Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #1 Attitude

1) Come with the Right Attitude

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

Motorcycles on the Dragon

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

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

Motorcycle on the Dragon

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

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

Wayne Busch

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

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

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

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

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

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - Temporary stoplights

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

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

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway  - one lane is closed.

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

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

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - The guardrail hangs dramatically

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

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

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway - The pavement is undercut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

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

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Learn Total Control

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

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Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

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

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

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

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

photo - slide closes park

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

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

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

The Cherohala Skyway – NC 143/ TN 165

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

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

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

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

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

US 19 – Near Burnsville

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

yancey county slide

Photo source – Yancey County News – Large boulder blocking road

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

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

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

photo - small slide on Blue Ridge PArkway

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

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

NC 63 – Leicester Road

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

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

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

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

So where are the blessings in all this bad news?

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

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

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

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

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Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map

Three roads are consistently on the top 10 motorcycle rides list – The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Dragon at Deals Gap, and the Cherohala Skyway. This map shows how connect them.

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map – how to connect 3 of the best motorcycle rides – click for larger view

Many who ride motorcycles on the The Blue Ridge Parkway when motorcycle touring then go on to ride The Dragon at Deals Gap. If you can afford the time, you can make a nice loop ride which connects The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway using TN 72 / 360.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks – highest point. The long sweeping overlook compliments the great sweeping views

The southern end of the The Blue Ridge Parkway is near Cherokee, NC. The map includes Maggie Valley / Waynesville as it’s one of the best locations to stay to enjoy the wealth of great motorcycle rides in the surrounding area.

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map - riders come from around the world to experience the Dragon at Deals Gap.

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon Map – riders come from around the world to experience the Dragon at Deals Gap.

Time / distances are from the eastern junction of the roads for riders starting from Maggie Valley / Waynesville. US 74 is the principal 4 lane road – scenic for a highway, the most direct route east / west. US 19 leads west from Maggie Valley, passes through Cherokee and Bryson City. It’s more curvy, passes through the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and takes a bit longer due to traffic.

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon map - Cherohala skyway

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon map – The Cherohala Skyway offers sweeping curves and views to match with scenic overlooks at 5000+ ft.

Approaching Deals Gap and The Dragon, NC 28 is also one of the top rated roads in the area a.k.a the Hellbender or Moonshiner 28 and leads you to the start of the best section of The Dragon near the NC / TN state line.

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon map - NC 28

Blue Ridge Parkway to Tail of the Dragon map – NC 28 leads you to The Dragon. It traces the shoreline of Fontana Lake and is both beautiful and challenging.

So long as you are in the area, don’t forget about another well known motorcycle ride in Georgia – The Gauntlet. It’s only a short ride to reach it, and you’ll have experienced the best of the southern Blue Ridge motorcycle rides.

The Gauntlet Motorcycle Ride in Georgia

The Gauntlet Motorcycle Ride in Georgia – rounding a curve on GA 348

Several America Rides motorcycle pocket maps cover the Dragon / Cherohala area – see them here;

#7 The Best Motorcycle Rides SOUTH of GSMNP –http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/7-The-Best-Motorcycle-Rides-SOUTH-of-GSMNP-NC021.htm

#8 Best Rides NORTH of Smoky Park – http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/8-Best-Rides-NORTH-of-Smoky-Park-NC020.htm

12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides – http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/12-Classic-Deals-Gap-Motorcycle-Rides-NC007.htm

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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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Motorcycle Safety – Respect and Skin in the Game

I don’t remember much, it was almost 40 years ago. My first thought when I regained my senses was to find the piece of the bike which had the key in it – didn’t want somebody stealing it. Obviously, I was still rattled a bit. That was the last ride for that Honda CB 450.

I remember the dog that shot out of nowhere as I rode home, I may have been coming from high school. It came running out of a cow field and right into the bike. Almost went down, but found myself riding along the sandy shoulder of the road. Hardly suited to off-road riding, I was rolling on the throttle to keep the front wheel of that heavy Honda from washing out in the soft sand, picking up speed.

I remember thinking I was doing pretty good on this bike in those conditions, heck, I’d saved it, but making the coming curve meant I needed to be back on the pavement.  I picked my spot only to find there was a deep gully where so many cars had run wide and a mound of patch built up in a futile attempt to fill it.

I remember the loud bang as the front wheel hit the asphalt.

I remember looking straight down at the pavement as the now vertical bike landed on the front wheel and for an instant it seemed to balance and roll along in control. Then the bars were jerked violently from my hands as the front end buckled, and it was slow motion silence as I floated through the air doing a somersault.

I remember thinking “This is going to be a bad one”.

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How to Avoid Skinning Yourself Alive – Brittany Morrow from Brittany Morrow on Vimeo.
Direct link – http://vimeo.com/22897515

Looking at my helmet my head probably contacted first. Considering my injuries, I then laid out on my back and slid down the road and into the pasture. The bike probably took out the barbed-wire fence just before I went through it, no deep cuts or lacerations.

I remember walking along the road thumbing for a ride. I knew there was a fire station nearby, if I could get there they could help me.

I remember the cars slowing down, I looked fine from the front, then taking off when they saw the bloody mess where all the skin had been taken off my back. The light cotton shirt and blue jeans I was wearing in the summer heat of Florida might as well have been paper. No protection at all. Last time I would ever ride without at least a jacket.

I spent the next few weeks lying face down on the fold-out couch as my wounds healed. Most of that was in a codeine stupor. Seems every joint in my body had donated some flesh. A few scars remain, but the years have faded most of them. There would be more to come before I learned the value of leather and then textile gear.

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Direct link – http://youtu.be/Uz748Q4tkGo

I don’t often tell this tale. There are others. So why bring it up?

I spent a few hours this weekend at a rally. Don’t really like doing events, it can be pretty boring. You end up doing a lot of people watching.

Many of the riders were from out-of-state, groups from Georgia, Florida. Standard biker attire, blue jeans and a t-shirt. Some wore shorts. Slip on shoes. Many of the passengers wore only jeans and a tank top. Some pretty ladies. Not even wearing gloves. The smallest skid lids that would keep you from getting pulled over.

I went through my recent photos. All too common attire. Photos of riders on some of the most challenging roads they will ever see, for the first time. You can often see the look on their faces that tell the ride is demanding something from them.

I watched Daryl’s (Killboy.com) recent 12 minute video from the Dragon. Easy to spot the bare flesh rolling by, particularly the passengers, on one of the most challenging and dangerous motorcycle rides in the world.

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WAKE UP PEOPLE. Riding in the mountains is some serious sh*t. RESPECT IT.

Go off the road up here and road rash will probably be the best of outcomes. We’ve got rocks and trees right up to the roadside. You’ll probably be plunging over a steep hillside or worse yet a rocky cliff. It takes hours to get a rope team out to haul your inured body up to the ambulance.  Show some freakin’ respect for it.

Word to you “easy riders”watch the video – You know who you are. Low and slow and always in control. Too hot to wear gear. I like the feel of the wind and the sun, yadda, yadda, gonna work on my tan. Gotta look the part with the right biker attire – blue jeans, your biker t-shirt, the tiniest helmet you are forced to wear – I never planned any of the motorcycle accidents I’ve had. Most happened relatively close to home. Just a short ride, a commute, running to the store, work, school, going to hang out with my buds,  etc. Almost all have been under 30 mph. Just riding along minding my own business, taking it easy, la-la-la. If there was skin exposed, it was skin in the game, skin lost.


Direct link – http://youtu.be/EhJ74f-MGak

PS – I’m not just posting this  for you flatlanders – it’s pretty common up here as well. As if that big fat bike is going to protect you. Gotta look the part, dress like everyone else, feel the freedom! WAKE UP. Think about all those times you’re rounding a curve and there’s a car half in your lane coming at you. All those times some old geezer pulls out at 10 mph in front of you. It’s always the worst of curves where the cars slip off the inside edge and kick gravel and rocks onto the road. You KNOW it happens. You KNOW what I’m talking about.

Forget the blue jeans. Useless. Repeated personal experience. You’ve got 2 choices – textile or leather. If you can get some armor in there it will help keep bones from breaking. Respect the ride. If you don’t need it, at least respect your rider and get her the right gear. She’s trusting in you, do her right.

If there is skin exposed, it is skin in the game, a game you are forced to play every ride. 

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Wayne Busch

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

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

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Real Biker Babes – Freedom to Ride

I read a statistic today, maybe it’s real, maybe not, but one I’m inclined to believe – 23% of new motorcycle sales are to women.

photo-woman-motorcycle-passenger

More women are deciding to get off the back and enjoy the freedom of riding their own motorcycle.

I’ve seen it out on the road. More women are getting out of the passenger seat and enjoying the pride and freedom of riding their own motorcycle for the same reasons as men.

photo-woman-motorcycle-owner

My wife, Jackie, and her blue BMW sport touring bike. She's part of the growing female demographic.

They love the feeling of freedom. They are proud of their bikes. They get the same enjoyment out of riding. They ride alone, they ride in groups, they ride right along with the guys.

photo-woman-riding-motorcycle

Women rock the roads right along with the men. Nice lady biker shows us how it's done!

You’ll find them on dirt bikes, Harely’s, sport bikes, you name it. I met a nice couple at the Dragon this week. Attractive lady, though it was her sweet Ducati that kept drawing my looks. It was the two ladies on their hogs who hung with me all day on last weekends’ adventure ride through some devilishly twisty mountain roads while the rest of the group peeled off early. Women riders are just as capable as men.

So don’t be surprised when that motorcycle pulls up and the rider is not the hairy faced biker you expected. Women bikers are out there and they are growing in numbers!

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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

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

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Great Motorcycle Ride Rivals the Tail of the Dragon

You hear a lot of folks say “I know of roads better than the Tail of the Dragon, but I, like you, am often doubtful of such claims.

The Dragon at Deals Gap is pretty much the benchmark motorcycle ride to measure and compare to. There are darned good reasons the Tail of the Dragon is legendary. But what about those other roads?

Photo - Start of ride on south end

This abandoned gas station/store on Banner Elk Highway (SR 194) alerts you to the start of the ride. The road is just beyond it.

Here’s one I really enjoy, Beech Mountain / Flat Springs Road. I won’t claim it’s better than the Dragon, but it ranks right up there.

The pavement is not as good in places. There are connecting roads and driveways so you’ve got to ride alert, watch for gravel and sand at those connections and in tight turns. There are no motorcycle resorts at either end. Still, Beech Mountain Road is an excellent, challenging , and fun ride.

Photo - view from road

View of what I think is Roan Mountain. It's not the rare views that make Beech Mountain / Flat Springs Roads good, it's the ride.

This great motorcycle ride is labeled as Beech Mountain Road on the south side of Beech Mountain, then becomes Flat Springs Road once you start descending the north side of the mountain.

Grades are steeper than the Dragon but generally mild. It’s a bit longer. Best of all it’s a road I use to bypass traffic and avoid going through large towns and the city of Boone.

I use it often when I’m headed up to Tennessee and Virginia to ride The Snake and the great roads nearby, and it’s also in the neighborhood of Roan Mountain and the Murder Mountain Ride. It’s a good one to know about and add to your list of great back roads.

Image - Map shows location of Beech Mountain Road

Beech Mountain / Flat Springs Road help you avoid all the traffic to the east.

So how does it stack up?

I was going through my video files one day and found two that were nearly identical. Same camera angle. Same bike. A complete ride through both roads. So I matched them up side by side to see how the roads compare in a contest. The outcome was surprising!

 

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Friendly – Tapoco Lodge @ The Tail of the Dragon

Photo-Tapoco Lodge Sign

The Tapoco Lodge

The most luxurious and convenient motorcycle friendly lodging nearest the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, the Tapoco Lodge is historic, unique, classy, and about as close to The Dragon as you can stay.

Greg McCoy from SportBikes4Hire.com had often mentioned the fine dining at the Tapoco Lodge near the Dragon at Deals Gap, but I’d never stopped in to check it out. Honestly, it’s so close to the Tail of the Dragon, I usually blast right past it enjoying the curves on this section of US 129. This week I had the chance to pay a visit and I was impressed with what I found.

Photo-Tapoco-Dam

The Cheoah Dam - a.k.a. "The Fugitive" Dam, where Harrison Ford's character takes the big leap in the movie "The Fugitive".

The Tapoco Lodge was built in the 1930’s by the Alcoa Corporation which was subsequently involved in building the many power generating dams along the Tennessee River to provide power for the aluminum plants in Maryville and Knoxville, Tennessee. At one time as many as 2000 people lived in the area working both in construction of the many dams nearby and substantial timber operations in the surrounding mountains. What is now the Tapoco Lodge saw service as a hospital, theater, residential and operations headquarters for the company, and you’ll find the lodge filled and adorned with historic artifacts from this era.

Photo-The-Tapoco-Lodge

The Tapoco Lodge - exclusive, luxurious, AND motorcycle friendly

Visting today, there is little evidence of the thousands of people who lived and worked here in those times past. As the many dams were completed the lakes which formed behind them submerged the roads, railroads, and small communities, and the area seems remote and isolated, pristine and natural, as if it all never happened save the dams which and lakes which remain as a legacy and still generate power.

Riding through the area you may come across the Chillowhee Dam on US 129 north of The Dragon, the Santeetlah Dam just north of Robbinsville, the Calderwood Dam viewed from the popular overlook at the Tennessee end of The Dragon, but the most impressive and notable are the Fontana Dam on NC 28 (a.k.a. The Moonshiner 28) and the Cheoah Dam just up the road from the lodge.

Photo-historic-gas-station-at-Tapoco-Lodge

Visiting the historic Tapoco Lodge is like visiting a living museum!

The Fontana Dam is one of the highest and most impressive, and is a popular stop for riders in the area. The Cheoah Dam is commonly referred to as “the Fugitive Dam” as it was the structure Harrison Ford’s character in the movie “The Fugitive” jumped from (the movie was shot in the surrounding area).

As operations in the area wound down, the Tapoco Lodge property transferred to private ownership and for many years after was used as a corporate retreat center for the company and others. In 2010, it was sold to the current owners who have renovated, upgraded, and restored  the property to a glorious and historic lodge with outstanding accommodations and fine dining in an exclusive setting.

photo-tapoco-lodge-interior view

History surrounds you at the Tapoco Lodge

Unfortunately my untimely visit happened just as the Tapoco Lodge was shutting down operations for the year. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to sample the sumptuous 5 course dinner at Jasper’s Restaraunt ($44 per plate, reservations required) nor the more casual fare in served in the Slickrock Riverside Grill. I trust Greg’s recommendations the food matches the quality of the rest of the establishment.

Photo-Jaspers-Restaraunt-at-Tapoco-Lodge

A quick peek at Jasper's Restaurant

Nor have I had the opportunity to enjoy the luxurious rooms, though I did get the quick tour of the lodge and they are outstanding. I passed on the opportunity to see the cabins this time.

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A treat in a dry county! Save me a seat.

I’m particularly interested in the very comfortable looking bar, a unique feature in the last dry county in the State of North Carolina. It looked well stocked and I noted a good variety of wines. I love having a comfy place to enjoy a libation after a hard days riding and this bar will serve the purpose well.

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Spacious and comfortable rooms

I’m really looking forward to a stay at the Tapoco Lodge as it’s the ideal location for riding some of the best motorcycle rides in North Carolina and Tennessee. it’s on the popular Cherohala Skyway / Tail of the Dragon loop ride. Roll out the driveway, and you’re on the ride.

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Enjoy sitting along the Cheoah River which flows beside the Tapoco Lodge

They are already booking groups for next year, it’s an ideal location for gatherings and they can accommodate a lot of people. Initially, the price of a stay seems high, but once you factor in the cost  of the 5 course dinner and cooked to order all-you-can-eat breakfast, which are included in your room cost, it works out to be an affordable way to enjoy a luxurious, convenient, and comfortable stay in the area.

You won’t find better food, you won’t find anything like it for accommodations, and you don’t have to ride to the next county to enjoy a cold brew at the end of the day.

 The Tapoco Lodge

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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. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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 I’ll be adding The Tapoco Lodge to America Rides Maps Map #7 – Best Motorcycle Rides SOUTH of GSMNPMap #8 – Best Motorcycle Rides NORTH of GSMNP and map – 12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides
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Ride the Dragon Like a Girl!

A short video of a woman motorcycle rider showing the boys how to ride the Dragon like a girl.

Ride The Dragon Like a Girl!

Location: North Carolina / Tennessee border at Deals Gap

Chasing a Lady Dragon Slayer on the Tail of the Dragon. This girl could ride. Starts at the Calderwood Dam overlook at the Tennessee end.

http://youtu.be/XEG-AvXjOg8

I’ve been updating the Motorcycle Ride Videos Page here at Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider. I was out at the Dragon at Deals Gap this week when I met this young lady Dragon Slayer who took us on a run through the curves. It was a lot of fun and this girl can ride!

Lots more motorcycle ride videos in the works, check back!

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed, 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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My Experience – Total Rider Tech Advanced Motorcycle Course

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Dave Saam, our instructor, demonstrates one of the exercises.

So the first thing you’re probably asking is – Is this something I’m interested in?  You might have the impression it’s just for squids on sport bikes. You’d be seriously wrong. (honestly, do these guys look like squids?)

  • I’ve been riding for 37 years. I kinda thought I had most things figured out.
  • I can be fast when I want to be.
  • I  think I’m very smooth.
  • I’ve put one hell of a lot of miles under my wheels.
  • I really enjoy my motorcycle riding.
  • I was happy with what I was doing on, and with, a motorcycle.
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Altering your center of gravity while turning with correct body position is critical on any style motorcycle.

After this Total Rider Tech Advanced Motorcycle Rider Training I’ve got that same silly smile on my face I had the day after I’d just got my first motorcycle – I can’t wait to get out and ride.

No, it’s not like starting over.  Basic skills should be second nature before you consider a course like Total Rider Tech‘s Advanced Motorcycle Clinic. It’s a key to rising to another level in your motorcycle riding.

I’d already got a lot from Lee Parks’ “Total Control” book. At least I thought I had. I was seeing improvements in my riding.  I quickly learned it’s one thing to read a book.

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Body position too in-line with the bike, rotate left shoulder forward and drop left elbow, lean forward and more to the inside, repositioning will allow me to turn my head more and look deeper through the curve, yes that's me.

What looked so simple in print is a “whole ‘nuther world” when you have an expert there to coach you and help you recognize things you could apply to be a better motorcycle rider.

I appreciate the way the instruction was done. The classroom laid the groundwork for the drills. What seemed so easy in class often proved quite the challenge when put to practice. There was a lot to think about, each step building on what came before.

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L-R Greg, SportBikes4Hire, Billy - Microtel, and Dave, our instructor made the magic happen

The instruction, criticism, and feedback from drills on the riding course were provided in a way that accepted my input, listened to what I thought and felt during the ride, then reinforced the fundamentals described in class.

In this way you compared your idea of how you performed with coaching on how to achieve the ideal you are after.  It’s a very powerful method of instilling an awareness of how you can move closer to a better relationship with your motorcycle riding.

The class doesn’t just demonstrate how to be better, you learn and understand  why and how you do what you do, and when you do it will make you better. That’s powerful knowledge!

Total Rider Tech

 Backstage Pass –

(I hope you’ve already gone to the Total Rider Tech page)  Here’s the honesty part – I knew this class was coming, you’ve seen previous posts about it.  I kinda had an “in” on the goings on.

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Sport Bikes 4 Hire.com did a superb job with professional service

Thank Greg at SportsBikes4Hire.com for bringing this class to Robbinsville, NC. He took it about 3 months ago.

This track racer of many years knew the value he’d received and coordinated bringing a class to the closest facility to The Dragon at Deals Gap. He sited the course and got us a discount from Billy at the Microtel Robbinsville. He provided bikes for the instructor. I was humbled when he invited me to come early and see the inside story.

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I do believe Dave enjoyed our ride through the Dragon at Deals Gap

Dave Saam, our instructor, arrived the day before the classes to get things set up. Greg and I helped him evaluate the site and precisely measure out the course. After dinner, we went for Dave’s first run through The Dragon. The smile on his face tells the story.

Saturday I went through the class. That evening was spent making night runs through The Dragon with a few of my classmates. I’ll cherish those memories for a lifetime.

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Some of these riders had a lot of experience - everyone came away with a wealth of knowledge on how to become a better rider.

Sunday, I stuck around to shadow Dave and learn from a master how he works with the students to help them recognize and become aware of what is happening as they run through the drills.

In the classroom we learned the technical aspects of how the motorcycle relates to and functions on the road. The understanding of how suspension affects traction, how body position and center of gravity changes affect the motorcycle, and essentially how to allow the motorcycle achieve what it was inherently designed to do – how to work in harmony with the mechanics so they provide the maximum result.

I watched everyone progress through the day. Some made remarkable improvements in their riding, it was exciting to see it happen.

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The principals we learned are universal - they work on a race bike, they work on a Harley.

The class wrapped up with one of the best explanations of suspension and how to set it up I can imagine. Previously, fiddling with suspension settings was so mysterious and complicated I didn’t dare touch it lest I make things worse out of ignorance. Let’s face it, dealers and most mechanics may know how to change parts, but have no clue how to adjust settings for the individual rider to get just the basic performance out of the motorcycle.

I now understand it so well, setting up my suspension correctly and doing the same for my wife’s bike is one of the first things I’m doing before we ride again. I can’t believe this isn’t done for everyone when you first get a new bike, but it’s treated like black magic. Total Rider Tech taught me how to get my motorcycle optimized for me so it can work at it’s best and how to make the adjustments that tailor it to my comfort and performance desires.

So is a Total Rider Tech course for you? If you’ve got a few miles under your wheels and cruising around is now all second nature, you’ll benefit immensely from this course. The knowledge and understanding you’ll gain helps you really recognize how a motorcycle is designed to work and relate to the road, the dynamics of cornering well, how the output is affected by your inputs.

You will improve your riding. They promised that. Total Rider Tech kept their promise.

Greg at SportsBikes4Hire.com is hoping to have another in October. This one filled quickly and we had riders who came out to the course to see if anyone failed to show trying to get in. Jump on the opportunity when it comes again!

To my fellow students – I have your photos. Email me and I’ll get them to you. wayne@americaridesmaps.com

SportsBikes4Hire.com , Microtel RobbinsvilleTotal Rider TechThe Dragon, Lee Parks’ “Total Control” book

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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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