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.

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle

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 –



The Blue Ridge Parkway on Snow Skis (6 Photos)

The first wave of snow has come and gone. After a couple days confined to the cabin, the roads cleared enough so we could get out, get some fresh air and exercise, and restock the pantry before the whopper of storms blows in shortly.


About a foot of snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Soco Gap and we had to break our own trail.

With the storm coming we’re likely to be snowed in for the next few days. We should see somewhere around another foot at my house, though things could get pretty deep up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Jackie glides by - it's not rare to see her off her BMW motorcycle when the weather gets cold

We’re grateful for the opportunity to get out. Cabin fever sets in pretty fast, especially when you are used to being outdoors. We start climbing the walls after 3 days.


Just aim the pointy ends down hill and relax - looking over the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drops can be substantial.

So long as the power stays on, and it usually does, we’ll be fine. There are folks further north who would be glad to swap places.


The parkway is not our exclusive winter playground. It's rare to have it all to yourself any time of year. We meet a snow shoer, then more skiers.

I’ll spend the next few days squirreled away in my  office revising another one of my Smoky Mountains motorcycle ride maps. It’s easier to get the tedium accomplished when there’s nothing else you can go do.


View from about a mile up the parkway. You're looking towards Cherokee though I never saw the casino. From higher up, at Waterrock Knob, you can't miss the huge buildings.

The reason I bother to post something like skiing the Blue Ridge Parkway is that it happens less often than you might think. There are only a few times each year the conditions are just right. They could have been better today, but it was good enough. It was a lot of work busting trail uphill. The downhills were not too bad at all.


The four of us packed down a nice trail to follow when we turned about for the downhill run. The dogs could barely keep up.

It’s hard to believe I was out on my motorcycle mapping the best rides in the Smoky Mountains just a few days ago. With any luck I’ll be out again by the end of next week. But for now, it’s hunker down time.


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

Another Cold Winter Day – Photo – Snow on motorcycles

Photo - Snow on motorcycles

Still too cold to ride. It will be better near the end of the week.

Blue Ridge Mountain skies are blue, but it’s barely in the 20’s. I’m going to wait for the weather to get above freezing before I go back out so it has a chance to melt any ice. The roads are salted, but up in the high parts there  can be spots where it’s too wet and shady to work well.

I’m making good progress on this new map revision, it’s almost done. I’ll still need a few more days to finish re-riding all the roads and catalog the new ones. In the mean time I’m getting it as close to done as possible.

Stay warm!


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

1st Snow – Not the End of Motorcycle Season In the Blue Ridge

Here’s a couple photos I snapped this morning on my post office run in Waynesville, NC. We’ve had the first real snowfall of the winter season, though you’d better enjoy these pictures now – it will all be gone tomorrow and temps will be near 70 early in the week. It’s hardly an end to motorcycle riding season in the Smoky Mountains.

Photo - 1st snow in Waynesville

The first snow storm always causes excitement. Most of this white stuff will be gone by this afternoon.

It’s the extremes that get all the publicity and it may give the false impression the winters are harsh and enduring here in the Smokies. Temperatures fluctuate throughout the season with alternating cold and warm spells. By the middle of the week, temps will be near 70 again and this will all be forgotten. Halfway between the balmy south and the frigid north, the blue ridge mountains live in the in-between zone. Sometimes the northern weather drifts south, but it soon gets pushed back by the warm winds from the south.

Photo - 1st Snow in Waynesville, NC

Most of this will be gone by this afternoon and the warm weather will return early in the week.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed of course, but that’s no real handicap to finding places to ride. With the leaves off the trees it’s a whole different world and you see the things that are hidden during the summer months. Even during February and March you can find those days warm enough to get out and enjoy a nice spin on the motorcycle. So enjoy these snow photos now. In a few days it will be forgotten.


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

Blue Ridge Parkway On Ice – Photos / Video

With all the snow and cold weather we’ve had this winter, riding the motorcycle has been only a dream. This afternoon, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy it in full winter glory.

An ice storm hit last night. Damage was extensive.

While “Snowmageddon” hit Washington we were largely spared it’s fury in the high mountains of western North Carolina. We picked up a few more inches here and there to what was already a significant accumulation. What we did get with this storm was ice. You can see the trees bent over from the weight of it.

Photo - skiing the parkway

Cross country skiing on the highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway

For those of us who live here, the Blue Ridge Parkway becomes our winter playground when it closes for the colder season. This section has seen park service traffic to maintain a communications tower. It made for nice skiing.

Jackie Skiing

When the snow is good, the skiing here is great

We started at Wagon Road Gap where US 276 and the Parkway meet at on of the highest crossings. From there, we headed east towards Asheville.

Ice was bringing down trees the whole time we were out.

The coating of rhyme ice, while beautiful, was causing extensive damage. The surroundings were filled with the almost constant sound of limbs and even entire trees breaking from the weight of the ice. Large branches lay everywhere. In places, every tree had been snapped and I saw none higher than about 12 feet, their tops broken off. A hike in the woods would be deadly.

Heavy ice coats and brings down surrounding trees.

We skied as far as the Pisgah Inn near Mount Pisgah passing through the Frying Pan Tunnel. Along the way we ran into a convoy of rangers hauling in equipment to repair the communications tower which must have been damaged by the storm or its aftermath.

Jackie approaches the Frying Pan Tunnel.

Being one of the highest and most rugged sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are more tunnels in this area than any other. Most are not very long, like this one, though the majority are curved. This is a spectacular scenic area in summer. What a contrast and compliment in winter.

The group pauses to take off skis to walk through the tunnel.

The nice thing about this route is it’s a very gentle climb from Wagon Road Gap to Mount Pisgah. Up hill on the way out, but downhill on the way back. Skiing takes on a whole new aspect when you change from uphill to downhill.

Wayne makes up some time on the downhill sections.

By the time we reached the Pisgah Inn it was shrouded in thick cloud and I couldn’t get any close up photos of it or Mt.Pisgah. The inn is closed of course, though the joke of the day was getting a beer and a meal once we reached it.

The Pisgah Inn seen from distance.

Few people ever see the Blue Ridge Parkway like this. It is admittedly a rare occurrence in recent times, at least until this year. Now it’s to the point we look at this a realize just how much snow has already melted and remember how deep it once was. We’ve not had ice like this though, and it will be spring before we realize just how much impact it had.

Wayne, the author,makes the most of a snowy winter

My wife shot some video of our excursion and posted it on You Tube. It really captures the scenery and the experience, and shows just how bad a skier I really am. Enjoy.


First Snow – Blue Ridge Parkway Closes

As if to emphasize the clock is ticking on my efforts to complete the last Blue Ridge Parkway series motorcycle map, the first snow of the season has blanketed the Blue Ridge. It’s not all that unusual, we were due for a good cold snap. Here today, gone tomorrow. Temperatures will soon be back in the 70’s. The inch or so that fell around these parts will be gone by this afternoon.

It probably thrilled the throngs of leaf peepers in the area from parts south who stormed the shops for gloves, scarves, and warm coats. For them, this is just what was needed to make the colors pop and by the end of the week the show should be spectacular. In the mean time they can amuse themselves with a quick trip to Cataloochee Ski area which opens this morning (and will probably close again tomorrow) or visit the elk at Cataloochee who are in full amorous frenzy. No shortage of things to do and see this season.

I read this morning a car slid off the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday, possibly due to snow and ice, and find the gates closed when I went up to check the conditions. The white stuff won’t last even at the highest elevations and it will be open again shortly.

In the mean time I’ve been diligently progressing on the new map and am right on schedule for a Wednesday departure. The next couple days will be spent laying out the routes, trying to devise the best strategy to cover more than a thousand miles of two lane mountain back roads that surround the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in as short a time as possible. I’ll be straying across the border into West Virginia which clips the corner of this map and scoping out what will most likely be the next state I explore. Time is short, but I’m going to get it done.