Motorcycle Rides In Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now so we can enjoy the rest of the story, “There are more great Motorcycle Rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”. You knew it was coming, and now being said, we can move on.

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We had a nice view from our room at the posh 4 Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

We flew into Phoenix, stayed in Scottsdale. 

While many riders fantasize about riding cross-country to reach those far-off destinations, I’m so over that. Droning along on the interstates through days of monotonous and uninteresting landscape is a waste of time and tires to me. With just 6 days of travel on my calendar, it would have taken 8 just getting there and back on the bikes. Once again, we flew in and rented a motorcycle to maximize our quality riding time.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride really helps you appreciate the harshness of the desert and the general landscape.

Phoenix is a city of 1.5 million people who choose to live in a scalding moonscape unfit for sensible human habitation. Endless months of triple-digit temperatures preserve the volcanic origins of the region as if it was a recent event in geologic time. The rocky remnants of those ash-spewing calderas rise on the horizons like mountainous islands peeking above a deep, deep, rolling sea of gray-brown boulders, rocks, and dust. The entire region is one big blast and fallout zone.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs, horns, needles, spikes, everything wants to hurt you!

5% humidity deprives most living things any chance of thriving.  Oxymoronic “river” signs mark parched sandy gulches where runoff collects for a few short minutes before re-vaporizing for the next few weeks – or months. Most every living thing is so bent on survival it threatens all others with spines and needles, fangs and venom to keep them at a distance. Nature has obviously posted the “Do Not Enter” sign.

A long motorcycle ride looping north from Scottsdale

We stuck to local sights the first day, visiting Cave Creek for lunch, and Natural Bridge to the north. The next day, we followed 74 northwest to US 60, then veered north on 89 near Wikenburg. The ride to Wikenburg was pretty miserable, just dry empty desert, highway traffic, vast open spaces.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ, one of the side trips worth taking.

Route 89 soon climbs through a nice section of switchbacks to gain some elevation. The terrain gets a little more green and hospitable and the riding improves as the road seeks the better passage between the rolling hills. Riding along you are taunted by the “No trucks over 50 ft length X miles ahead on 89”, and when you finally pass through Wilhoit the ride gets nice and curvy and fun.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott. Returning the phone calls that come in while I'm riding.

89 then passes through the town of Prescott which so interested us, we discussed the potential for basing there for a future trip. It seems to have a lot to offer. North of Prescott, we veered east on 89A for the best section of road I found this trip – the mountainous portion known as the Mingus Highway.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway through Jerome, the best section of road this trip. Really put the softail through it's paces here!

The Mingus Highway twists and carves through the elevations much like the roads I so enjoy at home in the Smoky Mountains, though the arid scenery could easily convince you it’s a canyon ride in California. Exiting north, the roads plunges down from 6000 foot heights passing through the tiny hamlet of Jerome, clinging to the edge of the slopes nearly a mile above the valley below. A popular stop, we could not afford the delay, though next time it’s worth exploring.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona?

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona? Approaching from the west, this is the least scenic of the 3 routes into town.

We passed through Clarkesdale and Cottonwood, to reach the apex of our days ride – Sedona. As beautiful as it was, Sedona was just our lunch stop today, a first visit for me. Surrounded by the red rock monuments, the destination town is a vortex for tourists and caters to the crowds who flock there.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona, the town is surrounded by the red rock formations on every horizon.

The ride turned south out of Sedona onto one of the most scenic rides you’ll find as Route 179 winds between the colorful rock formations to Oak Creek. Once you pass the casino at the edge of town, the road runs through unremarkable desert to intersect Interstate 17 and we continued south on the highway for a distance.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

We turned east when we reached Route 260 and started climbing into the higher elevations and more interesting and scenic riding. Temperatures dropped as we climbed to 7000 feet and entered the high pine forests. Route 260 became Route 87 as we continued south through the small towns of Strawberry and Pine, and the larger sprawling town of Payson.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Progressing south from Payson on Route 87 the road gains another lane then gradually leads you down from the heights and back out into the Sonoran Desert returning to the city. We covered a little more than 400 miles on this loop ride, the longest of the trip.

 A nice loop ride east of Phoenix / Scottsdale

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser ride that includes sections along Theodore Roosevelt Lake

I saw this ride described as a great “cruiser” road and I’ll concur with the assessment. It’s easy riding with nice scenery and relatively little traffic. Route 87 north led us through the gentle sweeping curves that climb to the high desert. We made up names like “boulder city” and “the cactus jungle” to describe distinct areas along the route, and rolled through the essentially treeless national forest to reach Route 188 and turn southeast.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188. When you're from the Smoky Mountains, a straight road is a rare sight deserving of a photo!

Route 188 formed the long side of the triangle we rode on this loop. More gentle flowing two lane curves through the dry hills lead to a long ride aside cobalt blue Theodore Roosevelt Lake. It’s pleasant and relaxing riding with the nice contrast of scenery and color.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Jackie and I pause for a cool drink and to admire the bridge.

Along the way, we stopped at Tonto National Monument to see the historic cliff dwellings. It’s a steep walk up the trail and I wouldn’t wan’t to do it on a hot day, but we enjoyed our visit and the sights.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings with a steep hike, but it's a great stop along Roosevelt Lake.

We turned onto the third leg of the triangle, Route 60 in Claypool, and started west toward Phoenix. We passed through miles and miles of massive mining operations and the mountains of tailings, then entered a wonderfully scenic canyon near Top-of-the-world. The steep drop through the spectacular rocky cliffs dumped us at the edge of a vast flat desert basin and a long arrow-straight drone back to the city. We covered about 250 miles on this day.

Sedona Highlights – what to see on a short visit

Sedona is one of the most scenic towns you’ll visit in the southwest, surrounded by towering red rock monuments on every horizon. We spent a day exploring the area and here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of a short visit.

Route 89A approaches town from the west, then exits north. Route 179 junctions with Route 89 in the heart of town leading south.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Approaching town from the west on 89A, to get one of the best views ride to the top of Airport Road. The view from atop the mesa overlooks the entire town and panorama of breathtaking geography.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - one of the best overlooks of Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - For one of the best overlooks of Sedona, ride up to the top of the mesa on Airport Road. Wow!

North of town, 89A follows Oak Creek Canyon along the river. The deep canyon is forested with tall pine trees that partially obscure the views of the towering cliff walls and you wind you way north. The road gets tighter and tighter than makes a dramatically step climb through a series of switchbacks to top the rim at over 6000 feet. it’s worth the ride to see and experience. Once atop the canyon, 89A continues to Flagstaff and connects to Route 66.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Follow it into Flagstaff and connect to Route 66.

The easiest way to see the red rocks in all their splendor is to ride down Route 179 south from Sedona. I wouldn’t bother with the Red Rock Loop Road, it’s not as scenic as touted and there is an unpaved section near the middle – more effort than reward. Use the pullouts at the monuments for the nice views and don’t miss a ride up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross for some great views and photos.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross just outside Sedona. A short drive with a nice view.

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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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Why so many great motorcycles rides in the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains?

Why are there so many great motorcycle rides in the mountains of the southeast? It’s a combination of geography, history and climate.

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One of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks of the Black Mountain Range - highest in the east.

Geographically, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains are very, very, old. Over the eons of time mountains once taller than Everest have weathered, eroded, and subsided to where their heights never much exceed 6000 feet in elevation. Compared to the lofty Rocky mountains in the midwest and the great Sierra Range on the far coast, those in the east are half the size.

While those western mountains soar to dramatic heights, it’s not without a cost. The lower elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains make them accessible in every season. The softer, gentler topography of the mountains of the east makes building and maintaining roads to connect the valleys and towns more feasible.

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Post office, Penland, NC - the Blue Ridge Mountains are rich with historic sights waiting to be discovered on your rides

History favors the mountains of the east as well. Settlement of our country began on the east coast and gradually moved inward as the population grew. Hill by hill, valley by valley, one small settlement at a time, the trails leading to them became the roads we now enjoy. More people, more time, more roads to connect them all together.

Finally there’s the climate, which is heavily influenced by altitude. The mild wet climate of the east promotes the growth of the dense forests and makes growing crops and farming much easier. The high dry desert climate of the west holds sparse vegetation, harsh conditions, and long cold winters.

Photo - morning on the Cherohala Skway

View from the Cherohala Skyway in early March - mild climate means year round riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Life gets even tougher as you go up into the high mountains of the west. Crops can’t grow at the extreme elevations, and were it not for mining and timber, those vast western mountains would be even less populated than they are now. Fewer people means fewer roads in general, and building and maintaing those that pass through the high places is much more difficult and costly.

Finally, the development of the Interstate Highway system works to favor of the high quality of the motorcycle rides in the east.  As more people used them to move into the west, the fewer local roads and passes there became more crowded. More people on fewer roads, many of which open for only part of the year, means more congestion and traffic in the west.

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

In the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, when the traffic moved to the Interstate Highways, it relieved the pressure on the back roads. One of the greatest pleasures of riding a motorcycle in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the absence of traffic. The selection of two lane, empty, winding roads through beautifully scenic and historic places just never seems to end.

Recently back from my motorcycle touring in the mountains of California, then Colorado, my appreciation for the bounty of great motorcycle rides in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains is refreshed. While I loved the dramatic change of scenery, the vast distances and scale of things to the west, one thing became crystal clear –

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Bikers pause to admire the stunning views in the Smoky Mountains

Out west, you are on a mountain. It’s a harsher, more extreme landscape, you are a temporary interloper. In the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, you are in the mountains. They cradle and surround you, it’s a comfortable and welcoming environment.

I enjoy my travels and motorcycle rides in other places, but there is simply nothing which comes close to the quality and quantity of outstanding motorcycle rides right in my back yard. While lots of bikers pay a visit, I doubt they much scratch the surface of the gold mine of motorcycle riding that exists here. I know, I’ve mapped hundreds of these great motorcycle rides, thousands of miles of two lane twisties, it’s what I do for a living.

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Some roads, like the Dragon at Deals Gap are well known - a wealth of others await your discovery!

Half the population of the US lives within a days ride of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. It’s an easy trip to get here. It’s affordable and convenient. The motorcycle rides are beautiful, scenic, challenging, and the mountains are full of roads that thrill the motorcycle rider, more than can be visited in a season, let alone a single motorcycle vacation tour.

I’ve said it before, and continue to preach – “There are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”.  

Why not start planning your motorcycle trip right now?

Still need convincing? Visit www.AmericaRidesMaps.com to see just how many great roads there are waiting for you!

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

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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Tail of the Dragon Closed – Great Rides Nearby – Hot Springs

No new info on the rock slide which has closed the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. In a previous post I suggested some great rides nearby in the “Land of the Waterfalls” and provided a video sample. It’s just one great spot near the Tail of the Dragon with great motorcycle rides nearby, here’s another.

Photo - View of Hot Springs, NC

Hot Springs, NC - A town so small it fits on one photo.

This time I’m going to direct you to an area which sees little traffic, yet contains some fabulous and challenging motorcycle rides with some enjoyable sights and scenery. It’s an area most motorcycle tourists either drive right past on their way into the region or sample only the most notable road. Trust me, there is a lot there to explore and enjoy.

Photo - A roadside view near Hot Springs

Pausing to admire the view near Hot Springs, NC

I urge you to spend some time riding the great roads found in the mountains east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smoky Mountains do not end at the border of the park, in fact they continue their long run northward reaching their greatest heights north of Asheville, North Carolina at Mt. Mitchell, highest peak in the east just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountains between the park and Mt. Mitchell are spectacular and beautiful, the valleys dotted with rural farms and tiny hamlets, sections of wild national forest, and roads which trace the serpentine courses of rushing mountain streams.

Photo - entrance to the Hot Springs Spa

Entrance to the Hot Springs Spa - Natural Mineral Baths and Massage

The hub of this great motorcycle riding area is the small and historic town of Hot Springs. It’s a good place to pause for lunch, do a little sightseeing, and maybe pay a visit to the natural hot springs which give the town its name. Long popular with hikers (the Appalachian Trail passes through town), fly fisherman, and whitewater rafters and kayakers on the French Broad River, it’s also a popular local motorcycle watering hole as it’s a convenient ride from Asheville.

Photo - French Broad River at Hot Springs

The French Broad River flows through Hot Springs

Honestly, there’s not a lot to the town. No traffic light. One gas station. A few shops and restaurants, a campground, and of course the Hot Springs Spa. You can capture the whole thing in a photo. It’s the roads and the beautiful countryside which surrounds that makes it worth the visit.

Photo - Iron Horse Station, Hot Springs

Iron Horse Station - One of several places to grab a bite and quench your thirst in Hot Springs.

If you take but one ride into the area, do the classic section of NC 209 which runs from Lake Junaluska to the heart of town. It’s such a nice ride. It takes about an hour one way. It’s a local classic. Be aware there is plenty more out there if you know where to look for it.

Photo - Fall Color at Lake Junaluska

One of the best rides, NC 209, starts near Lake Junaluska

I’ve been working on a video to showcase the area, though the severe winter pretty much closed the door on that for a long while. I’ll be getting back to it ASAP. Here’s the sample that gives you a good idea of what to expect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hsCLMCIUOo

For more detail on the area look to America Rides Maps ” East of the Smokies, West of Asheville, All Around Hot Springs” map which catalogues about 400 miles of the best roads in this small area.

Don’t worry, there’s still more great riding alternatives to come in future posts. Closing the Tail of the Dragon opens the door to you discovering just how much you’ve been missing.

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Motorcycle Vacation Planning – Great Ride Alternatives

SEE SOME WATERFALLS!

Photo - Whitewater Falls Highest in the east

Whitewater Falls - Highest in the east

With the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line now closed due to a rock slide, many who have made reservations in advance may be wondering what to do. Before you cancel those reservations, consider there are plenty of alternatives to discover great motorcycle rides in the area within easy reach.

The Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee’s version of the Blue Ridge Parkway, remains open and is a fine ride, though be aware much of the regional traffic will be shifting onto it. It’s not quite the challenge to ride, but it makes up the deficiency with great scenery as it climbs to over 5000 feet before entering North Carolina.

Of course, NC 28 which intersects US 129 in North Carolina at the southern end of the Tail of the Dragon will be there for those looking for a more challenging motorcycle route. With the Dragon closed, I suspect traffic on it will be light. Don’t let this road fool you, it “bites” more riders than the Dragon in that it is not as predictable. Where the Dragon has one turn after another, you know what to expect,  NC 28 has some more open stretches where you can pick up speed only to find the upcoming 10 mph corner is far sharper than you are ready for.

Many motorcycle tourers who ride this section of NC 28 don’t realize it continues further south into South Carolina and miss out on a great section of road. It grows to 4 lanes as it reaches the intersection with the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, continues a few miles on the highway, then diverts south again to become a wonderful two lane road again. All in all, it’s more than 100 miles of truly great motorcycle riding with but a few interruptions where it passes through Franklin and Highlands.

Photo - Dry Falls

Dry Falls - You can walk behind them

The first area I highly recommend you spend some time motorcycle riding is often called the “Land of the Waterfalls”. Comprised primarily of the wild mountains of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, this area south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts one of the greatest collections of easy to view roadside waterfalls in the nation including the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

This rugged area is laced with challenging and scenic motorcycle roads including the highest and most beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Springtime is the best season to see them before the summer leaves obscure the views.

Here’s a video sample of them from America Rides Maps;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBrB5lrtZ9I

Don’t let the closure of the Tail of the Dragon ruin your motorcycle vacation. There are plenty of great rides just over the hill. These are some of the best, more to come.

Contact http://americaridesmaps.com for more suggestions and advice.

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New Rock Slide Affects Motorcycle Vacation Plans to Smokies

Add yet another rock slide to the long list of road closures in the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. This one in particular will affect many motorcycle vacation plans to visit one of the most popular and well known rides in the region, the infamous Tail of the Dragon on US 129 at Deals Gap. Located along the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the 13 mile stretch of US 129 with it’s 311 curves draws hundreds of thousands of motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts each year who come to experience the challenging stretch of road.

It’s been an exceptional year for rock slides in the Smokies, the most notable being the massive slide along the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which has closed Interstate 40 for months. With both the east and west routes around the park closed, the only route allowing north-south travel from Tennessee to North Carolina is US 411 which cuts through the heart of the park and it too has been the scene of slides. US 441 is presently open, though cleanup continues on the northern spur road.

The Tail of the Dragon is still accessible from the North Carolina side. From Tennessee, the best route is through Tellico Plains and onto the Cherohala Skyway. Expect increased traffic loads on TN 68 approaching Tellico Plains due to yet another rock slide on US 64-74 in the Ocoee River Gorge which has shifted traffic onto it. As far as I can tell, it is still possible to reach Pumpkin Center from Vonure on the north end of the Dragon via the popular Dragon – Cherohala loop ride. Still, even more traffic will now be using these roads and you may want to reconsider visiting the area until things improve.

I’ve been reporting on the status of all the rock slides and road closures in my newsletter which you’ll find archived here – http://budurl.com/3smm. As there are so many, so widely scattered, it may be the easiest place to find all the information without bouncing around to various DOT sites (they are rarely as up to date). With so much going on, I’ll probably post an extra edition or two to keep you apprised of the situation and help with your motorcycle vacation plans. There is a lot going on you need to be aware of including the progress on the clean up to the Blue Ridge Parkway after severe winter storm damage, the closed section there, and all the roads which have been closed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for paving.

If you have early year travel plans to Robbinsville, Townsend, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Franklin, I suggest you consider them carefully. Better alternative destinations for motorcycle touring would include Maggie Valley and Asheville. I’m am working with local lodgers to find you the best deals and affordable as well as luxury motorcycle friendly accommodations. I’ll be stepping up those efforts. Please email me for help. The changes in traffic patterns have severely impacted their business and there are some deals to be had. Watch the blog as I review them.

Finally, for America Rides Maps patrons, I want you to be aware these rock slides have impacted 3 of the 4 loop rides on the most popular map “Maggie Valley to Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway”. I strongly urge you to look at the “Waterfall Package” for the best alternative. These two maps will lead you into some of my favorite areas unaffected by the changing traffic patterns and open up a wealth of fantastic rides which are too often overlooked. These roads are the first place I head when looking for great riding, the first place I take tour groups, and hold everything you’ve come to expect from a motorcycle vacation in the Smokies.

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A Fall Color Motorcycle Tour

It was a good day to play hooky and who wouldn’t have done the same given the opportunity. When a college buddy called to let me know he was in the area and had brought his motorcycle along with him, I needed little more to tempt me into getting out of the office for a day and enjoying fall as it nears it’s peak of glory. It was a truly great day to be riding though what day isn’t?

George is new to motorcycling and from Florida. Either of those two factors means mountain curves are intimidating. When combined, I was assured this wouldn’t be a day spent testing the edges of the tires and sane riding technique. That’s a good thing really as I’m still riding out the years probation I’m under for abusing my privilege to stay within the DOT’s suggested speed recommendations on our wonderful roads. His choice of rides, a Honda Pacific Coast, also did not lend itself to carving up the corners. It’s one of those giant scooter-looking things, and while it has 800cc’s of grunt, it lacks the attitude to apply it – it’s more of a rolling tupperware party with barely a hint of metal meanness showing anywhere. No problem. With a spanking new tire on the front of my bike, an easy ride to scrub it in would be just the ticket before I put it to proper use another day.

I’d been looking for an excuse to revisit Hot Springs, one of the classic rides in the area. It was fall cool this morning and I threw the heated gear on just in case, though I never needed to plug it in. A quick breakfast at Duval’s in Waynesville, then out NC 209 into the countryside. Blue skies, crystal clear air, and clean roads welcomed us to one of the nicest close-in rides found around here.

We wound through the gentle curves of the pastoral valleys then climbed into the serpentine course through the higher passes. Were it one of my regular rides it could have been a morning of frustration. First a delay due to road work, then mowing, then a farm tractor, then a heavy truck easing down a grade in low gear as we worked our way north. Today these delays simply allowed more time to soak in the surroundings and gave George a chance to get accommodated to the roads without having to maintain a constant push to the edge of his comfort zone.

We paused in Hot Springs and I took a few minutes to explore the town anew. It was once one of my favorite local runs as it is a great ride to get there, and is surrounded by a wealth of fantastic two lane back roads. I’d make the hour trip out, amuse myself with loops through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, then circle back into town for a beer and buffalo burger at the Paddler’s Pub. The pub was always filled with bikers and the parking lot was a showcase of machines from near and far. It burned down last winter and has yet to be rebuilt, though I was encouraged to see piles of new cinder block stacked where it once stood.

I’ve yet to try any of the other small cafés that inhabit the tiny town, and this morning it was too early to give any a test run. The Iron Horse Station looks promising. I told George some of the history and errata of the place. There really are natural hot mineral springs here you can visit and soak in. It was a refuge in early days for those who came to enjoy them for “health” reasons, but the grand old spa resort had also succumbed to fire years ago. The town had served as an internment camp for German prisoners during WWII. The Appalachian Trail, that 2000 mile long footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine, passes right through the heart of it to cross on the bridge over the French Broad River. It’s a popular place for whitewater rafters who come to ride the challenges of the rapids found on river. The surrounding national forests are full of hiking trails. That’s an awful lot of attractions for a town so small it doesn’t even have a traffic light.

We continued north along beautiful NC 212 as it traces the river where fly fisherman often outnumber the trout, then I detoured off on one of my secret little back roads to head into Tennessee. Climbing, dipping and carving through the hillsides, George convinced me this road was so good I had to add it to my Hot Springs map. I suppose he’s right, I’ll revisit that map and beef it up with a few more of roads I’d kept to myself up until now.

From Rocky Fork, Tennessee, we turned south to return to North Carolina and lunch called for a stop in Mars Hill. We landed at the El Dorado Latin Grill to satisfy my craving for a Cuban sandwich, though George’s chicken thighs with blueberry chipoltle sauce was the special of the day and he reported it was excellent.

I-26 filled the short gap between Mars Hill and Weaverville where George had stayed with relatives. I wanted to show him a good road right in town then get up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to give him the full monty on our one day tour. You can tell leaf peeping season is upon us as soon as you hit the parkway.

We plodded along through the boring section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that encircles Asheville. The road declines from the higher mountains north to reach a low point south of the city as it fords the French Broad River on an elevated causeway. From there it becomes far more interesting as you climb to it’s highest and most scenic section. As we gained altitude the turning of the leaves played out in colorful splendor.

If you know just where to look, you can get an awesome view of the Biltmore Mansion sitting castle-like amongst the surrounding forests, though I didn’t stop to share the view. We passed through tunnel after tunnel each time bursting out into the bright sunlight and just a little more color on the trees as we climbed higher and higher to reach Mt. Pisgah. I paused at selected overlooks to enjoy the panoramic views which stretched far into the hills of South Carolina and Great Smokey Mountains National Park to the north. The Pisgah Inn, Graveyard Fields, Looking Glass Rock, and The Devil’s Courthouse all had full parking areas as we stopped to enjoy them. Already at the higher elevations the peak of the color may have passed. Graveyard fields was a spectacular red and brown, though looking down on the ridges below showed much of the seasonal rainbow was yet to appear in the forests. Only the tips of the ridges had been touched by the paint brush of autumn and plenty of yet green leaves wait for their final curtain call.

Completing our loop we left the parkway at NC 215 wanting to share my wife’s favorite local road with my good friend and rolled through the never-ending curves of color that led us back to Waynesville and then my home. Jackie was home from work and we enjoyed the premier local past time of sitting on the porch reveling in a good days travels and the tales that go with them.

As he prepared to leave George thanked me for the days tour. “You know, the Blue Ridge Parkway was really nice, I’ve seen it before from a car and it’s a whole new experience on a motorcycle. But those little back roads you took me on were what really made the day, I’ve never done anything like that, it was the best experience I’ve ever had on a motorcycle, I enjoyed them more than anything else.”

Safe travels George. Good to see you again and even better to spend a day riding with you. You know we’ve always got a room ready for you when you get the chance to come back.

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

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