Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #4 Da Bike

4)  Ride the Bike you Brought

You can have a good time riding the Dragon on any bike you can ride there. If you’ve ridden there, you’ve got the basic skills to ride the road. In fact, you’ve already hit some decent curves on the way. So what makes the Dragon such a challenge? You do – it’s all about how you ride it. But…

A scooter on the Dragon

A scooter on the Dragon – a fun ride regardless what you brought.

The Dragon will not magically transform your behemoth cruiser into a Moto GP race bike. It will not make the mass of your passenger disappear. You will not miraculously find the ground clearance you never had before. If you’re dragging hard parts through every corner, hard on the brakes coming into each turn, you’re doing it wrong and it’s just a matter of time before the Dragon bites.

Chopper on the Dragon

Ride the bike you brought as it was built to be ridden.

Riding the Dragon well comes down to skill and technique regardless of the bike. Strive to be smooth, relaxed, and in control.
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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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Tips for Riding the Dragon on Your Motorcycle – #3 Consequences

3) Recognize the Consequences

Before you grab that handful of throttle and screech out of the parking lot to prove your manhood, consider the consequences if your motorcycle ride on the Dragon doesn’t go as well as planned. While surprisingly few accidents on the Dragon are fatal, be aware, it’s a long way to the nearest hospital and an expensive trip to get you there if it’s needed. Deals Gap is a remote and isolated area. If you need help, it will likely be an hour before it arrives. That’s a long time to be hurt, broken, or worse yet bleeding.

Photo-motorcycle crash

Rescues at the Dragon are neither easy nor quick.

Maybe, you low side into an embankment as you blow a turn. With luck, you miss a rocky face and slide into the hard and stoney dirt. With the right armor, gear, and luck, you walk away. Maybe your bike is rideable to the repair shop, or maybe they winch it up onto a flatbed on it’s side compounding the damage and expense. The “Tree of Shame” at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort is hung with the detritus of years of accidents, some quite serious. It’s no badge of honor to add your own.

Kiss your bike goodbye if you go off the sharp edge of the road, it’s most likely totaled. There are no soft and forgiving run-offs into the grass. The terrain is steep, the drops are long, and the mass of a moving bike carries it a long way as it caroms off trees and rocks on the cartwheeling tumble down into the dense woods. If it’s not totaled going down, it will be when the tow truck drags it back up with a long cable.

Motorcycle crosses double yellow at the Dragon

Crossing the double yellow is more common than you’d think – don’t be tempted

Worst case you meet another vehicle. Crossing the yellow lines is deadly. While there are times when visibility is good and you may feel it’s safe to cut that corner and straighten out the curves, don’t do it. It’s the #1 way to meet a law enforcement official, they do not tolerate it with good reason. Big brother has been known to station observers in the woods with cameras and radios. Live by the rule “Never cross the Double Yellow Line”.

Traffic enforcement at the Dragon at Deals Gap

The police are there to keep things sane. Maintain control and you’ll be fine. Cross the double yellow, and you will get personal attention.

Worse yet are those who stray across the line unintentionally. If it happens to you, you find yourself across the yellow line despite your efforts, you deserve a time out and a penalty break. Pull off and settle down at the next paved spot and take time to contemplate your mortality. You were riding beyond your limits, and fortunately this time you can tell the tale. Adjust your mind and ease off when you get back on the road. When the Dragon bites, it’s serious.
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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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Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #2 Recon

2) Pre-ride the Road

Racers walk the track before they ride it to identify lines, note the subtle nuances, study the surface, and make mental plans on how to best approach each corner. While that’s not practical at the Dragon, it’s a fools venture to just roll out of the parking lot and get on the throttle. While you’re not going to memorize every turn on a slow ride through, you’ll get some idea of what to expect should you decide to come at it with more vigor. You may discover the 30 mph speed limit is way above what you can safely carry through many of the hairpin curves, especially the ones that unexpectedly close down on you and tighten up.

Motorcycles on the Draon

Take some time to judge the conditions – you’ll be better prepared for what lies ahead

Use the pre-ride to judge the conditions that day and adjust to them. Note the traffic, how the riders and drivers are behaving. Get a feel for the condition of the road – is there debris from a recent storm, are the shady spots wet, is there dirt or leaves in a corner? Is there a big group visiting or some event going on? Note where the photographers are so you’re not taken by surprise and distracted. Judge what the traffic enforcement is like that day – if there are a dozen troopers along the road it’s not the time for misbehaving. Sometimes, it’s better to head off to other roads and come back later.

The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort at the Dragon

Spend a few minutes observing what’s going on that day. 10 minutes on the porch at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort will give you a wealth of information.

Pause for a few minutes at the end of the run and just observe. The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort parking lot, the Calderwood Dam overlook, Tabcat Bridge pull-out are good places to spend a few minutes observing, chatting with other riders, and generally getting a feel for the rhythm of what’s going on. Listen and watch. Traffic tends to come in waves, judge your moment to start your run according to the flow.
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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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Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #1 Attitude

1) Come with the Right Attitude

The biggest challenge to riding the Dragon at Deals Gap  on your motorcycle is in your head. It’s the expectations and beliefs that this road is the place to prove yourself, test your skills, and take it to the limit. After all, that’s what all the hype and publicity is about. No arguments it’s a challenging stretch of road with some very tight and tricky curves. Odds are, you’re going to see something that surprises you, something you think is just plain reckless or crazy, and perhaps, something (like another vehicle straying into your lane) that scares the poo out of you. Go in expecting it, ride as if it is going to happen, and always keep a healthy margin of safety in your favor.

Motorcycles on the Dragon

Ride your own ride at your own pace and maintain a healthy margin fo the unexpected.

Check that ego and don’t get caught up in the hype that you’ve got to attack it with all you’ve got. Ride your own ride, at your own pace, and stay within your own limits. Accept there will always be someone faster, crazier, or more aggressive than you and just let them pass on by. If somebody is on your tail, put on your turn signal, give them room, and pull off at the next opportunity. There are plenty of paved spots to pull off or do a roll-through so the maniacs can safely pass. Much better to let them safely pass than get caught up in the carnage if they try to bolt around you on a blind corner and it goes badly. Don’t fall into the trap of following someone quicker – they may know the road better, be more experienced, or riding beyond their limits.

Motorcycle on the Dragon

Riding on the very edge leaves nothing in reserve for the unexpected. You’ll get away with it 9 times out of 10, but then….

Always be ready to just let it go. It’s just a motorcycle ride, there’s no trophy waiting at the end. If you find yourself riding somebodies tail, back off, find a pull off, and take a break until the traffic lets up. The road isn’t going anywhere. Wait for things to clear out and calm down, then ride your own ride. Getting a clear, unhindered run through the road at your own pace is rare. Don’t feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen, odds are it wont.
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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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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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Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop

Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop ride

When I’m looking for a “dragon like” challenge close to home, this 90 mile loop satisfies every time!

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan.

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan. You’ll find some nice scenery on the popular road. The curves so far are just a warm up for what lies ahead.

As much as I enjoy a ride on the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, it’s a bit of a ride to get out to it from the Waynesville / Maggie Valley area where I live. Fortunately, there are ample challenging roads nearby, and when I really want a peg-scraping ride, this is one of my favorite local loops. For those on sport bikes, it’s a must-do when you are in the area.

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.

The map originates in the small crossroads town of Bethel, NC south of Waynesville, Canton, Maggie Valley, and Junaluska. It can also be done as a side loop off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit at Beech Gap, MP 423.3, NC 215 – cuts 36 miles off the route).

Descending from the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC 215

The curves continue as you descend from the Blue Ridge Parkway with a brief break when you enter a valley. The curves that follow really kick it up!

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Length: 90 miles plus your ride to the start in Bethel, NC.
Ride time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Very challenging, tight curves, climbs and descents, sustained, varied road surfaces, all paved

Photo-curve-on-Silversteen-Rd

Imagine miles and miles of curves like this one – a.k.a. Silversteen Road

Turn-by-turn route description

Start at traffic light in Bethel (junction US 276, NC 215, NC 110).

Follow NC 215  – starts as Love Joy Road. Easy section through farmland along river with a few sharp turns.

2.9 mi – Turn left @ stop sign to continue on NC 215. Junction Love Joy Road and Lake Logan Rd (NC 215).  Moderately difficult. Rolls through houses, some nice curves, section along Lake Logan very nice.

16.8 mi – Pass Sunburst Campground. Enter Pisgah National Forest. Start climb to Blue Ridge Parkway. Road gets more twisty here. Nice stop at a roadside waterfall. Beware loose gravel on road, especially in turns, most likely to be found in the highest sections. Difficult.

17.9 mi – Pass Blue Ridge Parkway ramp. Popular break spot, if not at the junction, go up to the parkway and turn right to reach a nearby overlook with lots of parking. Continue under the parkway on NC 215. Good views from the highest section. Road surface improves south of parkway. Difficult.

35 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto US 64. Junction NC 215 (Parkway Road) and US 64. Just a short section on this sometimes busy road. Easy.

Photo-Charlies-Creek-Rd

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

37.7 mi  – Turn right onto Silversteen Road. Junction US 64 and Sliversteeen Rd. Sign warns of tight turns ahead, believe it! Difficult.

38.3 mi – Keep right on Silversteen Rd. Junction Silversteen Rd and Golden Road. Difficult.

43.6 mi – Sharp left turn to stay on Silversteen Road. Junction Silversteen Rd and Macedonia Church Road. If you don’t make this turn, you will end up back on NC 215. Difficult.

45.7 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto NC 281. Junction Silversteen Road and NC 281 (Canada Road). Nice section, a little loose gravel in places. Difficult.

57.6 mi – Turn right onto Charlies Creek Road. Junction NC 281 (Canada Road) and Charlies Creek Road. Be on your guard, surprising turns on this road. Difficult.

Photo - wolf Creek Dam

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

68.4 mi – Turn left onto NC 215. Junction Charlies Creek Road and NC 215. Start back on a road you’ve been on previously.

89.7 mi – Follow NC 215 back to Bethel.

You’ll find gas stations in Bethel, on NC 215 on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at the turn off US 64 onto Silversteen Road.

Jukebox Junction is a popular diner in Bethel. It’s mostly gas station food for the remainder of the ride.

Map of the ride

You’ll find these roads and many others in the surroundings on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park – EAST.

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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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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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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

Total Rider Tech Logo

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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