Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Spring Road Report April 2013

Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Spring Road Report April 2013 – Current conditions for motorcycle touring and Blue Ridge Parkway riders;

Roads affected:

  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • US 441 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Cherohala Skyway
  • Fires Creek Road near Hayesville, NC
  • US 276 / NC 215 south of Waynesville, NC
  • US 70 / 25 north of Hot Springs, NC
  • NC 28 north of Franklin
  • NC 197 near Bakersville
photo - Spring on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Spring on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway – One by one the incidents of road damage sustained over the winter are being or have been repaired. One significant situation remains – the closure of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell. Most recent reports indicate it will be resolved mid-May.

Photo-mt-mitchell-highest-in-east

The observation tower atop Mt. Mitchell is worth the trip, but you have to approach from the north until the road is fixed. Pick a sunny clear day.

A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway on this long high lonely stretch of road has been subsiding and slipping down the mountainside for several years. Frequent riders will remember the noticeable dip in the road just south of the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park at NC 128. A slide occurred here several years back, it was important to address this situation before another took out the pavement again.

Photo-Peaks-of-Otter-Lodge

The Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen soon.

The Peaks of Otter Lodge north of Roanoke is currently closed, though a new concessionaire has taken the contract and it is expected to open soon. Bluffs Lodge at Doughton Park in NC  will remain closed this season, looks like the campground will be open. The Pisgah Inn opened early south of Asheville. Crabtree Falls visitor center is closed this year.

For a detailed list of Parkway facilities and schedule go here – http://www.nps.gov/blri/parknews/blue-ridge-parkway-releases-2013-season-opening-schedule.htm

Download a free printable detour map here – http://smokymountainrider.com/Downloads/parkway-closure-2013.pdf

US 441 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Open

photo - reapir on US 441

The newly repaired section of US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Work to repair a landslide on the North Carolina side of the only paved road crossing the park was completed a month ahead of schedule. The remained of the road is open though  a few of the roadside attractions like Chimney Tops are closed. Several of the unpaved roads in the park may not open this year due to cutbacks including Heintooga Ridge Road and Balsam Mountain Road.

photo - View of the slide damage below the repairs.

View of the slide damage below the repairs.

Cherohala Skyway – one lane closed, work continues

photo - Cherohala Skyway repair work

Work at the landslide on the Cherohala Skyway is progressing well.

Work on the landslide on the Cherohala Skyway is progressing well. Located on the North Carolina side close to the state line, one lane is closed with traffic regulated through the construction zone with temporary traffic lights and a short delay. Expect to encounter trucks hauling fill on the North Carolina side of the ride. You’ll find a little gravel on the road near the detour, but it is generally clean and in great condition.

photo - truck on the Cherohala Skyway

You will run into trucks hailing fill on the North Carolina side of the slide.

Fires Creek Road – closed for bridge work

A little known road north of Hayesville, NC, and one of my personal favorites to get away from the congestion on US 64, the road is closed for bridge work through October. Such a nice ride. If I scout a better detour, will post.

NC 215 / US 276 – conditions 

These two classic roads south of Waynesville / Maggie Valley both intersect the Blue Ridge Parkway at their midpoints. Each was repaved last year and are very popular rides.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - Pisgah Triangles - US 276

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – Pisgah Triangles – US 276 junction with the Blue Ridge Parkway. As both NC 215 and US 276 connect, you can always hop up and take a quick break with the best of views.

US 276 got a decent paving job and is in good condition. Be wary of gravel in the tight turns on the steep section climbing to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway on the north side. The roadsides were lined with fresh gravel, and it gets kicked into the road by cars and trucks on some of the sharpest curves. Not bad, but be alert.

NC 215 got a “tar and chip” coating which leveled and filled the potholes and cracks, but the surface remains loose in the higher sections. It has improved significantly over the winter. Still watching this road closely as there has been paving equipment parked on the roadside for a few weeks now. A top coat of new asphalt would make this road so much nicer, it could be the destination ride of the season. Will continue to monitor closely and keep my fingers crossed.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215. The road crests where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway, then plunges down the other side of the gap.

US 70 / 25 north of Hot Springs, NC

photo-wolf-creek-bridge

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

The bridge across the French Broad River will remain closed this year at the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. This section of road connects Hot Springs, NC to Newport, TN. Use Fugate road as a detour. More info / photos here – http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=4239

NC 28 north of Franklin, NC –

One lane closed, sometimes short delays until May 1 as road is widened in this section north of town.

NC 197 near Bakersville, NC –

Bridge replacement through June 30. Detour marked.

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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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Learn Total Control

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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Feb 9, 2013 – Fresh photos of the landslide on the Cherohala Skyway

Feb 9, 2013 – Fresh photos of the landslide on the Cherohala Skyway

With temps nearing 60, I took the opportunity to ride out and see the landslide up close.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - Temporary stoplights

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – Temporary stoplights regulate the flow through the area where one lane of this outstanding motorcycle ride is closed.

A few weeks ago the Smoky Mountain area was hit with drenching rains which caused a number of landslides. The most significant of them is on US 441 in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many of these situations have already been addressed, but some will have effects into the early motorcycle riding season.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway  - one lane is closed.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – fortunately there was enough room for a detour, only one lane is closed.

We hope the worst is behind us, but realize we’re only half way through winter. There is still the potential for more slides as the freeze / thaw cycles break rock and this is the time of year when most of them happen. Heavy rain is unusual and this slide is quite extensive. I suspect a retaining wall will eventually be constructed, but I wouldn’t count on a quick fix on this remote section of road.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - The guardrail hangs dramatically

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – The guardrail hangs dramatically over the abyss

The slide happened on the North Carolina section of the road about a mile from the border with Tennessee. There are big overlooks on this scenic road located on each side of the slide. It at about 4800 feet elevation though the highest parts of the road are well above 5000 feet high. Views are gorgeous.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - The pavement is undercut

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – The pavement is undercut here, getting near the edge made me nervous lest it give way! You can see how extensive and deep the chasm is in this photo.

A lot of soil was lost. It doesn’t seem practical to try to fill it in, the area seems to go 800 – 1000 feet down the mountainside. It has undercut the pavement, getting close to the edge made me a little nervous!

Landslide on the Cherohala  Skyway - remaining slope at the edges.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – This photo shows just how much soil moved. You can see the difference compared to the remaining slope at the edges.

No telling why this section off the road let loose while others remain intact. It doesn’t appear much different or more steep than many other sections. It’s at one of the higher elevations so you wouldn’t think there was a lot of subterranean water flow, yet it happened.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - - A view from the other side

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway – A view from the other side helps you realize just how big this slide is.

I don’t expect a quick fix. While this is a popular and scenic road, it is not a vital through-way. It’s about as far away from civilization as you can get in this area of the mountains. The North Carolina county in which it occurred is one of the poorest in the state, and there is far more impact on tourism related to the major landslide on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skywway  For all the hype it's a minor inconvenience

Landslide on the Cherohala Skywway – For all the hype it’s a minor inconvenience on this outstanding motorcycle ride!

It’s not so bad! The traffic lights are quick. There is rarely much traffic on this outstanding motorcycle ride, its still one of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the US despite this minor inconvenience. I would not change my plans, heck, there’s one more unique thing to see on this ride. The overlook closest to the North Carolina side has bathrooms, so it’s a popular place for a break. DO IT!

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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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Learn Total Control

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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Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Extreme rain causes flooding and washes out many favorite motorcycle rides – here’s an update and what it means for your motorcycle tour plans;

Note: we are hardly out of the woods – all this moisture in the soil could lead to more slides over time, and now with some hard freezes coming in, the freeze/thaw cycles could contribute to more problems as more rock is cracked, split, and loosened.

US 441 – Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Seems this road is always under construction, over the past year or two, to repair a slide near the top on the Tennessee side of the border. As the only road which crosses the park, right through the heart of it, it carries heavy traffic loads. Now, a large section has washed out about 9 miles north of Cherokee, and it will require a substantial and costly repair.

photo - slide closes park

photo source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Newfound Road US 441 hit by slide, park closes

Of all the damage from the recent weather, this is the most significant. While I do show this as a great motorcycle ride on my America Rides motorcycle pocket maps, it’s one of those “if you haven’t done it, you should ride it”, but it’s not one of my favorites due to the traffic, and I typically avoid it.

If you are planning to base a motorcycle vacation out of Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, you will now be forced to ride completely around the park to reach many of the best motorcycle rides. While there are some great motorcycle rides on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will also be dealing the the tourist traffic that  floods into this area. I suggest you look at options on the south side of the park instead. Map #8 details the best motorcycle rides free of traffic on the north side of GSMNP, but there are so many more on the south side you will get in more riding by basing your motorcycle trip on the quiet side of the park.

The Cherohala Skyway – NC 143/ TN 165

A significant slide on the North Carolina side of the border, about 1 mile from the state line has taken out one lane of the road and it has been closed. This is one of the nicest rides in the area, and the only road that crosses through this remote area of high mountains, a favorite scenic motorcycle ride often done as a loop ride with the infamous Dragon at Deals Gap.

Photo Source - Graham Star - Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

Photo Source – Graham Star – Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

This is a “wait and watch” situation right now to determine how stable the slope is over time. The good news is there is likely enough room for a temporary detour, though the work required to fix the problem will be extensive. I am hopeful, it will reopen before the riding season cranks up.

This road is featured on Map #7,  Map #8, and 12 Classic Deals Gap motorcycle rides.

US 19 – Near Burnsville

This is not a large slide in scope, but the issue is a “house sized boulder” which now sits blocking the road. Complicating the cleanup is a nearby house which is too close to permit blasting of the rock. Plan is to drill in to it and use expanding materials to break it up. I expect this problem will be cleared up relatively quickly.

yancey county slide

Photo source – Yancey County News – Large boulder blocking road

Detours use Jack’s Creek Road and Coxes Creek roads, this area is detailed on Map #5

Blue Ridge Parkway (near MP 455) Soco Gap area, near Maggie Valley

Reports of a small slide in this area seem to be over-hyped. I have hiked to it for inspection, and found a few rocks in the road which I could have cleared with one hand. No worries here.

photo - small slide on Blue Ridge PArkway

The rock slide reported near MP 455 is nothing to worry about. I could have taken care of it myself.

The most significant Blue Ridge Parkway closure in North Carolina is for slope stabilization near Mt. Mitchell. The road is closed here at least through April. You can download a free printable map of my suggested detours for motorcycles that give you other options here – http://smokymountainrider.com/Downloads/parkway-closure-2013.pdf

NC 63 – Leicester Road

I have not had personally investigated this slide, it is reported one lane has been affected. This is a popular motorcycle ride connecting to NC 209 (The Rattler), often used to make loop rides or access Asheville. The slide occurred in the best section of the road, the steep switchbacks that climb over the mountain. No further info on this one right now.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler" This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Fortunately, there are many other options to make loop rides through this area, you’ll find them them extensively detailed on Map #6

So where are the blessings in all this bad news?

Most of the mess will be tended to by the time the real motorcycle riding season gets going. While 5 important roads are closed, some of them consistently on the “top 10 motorcycle rides” lists, it is only 5. I show nearly 200 other great motorcycle rides in this area, the blessing is you now have the opportunity to get away from the tourist traffic that flocks to these biker roads and discover some of little know and best scenic motorcycle rides detailed on my maps.

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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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Learn Total Control

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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Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed

Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed – 

January 17, 2013

Unusually warm weather and extreme rain wash out roads, bridges, and cause landslides, many favorite motorcycle rides affected;

photo - slide closes park

photo source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Newfound Road US 441 hit by slide, park closes

Days of pouring rain in the Smoky Mountain region has caused severe damage, flooding, landslides, closing many favorite motorcycle roads – significant roads so far affected:

US 441 – Newfound Road which crosses Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Landslide closes road indefinately

US 19 – west of Cherokee, slide and house sized boulder in road – road closed

Blue Ridge Parkway – Slide near Soco Gap US 19 / Maggie Valley  (MP 455) – road closed

Cherohala Skyway – NC 143 Slide – road closed

US 74 – Nantahala Gorge – slide, one lane closed

Many other bridges / roads washed out, heavy flooding – Still raining. Freeze coming tonight which may dislodge more rock and weaken slopes.

Current updates on Facebook pagehttp://Facebook.com/blueridgemotorcyclerides

Will update with assessment and suggested routing when situation stabilizes.

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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Learn Total Control

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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Blue Ridge Parkway 2013 Detour Map for Motorcycles

Blue Ridge Parkway 2013 Detour Map for Motorcycles

Location: North Carolina, Milepost 358, 2.6 miles south of NC 128 / Mt. Mitchell State Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway Detour 2012 - 2013 - View from Craggy Gardens Overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway Detour 2012 – 2013 – Amazingly clear skies from the Craggy Gardens Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It can still be accessed from the south. That brown stripe in the distance in I-26 more than 22 miles distant. Visibility must have been nearly 50 miles this day.

Schedule:

  • Road open both lanes until 9/26/12
  • 9/26/12 – 10/01/12One lane closed. Temporary traffic lights for one way traffic
  • 10/01/12 – April, 2013 6.5 miles of road closed, use detour

> Access Mt. Mitchell State Park from north (NC 80 crossover)

> Access Craggy Gardens from south (Asheville /  Weaverville exits)

A short stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed November 1, 2012 through April 2013 to stabilize a failing slope. I’ve been watching this spot in the road as it has subsided over the past couple years. It involves all of the north bound lane and a portion of the southbound lane, and it’s very noticeable dip when riding through.

On or about September 26, Temporary traffic lights will stagger one way traffic through the work area, expect short to moderate delays. Gates above the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area and just south of NC 128 to Mt Mitchell State Park will be closed November 1 to isolate it for the construction.

Blue Ridge Parkway Road Closure 2012 - 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway Road Closure 2012 – 2013 – Temporary trffic lights like this one will regulate the flow when one lane is closed this week.

The Official Blue Ridge Parkway Detour exits at NC 226 at Spruce Pine, following it south to NC 221 then west on I-40 to reconnect in Asheville at the US 70 intersection.

I suggest those motorcycle riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway continue south and exit the Blue Ridge Parkway at NC 80. NC 80 a.k.a the “Devils Whip plunges down from the heights through a series of switchbacks, then a nice long curvy section takes you to the junction with US 70 at a traffic light. Follow US 70 east through Old Fort and connect to I-40 West.

Blue Ridge Parkway closure 2013 map

Blue Ridge Parkway closure 2013 map – Click on map for full sized version. Prints on a standard sheet of paper.

Print a copy free from a .pdf file here: http://smokymountainrider.com/Downloads/parkway-closure-2013.pdf

The Official Blue Ridge Parkway detour will have you connecting to the south end via US 70 east of Asheville via Exit 55 on I-40.  I recommend you go to the next I-40 Exit #53 at the junction with US 74A. The connection here is much shorter, no traffic lights, and you won’t miss anything scenic on the Parkway.

You’ll find these roads on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #5 – The Best  Roads North and South of Asheville, NC along with another 40 or so outstanding rides in the surrounding area.

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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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Learn Total Control

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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Wayne’s 2012 Blue Ridge Parkway Alternative Detours for Motorcycles

map-brp-detour-2012

Don’t get caught up in the traffic on the Park Service Detour Route 

These roads allow you to take the shortcuts (or the long way round) that will keep you riding!

Get your free copy! Instructions at bottom of page.

photo-parkway-closed-signs-nc18

30+ miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for most of 2012 near the NC / VA border. Detour via NC 18.

 

There is one significant detour on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 2012. To my surprise, it’s an extension of the detour that closed this middle section of the road near the North Carolina / Virginia border last year. While I found a much better detour route for motorcycle touring in 2011, 2012 is a real challenge in this very rural area where a paved road is a rarity.

photo-stone-walls-on-brp

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for maintenance, repair, and rebuilding of the historic stone walls found in this 30+ mile section.

The Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed to traffic (including bicycles) in 2012 from Milepost 216.5 near Cumberland Knob to Milepost 248.1 for repair of historic stone walls (see photo). While the wall shown may not seem impressive, this is where the Blue Ridge Parkway was born back in 1930-40. The early masonry work you see on the overpasses, bridges, and walls was done by master masons brought over from Europe. A few third generation descendants continue this restoration work today.

photo-brp-barricade

4 Road Closed signs, barrels, barricades, flashing lights, locked gate, - seriously closed!

Last year’s detour was north of the Blue Ridge Parkway through Sparta. I knew of a longer though much better route on the south side and produced a free downloadable map of it. It was fun. That route is included on the map. This years extension of the closure means there is no good way to bypass it completely on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

photo-sparta

The Allegheny County Courthouse is the cornerstone of downtown Sparta. It's a small crossroads town, little of interest to me.

The 2012 Park Service detour route is simple, just one road – NC 18 which intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway at two points. It’s the easy, elegant solution passing through Sparta. While NC 18 could be a decent motorcycle ride, it’s curvy and rolling, the lack of paved roads in the area means it also carries all the traffic. Few cars and trucks are able to maintain the 55 mph speed limit and there’s always that one or two that can’t seem to get much above 40 mph and the lines back up behind them. It can be frustrating to ride when you can’t enjoy the curves at a proper motorcycle pace.

photo-sparta

There - now you've seen Sparta. Don't feel like you've missed much if you bypass it.

Nor is there a compelling reason to go into Sparta. It’s a historic town at the crossroads of NC 18 / US 21, but I saw no places which looked enticing to eat at (one coffee shop), and the 2 gas stations require you to leave NC 18 and go a short distance on US 21. There’s a little museum, but miss Sparta and you won’t miss much.

map-brp-detour-2012

Download this map and print your copy or save it in your phone!

The roads show on the map offer alternatives to avoid most of the standard route and should save you some time. They will at least help you avoid getting caught up in any traffic that could get backed up on the official detour. For those on adventure bikes I’ve included a couple non-paved options that will let you get your wheels dirty on gravel roads.

Downloads:
Use http://americaridesmaps.com/downloads/BRP-detour-2012.pdf for a map you can print on a standard sheet of paper.

Use http://americaridesmaps.com/downloads/BRP-detour-2012.jpg for an image file you can store in your cell phone, iPad, or GPS.

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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. 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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Blue Ridge Parkway Rockslide Update for Motorcycles – photos

It has been the year for rock slides. There were 6 major ones in southern region of the Smoky Mountains. Interstate 40 near the North Carolina – Tennessee state line is still being worked on with one lane closed. Be aware traffic backs up there on Fridays and weekends, 30 minute delays are advertised. If you’re planning on staying on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (link to map – .pdf) factor the delays into your travel time, or better yet, stay on the south side of the park.

Photo from Blue Ridge Parkway this morning

I was out on the BMW this foggy morning. Traffic is increasing on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially motorcycles.

The fence and gates are still visible at the Dragon near Deals Gap even though the rock slide there has long been resolved. It’s a reminder of when the road was first closed, then open only from 8 Am to 8 PM. It’s been open since August and you can plainly see where the rock slide happened along the lake. I still stop at the pull off to take photos occasionally.

Photo - rock slide site on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Little change is evident from the road. Most of the work is going on above, terracing and stabilizing the slope.

The rock slide on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Pisgah is yet to be resolved completely. It was supposed to be done by the start of September. The road is open for travel, but only one lane. Timed temporary traffic lights are positioned on each side of the work area to regulate traffic, and the duration of the delays seems to have been decreased. It used to 5 minutes, but now it feels like less. Maybe I’m used to it.

Photo - traffic lights on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Temporary timed traffic lights manage the traffic through the work area. It seems like they've decreased the wait times.

Looking at the photos I took today and comparing them to the last set, there is little visible difference at the rock slide site. As I’m up there often, I can see subtle signs of progress. While it looks pretty devastated along the road, it’s comparatively minor in contrast to the amount of work that has been done to terrace and stabilize the slope above. They were still drilling rock today so there’s work yet to be finished.

Photo - motorcycles pass the rock slide on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The delays are short, there's nothing challenging, motorcycles of which there are plenty have nothing to worry about.

Also be aware there is another delay for tunnel work as you reach Mt. Pisgah. Another set of temporary traffic lights controls traffic there as well. The scaffolding came down weeks ago, the road bed has been freshly paved, and when I passed today they were raking the edges of the road. It appears this delay is nearly over.

So long as I’m relating Blue Ridge Parkway road conditions, there is still paving going on north of Asheville. I thought they were done here when I passed through a couple weeks ago and raved about how nice the pavement was. When I went through a couple days ago they were putting another layer of fresh asphalt on top of the already wonderful road that was there. It’s SO nice! I hit two delays, one near Craggy Gardens and another further south, but they were not long waits. This second coat is going down fast so it won’t be long before they move out of there.

I’ll sum all this up in the somewhat monthly newsletter I put out (subscribe bottom right of page). There are a few paving projects I need to ride out and check on. If you have any info to add, please send it to 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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Blue Ridge Parkway Rockslide – Photos / Info – July 4, 2010

Photo - view of the rock slide

Once a steep hillside giving way, the rock slide is now being reshaped into a more gradual slope near milepost 400 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My July 4th holiday was one of those exquisite weekends with ideal weather, clear skies, and lots of time on the motorcycles. I managed to hit four states, rode several of the most notable routes, discovered some new rides, and treated my riding partners to at least one America Rides Maps road they’d never seen before that they will surely remember. While I touched the Blue Ridge Parkway several times, the holiday traffic took much of the fun out of it for me and I stuck mostly the little known hidden two lane mountain back roads I know so well. Finally, Monday evening, I rode up to view the newly opened section at the rock slide south of Asheville.

Photo - traffic waits on the parkway

Waiting to go at Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 south of the work area - A set of temporary traffic lights control passage through the single lane open at the site of the rock slide cleanup.

One lane is open at the Blue Ridge Parkway section near milepost 400 between Asheville and Mt. Pisgah. Passage is controlled by a set of temporary traffic lights on either side of the work area. They are programed to change about every 5 minutes so delays are tolerable though I’m sure the lines got pretty long during the peak of the weekend. Concrete barriers and a chain fence separate the tourists from the workers and prevent too many boulders from tumbling down onto the road.

Photo - the single open lane on the parkway

A concrete barrier and high fence help protect from boulders and debris which might come down from above. It's a short ride past.

They’ve removed one heck of a lot of rock from up high on what was previously a pretty vertical section of hillside. It now slopes more gradually, though there’s enough loose rock and soil above to make one hesitant to linger below. There’s still quite a bit to haul out and stabilize before the second lane is opened in September, but it will come.

photo- work zone near Buck Spring Tunnel

Another set of traffic lights is being used near work on the Buck Springs Tunnel just north of the Pisgah Inn.

There is a second work area at the Spring Gap Tunnel near milepost 408 just north of the Pisgah Inn. A set of temporary traffic lights also does duty here as the tunnel work progresses. It doesn’t appear to be too extensive and I wouldn’t think it will last long, but count on another delay.

This is great news, and I’m glad to see it finally come to pass. For the first time in more than 18 months the Parkway is open from end to 469 mile long end. Enjoy!

wayne@americaridesmaps.com

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Last Blue Ridge Parkway Section Opens Friday – Personal Road Report

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151

Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151 on the south side of the closed area.

For the first time in 18 months or more the entire 469 miles length of America’s favorite motorcycle ride, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will be open for travel. I’ve patiently watched and waited for this day, trying to sneak peeks at the progress on clearing the slide area near milepost 400 without success. Despite a grueling bicycle ride to make first hand observations, I was put off by the high fence and $5000 fine for trespassing, and have had to simply wait for the announcement. Work is still being done and there will be temporary traffic lights to manage traffic at a nearby tunnel.

Photo - fence near closed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was put off by the high fence and $5000 trespassing fine from getting a first hand look at the progress.

Work continues elsewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway clearing the damage from one of the most severe winters on record. One of the worst hit areas near Linnville is now pristine again, an amazing job considering how badly it was affected. Ice and wind storms had covered the road with fallen trees and debris. Riding through now, you’d have to know what to look for to see evidence of the devastation now hidden by fresh summer greenery.

Photo - View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

Paving continues between Mt. Mitchell State Park and Asheville, most concentrated near the Craggy Gardens area. The southbound lane is nearly completed and the quality of the new roadway is outstanding. You’ll hit a few delays and a mile or so of road that has been top-scraped in preparation for new asphalt. There are some rough sections and pot holes. The north bound lane still has a way to go and while the killer pot holes have been filled, the road is rough for many miles. It has also been prepped, but the pot holes are more numerous and it’s a bumpy ride.

Photo-section-of-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-damage-near-Linnville

The volume of trees down on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linnville was amazing. You wouldn't know it looked like this riding through now.

A recent hazard to be aware of is near Mt. Mitchell State Park where guardrail replacement is being done. A very slick sand is found in places near this work and motorcyclists should be vigilant and exercise caution. This video shows what to watch out for.

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Tire Testing on the Dragon at Deals Gap – Michelin Power Pure

Photo-Deals-Gap-Motorcycle-Resort

The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort - NC starting point for riding The Dragon

Opinions on what makes a good tire range across the scale. Some favor durability, others performance, while many put price at the top of the list. Where you fall on the spectrum depends on your riding style. Most riders put little thought into it except when purchasing, and for the typical rider a set of tires last the full riding season or longer. Once they’re on, they are mostly forgotten until the tread disappears and things get squirrely.

Photo-bikes-at-deals-gap

Even on a rainy day, bikes line up at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

Cruisers and show bikers need not read any further. The Michelin Power Pure tire is suited for Sports-Touring and the occasional track day on a sports bike. I suppose I can legitimately claim I am a professional rider, it is a key component of how I earn my living. 90%+ of the time I am on a bike I am working, and with the season on, I’ll be going through the rubber. I’ve burned through sets in a month of typical riding.

Photo-Fontana-Lake-view-from-NC-28

Rain clouds swirl over Fontana Lake in this view from an overlook on NC 28 approaching the Dragon.

I fitted this rear tire a little over a week ago, and with about 500 miles on it I can give a reasonable impression of its performance. I’ve still got some life in the Michelin Pilot Power  2C on the front, but I’m looking forward to replacing it to have a matched set. The Pure employs Michelins LLT technology eliminating any rubber that is not essential to performance, lightening and stiffening the sidewalls with additional aramid fiber. This reduces tire weight by a kilo making them lighter than the Pirelli Diablo Rosso or Bridgestone BT-106. As tires make up about 75% of a wheels inertial weight (tire/wheel/brakes) and a significant portion of unsprung mass, and thusly affect it’s gyroscopic impact on handling, Michelin claim its akin to fitting 3 kg lighter wheels.

Michelin-Power-Pure-tire-photos

Views of the new Michelin Power Pure tire following the days ride.

Holy math test, Batman, that sounds like some awful technical track talk, what’s it mean on the road? I was already impressed with the the tires handling on dry roads though had been holding back during the scrubbing-in process. Satisfied I’d worn them in enough, I set out to test their wet road handling and what better place than the Dragon at Deals Gap.

The Dragon at Deals Gap with it’s 311 turns in 13 miles is currently not the ideal place to push any limits. The north end of the road remains closed due to a rock slide. A gate has been placed at the south entrance and a Tennessee State Trooper sits on the state line as a reminder to behave. Another patrolled the far end of the road this morning picking off offenders as fast as he could write citations. Any runners would be snagged at the gate by the sentry stationed there. They literally have a captive audience and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel – you will get popped. I knew it was no place to get jiggy.

Photo-Trooper-at-the-dragon

Due to the rock slide, the Dragon is open from 8AM- 8 PM. A fence at the south end is manned by a Tennessee State trooper acting as sentry.

Still, for wet weather testing it would work fine. Counting on herd theory, I knew the enforcement would be focusing on the worst offenders. So long as I kept it reasonable, I’d slip by. With wet roads I wouldn’t be breaking any personal records nor tempted to loft the front wheel out of corners. Mildly exceeding the limit on occasion and ignoring the fact the bike is fitted with brakes would get the data I sought.

The rain was light but steady and I hit a few decent showers on the ride out, but not the deluges I was looking for. NC 28 glistened with a fine sheen as I approached, but on reaching the Dragon I found the road nearly dry. An hour later I concluded my meeting at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and mounted up to do the ride.

Photo-the-north-end-of-the-Dragon-closedAnother sentry from the DOT waits at the north end of the Dragon. You can’t see the rock slide from here.

It wasn’t going as I planned. With the obvious enforcement, I resigned to simply cruising through the road to satisfy my curiosity of what was going on at the far end. The no brakes technique makes stretching the posted limit just a bit more than entertaining and I carved my way to the end and back. It felt as if the tires were fused with the pavement. Lean angle was endless. I never felt any drift, not the first slippage, let alone anything breaking loose. Powering through the corners was precise, and while I never really got on it with the throttle, it felt so casual and relaxing I had my share of fun. But then, I already knew these tires worked on the dry road.

Photo-the-rock-slide-end-of-the-Dragon

With a large turn around area at the rock slide end, riders congregate here to regroup and show the tickets they got.

Leaving Deals Gap I got what I was looking for. NC 28 was still wet and a little rain kept the conditions nearly perfect. All warmed up from the Dragon, I hit the wet road to see how things compared. It didn’t seem to matter. Barely having shifted my weight for the hairpin corner with a posted speed of 10 mph, I was actually relaxed enough to take my eyes off the road and glance at the spedo – 40 mph and I really wasn’t trying. When the next turn was posted at 35, I did the math and quickly decided I wasn’t willing to go fast enough to find the edge. These tires work in wet conditions – in spades.

Testing over, I started back on the four lane Smoky Mountains Expressway to go home. Within minutes I was bored, and when NC 28 south appeared, I could not control the urge to keep riding. Brad Tolbert, proprietor of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort,  had let slip info about some back roads near Franklin and I just couldn’t resist investigating. Let’s face it, when the guy who runs the biggest outfit at Deals Gap suggests a good road, you listen.

Test back on, true conditions this time. Unknown roads, wet conditions, time pressure to get home, this was the real deal. I blasted through the back roads for more than an hour not sure which way to go, mostly by instinct, and linked together a fine ride. Mixed and broken pavement, gravel in turns, a few rocks dislodged by the rain, some mud wash, now this is what I do and that tire stayed fused to the road like it was integrated. Only once did I note a tiny slip, and when it broke loose on gravel it regained traction so quickly it was barely noted, and I can’t remember drifting the bike through a single curve.

Obviously this tire passes the performance test, it may be the best tire I’ve ever run in that respect. The next big question is durability and what happens when I’m forced to drone along on the endless highway to reach far away places. There’s no better way to waste good rubber than wearing out and squaring off the center of a good tire before you’ve used the edges. The soft compound comprises 40% of the edges of this tire, hence it’s performance (previously 11%). I’ll report back on mileage when it comes time to swap it out to determine how durable the harder compound in the center proves. If I can get more than 5000 miles out of it, I may have found my new tire of choice. Now if I could just get sponsored…

Photo-the-lean-marks

The "lean stripes" on the tire. Not only did every line show wear, but it was evident all the way to the edge of the tread. 100% use.

Addendum – I heard about a trend which started with some German sports bike riders. They would mark the edges of their tires with chalk to show who had the biggest bragging rights at the end of the day for having achieved the greatest lean angles. Where you typically find the direction arrow at the very edge of the tread which tells the mounter which way the tire is built to rotate, the Michelin Pure incorporates three raised bars parroting the practice. Usually, I wear my tires about to the limit of where the rotation arrow is. That last 3/8 inch or so never gets touched. In typical use, I would expect to maybe graze the first of the raised lines on this new tire. When I took photos this morning, I noted not only had every one of the three bars received wear, but it extended to the very edge of the tire. Without seriously trying or getting on a track, I had utilized 100% of the available tread. Achtung, Baby!

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

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