A Fun Motorcycle Ride out of Maggie Valley, NC

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A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley hosted the ride and fed us well!

13 bikes left with me, 2 returned. Here’s what happened on our motorcycle “fun ride” –

I came in Friday night to share my Secret Roads with the riders in Maggie Valley. With 200 great motorcycle rides on my map of the Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains, I helped them plan their rides for Saturday.

I then invited them to come on a “Fun Ride” in the morning.

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The riders from the A Holiday Motel stop for a group shot on The Rattler Motorcycle route.

So what’s a “Fun Ride”? Quite simply, I’m going out for a ride. You are welcome to tag along. No strings, no hassles, no fees, no one is responsible for you. It’s an opportunity to hook up with a “local” who knows the roads and will likely take you places you’d otherwise never see.

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Some of the group on NC 209 a.k.a. The Rattler.

A “Fun Ride” invites adventure. The route is decided on the fly. Nothing’s been scouted, no arrangements for meals, stops, etc. The group of riders I met at the A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley this weekend wanted to ride to Hot Springs, NC and experience parts of “The Rattler” motorcycle ride. I got them on the best sections, and a whole lot more.

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Such a great day to be out riding. Follow the leader!

Adventure? Yesterday I chose one photo stop in a “parking lot” that was more like a minefield, but everyone survived without dropping their bikes. We stopped for lunch at a place I’d never been when we were hungry and it was pretty darned good.  Some got chased by a dog. Each break spot serendipitously had something memorable about it (a parrot riding a motorcycle?). The weather was sweet, the roads clean, and I know there are other stories to be told.

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Polly wants a diaper? Poor mans bike alarm? Touch my bike and you'll lose a finger! I wonder what this riders leathers look like! Seen at a stop on our ride through Hot Springs, NC.

The group paired down as the day wore on.  Some needed to be back earlier and followed the quick route home. No big deal, nobody is counting heads at the rest stops or will come back looking for you at the end of the day. We lost one rider when he wore out a tire, and another tagged along with him to insure he made it for repairs. Some followed along only as part of another ride they’d planned for the day. No rules, no hassles, ride your own ride.

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So how good were those roads? This tire tells the tale! Our only mechanical issue of the day and I knew where to get it fixed. Thanks to MR Motorcycle in Asheville for getting him back on the road.

I returned to the A Holiday Motel with two bikes at the end of the day. Others had peeled off at the Leather Shack, the gas stations, or went up for a quick ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we came into town. Those two, both women on their own bikes, had really enjoyed the day and had fun. I know I did. At the superb BBQ dinner provided by the A Holiday Motel that night, everyone was very happy after a nice day riding motorcycles through the Smoky Mountains.

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Making our way back on the best section of NC 63. It was a great day of riding. This road was tame after what we'd been through earlier.

The next “Fun Ride” will be based out of The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga. on Saturday, May 19. On Friday evening, I’ll do a short “Secret Roads” presentation and share what I know in hopes you’ll find some great new rides to add to your collection. Afterwards, I’ll be out on the porch, most likely in the vicinity of the very nice bar at the Lodge. Come see me if you’re interested. Kickstands up at 09:30 on Saturday.

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The Lodge at Copperhead near Blairsville, GA sits on the Gauntlet Motorcycle Ride

I’m going out for a ride on Saturday, May 19. Maybe, you’d like to tag along. Bring a full tank and an empty bladder.

A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley

The Rattler” motorcycle ride

Map – Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains

The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga

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Photo-Wayne Busch

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

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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Wolf Creek Bridge TN US 25/74 Closure – Motorcycle Rides

Wayne’s Alternative Detour Rides for Motorcycles – a better biker road  that is shorter and more scenic than the TN DOT route  – with map

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Ignore the signs and ride to the bridge. It's an easy detour and brand new pavement!.

It came out of the blue. Not one hour after I’d sent out my monthly road report of the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I got an alert of the announcement – a 2 year long closure of the Wolf Creek Bridge near the Tennessee / North Carolina state line.

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

Honestly, US 25/70 ( TN Route 9 ) is not a road the majority of Blue Ridge motorcycle riders ever see unless you’re from Tennessee. It is a good way to get to some great motorcycle rides along the NC border. The bulk of the traffic now keeps to Interstate 40 to the west, so it doesn’t carry heavy traffic.

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Fugate Road is freshly paved, winding, and narrow, squeezed between the river and the railroad.

Directions:

From Hot Springs –  Ignore the signs that tell of the road being closed ahead as you follow US 25/70 north of town and ride all the way to the closed bridge. Fugate Road is on the left. Follow it 4.8 miles until you reach TN 107. Turn right and follow to reconnect with US 25/70.

From Newport: Turn south on TN 107. Fugate Road will be on the left, turn left and follow it until you arrive at the Wolf Creek Bridge. Follow US 25/70 into Hot Springs, NC.

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Squeezed between the river and the rail, Fugate Road gets too narrow for a painted line in a few places.

Fugate Road follows the railroad tracks along the French Broad River. Recently paved, half of Fugate Road is squeezed on an narrow strip between the water and the railroad tracks. At times it gets too narrow for a painted line and cars slow to sneak past one another. You cross the tracks in the middle of the ride and spend the rest of it married to the other side of the rails.

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River, road, and rail. Fugate Road makes a nice alternative detour for motorcycle riders.

Because it’s too narrow, big trucks can’t use this detour. Local and commuter traffic will quickly discover it, though most of the commercial and tourist traffic will be led to the longer official DOT detour route to the north. Fugate road should cut your detour time in half.

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Click for larger view

If you do take the DOT recommend detour, you can use Rollins Chapel Road to take a short cut and save yourself a few miles.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Smoky Mountains Adventurous Spring Motorcycle Ride Photos

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Morning view on Soco Rd - Click on pics for LG view

15 minutes from home and already I was fighting the urge to jump off the motorcycle and start snapping pictures. It was a beautiful Smoky Mountain spring morning. Rounding every curve the canvas repainted another fabulous scene as I droned down from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap towards Cherokee.

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Clingman's Dome view

Not a car on the road ahead of me, I let the bike stretch it’s legs through the curves effortlessly riding every last inch of rubber as my Triumph Tiger charged down the incline in pursuit of it’s prey.

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Roaring Fork Road - must be Roaring Fork!

It felt so good, all is right with the world when you’re on your motorcycle in the mountains. Wrapping around a rock face with the mellow grace of a cat arching it’s back, I flicked left to begin my plunge to the valley floor on the first of the new roads I’d see today.

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Alpine Rd - one of my newest favorites

How had I missed this road? I’ve bypassed it many times on my passages to Cherokee. It’s not like I haven’t studied the area and it’s so close to home. Yet when we came through on a motorcycle ride Saturday, a road I was vaguely familiar with suddenly jumped out at me and said, “Come back and take a closer look”.

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Cherokee Orchard Road Overlook

The clue  that tipped me off  was the name – “Old Soco Road”. It suggested I was riding the “new” Soco Rd (US 19). “Old” Soco Rd was the way things used to be. Sometimes these “old” roads are gems.

It was like riding off a cliff and I had to quickly adapt to the more primitive road surface. Gliding through turn after turn I delicately parachuted through the  loose gravel and the windblown debris that had rained down on the switchbacks on this third day of roaring mountain wind. April was coming in with a bang.

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I passed this old mill again today

So began a day that took me across Great Smoky Mountains National Park and out into the wilds to the north as I clicked off road after road on my search for the best motorcycle rides. The afternoon would bring me into a violent storm navigated on what were now familiar byways through seemingly remote and isolated hidden valleys where angry streams threatened to crest their banks and wash across the pavement.

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The Dam at Tapoco

Looping around the west side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near the end of the day, I’d arrive at Deals Gap to find the motorcycle resort closed due to the lack of electricity as a wind blown forest fire raged up a flank of the park consuming the lines and felling trees in it’s path. I’d squeeze through a gap between the fire trucks parked on a back road to ride through the smoke and smolder where crews fought the flames and mended the wires.

As the day drew to an end the lightening and rains caught up to me again, followed me home bringing the fury of the storm with them, and toppled trees that would have me without power for the next few days.

I’ve lost a couple days of work and will now double-down to make it up. With each new day the grays and browns of winter give way to the soft pastel greens of emerging leaves as spring wrestles the cold grip from the old season to bring the warm blooms of the new.  The fuse is lit for the explosion of color. It’s time to point your wheels towards the high country, its ready for you.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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Why Am I Kicking Off the Asheville Bikefest 2011 at the Easy Rider Motorcycle Show?

Photo - Easyrider Events

Easyrider Events

It was a busy week that found me in four states, the last of which was South Carolina at the Greenville Easy Riders Bike Show where I spent the day promoting the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run coming next spring. This is a difficult post for me to write as I don’t want to get on the wrong side of so many who are involved with motorcycle events, people I need to work with, people who buy my America Rides Maps, and those for whom motorcycling has a different appeal. Please try to forgive me my viewpoint. In general, I don’t do events, it’s not for me.

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2 Hours to set up before the doors open. Mark and Yvonne prepare our stall.

For those who are involved, it’s a tremendous amount of work and hassle. I shudder at the tough life of being a vendor, the constant travel, set up and break down, long days spent trying to stand out from the rest of the crowd and reach people, hoping the weather cooperates and people turn out in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile. I’ve done it a few times and I respect those who either make it their living or spend their efforts doing promotions for products and manufacturers.

Photo from Easyriders Bike Show

Quite the assortment of custom motorcycles at the show - unfortunatley, they're not my cup of tea.

Nor do I go out of my way to attend events – The circus formula always seems the same. Vendors, bike shows, stunt shows, loud music, festival food and (not so cheap) cheap beer, bike games, yadda yadda. Of course the crowds who attend are generally as much a part of the experience as anything else, people and bike watching is one of the best parts, there’s always something that has you shaking your head for one reason or another. I suppose it’s as good an excuse as any to visit new places, a reason to ride somewhere, and for some it seems to be all about chasing the next party.

Photo - Amazing detail work on this trike

The detail work on some of these machines is amazing but for me they are just enormous paper weights - too delicate to ride.

Despite this viewpoint, I was up at 4 AM Saturday morning loading my stuff in the truck quite happy to be rendezvousing with Yvonne and Mark Cresswell, promoters of the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run for the ride down to Greenville.  I was eager to spend the beautiful fall riding day in a booth encouraging people to come to the event next spring. WHY?

Photo from Easyrider Bike Show

Hundred of hours, thousands of dollars to build a bike you don't dare ride. While I appreciate the dedication and effort, I'm still a function beats form guy.

For me, motorcycling is all about the ride. “Go” trumps “show” for me. Function beats form. Give me the bike that best lets me engage the road and relate to the ride. Sure I appreciate the esthetics of my machine, but my days of cleaning chrome, fretting every blemish and speck, washing, waxing, and polishing, and pondering the next piece of bling are long over. I’ve got better things to do with my time, I’d rather be out on the road.  The reason I’m so enthusiastic about the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run and why I believe in it – it’s about the riding.

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Either concept bikes or movie props, I couldn't determine if they actually moved under their own power. I wouldn't want to have to ride one of these very far.

Located just minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and hundreds and hundreds of miles of some of the best motorcycle riding found anywhere, the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run can’t help but become one of the nations major motorcycle events because it has so much more to offer the motorcycling visitor simply because of its geography. Combine one of the worlds best motorcycle riding locations with the talent and experience to coordinate a major event, throw in the outstanding scenery in a location within easy reach of millions of riders, add the spice of fun and funky Asheville, and you’ve got a recipe for an experience that will satisfy any taste. As the spring rally at Myrtle Beach continues to implode and burn out, this new star is rising thanks to the Cresswells at Worldwide Dynamics.  Their legacy of involvement with promoting some of the biggest motorcycle events such as Sturgis, Laconia, Leesburg, and others bring the connections and clout to not only bring in the big dogs from the factories, but be selective in choosing the best of vendors and entertainment.

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Halloween themes were timely this late in October.

Last year was the first Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run and we all wondered if it would go at all. Approvals and commitments did not come in until the last minutes and the opportunities for pre-promotion were scant. Most of the big dogs know better than to invest their time in a first year show. It’s a hurdle you’ve got to clear, a bar to jump to show it can be done. That leap is behind us now and the majors are making their commitments.

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Me at the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run helping you find the best rides and routes.

I’ll be back again this year acting as “Route Master” (unless we come up with a better title). Let Mark handle the Bikefest end of things. My mission is to get you out to enjoy the riding just as the first warm spring weather breaks and the trees and mountain foliage are in full bloom. There are so many outstanding motorcycle rides nearby you can come back every year for the rest of your life and ride a great new motorcycle route each time, though I suspect you’ll develop a handful of classics that are worth revisiting over and over. I think I did a good job last year giving out 30 local ride maps – trust me, nobody rode them all. I’ll be your resource to help you plan those daily excursions, route you to the best of the best, and help you discover the hidden sights and treasures that abound.

 

Photo - Yvonne on her Royal Enfeild

Yvonne on her 2010 Royal Enfield Military Edition motorcycle, a design virtually unchanged since 1955. She really likes it.

Pencil in May 12 – 15, 2011 on your calendar for the Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run. Kick off your riding season with a bang, get outfitted, test ride that new bike, and discover the undiscovered secrets that make the Smoky Mountains one of the best motorcycling regions in the world. It’s all about the ride.

Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run 

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

 

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No Mountains, No Motorcycle – Key West Was Fun

My disappointment at not being able to ride my bike to Key West for this brief vacation trip quickly abated. A couple thousand miles on the Interstate would have been a waste of fresh rubber. This is not the experience I’ve been prepping my motorcycle for. Simply put, a motorcycle in Key West is just plain overkill.

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Posed on my mighty moped at the southernmost point in the United States in Key West, Florida. Mopeds are the ideal mode of transportation in the Conch Republic.

I try to keep an open mind regarding tw0-wheeled transportation. We’ve all heard the jokes. While I do prefer something a bit more performance oriented, on the small and congested island of Key West anything much larger than this is pretty much wasted. Just like the jokes (don’t tell anyone you saw me do it) we had fun with our 50cc rentals and buzzed around the island like a couple of happy mosquitos.

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One of the first stops of course was the southernmost beach just a few minutes from our hotel.

We did pretty much the same things all the tourists do, the beach, the lighthouse, the restaurants, and of course, the bars. The little rental mopeds were ideal. No gear, heck, barely any clothing required, just throw your junk in the trunk and buzz on down to do whatever strikes your fancy. At first it felt strange with no helmet or jacket, or even long pants – just in case. Within a day or so the convenience had won us over and the freedom was wonderful.

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The only protective gear required - SPF 30

Of course we come away with a collection memories from Key West that reflect it’s quirky character. From drag queens and pole dancers, mojitos, and buckets of beer, divas and derelicts, great music and friendly watering holes.

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Strong winds made scuba diving and such uncomfortable, but were ideal for sailing.

Eat, drink, go here. Eat some more, drink some more, go there. You never tire of the sights, though a nap now and then is almost mandatory. Thank the good Lord for the breeze, we would have melted without it.

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The sunset sail - a Key West tradition. Wind + champagne = FUN!

We stayed just a block from Duval Street, the main tourist drag in Key West. Most everything is within walking distance including some of the best restaurants.  While the days are great and full of things to do, the sunset brings the transition to the night when things get lively. Once the sun goes down, the city lights up and the party kicks into high gear.

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The mopeds were not just for daytime - they're just as much fun for cruising around once the sun goes down.

So, with all said and done, if I lived in Key west, one of these little putt-putt bikes would probably be my primary transportation. I’d save the motorcycle for rides which it was worthy of. Since it’s hardly likely I’ll be leaving my mountain home, I leave the mopeds to thrive in their natural habitat. The Smoky Mountains require a bit more grunt to go anywhere and the idea of covering any distance on one makes me consider another drink. In Key West, you’re always considering another drink regardless.

Photo - on Duval Street

You don't need much of a motorcycle to cruise Duval Street as it will be parked most of the time while you fill your personal fuel tank.

As the photos show, and you already knew, Key West can be a lot of fun. I can’t rate it as a top motorcycle destination though, too congested, no place to ride, and the pace is too laid back for the excitement two wheeled travel deserves. My motorcycle vacations will stay where the road winds on and on, the wind is regulated by your throttle hand, and you try to avoid the sandy spots.

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I Get Paid To Do This!

Jeez, that was fun! I’d just completed the reconnaisance to verify the directions for the upcoming Make-A-Wish Foundation charity ride April 4th (see earlier blog) and stopped in to gloat a bit with my buddy Ken at Gryphon Bikes and Choppers. For those who make their living in the motorcycle industry, the reality that it involves far less time in the saddle than an outsider fantasizes is a bitter pill to swallow. Time on the bike in the line of work is precious and I’d had my first good “work” ride of spring.

Few would appreciate the act more than Ken who manages a Harley-Davidson rental business. It’s got to be heartbreaking to watch his immaculate fleet of showroom maintained motorcycles roll in and out the doors each week while he is tied to the shop. Watching those well loved babies leave then living vicariously through the tales of fabulous mountain rides on their return is tough. To own a fleet of perfectly great motorcycles and have so little opportunity to enjoy them is a cross I doubt I could bear. Nice guy that I am, I had to rub it in.

I can justify the work expense as I located a few road signs which had changed over the winter. I’ve got a couple hours of work ahead updating the maps affected. There are a few improvements to be made to the original draft of the route description. I can be guilt free for the work time spent in such an enjoyable pursuit.

I revisited roads I knew well and enjoyed them. Though the hillsides are still mostly brown, the Bradford pear trees are white with blooms, the crocus and daffodills sprinkle the roadsides with the first of the color, the yellow forsythia lend brillance to an awakening landscape. The willows are greening and the redbuds adorn the crowns of their trees. Even the time I spent on the four lane necessitated to reach the various stops where riders will build their poker hands on the circuit were more enjoyable than usual.

It was the two lane that made the ride. One section I had not ridden for quite some time made it all worthhwile. I’d forgotten how good it was. Yeah, the 28 mile run over Wayah Bald with the sparkling blue waters of alpine Nantahala Lake and the frequent roadside waterfalls fresh from a recent rain were a distraction from the hairpin curves on the climb and descent. But it was the gradual climb back up and over Cullowhee Mountain that made the day.

From the time I entered the 15.8 mile stretch of road to it’s end near Western Carolina University I saw no other vehicles. Not one car. The road was all mine, and I took advantage of the freedom to put the fresh rubber on my wheels to it’s first real test. It was surprisingly clean of winter gravel, a good thing considering the severity of the curves and nonstop flow from one edge of the rubber to the other as I carved my way up the gradual climb. I was quickly satisfied I’d made the right choice of tires, solid anchors which did everything I asked without a single slip or drift. They surprised me more than once when I exploded out turns to find the front wheel no longer in contact with the pavement, occasionally in third gear. These babies hooked up!

Had it been a fun ride, I would have followed this section with another 50 miles or so of the same to arrive at home, but today I was at work and I took the more pedantic route back to stay on the course of the ride and tick off the last few stops on the loop more casually on the four lane. I’ll gladly pay for this treat with the hours at the keyboard which follow. It’s re-awakened my recognition the new season is upon us and before long I’ll be hundreds of miles from home on challenging new roads as I explore the secret mountain roads of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky and expand the stock of maps I produce. After all, sometimes it is a fantansy job. That’s what keeps me going.

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

>> Go to America Rides Maps.com http://americaridesmaps.com/

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