Dual Sport Ride Map Near the Dragon and Cherohala Skyway

Dual Sport Ride Map Near the Dragon and Cherohala Skyway

The Best UNPAVED roads WEST of Smoky Park

The Best Unpaved Motorcycle Roads WEST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the third motorcycle ride map of the unpaved roads and trails from America Rides Maps.

This new map details the great dual sport rides near the Dragon at Deals Gap, North Carolina, along the long stretch of the Cherohala Skyway, and near Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Enjoy the legendary Tail of the Dragon AND take your adventure bike out in the woods on the same day of great motorcycle rides. ADV Riders will love these detailed maps.

Dual Sport Motorcycle RidesThis motorcycle ride map features the great motorcycle roads found near the Nantahala Gorge, as well as the great riding off road riding around Franklin, North Carolina. Enjoy roadside waterfalls, mountain top views, and miles and miles of superb unpaved riding.

Discover motorcycle rides in the vast wild and scenic areas of the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests on Forest Roads and accessible trails.

Dual Sport motorcycle rides TNAmerica Rides Maps has also produced dual sport motorcycle ride maps of the great adventure rides east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the superb roads near the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Smoky Park. They are sold individually and as a 3 map set.

See this new map and the others here –

http://americaridesmaps.com/products/the-best-unpaved-roads-west-of-smoky-park

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Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

A controversial viewpoint that looks at motorcycle safety from the other side of the looking glass

I’m a lifelong motorcyclist. I’m a professional rider, I earn my bread from the seat of my bike. I been a trainer, had training, been all over the country and overseas, led tours, coordinated events and rallies, read the books and every accident study I can get to. I’ve had my share of spills, close calls, and mistakes and I’ve got the scars to remember them by.

May is motorcycle awareness monthMotorcycle Awareness Month doesn’t even make the list of  “commemorative months” on wikipedia and is about as effective as “National Ice Cream Month” (which does make the list) – It’s the wrong approach to the problem of how to be safer riding a motorcycle on our increasing dangerous roads.

Image - Watch out for Motorcycles

False Hope

“Watch our for Bikers” is wishful thinking. It puts the responsibility on someone else – “You need to watch out for me”. Believing that little yellow diamond is going to penetrate the brain of a pony-tailed soccer mom with a minivan full of kids rushing to get to the little  league game is quite a leap of faith. Or that the road warrior salesman is going to suddenly take his mind off his next meeting as he’s fighting his way through the traffic on his way to Des Moines. That the old codger in the Buick with a line of traffic a half mile behind him is going to suddenly wake up and recognize there are other vehicles on the road? That teen is gonna put away the cell phone and start driving the car? Not my experieince. Not the real world. YOU need to watch out for YOU.

Even if you could get through and alert every other driver on the road you’re not going to change the laws of physics. Motorcycles are just plain hard to see because they are the smallest vehicle out on the roads. They are comparatively rare so people don’t expect them. They are easy to lose track of surrounded by so many larger vehicles. Every one of us knows a driver can look right at you and not see you coming. Accept it – you’re virtually invisible to others the road.

motorcycle-wreck-maggieThe “motorcycle awareness” that will keep you alive longest is the awareness that you are responsible for your own safety on the road. You need to up your riding game. Distracted driving is the leading contributor to accidents on our roadways. The counter strategy is increased awareness on the part of the motorcyclist, not all the other people out on the road. They’re not going to change, you need to change to adapt to the conditions that exist.

We know the most common causes of motorcycle accidents related to other vehicles – car pulls out or turns in front of motorcycle, car changes lanes on highway into motorcycle, car runs into motorcycle stopped at intersection.

The motorcycle awareness we need is to deal with these situations as riders as effectively as possible. This is what happens – expect it and assume it will every time.

  • Ride as if that car IS going to pull out or turn in front of you. Be prepared to react to it. Every car, every time.
  • Constantly be aware of your position to surrounding traffic on the road and don’t ride in blind spots. Don’t assume that car next to you sees you – if he needs to swerve I’ll bet he’d rather hit you than a truck. Move out of the situation. When they crowd in on you get out of the situation as soon as possible.
  • Position yourself to be visible when stopped. Don’t sit right behind a car, move out to create a silhouette that stands out from behind. Keep the bike in gear and have an escape route ready in case you see that car running up on you too fast.

learn-to-ride-safe

The roads are getting more crowded and more dangerous. There are new challenges to face. People are just going to keep doing what they’re doing, they are not going to change. If you want to be safer, take your safety in your own hands – the others are too busy to bother.

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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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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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Motorcycle Touring – Towns Near Great Smoky Mountains Park

Motorcycles at overlook in Smoky Park

Enjoying  an overlook on Newfound Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Choose the right place to stay on your Smoky Mountain motorcycle trip

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the #1 visited park in the nation. Needless to say there are plenty of places to stay in the surrounding area when you come. Those who make the trek by motorcycle not only enjoy the wonders of the park, but are rewarded with some of the most challenging and scenic motorcycle rides in the country at it’s borders.

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

I previously looked for the epicenter of great motorcycle riding, the central point in the middle of all the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The prime location was Maggie Valley, NC on the southeast edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with Waynesville and Cherokee close runners up. I listed the pros and cons of using each as a base camp for your motorcycle trip. (read about it here)

Truth is, there are so many great motorcycle rides to choose from in this mountainous region you’ll never get to them all. While being at the strategic center of all the riding offers more riding choices and opportunities, it’s worth looking at some of these other places which lay on the borders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Map towns around smoky park

Towns which ring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and classic motorcycle rides nearby.

♦♦♦♦ Maggie Valley / Waynesville – located right in the heart of the best motorcycle rides. Waynesville has great food, but few rooms. Maggie Valley has lots of rooms, places to eat, and the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum.  (previously covered, read about it here).

♦♦♦ Cherokee – It’s where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets great Smoky Mountains National Park. Culture, casino, and crowds.  (previously covered, read about it here)

Photo - Great Smoky Mountains Railway Train

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train in Bryson City

♦♦ Bryson City – Places to stay, camping, good food and drink, the railroad, at first glance Bryson City has a lot to offer. It’s downfall is it’s isolation. It’s located adjacent to 4 lane US 74. It has a nice little downtown where US 19 comes in from Cherokee. Your choices to quickly hop on a good ride without hitting the 4 lane are limited.

– If you’re looking for a nice quiet place to camp on a swimming creek and do a little riding, Bryson City will do you well.

♦♦ StecoahStecoah is a small spot located off NC 28 not far from Fontana Lake. There are cabins available here, though it’s a really popular spot for campers. There are a couple motorcycle campgrounds. NC 28  leads to The Dragon at Deals Gap or you can cut through to Robbinsville and the Cherohala Skyway. There’s a roadside diner. It’s a pretty remote spot so you’ll have to be self-sufficient, the campgrounds have some supplies. The nearest grocery is in Robbinsville, it’s dry county. The Nantahala Gorge is close, the good section of NC 28 starts just a few miles up the road.

– Stay in Stecoah if you’re looking for motorcycle campgrounds near the Dragon.  

Fontana Village Pitstop

Cabins, rooms, camping, meals, Fontana is remote but has all you need.

♦♦♦ Fontana –  Fontana is a good option near The Dragon on NC 28. You ‘ll find camping, cabins, there’s are a decent number of rooms, good meals, a bar, all the comforts. The stretch of NC 28 that it sits on is one of my favorite rides curvy motorcycle rides. You’re only minutes from The Dragon.

– Fontana will serve you well if you want a remote location with all the amenities. Close to the Dragon.

♦♦♦ Robbinsville – There’s nothing but mountains and trees west of Robbinsville and well into Tennessee. The small town sits at the hub of several important roads. US 129 leads north to The Dragon, south to the Nanathala Gorge. The Cherohala Skyway meets it here just north of downtown, NC 143 takes you over the mountain to connect with NC 28. All the good biker roads lead here.

While the town of Robbinsville is small, it’s the biggest small town for miles. There’s a grocery store, a few restaurants, gas station / fast food, one big central chain motel, and lots of biker friendly options and businesses in the town. There are a couple good places to eat.  It’s not a convenient town for walking. There’s no booze here, it’s dry.  Motorcycle rentals in town.

– Robbinsville is the largest town in the area so it has the most to offer. It’s a good base when you want to travel light. Great rides in every direction.

deals-gap-resort-

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

♦♦ Deals Gap – Resorts, lodges, cabins, campgrounds are all available but limited. If you want to be as close to The Dragon as possible you’ll be pretty isolated from civilization. This is where you want to stay if you’ve come to focus on riding The Dragon. Do a couple runs through in the morning then head down to the Cherohala Skyway or cruise the lake on NC 28. Get in another run or two through The Dragon in the evening.

– If you want to get the full Dragon experience, stay at Deals Gap. There may be entertainment, night races in the parking lot. 

♦ Punkin Center – Located at the Tennessee end of The Dragon where TN 72 intersects, it’s an ideal spot for riding The Dragon / Cherohala Skyway loop ride. There is a popular motorcycle campground here, a restaurant, and a repair shop.

– If you’re looking for a motorcycle campground on the north side of the park, this one puts you on some of the best roads.  

♦ Townsend – Townsend gets you away from the congestion of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but you’re still on a pretty major road. It get’s you close to Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend is a good choice if you want to ride The Dragon, The Cherohala Skyway, and poke around the park. It’s a popular base camp for dual-sport riders doing the unpaved roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Motorcycle rentals available in town.

– Townsend is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

Gatlinburg-motorcycles

Tourist attractions in Gatlinburg.

♦♦ Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge

The primary attraction of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is they are so easy to get to. The primary downfall of Galtinburg / Pigeon Forge is everybody goes there.

There’s about 40 miles between the north entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, so this corridor has developed into a tourist vortex. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge host all kinds of attractions. There are lots of bargains on rooms and cabins. The downfall here is the tourist traffic and the scarcity of good motorcycle rides. The mountains quickly become valleys outside the park.

There may be some compelling reasons to stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but you’ll likely spend time riding around the park to get to some of the best rides.

– Stay in Gatlinburg if you’re looking for a deal or want a tourist expereince. Accept the traffic, enjoy the attractions, and learn the backroads that will get you through it all.

 Cosby – Cosby is at the “forgotten” eastern end of the park. You’ll find lots of campgrounds along the edge of the park, a couple motels near I-40, little else of note. This area is popular for the unpaved riding both in the park and out into the national forests.

Cosby is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky MountainsYou can get a map of more than 100 Great Motorcycle Rides near the Smoky Mountains that will show you where the roads are hiding and how they link together into endless wonderful wanderings through the mountains.

Click Here Now
to see more about the map

 

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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Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies:

Whether it’s a one day trip or part of an epic adventure, it’s good to have a strategy when setting out on a 469.1 mile long ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are some things to consider based on how long you have to make your end-to-end trip.

1 Day End-to-End

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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

Some riders look for high mileage challenges. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be one of them – 470  miles with a 45 mph speed limit can be done in daylight on a long summer day. You’ll even have time to stop at a few overlooks for quick photos.

The key is “plan your gas stop so it’s close to a parkway exit to save time.” You’ll have to make a gas stop – choose the wrong exit and you can waste half an hour before you get to a pump.

I eat breakfast before and dinner after the ride, and pack a sub sandwich so I can eat at overlooks when I take breaks. Expect fog / clouds / mist / cool / damp in the morning, have a layer to shed in the afternoon. Go on a weekday, there will be less traffic. There’s no need to speed, but at the same time, if you’re slow through tight curves it’s going to be a long day. The ride is best done from north-to-south as it puts you in the highest sections in the afternoon when the clouds have lifted and it’s warmer.

2 Days Riding End-to-End

photo of parkway

You can really get away from it all on the Blue Ridge Parkway

2 days still means 2 pretty full days of riding.  You’ll want to be efficient with your gas stops and eating or it will sacrifice your time for sightseeing and enjoying the views. You’ll save time if you coordinate your time off the parkway well. Stop for gas where you can also eat lunch. Stay where you can eat or meals are close. You don’t need to feel rushed on a 2 day ride, but you do want to stay on track.

My strategy is to cover as many miles as possible the first day, then relax and enjoy the second day knowing you have less distance to cover. A 2 day ride is better done from north-to-south. Boone, NC is a good layover coming south. The North Carolina mountains really start to reach their heights south of Boone, you’ll be in them constantly the second day and have time to enjoy them. When going north I usually overnight near Hillsville or Floyd, or Meadows of Dan. You’ll have time to stop at Peaks of Otter and savor some of the best views from the Virginia section near the north end of the ride.

3 Day Ride End-to-End

photo  motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

If you want to stop and smell the flowers, plan at least 3 days.

If you want to get a full Blue Ridge Parkway experience, 3 days is minimum. If you’re planning to camp, it eases the pace.

With 3 days you can stop and see some of the cabins, the mill, and other sights along the road that you’d otherwise blow by.

3 days also opens the door to enjoying other outstanding rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some connect to the parkway, some are close to it.

For the road warrior, it could mean doing the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2 days, then looping Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ride the Dragon at it’s western end on a three day blast!

Riding Sections of the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway View

The highest section has the best views

If you see only one section of it, ride between Asheville, NC  and Maggie Valley, NC. That 50 mile arc goes from the low point in NC to the highest point on the entire road with much of it above 5000 elevation. There are frequent overlooks and sweeping views, dramatic drops and rocky passes.

Another great section is the high remote stretch between Asheville, NC and Little Switzerland, NC. Mt. Mitchell State Park makes a nice side trip to the top of the highest mountain in the east. Nice long range views.

The Epic Adventure

yellow motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

In it for the long haul!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one part of the park road system. At the north end it continues as the Skyline drive into Shenandoah National Park for another 105 miles. At the south end, it meets US 441 to take you 30 miles across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can ride more than 600 miles on 2 lane twisty mountain roads entirely within our National Parks.

Leaving the National Parks you can then follow the parkways, skyways, and legendary back roads that weave throughout the south end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d run through the Dragon, out across the Cherohlala Skyway, then down into north Georgia, looping back into the mountains south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The “I don’t want to ride the parkway” strategy

A holiday motel in Maggie Valley

Maybe you already have a favorite place to stay – when you find one, explore all the great roads nearby.

Maybe you’re one of millions who have already enjoyed a motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe you find it’s more enjoyable to stay in one place than be on the move.

The best location to maximize your access to the best motorcycle rides is somewhere along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll find less traffic and congestion, numerous motels, cabins, and campgrounds. There are plenty of rooms on the north side of the park in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but more of the good roads are on the other side of the park. Crossing through or going around Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets repetitive.100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky Mountains

Find a good base camp and get a copy of my 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains map. You’ll spend more of your time riding that way. You’re surrounded by great roads, the map will show you how close they are! It couldn’t be easier!

Get map 100 Great Rides in the Smoky Mountains

see  The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

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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How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – Clear skies, great views, low traffic are some of the rewards of winter riding. Dress right and it’s no big deal.

Don’t let the cold weather put an end to your motorcycle riding season. If you dress well for it, winter riding can be comfortable and fun even here in the mountains. It’s not all snow and ice all the time here in the Smokies. Even the highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway stay open for most of the winter. Here are some of my personal tips on dressing for winter motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, what works best for me.

Dress to adapt to the changing temperature. Often winter days start out very cold then get milder once the sun is high. Bundle up for the chilly start then simply zip your jacket open and loosen the seals at the wrists a bit once it warms. Using vents keeps you from having to stop and peel off layers.

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – With the right clothes, you can ride all day in conditions like this and never be cold.

Cinch and Seal – Before you head out, close all the vents on your jacket. Cinch wrists, ankles, and neck to keep out drafts and seal the warm air in. Snug up any adjustment straps on your jacket to trap warm air better.

A full face helmet is warmer – a balaclava or thin hoodie under the helmet helps when it’s really cold. Manage fogging by cracking the visor just the right amount, flipping it up at stops. Lifting your chin increases air flow, it sometimes works. Eventually your helmet temp equilibrates until you come to a stop again, etc. Fogging problems usually go away as the day gets warmer. Keep visors clean.

Get “Expedition weight” long underwear – go for the warmest, the best quality. You don’t want big seams, buttons and flaps, keep it simple and comfortable.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway last year. It was a gorgeous day in February.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway last February. It was a gorgeous day, don’t pass up these great opportunities to enjoy winter on your motorcycle.

Seal your inner layer – make your outer shirt a windblock layer that extends up your neck to the chin, and have a zipper so you can vent it. It’ll hold heat better and a zipper lets you vent when it warms.

Put the linings back in – If you took those quilted linings out of your jacket and pants for the summer, put them back in, as well as any waterproof or wind blocking linings.

2 socks, 2 gloves – Start with a warm thinner sock, then add a heavy duty second sock that extends up to your calf. Thin glove liners add heat under a good lined gauntlet style outer glove.

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – you can see so much more in winter when the leaves rare off the trees. It’s a new landscape to enjoy.

If you ultimately decide you enjoy year round motorcycle riding, heated electric gear is the way to go. It’s a big expense, but it lasts for many years. Go all the way and get dual controllers – you’ll want your exposed gloves warmer than your covered vest.

There is one thing you can do to help keep your motorcycle running or stored during the winter months – install a battery tender. It’s as simple as adding a couple wires to your battery terminals for the plug/connector, or if the bike is put up for the winter, just attaching a couple clamps to the battery terminals. Cold weather kills batteries, a battery tender will kept it alive and fresh and extend it’s life for many years. 

Photo-Whitesides-mountain-nc-motorcycle-by-frozen-lake

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – A minute after this photo was taken my bike lay on its side and I couldn’t pick it up on the ice. Read about it here – http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=1650

http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=1650

Got a winter riding question or tip to share?

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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Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Fall leaves can be deadly!

Motorcycle riding tips – Wet leaves in the road can be slick as ice! Watch out for them.

The fall leaf color show is nearing it’s end. With every good breeze a shower of tree trash rains down to blanket the ground for winter’s slumber. Usually those winds blow it clear from the road and it’s no big deal for the motorcycle rider flying along with trails of floating color swirling romantically in your wake.

There is still plenty of fall color to enjoy in the Blue Ridge, but those leaves can become a hazard!

There is still plenty of fall color to enjoy in the Blue Ridge, but those leaves can become a hazard!

But add water to the mix and those leaves get heavy and stick to the road piling up between the two tire tracks cleared by passing autos. The water acts as a lubricant. Stray out of those tire tracks cleared by the cars, especially in a curve, and you’ll find your traction goes from hero to zero in an instant.

We all know the painted lines are slick when wet -

We all know the painted lines are slick when wet – it can be deadly when you add wet leaves on top of them. Watch out and hold your line in the curves!

Be especially alert and cautious when riding now after it rains. The problem goes away pretty quickly with sunshine, but don’t be fooled. Many areas of our mountain roads are perpetually shady and those leaves remain wet and slippery even on the brightest of days.

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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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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Your Fall Motorcycle Leaf-peeping trip to the Smokies – Tips

Your Fall Leaf-peeping Motorcycle Trip to the Smokies – Tips

Some of the best views will be from the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Some of the best views will be from the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 It’s that time of year again, the brief lull before the start of the peak of the tourist season in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a good time to pass along some last minute tips and advice to those planning to come see natures spectacular autumn show.

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Motorcycle

You don’t have to go far to find great scenery

Last minute advice – Get a room! If it’s your first visit to the Smoky Mountains on a fall motorcycle tour for leaf season, you don’t yet know how “last minute” this advice is. The nicest places to stay and most of the motorcycle friendly sites took reservations last year, they are probably booked. You can try calling, but you’re probably relegated to the second tier establishements. If you “wing it” you’ll be looking for adventure in the third tier or bouncing between crowded campgrounds.

Tanassi Creek Road

Tanassi Creek Road – all yours, no traffic!

Tip – you’ll be back. There is no way you can hit all the best roads on one trip, even two trips. Some are worth coming back and riding again. If you really like the experience and find a base camp that treats you well, book ahead for next year.

Last minute advice – when is peak leaf viewing? Depends and varies. Were I to pick one (OK, 2 dates) for the Smokies, it would be Oct 16-17. Leaf color depends on climate conditions over the year. It takes a cold snap to make the leaves snap and the right mix of wet and dry. Who knows?

Becky Mountain Road

Becky Mountain Road

Tip – Leaf season is longer than it seems – That “peak of color” date is misleading. Due to the changes in altitude, the leaf change occurs at different rates at different altitudes. There are several weeks to either side of the announced peak date when the leaves will be spectacular, but limited within the altitude. High areas change early, valleys change later. There is still good leaf color into November at the lower altitudes.

Last minute advice – What will the weather be like? While it’s typically a dryer time of year, it’s also one of those transitional periods where we fluctuate between a couple warm days then a few colder ones. Cold fronts usually come through hard and fast, warm ones kinda drift in with gentle rains. On nice sunny days the temperatures may rise well into the 60’s, even 70’s. But, a damp and cloudy day in the 50’s can feel mighty chilly when the winds pick up atop the mountains. Morning lows will generally be in the 40’s, though a cold snap will bring frost (and help the leaves have good color).

Ellijay Road - beautiful and fun!

Ellijay Road – beautiful and fun!

Tip – Bring warm gloves, a good jacket, and several layers. Mornings are typically foggy, an early start may mean the views are obscured. Don’t be in a rush to get to the mountaintops. As always, throw the rain suit in just in case. If you’ve got an open helmet, consider face protection.

Advice – What about the traffic? While millions will flock to the mountains to see the fall show, their patterns are predictable. Weekends, especially afternoons, will find the popular places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Chimney Rock, The Dragon, and the Parkways congested. Mornings are the better times to pass through the busier areas.

Photo-motorcycles-on-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway

View from Waterrock Knob

Tip – try to hit those most popular areas during the week. They are definitely worth visiting, but you will enjoy them more if you can be riding, not idling. On the busiest days, there are still hundreds of great, fun, empty 2 lane back roads for you to enjoy riding, and they are all lined with colorful trees where the leaf-peepers rarely stray.

Advice – What should I watch out for? Be extra cautious when riding. Half the people out there may be tourists paying more attention to the scenery than the road. Be ready for the unexpected (like a car stopped dead in the road to take a photo on a curve). Same goes for you riders – use the numerous overlooks and pull offs to get the best views. Several motorcycles ride off the mountainsides each year when the driver was distracted by gorgeous the views. Pull over!

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Motorcycle

Enjoy the ride but pull over to enjoy the scenery. Don’t ride off into the sunset – it’s a long way down.

Tip – when traffic is heavy, best to avoid it. Get off the main roads, divert around towns, and look for those tiny back roads others bypass. You’ll have much more fun, see things others never do, and discover reasons to come back and ride more during the off season. Just one or two of my pocket maps will insure you have the best motorcycle vacation ever – they show you all the great back roads.

Charlies Creek Road

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

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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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Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – The Cherohala Skyway

“One of the finest motorcycle rides you’ll ever enjoy”  –

Fall color on the North Carolina end of the Cherohala Skyway

Fall color on the North Carolina end of the Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway takes the motorcycle rider on a long and sweeping romp through the mile high ridge lines of remote national forests just west of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stunning long range views can be enjoyed from overlooks and rest areas along the park-like road. Traffic is typically light and the curves are challenging and consistent for the 50 mile town-to-town ride through some of the most wild and scenic areas in the Blue Ridge mountains.

The Cherohala Skyway is near The Dragon at Deals Gap. It runs from Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN.

The Cherohala Skyway is near The Dragon at Deals Gap. It runs from Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN. Click on map for larger view.  Source – America Rides Maps Motorcycle Pocket maps – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Enjoying a summer motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

Enjoying a summer motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

The majority of motorcycle riders are drawn to this remote mountainous area to experience the thrill of riding US 129 a.k.a. “The Dragon” which skirts the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park nearby. A good number of them find the ride on the Cherohala Skyway far more enjoyable. It’s a relaxing contrast to the commotion and crowds that race back and forth through the Dragon’s legendary curves.

The Cherohala Skyway runs east to west connecting the small towns of Robbinsville, NC, and Tellico Plains, TN. Between them lies a large undeveloped mountainous section of the Cherokee (TN) and Nantahala (NC) National Forests. The made-up name “Cherohala” comes from a combination of the names of the remote forests it runs through.

Motorcycle flying through the mile high curves on the Cherohala Skyway

Flying through the mile high curves near the middle of the long wonderful ride

From either end the road makes a gradual climb to reach the 5000 ft heights near the middle section. Two broad lanes with sweeping curves arc through the mountain passes. Scenic overlooks, some with rest areas, yield views of a vast forests often free of visible human impact to the horizon. While the towns at either end have food, gas, and lodging, there is nothing but empty pavement on the 40 or so miles between them.

Springtime motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

Springtime on the Tennessee end of the Cherohala Skyway – nice long view of road, click to enlarge

Riding the Cherohala Skyway on a motorcycle you’ll find smooth pavement with good traction save a few bumpy patches here and there and the occasional bit of gravel dragged into turns by cars that run wide. The speed limit is 45 mph though there are many turns where a prudent rider will carry a bit less and the experienced rider will find satisfaction at speed. The overlooks and pull outs are well marked, paved, and have ample parking. Elevation signs along the road signal each 1000 ft change. It’s very much an experience like riding through a national park – similar to riding the the Blue Ridge Parkway (less than an hour east).

Stop to enjoy the views from the nice overlooks on the Cherohala Skyway

Stop to enjoy the views from the nice overlooks on the Cherohala Skyway

As relaxing as that “park-like” experience sounds, the road challenges the motorcycle riders’ skill. The Cherohala Skyway is  “big brother” to the nearby Dragon with it’s back-to-back tight turns. The Cherohala Skyway is a ‘super-sized” version of it. The curves open up and relax a bit but they keep coming one after another with the added dimension of long winding climbs and descents.

The Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon are often ridden together in a 123 mile long loop ride which runs north on US 129 to via TN 72, then to Vonore, TN, then south via TN 360 to Tellico Plains, TN, then across the Cherohala Skyway to Robbinsville.  When you ride both roads , the contrast is obvious -the need to be hyper alert and vigilant in the parade of bikes on the Dragon is relieved on the Cherohala Skyway. It seems empty by comparison, you can relax and it has all this gorgeous scenery too!

Great views, nice pavement, low traffic, and miles and miles of sweeping curves make the Cherohala Skyway a top motorcycle ride.

Great views, nice pavement, low traffic, and miles and miles of sweeping curves make the Cherohala Skyway a top motorcycle ride.

The best time for a visit is fall when the leaves are changing. Staying at the eastern (NC) end of the road places you near several other great motorcycle rides like the Dragon and NC 28. Robbinsville, NC is the larger town with more food / lodging options though many like the west end in Tellico Plains, TN for the camping.

The Cherohala Skyway is open all year (except when snow blocks) making it one of the first destinations for southern riders in the spring and a winter play spot for the hardcore adventurer.

Motorcycles starting up the grade from the North Carolina end of the road on the Cherohala Skyway.

Starting up the grade from the North Carolina end of the road on the Cherohala Skyway.

Tips and Advice – 

  • It’s about 50 miles with no gas. Fuel at either end. Be safe – top off.
  • 3000 foot elevation change – it will be cooler, more windy, and wetter at the higher altitudes. Dress for it.
  • It’s a long, long way if you need help. Ride with that in mind.
It takes a little effort, but visiting Bald River Falls on your Cherohala Skyway ride is worth it

It takes a little effort, but Bald River Falls is worth the trip

Make a side trip to Bald River Falls –

You’ll see a sign for Bald River Falls near the start of the Tennessee end of the Cherohala Skyway. Follow barely paved River Road for several miles, it’s obvious.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch produces the most detailed and comprehensive motorcycle pocket maps of the hundreds of great roads in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains so you know where the best roads are and how to spend the bulk of your riding time on them.

You’ll find the Cherohala Skyway on America Rides Maps –

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