A Fun Motorcycle Ride out of Maggie Valley, NC

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A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley hosted the ride and fed us well!

13 bikes left with me, 2 returned. Here’s what happened on our motorcycle “fun ride” –

I came in Friday night to share my Secret Roads with the riders in Maggie Valley. With 200 great motorcycle rides on my map of the Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains, I helped them plan their rides for Saturday.

I then invited them to come on a “Fun Ride” in the morning.

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The riders from the A Holiday Motel stop for a group shot on The Rattler Motorcycle route.

So what’s a “Fun Ride”? Quite simply, I’m going out for a ride. You are welcome to tag along. No strings, no hassles, no fees, no one is responsible for you. It’s an opportunity to hook up with a “local” who knows the roads and will likely take you places you’d otherwise never see.

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Some of the group on NC 209 a.k.a. The Rattler.

A “Fun Ride” invites adventure. The route is decided on the fly. Nothing’s been scouted, no arrangements for meals, stops, etc. The group of riders I met at the A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley this weekend wanted to ride to Hot Springs, NC and experience parts of “The Rattler” motorcycle ride. I got them on the best sections, and a whole lot more.

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Such a great day to be out riding. Follow the leader!

Adventure? Yesterday I chose one photo stop in a “parking lot” that was more like a minefield, but everyone survived without dropping their bikes. We stopped for lunch at a place I’d never been when we were hungry and it was pretty darned good.  Some got chased by a dog. Each break spot serendipitously had something memorable about it (a parrot riding a motorcycle?). The weather was sweet, the roads clean, and I know there are other stories to be told.

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Polly wants a diaper? Poor mans bike alarm? Touch my bike and you'll lose a finger! I wonder what this riders leathers look like! Seen at a stop on our ride through Hot Springs, NC.

The group paired down as the day wore on.  Some needed to be back earlier and followed the quick route home. No big deal, nobody is counting heads at the rest stops or will come back looking for you at the end of the day. We lost one rider when he wore out a tire, and another tagged along with him to insure he made it for repairs. Some followed along only as part of another ride they’d planned for the day. No rules, no hassles, ride your own ride.

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So how good were those roads? This tire tells the tale! Our only mechanical issue of the day and I knew where to get it fixed. Thanks to MR Motorcycle in Asheville for getting him back on the road.

I returned to the A Holiday Motel with two bikes at the end of the day. Others had peeled off at the Leather Shack, the gas stations, or went up for a quick ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we came into town. Those two, both women on their own bikes, had really enjoyed the day and had fun. I know I did. At the superb BBQ dinner provided by the A Holiday Motel that night, everyone was very happy after a nice day riding motorcycles through the Smoky Mountains.

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Making our way back on the best section of NC 63. It was a great day of riding. This road was tame after what we'd been through earlier.

The next “Fun Ride” will be based out of The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga. on Saturday, May 19. On Friday evening, I’ll do a short “Secret Roads” presentation and share what I know in hopes you’ll find some great new rides to add to your collection. Afterwards, I’ll be out on the porch, most likely in the vicinity of the very nice bar at the Lodge. Come see me if you’re interested. Kickstands up at 09:30 on Saturday.

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The Lodge at Copperhead near Blairsville, GA sits on the Gauntlet Motorcycle Ride

I’m going out for a ride on Saturday, May 19. Maybe, you’d like to tag along. Bring a full tank and an empty bladder.

A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley

The Rattler” motorcycle ride

Map – Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains

The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga

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Photo-Wayne Busch

– 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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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Wolf Creek Bridge TN US 25/74 Closure – Motorcycle Rides

Wayne’s Alternative Detour Rides for Motorcycles – a better biker road  that is shorter and more scenic than the TN DOT route  – with map

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Ignore the signs and ride to the bridge. It's an easy detour and brand new pavement!.

It came out of the blue. Not one hour after I’d sent out my monthly road report of the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I got an alert of the announcement – a 2 year long closure of the Wolf Creek Bridge near the Tennessee / North Carolina state line.

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They don't make 'em like that anymore! Look at that beautiful 1928 architecture. The best thing about the detour is you get to see the bridge!

Honestly, US 25/70 ( TN Route 9 ) is not a road the majority of Blue Ridge motorcycle riders ever see unless you’re from Tennessee. It is a good way to get to some great motorcycle rides along the NC border. The bulk of the traffic now keeps to Interstate 40 to the west, so it doesn’t carry heavy traffic.

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Fugate Road is freshly paved, winding, and narrow, squeezed between the river and the railroad.

Directions:

From Hot Springs –  Ignore the signs that tell of the road being closed ahead as you follow US 25/70 north of town and ride all the way to the closed bridge. Fugate Road is on the left. Follow it 4.8 miles until you reach TN 107. Turn right and follow to reconnect with US 25/70.

From Newport: Turn south on TN 107. Fugate Road will be on the left, turn left and follow it until you arrive at the Wolf Creek Bridge. Follow US 25/70 into Hot Springs, NC.

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Squeezed between the river and the rail, Fugate Road gets too narrow for a painted line in a few places.

Fugate Road follows the railroad tracks along the French Broad River. Recently paved, half of Fugate Road is squeezed on an narrow strip between the water and the railroad tracks. At times it gets too narrow for a painted line and cars slow to sneak past one another. You cross the tracks in the middle of the ride and spend the rest of it married to the other side of the rails.

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River, road, and rail. Fugate Road makes a nice alternative detour for motorcycle riders.

Because it’s too narrow, big trucks can’t use this detour. Local and commuter traffic will quickly discover it, though most of the commercial and tourist traffic will be led to the longer official DOT detour route to the north. Fugate road should cut your detour time in half.

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Click for larger view

If you do take the DOT recommend detour, you can use Rollins Chapel Road to take a short cut and save yourself a few miles.

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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. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  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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Motorcycle Friendly Places – Paint Bank General Store, VA

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Morning at the Paint Bank General Store, Paint Bank, VA

Though it’s only 1/2 hour west of Roanoke, the tiny hamlet of Paint Bank on Highway 311 sits like a jewel surrounded by rolling green hills and pastoral country that makes the busy city seem a million miles away. This is spectacular motorcycle riding country and bikers flock here to enjoy the long winding rides through narrow valleys which lead south towards Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Pembroke. The beautiful wilds of West Virginia lie just over the western horizon, and the roads north twist and turn through forests teaming with wildlife.

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A for-real General Store! Cool!

Jackie and I came in from the north on VA 615, a ride through woods so wild we had to cruise with care to avoid all the critters in the roadway. Deer and turkey were abundant, a slew of painted turtles awaited their doom on the pavement, a fox, hawks, and all sorts of other animals either watched us pass or darted off into the greenery as we approached.  We paused in Newcastle for a rest, then pointed our wheels west on 311 to make the curvy fabulous climb and descent over Potts Mountain into the valley to arrive at scenic Paint Bank.

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The lunch crowd has arrived!

Eager to get on to the next curvy climb we stopped at the Paint Bank General Store for a potty break and to top off our tanks, but as the noon hour approached we soon abandoned our ride into West Virginia to return to the Paint Bank General Store, lured back by the promise of tasty locally raised buffalo burgers in the inviting and charming rustic setting of the Swinging Bridge Restaurant.

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The buffalo burgers were great!

In the short time we’d been gone the parking lot at the Paint Bank General Store had been taken over by motorcycles with the same ambitions as us and more arrived every few minutes. “Motorcycle parking only” signs lined the periphery of the  lot and the crowd of bikes spilled over to fill the remaining space. Some milled about on the porch, others hosed the bugs off their chrome with the convenient hose, but most found their way to the restaurant to enjoy the food and comfortable atmosphere.

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Bikers flock here for lunch

The Paint Bank General Store – A unique place in a beautiful setting with gas and good food surrounding by outstanding motorcycle rides and biker friendly. What more do you need?

Paint Bank General Store

Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Paint Bank info

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Great food, wonderful riding, the Paint Bank General Store and Swinging Bridge Restaurant was one of the highlights of our Virginia motorcycle riding

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Great food in a fun and relaxing atmosphere at the Swinging Bridge Restaurant located in the back of the Paint Bank General Store.

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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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Rare Valentines Day Parkway Motorcycle Ride

I made my first motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway today way earlier than expected. I found the gates open in Blowing Rock and I turned south to enjoy what winter had to show. A few deep snowdrifts still lingered along the road in shady spots, but most of the rest had melted.  It was good to be back on the nations most popular motorcycle ride. I can’t wait for the southern section to open.

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Stopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain. The Lynn Cove Viaduct is just above my bike. Beautiful day even with the high winds.

I enjoyed some great views of Grandfather Mountain and the Lynn Cove Viaduct. It was lined with snow and very pretty. The Blue Ridge Parkway is wonderfully free of the gravel and salt that covers nearly every other road in the Smoky Mountains right now, though there were a few spots with some sand on them. There was a high wind advisory in effect today and it was howling up on the ride, but I enjoyed it all the same. No trees had come down (yet), though there were some branches to dodge. Keep your eyes out for rocks in the road with the thaw, and crews are out working on projects.

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The Lynn Cove Viaduct. It's the newest section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the last piece completed in 1983. It was cutting edge for the time.

My fun was too short as I hit the first road closure south of Grandfather Mountain. I ducked around it with one of my fun little shortcuts, but had to leave Blue Ridge Parkway in Linville. I couldn’t resist making up run up the Diamondback on the way home. It was in pristine shape and I was on the edge of my tires until the last few switchbacks near the top of the mountain. Here I ran into the sand and salt again and wiggled my way to the top as quickly as it would allow. Unfortunately the parkway was closed here at both exits. I’m still thankful for what I got!

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It's no wonder this area is so well known. There is a great view of the Viaduct from below on US 221 and it's an outstanding motorcycle ride from Grandfather Mountain to Blowing Rock as is the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tomorrow, a short video of the ride up 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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SportBikes4Hire.com – I Spend A Day With a Customer. What fun!

Wayne – had an absolute blast riding with you today. Your knowledge and these roads add up to a experience that should be had by all that like freespirited riding. I’m glad that I rented the Aprilla from Greg @SportBikes4hire.com and that he told me about you. I will tell all my riding buddies back in PA about my excellent experience and I highly recomend your maps or you as a tour guide or both. WOW I had fun. Thanks much  – Jim M.,Riegelsville,PA

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SportBikes4Hire.com offers one of the best experiences you can find on a motorcycle.

When I first heard about SportBikes4hire.com I, and others, were skeptical. Turn loose someone you barely know one of these “crotch rockets” on some of the most challenging roads in the world?  It sounds like Julia Child’s favorite Halloween recipe for death, carnage, and mayhem.  Thoughts quickly conjure up grisly scenes and visions of bikes in pieces. After more than a year in operation, it turns at such is not the case. Quite the contrary, the clients of SportBikes4hire.com end up with the experience of a lifetime.

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I met Jimmy and his rented Aprilla Mille in Brevard on a beautiful Smoky Mountain Saturday morning.

It all came about quite suddenly. Friday evening I got a call from Greg asking how one of his customers could get a hold of some of my maps. Evidently the guy had no clue about any of the local roads and needed help. He was making a short visit to family south of Asheville, saw the add for SportBikes4hire.com and couldn’t resist the opportunity. I asked Greg to give him my cell phone number so I could suggest some roads. Jimmy called me later that evening.

We talked for a little while, and I gave him a list of roads. As I ticked them off I kept thinking to myself, “I can lead him to the major roads, but he’s never going to find the real gems without getting hopelessly lost, and without knowing something about the roads he could quickly get in trouble.” While he’d have a GPS, it wouldn’t do the job and he’d end up missing out.

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Jimmy quickly adapted to the bike and the warmup ride went well.

I asked him to give me a call in the morning when he was ready to head out. Maybe, just maybe, I’d run down and bring him some maps. I even hinted I might ride along with him. I had my concerns. What if he was a bumbly and had no business on a bike like this on these roads? What if I took him out, pushed too hard, and he got hurt or worse? I needed to sleep on it.

Saturday morning was one of those early fall days in the Smoky Mountains that postcards feature. Still warm, skies blue and clear of morning fog that so often blankets the valleys, I was sipping coffee on the porch when the cell phone tweeted. What the heck. If nothing else I’d have a nice ride over and back to meet him and give him the maps if he didn’t size up. I threw on my gear and headed for the high ground.

Photo - Stopped in Rosman for the first break

By the time we reached the first break in Rosman, it was obvious Jimmy knew what he was doing. Time to bump it up.

We met in a shopping center parking lot in Brevard. Time for the quick assessment. He had the right gear – good. The bike, a 1000cc Aprilla Mille was impeccable and fitted with top equipment (save the GPS which had been zip tied on in a decent jury rig). Jimmy was used to riding a BMW K bike so he was accustomed to handling the power. He was honest and humble in describing his abilities and experience – all good. When I asked for next-of-kin contact info he didn’t flinch. And he’d admitted never ridden a full on sport bike. Let’s go.

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Approaching the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the fresh pavement on the climb.

I led him out south of Brevard on some roads to let him get his bearings where I could watch in my mirrors to see how he was adapting. No problems. Turning south I bypassed one side road at the last minute thinking it was a bit much to throw at him this soon. We turned west and started on another great road that would start to put him to the test. He did well. Cautious where he needed to be, but willing and able to use the bike where he was comfortable. I stopped in Rosman to see how he was doing.

He was having fun and getting comfortable with the bike. It was a good choice for these roads. I was having fun. Time to kick it up a notch.

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Look Ma, no Hands! Pitching through the curves while snapping photos.

We spent another few hours zipping through some of my favorite roads, old and new, with a little bit of everything thrown in. Spanking fresh new asphalt, crumbly bumpy back roads, first gear hairpins and high speed sweepers, one lane bridges, a break on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Jimmy soaked it up and rode with a controlled enthusiasm that showed he was aware of his comfort zone yet able to enjoy what the bike had to offer.

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We made only one brief visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a break at Devil's Courthouse. Everything else was on more challenging roads.

We were both smiling when I left him 30 miles or so from where we started with directions to follow US 276 back to our meeting place. It was a good day riding. I’d do it again. I hope he comes back.

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The Aprilla is one of many choices. For today's ride, it was one of the best.

SportBikes4hire.com offers a great service. Fly in and they meet you at the airport. They’ll bring the bike to you all ready to go. It’s an experience that you’ll treasure and a chance to ride a great bike on the best of roads. When you consider all the time and expense of hauling or riding your bike here, it’s a superb option – heck you can make it a quick weekend trip. Find a cheap airfare and come on. Spending some time in the mountains and want a day to get away from the family and do something exhilarating? This is it.

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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 Motorcycle Ride You Should Know About – A stop at Wolf Creek Dam

If you were in the Smoky Mountains this weekend you already know what perfect motorcycle riding we enjoyed. Cool mornings, warm afternoons, bright sunshine and unusually clear skies meant you were in for enjoyment regardless of where you rode while motorcycle touring. Bikes were everywhere. Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway was outstanding, but no more so than anywhere else.

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Wolf Creek Dam near the midpoint of NC 281, one of the scenic points on this great motorcycle ride.

As it was a holiday weekend, we chose to avoid the more popular venues and when Labor Day came around I celebrated by – going to work. It was the good kind of work though, out on the motorcycle exploring and discovering more new roads to add to my America Rides Maps. I found a couple more, and today will be an office day as I update the maps. Along the way we took a ride on NC 281 (which I’ve written about previously) a road you should know about.

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NC 281 is a great motorcycle ride - even the dam is curved and you can see the road leading on to it rarely lets up.

NC 281, a.k.a. Canada Road, is well marked at both ends. The north end is accessed from NC 107 south of Sylva and Cullowhee. The south end is accessed from Us 64 near Toxaway. The road takes you through sections of the Pisgah Forest climbing and rolling gently up and down the mountains with generally nice pavement, some decent views, and excellent curves. It a great road for viewing fall colors.

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NC 281 is surrounded by the rugged mountains of the Pisgah Forest with scenic vistas of the craggy rocks and valleys, mountain lakes, and streams.s

We stopped for a break at the Wolf Creek Dam near the midpoint. To the north, NC 281 climbs over a pass then descends through a series of fast sweepers to reach NC 107 at Tuckaseegee. There’s a convenient (though expensive) gas station near the junction. To the south, the road is tighter and more technical as it claws it’s way through the rugged hills on the most recently paved portion. It’s certainly worth your time to take a ride on this great motorcycle road and this weekend many chose to do so.

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Jackie enjoys a break in the warm sunshine from our nearby explorations of great motorcycle rides.

With the dry weather, the dam was spilling water from the lake to keep the popular trout fishing rivers below flowing. It an earthen dam and riding across it’s arcing top is a thrill for some. While there is a concrete K-barrier on the lake side, the drop off on the boulder strewn face is posted only by a series of large rocks widely spaced.

Photo - Spillway at the Wolf Creek Dam

The lake provides water for the popular trout streams below.

Add NC 281 to your list of rides to do this fall. This is just one section of it, it continues south after it joins with US 64 for a few miles. It’s a far better ride than nearby NC 107 which carries most of the local traffic. There are lots of other great motorcycle roads nearby with outstanding scenery, roadside waterfalls, and challenging and fun curves. You could spend your whole motorcycle vacation exploring them. It’s a road you will return to.

America Rides Maps – Dozens of roads in the surrounding area make it one of my favorites.

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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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The Most Challenging Motorcycle Ride Found? A day with the map guy.

I am either;

  1. Getting too old and out of shape
  2. Coming down with the flu
  3. Rode harder than I have in a long time

It’s probably a combination of the first point and the last. I awoke last night sore from the chest down due to throwing my bike around all day in my never ending quest to discover the best motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains. It was not planned to be such a day but it turned out to be quite an adventure.

I set out around 8AM for Shady Valley, Tennessee, home of “the Snake” motorcycle ride to make a delivery of motorcycle maps to the Shady Valley Country Store. Plan was to ride up, enjoy the Snake, make the delivery, then check out half a dozen roads nearby in hopes to add some to my motorcycle pocket maps. I knew one would just be a connector route. I didn’t have high hopes for many of the others, though a couple held promise.

It was beautiful and cool up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning. Skies were clear and bright. Even the half hour on Interstate 40 to Asheville was pleasant. There’s little traffic before 10AM once you leave the highway and I pretty much had the road to myself. I watched hopefully for bears north of the city, then enjoyed the run up the wonderful new sections of pavement to pass Mt. Mitchell. Looks like they’ve pretty much wrapped that job up. Saw one grouse, a few hawks, but no bruins.

Photo - on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Clear, cool, breezy morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Altapass.

I stopped to tweet my first photo at an overlook where I could count on cell phone reception. Though hurricane Earl was approaching the coast, here in the mountains no impact was expected. Even so it was noticeably breezy.

I hit one brief delay for tree work, and another for guardrail replacement. I surprised a flock of turkeys as I came near Little Switzerland. Passing Linville, I left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roseborugh Road, one of those handy unmarked crossroads that descends through a series of tight turns to NC 105 at Grandfather Mountain. NC 105 took me north through the congestion of Banner Elk. Broadstone Road led me west of Boone to Valle Crucis. NC 194 led to US 421 which I followed through Mountain City and into Tennessee to reach Shady Valley.

A brief pit stop turned into a decent delay as I took time to chat with several riders, mostly locals, and return phone calls when the intermittent cell reception cooperated. I figured it would take a couple hours to see the roads I wanted, then I’d zip back home as I came.

Photo - Shady Valley Country Store

The sun was still shining at the Shady Valley Country Store though the winds were getting gusty. Things would change as the afternoon wore on.

The first few roads proved less than expected. They were a decent ride for a cruiser maybe, though it was not type of rural scenery that makes a road interesting. I explored another after a couple bikes passed in the opposite direction to find it intersected the fourth road at an unknown point. Still nothing special. I turned to backtrack on the fourth road so I would be sure to ride it end to end and was thrilled to find the short leg wonderful. Nice sweeping turns through pretty countryside. Hopeful, I spun about at the intersection with 197 and headed back. The remainder disappointed. Too much straight and only mildly interesting. It was worth adding to the map but not recommending highly. The natural flow dictated I bypass the next on the list meaning another backtrack to explore the better alternative.

The last of the most promising roads was accessed from US 321 near Watauga Lake. It was tight, it was twisty, but it didn’t appeal. It was then that serendipity  struck. Rather than continue on my planned path, instinct told me to detour onto another road. I followed it through turn after turn after turn and it went on and on and on. All the while I expected it would peter out  into a goat trail but it just kept going without letting up. Mile after mile on narrow, sometimes poor, blacktop it climbed through the mountains finally dumping me out at Banner Elk Highway. I pulled into an abandoned gas station to take my notes and decide how to describe it.

I kept asking myself, “But was it fun?” There was no doubt it was challenging, very challenging. It kept you on the edge the whole time. It never let up. I ride the Dragon routinely and this road is much more difficult and sustained. I’d come up on some traffic and had to simply ride behind it, no room to pass, so I didn’t feel I could give it an accurate evaluation. Nor was I sure what lay at the other end. Only choice was to ride it back and see where it came out.

As I turned about my heart sank. A school bus turned onto the road ahead of me. While it looked empty, this would still be an exercise in pain as it could only crawl through the narrow serpentine climb ahead. What a relief when it pulled off within a few hundred feet. It wasn’t long before I had my answer. This road WAS fun.

Unimpeded I rode it enthusiastically back as I’d come. A few miles in I remember thinking, “If you get out of second gear on this road, look down – you’re riding a moped”. I reached the point where I’d first turned on to it and continued past. The road name changed, but its character did not. I continued mile after mile carving through the exquisitely tight turns, dodging gravel patches, potholes, and debris now falling on the road from the increasing wind. I was so happy when US 321 appeared at the margin of the screen on the GPS. I’d found a new way to link a couple major roads. Awesome.

That ride was worth the trip. I stopped and entered the notes in my Blackberry. From there I turned onto US 321 to head on to check out the last couple roads. The weather was deteriorating. Skies dark, winds gusting, it didn’t bother me a bit. Shortly, I came up on another biker who suddenly veered off on another road back in the area where I’d just been riding. I circled back out of curiosity to see what business this cruiser guy had in such a rugged area. The road he chose was a superb cruiser road and I caught up to him just as he pulled into his yard at the junction with the first great road. Bonus! Instinct paid off again.

I returned to US 321 via the cruiser road to make time. It was getting late and the weather would soon add more to the challenge of these tight roads. After a short ride on US 321, I started down the last of them which turned out to be a disappointment. A few miles in I spied a road connecting to it I felt needed exploring and eventually found a better approach though I did waste a good bit of time on dead ends and gravel lanes. Plan was to take this road a few miles, then turn onto another to make my way back towards Mountain City. As I approached the turn, instinct took over again and I purposefully rode past it.

The GPS showed the road I was on getting tighter and twistier and it was climbing higher into the mountains. Thats usually a pretty good indication it’s going to deteriorate to nothing once it nears the top and the road grew narrower and more challenging as it went on. I considered just giving up on it, but something made me go on. The smell of fresh rain on a dry road filled the air and I started hitting dark patches of pavement. I was really questioning myself when I emerged  atop a pass with a rugged valley stretched below and signs warning of a steep descent and switchbacks appeared. It would have been beautiful in nicer weather, but the dark and angry clouds only hastened my urgency to continue on, dreading the thought of having to retrace my steps.

I’ve ridden a lot of miles in the mountains yet never seen switchbacks as tight as these. I plunged down through the valley wondering where I’d end up, hoping I’d find some landmark to steer me back to something familiar. When the road ended, I looked at the sign ahead to see I was on the road I’d meant to explore next. Another great ride found, and I was ready to wrap things up after this last road.

It was longer then I thought and I reached US 421 south of Mountain City. It was now 5 PM. Rain was coming down in sheets. I turned south towards Boone. The Friday evening traffic before the holiday weekend crawled and stalled in the rain. I dreaded the idea of going into Boone and  veered off on 194 to bypass it. More traffic. I stopped near Banner Elk to top off the tank and called home to let my wife know I wouldn’t be there for dinner. We discussed the weather, the traffic, and decided I’d prefer the exposure to the elements on the Blue Ridge Parkway over the hazards of this crazy traffic. It was the right choice. The rain let up once I got up high.

I coursed through the mountains in the twilight relatively unimpeded. It got cold but I made good time. Reaching Asheville, I merged into the traffic jam that clogged Interstate 40 all the way home. Arriving in my driveway as darkness fell, I’d had a successful day. I’d discovered some great roads. I had reason to go back with hopes of more. I had money in my pocket. Sometimes, a cartographers life is to be envied. I wish I had more photos, but I got swept up in the riding. Maybe next time.

wayne@americaridesmaps.com

America Rides Maps – from north Georgia to north Virginia, the best motorcycle rides

_______________________________________________________________________________

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.

America Rides Maps on Facebook

America Rides Maps on Twitter

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

_______________________________________________________________________________

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!

_______________________________________________________________________________

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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