way to Cherokee and Bryson City to stop in at The Gear Head Inn, then hopped on some of the great roads south of there. I ended up at A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley to pass the time while my wife ran in the 8K Maggie Valley Moonlight race.  Always popular with motorcycle vacationers, the A Holiday Motel was full of bikers who came to enjoy the splendid weather. The bonfire was going out front and I was able to cheer Jackie on and spend a little time with the riders. Dale from Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum came by with a couple of Australian visitors who had borrowed a couple of his antique Harleys.

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

Sunday, I cruised NC 215 and US 276, then followed the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Maggie Valley to stop in at Riders Roost Restaurant in before we headed back up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the crystal clear evening skies that came in after the storm.

No matter which way you point your wheels from Maggie Valley, you’ll find outstanding riding. The Best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is right up the hill. It’s a great place to base out of for your motorcycle trip to the Smoky Mountains as so many great rides are within easy reach.

Check out AllRoadsLeadToMaggie.com when planning your visit. Maggie Valley is the heart of good motorcycle riding in the Smoky Mountains.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– 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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Friendly – Skyline Village Inn, Little Switzerland

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The Skyline Inn, Little Switzerland, NC

Located right at the start of the Diamondback Motorcycle Ride, the Skyline Village Inn offers a scenic stay, good food, a nice selection of beer and wine, and one of the most unique and historic places to stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

First of all, the Skyline Village Inn has a story and it’s a great one. (If you want all the details click here and go the their site in a minute). In a nutshell, the Skyline Village Inn was built as a front to cover up a huge moonshine operation which operated out of secret caverns beneath it. When not brewing corn, they used their free time to do intricate stone and woodwork throughout the building and grounds. Some of the wood inlay work on the tables in the lounge belongs in a museum. They give tours of the moonshiners caverns. I didn’t ask if they still sell “shine”, but the beer and wine on hand is diverse and high quality.

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Those moonshiners used 17 kinds of local wood

The building was constructed in the 1930’s and 40’s, before small roadside motels came into vogue, so it has an authentic historic atmosphere that permeates the entire place. Those moonshiners built with quality and it endures.

The Skyline Village Inn sits high atop the ridge with commanding views. You can see the beautiful stone arch where the Blue Ridge Parkway passes over NC 226 down the road at the Spruce Pine exit at milepost 331 from out front of the Inn. The rooms open onto a porch where you can sit to enjoy the view.

Best of all for the motorcycle rider, the  Skyline Village Inn sits at the head of the Diamondback Motorcycle Ride, one of North Carolina’s most popular rides. Just roll out  of the covered motorcycle parking and you’re on the ride.

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Rider nears the top of NC 226. Shot from the overlook across from the Skyline Inn

 

 

While the Diamondback is popular, the ride they like to send you on from the Skyline Village Inn is the Murder Mountain Ride. You can do the short version of the Diamondback Loop down 226A then back up 226 in about 45 minutes. The Murder Mountain Ride is much more of a commitment, about 3 1/2 hours minimum, but it includes a traverse of spectacular Roan Mountain and some of the twistiest and most enjoyable roads in North Carolina and a bit of Tennessee. (See Murder Mountain Ride Description / Map here)

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A room at the Skyline Inn

If you want to stay somewhere you’ll remember and can tell (good) stories about, consider the Skyline Village Inn on your Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle ride.

Skyline Village Inn

Murder Mountain Ride

Diamondback Motorcycle Ride

 

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch – Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– 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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Friendly Lodging – Gear Head Inn near Bryson City, NC

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View form the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon - Big Witch Overlook near Cherokee

Another great motorcycle friendly place to stay in the Smokies and I got you another discount! Read on…

A gorgeous afternoon on the Blue Ridge Parkway with clear blue skies, amazing long range views, and those wonderful, wonderful curves, provided a stark contrast to the touristy mess that is Cherokee as I came off the parkway, passed through town, then pointed my wheel west on US 19 towards Bryson City, NC.

As soon as you’re out of town the pleasant green returns and two lane US 19 winds its way along the pretty Oconoluftee River for several miles as you leave the Reservation. It was easy to spot the Gear Head Inn sign and I pulled into the quiet spot cradled in the hillside along the road.

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The Gear Head in Near Bryson City, NC

The first thing that struck me was how fresh everything looked. The green metal roofs looked new, as did the paint, in fact everything showed it had been resurrected and restored to a standard that exceeds anything I’d seen in the surrounding properties. The lawns were well tended, the pool sparkled, and the first impression is that the owners have put a lot of time and effort into this making this motel a labor of love. It shows.

Jim was finishing up the last of the renovations to the spacious lobby and the room was both inviting and welcoming. Mary met me at the door and invited me in.

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The rooms are huge at the Gear Head Inn

The cold glass of spring water she brought me was welcome on this hot late summer afternoon, and I spent some time getting to know them and finding out what they had to offer the motorcycle vacationer.

The motif reflects Jim’s passion for performance automobiles, and while he’s primarily a car guy at heart, I think any performance vehicle gets his motor running and he loves the motorcycle visitors. They’ve designed this place for people who love their rides, two wheels or four, and want a place where car and motorcycle enthusiasts feel at home. It’s a great place for people who frequent the numerous custom car and motorcycle shows in the area.

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The pool - note the lights

Was I surprised when Mary showed me a room! Jeez, they are huge! Totally out of character from what you typically find in these smaller roadside motels. Must say I’m impressed.

They’ve got a bike cleaning station waiting, a nice fire pit centrally located for sharing those stories about the days ride in the evening, and nice level paved parking set well back from the road. Mary even knew of a roadside waterfall I’d yet to discover and she shared its secret location with me – sorry Mary, that was a mistake, I’m a blabbermouth and I’ll be checking it out ASAP (ask her about it).

They’ve got a few motorcycle groups coming in over the next couple weeks, but would love to see a few more. As an incentive, they’re offering a 10% discount through December if you tell them I sent you or bring in one of their cards I’ll be sending out with all America Rides Maps orders this fall.

PS – take a look at the lights by the pool – (They’re giant gear shift levers – how cool!)

Gear Head Inn

 

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– 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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Updates to Blue Ridge Motorcycle Ride Maps

America-Rides-Maps-Logo

www.AmericaRidesMaps.com

First of all, none of the recent updates are significant enough for you to order fresh versions of your America Rides Maps Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain motorcycle maps if you’ve recently purchased them. The major updates were completed over the last 18 months, and only if your maps are more than a year old will you see the benefit of looking to the newer expanded versions.

However, there have been some more recent changes I’d like to share with you so you don’t miss out on the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountians.

 

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#9 - The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains

Map #9 – The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains was the last completed so it’s most up to date. I’ve just added the new Wolfpen Gap Country Store which will open Saturday in Suches, Georgia (the offical opening is Oct. 1). This is a significant development in Georgia as the convenience store and gas station has long been a popular gathering and rest stop at the intersection of some of the best motorcycle rides in Georgia.

 

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#6 - The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – This is one of the best of all the maps and were I forced to choose it would be probably be my favorite. It includes the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The gas station and convenience store closest to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground has closed and has been removed from the map. Just a few miles further down the road there are 3 gas stations in Bethel, 2 popular restaurants, so it’s no big deal. I’ve added Max Thompson Rd as a good connector as it’s a way to divert around tiny Bethel and a nice connecting road, and it also intersects the short section of NC 215 (Sonoma Rd) at NC 110. Rather than wait at the traffic light, you can just pass by it on Max Thompson Rd and enjoy this short but twisty ride to reach US 276.

 

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#4 Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock

Map #4 – Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock – I’ve added Shulls Farm / Shull’s Mill Rd which connect NC 105 to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Julian Prince State Park near the Moses Cone House. While I’ve known about this wonderfully twisty ride previously, it somehow got left off the last update. That’s been corrected. I also added the BP station near 7 Devils on NC 105. Again, don’t know why it got missed, I stop there all the time.

 

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#1 The Best Rides near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Map #1 – Great Rides Near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia – I’ve added Red Hill Rd, Plank Rd, and Padgett Hill Rd as good connectors. These make the ride from Natural Bridge to Lexington much more enjoyable then the alternative – Interstate 81. They are not lined with outstanding scenery, and a little remote, but they do the job and throw in a few nice curves along the way.

 

People have often told me my maps are more up-to-date than their GPS, and I can concur as I use GPS while out mapping – the little lady often gets confused when it comes to the twisty two lane back roads we love so much. I’m constantly updating the maps to keep them as accurate and useful as possible and unlike other maps, I produce them in small batches as they change so often. I want to insure you always get the most recent and up-to-date versions. I hope these changes help you have the best motorcycle rides and get the most out of your precious motorcycle vacation adventures.

 

Map #1 – Great Rides Near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Map #4 – Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock
Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Map #9 – The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Thanks,

Wayne

www.AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Why so many great motorcycles rides in the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains?

Why are there so many great motorcycle rides in the mountains of the southeast? It’s a combination of geography, history and climate.

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One of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks of the Black Mountain Range - highest in the east.

Geographically, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains are very, very, old. Over the eons of time mountains once taller than Everest have weathered, eroded, and subsided to where their heights never much exceed 6000 feet in elevation. Compared to the lofty Rocky mountains in the midwest and the great Sierra Range on the far coast, those in the east are half the size.

While those western mountains soar to dramatic heights, it’s not without a cost. The lower elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains make them accessible in every season. The softer, gentler topography of the mountains of the east makes building and maintaining roads to connect the valleys and towns more feasible.

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Post office, Penland, NC - the Blue Ridge Mountains are rich with historic sights waiting to be discovered on your rides

History favors the mountains of the east as well. Settlement of our country began on the east coast and gradually moved inward as the population grew. Hill by hill, valley by valley, one small settlement at a time, the trails leading to them became the roads we now enjoy. More people, more time, more roads to connect them all together.

Finally there’s the climate, which is heavily influenced by altitude. The mild wet climate of the east promotes the growth of the dense forests and makes growing crops and farming much easier. The high dry desert climate of the west holds sparse vegetation, harsh conditions, and long cold winters.

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View from the Cherohala Skyway in early March - mild climate means year round riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Life gets even tougher as you go up into the high mountains of the west. Crops can’t grow at the extreme elevations, and were it not for mining and timber, those vast western mountains would be even less populated than they are now. Fewer people means fewer roads in general, and building and maintaing those that pass through the high places is much more difficult and costly.

Finally, the development of the Interstate Highway system works to favor of the high quality of the motorcycle rides in the east.  As more people used them to move into the west, the fewer local roads and passes there became more crowded. More people on fewer roads, many of which open for only part of the year, means more congestion and traffic in the west.

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Charlie's Creek Rd - typical of the wonderfully empty and inviting rides that abound in the Smokies

In the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, when the traffic moved to the Interstate Highways, it relieved the pressure on the back roads. One of the greatest pleasures of riding a motorcycle in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the absence of traffic. The selection of two lane, empty, winding roads through beautifully scenic and historic places just never seems to end.

Recently back from my motorcycle touring in the mountains of California, then Colorado, my appreciation for the bounty of great motorcycle rides in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains is refreshed. While I loved the dramatic change of scenery, the vast distances and scale of things to the west, one thing became crystal clear –

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Bikers pause to admire the stunning views in the Smoky Mountains

Out west, you are on a mountain. It’s a harsher, more extreme landscape, you are a temporary interloper. In the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, you are in the mountains. They cradle and surround you, it’s a comfortable and welcoming environment.

I enjoy my travels and motorcycle rides in other places, but there is simply nothing which comes close to the quality and quantity of outstanding motorcycle rides right in my back yard. While lots of bikers pay a visit, I doubt they much scratch the surface of the gold mine of motorcycle riding that exists here. I know, I’ve mapped hundreds of these great motorcycle rides, thousands of miles of two lane twisties, it’s what I do for a living.

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Some roads, like the Dragon at Deals Gap are well known - a wealth of others await your discovery!

Half the population of the US lives within a days ride of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. It’s an easy trip to get here. It’s affordable and convenient. The motorcycle rides are beautiful, scenic, challenging, and the mountains are full of roads that thrill the motorcycle rider, more than can be visited in a season, let alone a single motorcycle vacation tour.

I’ve said it before, and continue to preach – “There are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”.  

Why not start planning your motorcycle trip right now?

Still need convincing? Visit www.AmericaRidesMaps.com to see just how many great roads there are waiting for you!

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– 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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

_______________________________________________________________________________

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Colorado Mtn vs. Blue Ridge Mtn Motorcycle Rides

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We based out of Denver. We spent the first afternoon in the city.

After almost 1000 miles in central California and nearly 850 miles in the beautiful mountains of Colorado I still say with confidence “There are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains then anywhere else”.

I’ve been riding some fantastic scenic and challenging roads. I’ve loved every minute of it. I’d do it all over again (and probably will). There are some awesome motorcycle rides out there.

Still, when you compare them region by region based on quality, quantity, and concentration, I’ve yet to find anywhere that comes close to the great motorcycle rides in the mountains of the southeast.

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Independence Pass - the best portion of the 150+ miles between Leadville and Aspen

Fond memories of this Colorado trip are many. Were I to pick the most outstanding of them I’ve experienced I’d have to steer you first to Independence Pass which runs between Leadville and Aspen. It was so good I talked my partners into riding it twice.

Independence Pass is a good long motorcycle ride, 30 – 35 miles. The climb from one side of the divide to the other reaches over 12000 feet in elevation, twice the height you’ll find in the Smokies. Heck, in most cases you’re already higher than the Smoky Mountains from wherever you start a Colorado mountain motorcycle ride.

However, those extreme altitudes come with blessings and costs.

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One of the most dramatic landscapes and toughest rides - Independence Pass

The blessings are many. One of the first things I noted was how clear the Rocky Mountain air is. Accustomed to the blue hazy skies that give the Smoky Mountains their name, the crisp Colorado air is like getting a new pair of glasses – you’re suddenly amazed at how much sharper and vibrant the world appears.

When you’re atop such lofty heights, that clear dry air and deep blue Colorado skies brings a sharp contrast and definition to every vista. I kept thinking it’s impossible to take a bad picture in the mountains of Colorado, it’s so dramatic!

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A break on one of the highest paved roads in the nation - Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountains National Park

Those high elevations also provide such commanding views, I’m sure you can see more than 100 miles from some points.

The landscape is dramatic. Imposing at times, stark at others, it’s a land of harsh extremes of searing heat and brutal winters, desolate isolation and hardscrabble existence.

Riding a motorcycle through such a rugged landscape at those elevations though, comes with a price.

The higher you go, the worse the road conditions get. Patches of snow in August hint at how harsh the conditions are. These roads are isolated and remote, and the season for repairs is short. You’re in for some rugged riding and a challenge to tackle at speed on a motorcycle.

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Leadville, CO - elevation 10,200 ft. It might have been the capitol of Colorado had the silver lasted.

The massive scale of the great mountains add to the challenge. Riding a narrow twisty bumpy dirty road with no guardrail and a sheer drop off the edge can be intimidating. Jackie spent the harrowing parts riding in the wrong lane if it hugged the cliff face.

All of the high roads are gated. They are closed to traffic most of the year as they are impassable. The season to enjoy them is short, and you won’t be the only one taking advantage of the narrow window of opportunity. Plan on running into local and tourist traffic, especially on weekends.

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Trail Ridge Road view nearly 12,000 ft. up.

Like in California, these mountain passes stand in isolation. It’s a vast landscape and the distance between roads is just as vast. You’ll spend as much time or more on long straight flat runs across the open prairie getting to the next great motorcycle ride.

I can appreciate the beauty of the high desert, the loneliness of the historic small towns,  the weathered remnants of a cowboy / miner history that dot the landscape even as you scream along with an open throttle to cover the distance, but any fool can twist a wrist into the triple digits in a straight line.

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Near Eleven Mile - one long, rough, straight road across the prairie

Too soon, those rides between the rides become commutes for me, and I long to use anything but the center stripe of my tire rubber. I’m happiest the closer I get to the edge of my tires.

When it comes to non-stop curvy and scenic roads, you just can’t beat the motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

TRIP LOG:

Tuesday:

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Historic Lodo in Denver - roof top water tank

We flew into Denver Tuesday and spent the afternoon in the historic Lodo section.

Rich in Victorian architecture, it’s the happening place within the great city.

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Old meets new in the city

First stop was a brewery, and once our tanks were full, we spent the evening walking around and taking in the sights.

Wednesday:

We spent the morning doing some hiking near Evergreen.

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View atop 3 Sisters

I had fun scrambling to the top of one of the 3 Sisters rock formations.

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Young elk

Early in the hike, we rounded a bend to find a huge heard of elk bedded down along the trail.

We picked up the bikes late in the afternoon, and made loose plans for the next few days of riding.

Thursday:

We decided to make it a day ride.

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Sleet and a few flakes up high

The first of the twisty roads was Bear Creek Canyon. Nice, but traffic tempered true enjoyment.

We then followed Clear Creek Canyon Rd and the Peak to Peak Highway to Estes Park.

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Break just past the middle of nowhere

Entering Rocky Mountains National Park, we cruised Trail Ridge Road.

Turning south, we followed 40 to Winter Park and took our lunch break.

We returned via Berthoud Pass  to the Interstate and made one more pass through Bear Creek Canyon on our way in.

Friday:

We loaded up the bikes for an overnight trip to Aspen and got an early start.

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Rampart Range Rd - finally, a place to exercise a sport bike!

We started with a very nice run through Deer Creek Canyon and I got the first chance to see just what my BMW rental motorcycle capable of.

It led to Pleasant Park Rd, then onto 285 to reach Pine Valley Rd / Deckers Rd.

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Fatty's Pizza in Brekenridge

We passed the Rampart range and Pikes Peak with a loop south on 67 / Teller County Rd.

24 led us north again till we detoured out to Eleven Mile on SR 90.

Back on 24, we next veered north on 9 into Brekenridge for lunch.

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Stormy skies over Leadville

Next stop was Leadville. Coming into town we hit festival detours so we stopped to see what was going on.

We continued on 24 to Twin Lakes to pick up SR 82 – Independence Pass.

We arrived in Aspen at dinner time and found an affordable room in Snowmass to pass the night.

Saturday:

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Paused in Independence Pass

By 07:30 we were on our way hoping to get to Independence Pass before the traffic to enjoy a “spirited” run on the wild road. We were not disappointed.

Riding a road like this at speed takes every skill you’ve got! It’s terribly rough and broken, gravel and rocks in the turns, bumps, patches, and potholes will have your full attention and you’d better be able to change your line quickly even when your knee nears the pavement.

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My wife jackie - outstanding talented rider

We retraced our tracks to Leadville for a good breakfast, passed through Frisco, and got on the Interstate back towards Denver, then left it again at Idaho Springs for a run over Mt. Evans.

Saturday afternoon is not the time for a ride over Mt. Evans. It’s another rough and challenging high mountain road, tight and curvy, and choked with traffic. Bummer.

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Put that damn camera away and let's get going!

With a final pass through Bear Creek Canyon we returned to Denver.

I was sad to part with my rental bike, a BMW F800 S. I’m really starting to enjoy sport bikes and the beemer was not only quick, but comfortable for all day riding.

Sunday:

We flew home.

We’d hit some of the classic rides. I will go back again. I’m sure there are plenty more roads waiting.

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Wayne (author) and Jackie with our color coordinated rental rides. She really liked the BMW 650 GS riding it as if she'd had one for years. It felt like a chopper with ape hanger bars after riding the sporty F800 S, and I knew I'd made the right choice for me.

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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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