Motorcycle Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Commuter Zones

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway - commuter zones

You have no clue you’re passing through some sizable cities on a Blue Ridge Parkway ride  – 10 minutes ride from a parkway exit puts you in the heart of Asheville, NC, a fun place to visit!

On a 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway ride you will pass through two cities – Roanoke in Virginia, and Asheville in North Carolina. Each has its “commuter zone”.

In both cities, the parkway weaves along the east edge of town then curves around to the south, though barely a hint of the surrounding neighborhoods are visible. Riding along you never see a downtown area at all nor any indication you are near a sizable city. It’s part of the magical illusion of a Blue Ridge Parkway ride. The views have been well protected over the years.

What’s a Commuter Zone?

There will be a handful of exits relatively close together as you pass through one of the cities on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For locals, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just one more road to get through town, a shortcut. A lot of local traffic hops on it to save time and zip an exit or two to the road they want.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take advantage of close gas stations to the parkway in the commuter zones.

What you need to know about Parkway Commuter Zones –

Expect more traffic and more aggressive traffic in the commuter zones on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Locals are hopping on the parkway to save time and they may push the speed limit.

The speed limit drops in some areas and it’s more heavily enforced in the commuter zones. The Asheville commuter zone of the Blue Ridge Parkway went to 35 mph last year to try to slow down the local traffic. Watch for the signs.

Enforcement is heavier near cities, especially in commuter zones. More traffic means more resources assigned to deal with it. Watch your speed whenever you feel you are getting into a populated area. You can also expect more attention near popular areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ranger on the parkway

Watch your speed and be alert in the commuter zones

Here are some places where I tell myself to roll back on the throttle when riding the Blue Ridge Parkway:

  • From the Start of the Parkway  in Virginia to Humpback Rocks
  • Peaks of Otter area in Virginia, near Buchanan
  • From 221 exit to 221 exit near Roanoke
  • Linn Cove Viaduct area near Blowing Rock
  • Moses Cone / Julian Prince Park near Boone
  • Altapass Hwy north of Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland
  • Crabtree Falls area
  • From Craggy Gardens through Asheville
  • The southern section of the parkway into Cherokee

Be aware of and alert for these commuter zones near the cities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are few signs on the road, but if you see any indication you are approaching a congested area be alert and ready to deal with increased traffic with a different agenda than you.

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

Get the maps!
http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Blue-Ridge-Parkway-The-Dragon-Package-BRP12.htm

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

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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Motorcyclists – Never Underestimate the Weather on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I sometimes do dumb things on a motorcycle. Learn from my mistakes, I’ve made a lot of them.

Forecast – High’s in the 50’s, windy, partly cloudy, 10% chance of rain, IN WAYNESVILLE, NC. I’d become pretty complacent regarding the weather as it had been an unusually warm fall so far. The morning wasn’t too bad for what was supposed to be the DAY BEFORE our first cold snap – high 40’s and an unexpected wet driveway overnight greeted me and my morning coffee as I started the day on the porch of my cabin. Low clouds raced overhead, there was little wind at all IN MY LITTLE COVE.

Blue Ridge Parkway - Fall color at Second Falls , Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head-turning gorgeous.

Blue Ridge Parkway – Fall color at Second Falls , Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head-turning gorgeous.

I wanted new photos to feed MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE at the peak of fall color in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I post a couple each day for my motorcycle riding friends and they sure do seem to like them as I currently have something like 33,000 people who check in to see them. So I set aside the day to run up to Boone, NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the colors so I could report back and tell them what to expect and where to go to see it.

Fall Colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville

Fall Colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville a couple days ago.

“It’s not too bad” I thought, no need for the long johns or the Gerbings Heated motorcycle riding gear. It would be dry and mostly sunny, I can handle this, no problem. I packed up the morning motorcycle map orders, hit the post office, then I-40 east to Asheville to pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway and head north.

Fall colors near the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall colors near the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway from my collection.

I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway at US 74 and started the pleasant ride north. The colors along the Asheville corridor and leading up to Craggy Gardens were spectacular! My goal was the Linn Cove Viaduct at Grandfather Mountain. The plan was to race up there to get some photos, then take my time coming back shooting more along the way as the lighting would be better. It was  getting a bit cloudy, so I’d surely get better shots later in the day on the return.

Charlies Creek Road

Charlie’s Creek Road – Not only will you find some of the best hidden pockets of leaf color, but you have one of the best rides of your life.

I quickly found myself doddering along behind the light tourist traffic at 25 mph. “Don’t be an asshole” – just enjoy the sights and behave” I told myself. That lasted about 3 minutes before I started darting around the cars. Damn, it was chilly as I approached Craggy Gardens and a light rain started.

I hit the clouds climbing to Mt. Mitchell, highest peak in the east. “That’s normal”, I told myself, “it’s always cloudy here”, its still early in the day. It was getting cold now, and I saw the first SNOW along the roadside. Wished I’d put on the heated gear. The wind was beyond “blustery” by now.

Approaching Mt. Mitchell, I saw the first snow along the roadside.

Approaching Mt. Mitchell, I saw the first snow along the roadside.

It was another hour and then some to reach Grandfather Mountain. I scrambled up on the rocks for the photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct and shivered violently in the bitter gusty winds waiting for the sun to hit it while a motorcycle was crossing and get the photos I wanted. I never got the perfect shot, but after  almost an hour I was shaking so violently I just gave up. It was too cloudy and I recognized the beginnings of hypothermia. It would be a long ride back, and the temperature was dropping.

Blue Ridge Parkway Linn Cove Viaduct Fall

Here’s the best shot I got with motorcycles. Waiting to see one yesterday was like waiting for Bigfoot and his family to come out and pose. The smart riders hunkered down and stayed in.

The fall colors at Grandfather Mountain were unbelievable, though only during the very rare moments when the sun peaked through the heavy cloud cover. It finally just all went gray in the sky above, and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to get back.

The wind was wailing now, the rain of leaves horizontal, and the times when the sun poked through the racing clouds were fleeting. I sped through Little Switzerland, trying to relax as my body shook violently from the cold so I could maintain control of the bike at speed. Wheels kicking out on the wet leaves, the tick-tick-tick on the helmet told me the rain had turned to sleet. Breathing as shallow as I could to keep the visor from fogging, I poured on the throttle to get this pain over with as quickly as possible.

Linn Cove Viaduct Fall Colors

Best shot from the day. It was a long cold wait to get it.

Getting photos had long been dismissed as any priority, it was all about escaping my predicament now. Underdressed, the climb to Mt. Mitchell was brutal, just get it over with. I passed the park and the sleet turned to tiny white flecks – it was snowing.

Coming into Asheville I looked to the west and home. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, it was exactly as the forecast predicted.

Lessons Re-learned:

  • It’s always more extreme up on the parkway – colder, wetter, windier. Don’t be fooled sitting on the porch.
  • Weather in the mountains varies widely and can change quickly. Check the forecast in several places.

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.
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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

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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How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

Budget at least 2 days for your motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway –

Map - How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a days ride for half the population in the US.

Blue-Ridge-Parkway-humback-rocks-overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway – Humpback Rocks Overlook in Virginia

While you can ride the entire 469.1 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway on your motorcycle trip in a single day, I strongly advise against it. I’ve done it, and trust me, you will not enjoy the experience like you should. It takes strategic planning and uncomfortable endurance to go end-to-end in a day on a motorcycle ride.

blue-ridge-parkway-spiral-curve-sign

Blue Ridge Parkway – Some tricky curves await on this great motorcycle ride!

The simple math is misleading – at an average speed of 45 mph and 469 miles to cover, it seems like a little over 10 hours of saddle time on your motorcycle tour does the trick. For many riders on a fully laden bike, the challenge of the mountain roads leads to a speed closer to 35 mph. You’ll also come across car traffic which finds this reduced speed more comfortable and few opportunities to pass.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Additionally, there is no gas on the entire ride. You’ll need to leave the parkway to fill up. Choose the wrong exit and that gas station may be 15 miles down a steep and twisty mountain road. Most of us like to eat, and there is only one Park Service Lodge left on the ride, so you’ll be diverting into nearby towns adding additional time.

So how do you do it best when time is tight?

I recommend starting at the north end in Waynesboro, Virginia. If you are going to try to cover as many miles as possible with few stops, do this in the Virginia section. The road is a bit more relaxed, the elevations not as high, and while the views are outstanding, they are not as spectacular as those in North Carolina. There are more wooded sections, and it gives you a chance to get used to the curves before you get into the more serious challenges to the south.

photo - Virginia blooms on the Blue Ridge Parkway

June on the Blue Ridge Parkway means flowers! A great time to enjoy the ride.

Rocky-knob-cabins

Blue Ridge Parkway – Rocky Knob Cabins – a nice stop but come prepared with your own food and drink.

Set your sights to get across the border and into North Carolina on that first day. You’ll still have time to stop at some of the nicer overlooks and if you’re making good time you can even visit some of the roadside attractions along the way. As you get near the border you’ll find lots of places to lay over for the night. In Virginia, I usually head for Floyd or Hillsville, or take one of the many cabins located near the Parkway. Be aware, if you do choose a cabin along the way, you’ll need to bring in your own food or eat before you get there. Chateau Morrisette has great food, and you can stuff a bottle in the bags to bring to the cabin.

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain south of Boone starts the climb into the high mountains of North Carolina

Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

The Switzerland Inn – A beautiful Resort on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of my favorite stops

On the North Carolina side of the border, most choose to stay in or around Boone. You’ll find lots of lodging options here, and plenty of good places to eat in town, though you will have to deal with the traffic. If you are making really good time, the last place I’d suggest is the Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland area, the Switzerland Inn is a fabulous stop right on the parkway with nice rooms and great food as is the Skyline Inn nearby. Once south of here, there is a long stretch of empty road before you come into the city of Asheville.

Savor your second day. Once you get south of Boone, you start to climb into the high mountains. This is the time to slow down, take advantage of the numerous overlooks, and get those photos. You’ll also hit some of the trickiest turns and curves. Take your time, relax, and enjoy.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks – highest point. The long sweeping overlook compliments the great sweeping views

Strategic planning is critical on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll be riding through long remote sections of road with few facilities nearby. I suggest fueling up in Asheville. You’ll find gas stations closest to the parkway here. It’s also a good place to stop for food, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Asheville. While it’s the second largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway (after Roanoke, VA), it’s easy to navigate and a fun place to spend a little time. While the only remaining Park Service Lodge, the Pisgah Inn,  is just south of Asheville, and has great food and views, expect a wait to get served.

Blue Ridge Parkway-motorcycle-view

The southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is worth the wait. Take your time and enjoy!

blue-ridge-parkway-devils-courthouse

Blue Ridge Parkway – Devils Courthouse, one of many spectacular sights on the ride.

If you find yourself running short on gas towards the end of the ride, the next best option for fuel is Maggie Valley at US 19 / Soco Gap (MP 455.7). You also find food there, and the Wheels Through TIme Motorcycle Museum is worth the visit. Maggie Valley is the place I most recommend for staying near the end of the parkway as it is so well located for the wealth of great motorcycle rides in the surroundings, and there are lots of rooms available at good prices.

Arriving at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC, you are at the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee has a good number of rooms, but it’s also quite “touristy” so you’ll have some traffic to deal with. No alcohol on the reservation, and the best food is probably at Harrah’s Casino. While I’ve stayed there in the past, I suggest looking at all your options depending on which way your travels take you next.

Enjoy a Blue Ridge Parkway view on a motorcycle trip

Blue Ridge Parkway view – While 2 days will get you there, if you have more time you’ll find plenty to enjoy on a more relaxed motorcycle tour of one of the top 10 rides in the country.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

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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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

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

 

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

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

Photo - line of cars on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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

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

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

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

The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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

Photo - The Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel

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

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

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

 

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Motorcycle Friendly – Shady Valley Country Store and My Video of The Snake

Photo - The Tower at the Shady Valley Country Store

If you miss the tower at the Shady Valley Country Store you've been riding way too long. Time to stop for a rest.

I passed through Shady Valley, Tennessee on my motorcycle earlier this week and finally took the time to stop in at the The Shady Valley Country Store , see the place, and meet Kimberly and David Dail.

Photo- Shady Valley Country Store

Just look for all the motorcycles at the Shady Valley Country Store. Everyone stops here, it's the best place for miles and miles.

Don’t worry about having difficulty finding the Shady Valley Country Store while you’re out motorcycle touring. If you miss the tower in the parking lot at the crossroads of US 421, TN 133, and TN 91, your probably fixin’ to die in some horrible accident, you’ve been out in the sun too long.

Photo - Snake Burger

Three bites wide and thick as your thumb, a Snake Burger will satisfy. It was really good.

Come inside the spacious building, find a table, and get Kimberly or Dave to fix you up with something to cool your brain. While you’re at it, try a Snake Burger. They’re huge, they’re good, or you might want to try a heaping fried bologna sandwich instead. David’s not stingy when it comes to portions, you get your monies worth.

Photo - Inside view of the Shady Valley Country Store

Plenty of room, lots of tables, good food, a great place to either cool off or warm up inside the Shady Valley Country Store.

I filled the tank with Snake Venom at the pump outside, then headed back to finish my motorcycle ride home. I shot a little video of the section of US 421 between Mountain City and The Shady Valley Country Store to give you a taste of the kind of motorcycle riding you’ll experience on The Snake. There are some better videos at the store as well as T-shirts and other Snake charms to help you remember your visit.

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

While I was there I got an education on The Snake and learned it encompasses more roads than I’d thought. I’m amending the maps now and new versions will be available at The Shady Valley Country Store. There’s some great motorcycle riding found here and The Shady Valley Country Store sits at the crossroads of it. Add it to your list of places to visit and ride on your motorcycle vacation. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, exit at Boone and follow US 421 north.

Photo - Kimberly and David Dial at the Shady Valley Country Store

Kimberly and David are friendly and will insure you get what you need. Come see them.

The Shady Valley Country Storehttp://www.shadyvalleycountrystore.com

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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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Some Photos of the Diamondback Motorcycle Ride

Sorry there are no great shots of bikes tearing it up on this great motorcycle ride, but it was early in the morning and I was alone. I missed the couple bikes that did pass and fortunately the early morning turkeys strolling up the road.

Photo-Start-of-the-ride

While you've already hit some curvy sections on NC 226, once you get on the Diamondback NC 226A, the traffic disappears. The sign hints at what's ahead.

The photo (above) gives you an idea of where you start from relative to where you are going – up on those smoky mountains in the background. There’s a good trout stream along this section if you’re packing the fly rod, and some nice places to stop and cool your feet in the frigid waters.

Photo-section-of-the-Diamondback

Once you start climbing, the road begins a series of turns and switchbacks that grow tighter as you gain height.

This ride will appeal to both the cruiser and the sports bike rider. You can take a leisurely approach and simply enjoy it, or you can attack it with vigor and challenge yourself. There are a few short and relatively straight sections between the curves, but they are not long enough to get you into too much trouble if you keep a lid on your enthusiasm.

Photo-section-of-the-Daimondback

As you get higher and higher, the road looks more and more like this. One curve after another, the occasional hairpin switchback to keep you on your toes.

Once you reach the highest sections, you’ll want to be wary. No guardrails, the terrain drops off precipitously and going off the road is going to guarantee you some air time followed by a very nasty landing from which only the luckiest will walk away.

Photo-section-of-the-Diamondback

The great ride ends at the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Little Switzerland. While Nc 226 is more direct, and still very curvy, as it's the shorter route it gets all the traffic.

As you approach the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Diamondback runs parallel to it for a stretch. You’ll pass through Little Switzerland, though it’s hardly noticeable. The Switzerland Inn lies sandwiched between the two roads.

Photo - Switzerland Inn sign

The Switzerland Inn is sandwiched between the Diamondback and the Blue Ridge Parkway near the top of the ride.

It’s unusual to find such a nice resort that actually invites and enjoys motorcycle travelers. You can live it up and get some fancy accommodations or get an affordable room in the Diamondback Lodge bunkhouse. Don’t be fooled by the lower prices, it’s still really nice and you can access the bars and restaurants to enjoy the full experience of the Switzerland Inn. The views are free to all and they are priceless.

I’ll be shooting a video of the Diamondback, the Switzerland Inn, and some of the surrounding rides ASAP similar to the NC 209 video. Once the Asheville Bikefest is done it’s next on the list.

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Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Vacation Touring – Rider’s Roost

Rider’s Roost Motorcycle Resort & Campground is located not far from Boone, NC, near the midpoint of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It offers the motorcycle touring rider an affordable and comfortable place to bed down for the night, whether it’s in a tent or rental cabin. It’s an exclusively motorcycle resort so you won’t be dealing with blaring RV generators or throngs of kids running through your camp, and it could make a great place to spend part of your motorcycle vacation.

It’s more than just another motorcycle campground, for some it’s a must stop touring destination. Comedy nights, pig roasts, live entertainment, a central pavilion with a game room offer lots of ways to shake the kinks out after a day on the great roads in the surrounding area. Take a dip in the river or just settle down to watch the sunset, get into touch with home via wifi.

It just off NC221, and while I haven’t stayed there yet, it’s been highly recommended. I’m planning to visit next time I’m staying up that way on my motorcycle tours. Texas Ron has a nice testimonial in one of his blog posts –

“Riders Roost was a great Bike Campground, No cages, no kids, no hassles. Uncle Roy and Mary really know how to take care of “motorcycle pilots”. “The Road goes on forever and the party never ends.” I think that’s the Roosts motto or it should be. There’s a perfect little river that runs through the camp ground and in the rocks is a place that is like natures recliners, complete with moss to scratch the back. The water temperature is cool but after riding all day in the sun and heat….man what a refreshing way to relax and wash the road off ya. Most gather at the party headquarters located under the pavilion/game room. There is a pool table and darts to keep one entertained. This is also where the midnight auction is held too. What a way to start an adventure.”
http://texasron.u.yuku.com/blog/post/id/185

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX3f4dcSbR0

Get more info at the Riders Roost web site at http://www.ridersroost.com/

For the most detailed motorcycle ride maps of the area see http://americaridesmaps.com

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Scenic Motorcycle Rides – Backbone Rock, TN

photo - motorcycle cruises through Backbone RockI went back to Virginia this weekend to revisit and explore some of the sights I’d passed while mapping the area

I’m pretty much all business when mapping – I only stop for three things; gas, to take notes, and when “nature” forces me to do so. Eating is a luxury typically left for the evening to make the most of the time on the road. This trip was to go back and savor some of the gems I’d just blown by previously.

One of my favorite loop rides is found near the point where North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee meet, a 103 mile jaunt that takes you on some of the twistiest and most scenic roads. It’s listed on America Rides Map #4 – “Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock.

Heading south from Damascus, Virginia, on SR 133, you soon enter the National Forest in Tennessee and signs for Backbone Rock Park start appearing along the road. Round a curve and you find yourself zipping through the quick yet dramatic tunnel through Backbone Rock.

I stopped in to investigate.

The Empire Mining Company blasted through Backbone Rock in 1901 to lay train tracks for the Tennessee Lumber Company. Long gone, the rail bed became the roadbed which continues on towards Mountain City.

The ridge is about 75 feet high and 20 feet thick, though it narrows near the top. There is a steep trail from the parking area on the right just after you pass through the rock, though if you have any aversion to heights and walking near the edge of a cliff, you’ll never make it to the section of rock which straddles the road.

There are several hiking trails, picnic tables and campsites, a waterfall is about 0.4 miles on a foot trail. The area is popular for fishing and kayaking.

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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

America Rides Map #4 – “Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock

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Update on the Blue Ridge Parkway Repairs

Photo – Waiting to pass a construction zone

Somehow I must have set the GPS to “find the most traffic” and it was working fabulously. I suppose everyone else had done the same as I hit one logjam after another on my way home from Virginia earlier this week. Still, as I left Banner Elk, I though it might be a while before I passed this way again and I was curious to see how the construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway was progressing.

I’d already bypassed the detour near Boone and Blowing Rock. No need to visit that section anyway. They are replacing a section of roadbed and there’s no way to get a close look at what’s going on, nor did I want to take the time to ride up and see how the bridge work was coming to the north. The big project however was more or less on my route home – at least it was now. Anything to get off the clogged roads and unwind.

The section I was interested in lies between Mt. Mitchell State Park and Asheville. This section of the parkway was closed all of last year when a piece slid off the mountainside. That portion has been rebuilt and the project has now shifted to repairing the adjacent areas of road which had deteriorated badly. Layers of pavement had peeled away like old paint and there were some areas where small sinkholes had left huge dips in the roadway. Honestly, it was getting pretty rough and it’s nice to see it receiving the attention it needs.

I was initially under the impression the job was mostly just resurfacing. This visit revealed there are many areas where the entire roadbed is being rebuilt. It’s being done in a piecemeal fashion, probably the worst sections getting attention first. Cruising down the southbound lane, the worst of the two, I was pleased to hit gloriously smooth portions that had already been repaired. These would be followed by others which had yet to see attention and still more which would probably not require much of anything. Sporadically, I came to construction areas, most of which were flanked by idled equipment this late into the evening. A few of the overlooks had been resurfaced along the drive.

It was pretty easy going until I passed Craggy Gardens. The last of the crews was still going full steam on a good sized section of road and I found myself pulling up to a line of stopped traffic waiting for the pilot vehicle to take them through the single open lane. It was just a few minutes until it came by with a long line of cars in tow. I waited my turn then fell into the queue behind our chaperon. As we passed, the opposite lane was being filled with fresh subsoil as the road was rebuilt from the very base. Work this extensive should endure. I doubt this will be anywhere close to finished until next spring season.

I left the Parkway near Asheville only to get caught up in another traffic jam on the south side of the city. Didn’t matter much anymore. I’d been on the bike since 4 AM and I could see the familiar mountains of home on the horizon. I’d get there soon enough.

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