Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

On a classic “lunch run” ride here’s one option for the lunch stop.

Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs

Motorcycle friendly Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC.

One of the nicest motorcycle rides you’ll do in the Smoky Mountain area of North Carolina and Tennessee is NC 209, a.k.a “The Rattler”. This 30+ mile ride through the mountains and valleys of North Carolina runs from Junaluska (Maggie Valley, Waynesville) to Hot Springs. Scenic, challenging, historic, it makes for a nice “lunch run” as an out-and-back ride or the first leg of numerous loop rides you can build with other great connecting roads.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – you can’t miss it in tiny Hot Springs.

Hot Springs is one of the many historic little mountain towns that dot the landscape. Once  an important stop on the Knoxville, TN to Asheville, NC corridor, it is mostly forgotten now that the Interstate bypasses it to the west. It’s a pass-through town on the Appalachian Trail, a popular place for whitewater rafting, and there are natural hot springs where you can go soak your keister for a few bucks. On weekends, it’s a gathering spot for the bikers who flock to ride the outstanding motorcycle roads in the surrounding region.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – a big comfortable porch, tasty food, and live music on this day.

Comfortable, easy to find, and with tasty food, the Still Mountain Restaurant is usually full of bikers though the occasional Appalachian Trail hiker drops in for some civilized fare on their 1500 mile walk in the wilds. You’ll feel right at home here.

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – Thumbs up!

You’ll find NC 209 and another 50+ great rides in the area on America Rides Motorcycle Pocket maps #6 as well as the 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler".

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler”. Do it as an out-and-back or make a nice loop ride – one of many ways to go on this great biker road

More Rattler info here

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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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The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Best Kept Secret Waterfall

The Mount Lyn Lowry overlook is  a large and welcoming pull-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway that holds more than appears on a drive-by.

Motorcycle the Blue Ridge Parkway in the early spring and you’ll be rewarded with sights unseen by those who visit later in the year. One of them is Woodfin Cascades at the Mt Lyn Lowry overlook (MP 446.7). Once leaves cover the trees when summer arrives, most of this waterfall disappears from view.

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Woodfin Cascades are viewed from the Mt. Lyn Lowry overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Another secret revealed to those who spend a little time observing at this Blue Ridge Parkway overlook is the 60 foot high illuminated cross atop Mt. Lyn Lowry. You can use the cross as a reference to fid the falls, they are located beneath it on the mountainside.

Photo-mt-lyn-lowry-fall

The cross is located atop the mountain. Even though it's 60 ft tall, on a 6240 mountain it's just a speck! The falls are hiding behind the leaves.

Mt Lyn Lowry overlook is located on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Waynesville at US 74 and Maggie Valley at US 19. This is one of the most scenic stretches of the national park as it climbs to the heights of Waterrock Knob, then descends to Soco Gap and Maggie Valley. There are numerous long range overlooks.  Be sure to bring your camera for some of the best views you’ll find.

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In spring, the entire 235 foot run of Woodfin Cascades can be admired. It dissapears when things green up.

Here’s a 2 min video closeup of Woodfin Cascades –

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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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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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Updates to Blue Ridge Motorcycle Ride Maps

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www.AmericaRidesMaps.com

First of all, none of the recent updates are significant enough for you to order fresh versions of your America Rides Maps Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain motorcycle maps if you’ve recently purchased them. The major updates were completed over the last 18 months, and only if your maps are more than a year old will you see the benefit of looking to the newer expanded versions.

However, there have been some more recent changes I’d like to share with you so you don’t miss out on the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountians.

 

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#9 - The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains

Map #9 – The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains was the last completed so it’s most up to date. I’ve just added the new Wolfpen Gap Country Store which will open Saturday in Suches, Georgia (the offical opening is Oct. 1). This is a significant development in Georgia as the convenience store and gas station has long been a popular gathering and rest stop at the intersection of some of the best motorcycle rides in Georgia.

 

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#6 - The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – This is one of the best of all the maps and were I forced to choose it would be probably be my favorite. It includes the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The gas station and convenience store closest to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground has closed and has been removed from the map. Just a few miles further down the road there are 3 gas stations in Bethel, 2 popular restaurants, so it’s no big deal. I’ve added Max Thompson Rd as a good connector as it’s a way to divert around tiny Bethel and a nice connecting road, and it also intersects the short section of NC 215 (Sonoma Rd) at NC 110. Rather than wait at the traffic light, you can just pass by it on Max Thompson Rd and enjoy this short but twisty ride to reach US 276.

 

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#4 Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock

Map #4 – Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock – I’ve added Shulls Farm / Shull’s Mill Rd which connect NC 105 to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Julian Prince State Park near the Moses Cone House. While I’ve known about this wonderfully twisty ride previously, it somehow got left off the last update. That’s been corrected. I also added the BP station near 7 Devils on NC 105. Again, don’t know why it got missed, I stop there all the time.

 

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#1 The Best Rides near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Map #1 – Great Rides Near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia – I’ve added Red Hill Rd, Plank Rd, and Padgett Hill Rd as good connectors. These make the ride from Natural Bridge to Lexington much more enjoyable then the alternative – Interstate 81. They are not lined with outstanding scenery, and a little remote, but they do the job and throw in a few nice curves along the way.

 

People have often told me my maps are more up-to-date than their GPS, and I can concur as I use GPS while out mapping – the little lady often gets confused when it comes to the twisty two lane back roads we love so much. I’m constantly updating the maps to keep them as accurate and useful as possible and unlike other maps, I produce them in small batches as they change so often. I want to insure you always get the most recent and up-to-date versions. I hope these changes help you have the best motorcycle rides and get the most out of your precious motorcycle vacation adventures.

 

Map #1 – Great Rides Near the Start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Map #4 – Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock
Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Map #9 – The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains

Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Thanks,

Wayne

www.AmericaRidesMaps.com

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The Best Motorcycle Rides NORTH of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – NEW MAP

Photo - map cover

The newest motorcycle pocket map, “The Best Motorcycle Rides NORTH of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” is the latest release from America Rides Maps adding a host of  great new motorcycle roads never publicized before to the already extensive collection from north Georgia to north Virginia.

 

The focus of this map was to locate and identify the best rides, shortcuts, and bypasses to avoid the traffic and congestion in one of the most popular tourist areas in the nation – the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“I’ve avoided this area for years” says Wayne Busch, cartographer, explorer, and designer for America Rides Maps. “Now I have new favorite roads I ride again and again”.

Photo - image of map

The most thorough coverage of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Having completed the revisions and updates to the 6 Map Blue Ridge Parkway Series this winter, this new map is the second of three  maps which will form the Smoky Mountain Series.

The first, “The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Smoky Park – EAST “ contains the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee and follows it east to Asheville.

The third map in the Smoky Mountain Series will combine and expand on several maps which currently detail the wealth of great motorcycle rides south of the national park.

Between the three maps, more than 100 outstanding motorcycle rides will be detailed surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“I‘ve already got the most detailed and comprehensive coverage of great motorcycle rides which connect or lie adjacent to the entire length of the 469.1 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway”, Wayne reports, “These maps expand that parkway experience and add to it some of the most challenging motorcycle roads found anywhere including the famous “Dragon” at Deals Gap”.

Expect the final map in the Smoky Mountain Series, “The Best Motorcycle Rides SOUTH of Great Smoky Mountains National Park”  in about a month.

America Rides Maps – http://AmericaRidesMaps.com – The most comprehensive, inexpensive, easy to use motorcycle pocket maps

BUY THIS MAP HERE  – http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Map-8-Best-Rides-NORTH-of-Smoky-Park-NC020.htm

  • Standard Paper – $5.00
  • Water / Tear Resistant – (Best Value) – $5.99
  • Heavy Duty Waterproof – $8.00

Free Shipping via 1st Class mail included!

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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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SportBikes4Hire.com – I Spend A Day With a Customer. What fun!

Wayne – had an absolute blast riding with you today. Your knowledge and these roads add up to a experience that should be had by all that like freespirited riding. I’m glad that I rented the Aprilla from Greg @SportBikes4hire.com and that he told me about you. I will tell all my riding buddies back in PA about my excellent experience and I highly recomend your maps or you as a tour guide or both. WOW I had fun. Thanks much  – Jim M.,Riegelsville,PA

Photo - logo on windscreen

SportBikes4Hire.com offers one of the best experiences you can find on a motorcycle.

When I first heard about SportBikes4hire.com I, and others, were skeptical. Turn loose someone you barely know one of these “crotch rockets” on some of the most challenging roads in the world?  It sounds like Julia Child’s favorite Halloween recipe for death, carnage, and mayhem.  Thoughts quickly conjure up grisly scenes and visions of bikes in pieces. After more than a year in operation, it turns at such is not the case. Quite the contrary, the clients of SportBikes4hire.com end up with the experience of a lifetime.

Photo - Sportbikes4hire

I met Jimmy and his rented Aprilla Mille in Brevard on a beautiful Smoky Mountain Saturday morning.

It all came about quite suddenly. Friday evening I got a call from Greg asking how one of his customers could get a hold of some of my maps. Evidently the guy had no clue about any of the local roads and needed help. He was making a short visit to family south of Asheville, saw the add for SportBikes4hire.com and couldn’t resist the opportunity. I asked Greg to give him my cell phone number so I could suggest some roads. Jimmy called me later that evening.

We talked for a little while, and I gave him a list of roads. As I ticked them off I kept thinking to myself, “I can lead him to the major roads, but he’s never going to find the real gems without getting hopelessly lost, and without knowing something about the roads he could quickly get in trouble.” While he’d have a GPS, it wouldn’t do the job and he’d end up missing out.

Photo - on the ride

Jimmy quickly adapted to the bike and the warmup ride went well.

I asked him to give me a call in the morning when he was ready to head out. Maybe, just maybe, I’d run down and bring him some maps. I even hinted I might ride along with him. I had my concerns. What if he was a bumbly and had no business on a bike like this on these roads? What if I took him out, pushed too hard, and he got hurt or worse? I needed to sleep on it.

Saturday morning was one of those early fall days in the Smoky Mountains that postcards feature. Still warm, skies blue and clear of morning fog that so often blankets the valleys, I was sipping coffee on the porch when the cell phone tweeted. What the heck. If nothing else I’d have a nice ride over and back to meet him and give him the maps if he didn’t size up. I threw on my gear and headed for the high ground.

Photo - Stopped in Rosman for the first break

By the time we reached the first break in Rosman, it was obvious Jimmy knew what he was doing. Time to bump it up.

We met in a shopping center parking lot in Brevard. Time for the quick assessment. He had the right gear – good. The bike, a 1000cc Aprilla Mille was impeccable and fitted with top equipment (save the GPS which had been zip tied on in a decent jury rig). Jimmy was used to riding a BMW K bike so he was accustomed to handling the power. He was honest and humble in describing his abilities and experience – all good. When I asked for next-of-kin contact info he didn’t flinch. And he’d admitted never ridden a full on sport bike. Let’s go.

Photo - out on the ride

Approaching the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the fresh pavement on the climb.

I led him out south of Brevard on some roads to let him get his bearings where I could watch in my mirrors to see how he was adapting. No problems. Turning south I bypassed one side road at the last minute thinking it was a bit much to throw at him this soon. We turned west and started on another great road that would start to put him to the test. He did well. Cautious where he needed to be, but willing and able to use the bike where he was comfortable. I stopped in Rosman to see how he was doing.

He was having fun and getting comfortable with the bike. It was a good choice for these roads. I was having fun. Time to kick it up a notch.

Photo - shot from motorcycle while riding

Look Ma, no Hands! Pitching through the curves while snapping photos.

We spent another few hours zipping through some of my favorite roads, old and new, with a little bit of everything thrown in. Spanking fresh new asphalt, crumbly bumpy back roads, first gear hairpins and high speed sweepers, one lane bridges, a break on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Jimmy soaked it up and rode with a controlled enthusiasm that showed he was aware of his comfort zone yet able to enjoy what the bike had to offer.

Photo - motorcycles at Devil's Courthouse

We made only one brief visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a break at Devil's Courthouse. Everything else was on more challenging roads.

We were both smiling when I left him 30 miles or so from where we started with directions to follow US 276 back to our meeting place. It was a good day riding. I’d do it again. I hope he comes back.

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The Aprilla is one of many choices. For today's ride, it was one of the best.

SportBikes4hire.com offers a great service. Fly in and they meet you at the airport. They’ll bring the bike to you all ready to go. It’s an experience that you’ll treasure and a chance to ride a great bike on the best of roads. When you consider all the time and expense of hauling or riding your bike here, it’s a superb option – heck you can make it a quick weekend trip. Find a cheap airfare and come on. Spending some time in the mountains and want a day to get away from the family and do something exhilarating? This is it.

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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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Tail of the Dragon Closed? More Motorcycle Rides Nearby – Asheville

Asheville, sometimes locally referred to as “AsheVegas” has long been a destination for those seeking refuge from the lowlands in a beautiful mountain setting. Great scenery, a thriving cosmopolitan culture, historic buildings, a wonderfully diverse menu of great eateries, the plethora of microbreweries that have earned it the “Beer City” award, and an artsy / musical / film undercurrent have endeared this “Portland of the South” to visitors for generations. Small enough too be easy to get around yet large enough to still be truly called a city, it has something to offer most every visitor, but none so much as the motorcycle traveller.

Photo - Dining at the Grove Park Inn

Fine dining at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, one of many great places to visit and eat.

Pivotal in the historic creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway which wraps the border of town, it sits in the French Broad River Valley cradled by mountains on every horizon. The tallest mountain in the east, Mt. Mitchell, is close enough that bicycle races are held to it from town and you can find enjoyably steep and serpentine roads climbing from the very heart of the city.

While the city itself is an attraction, it’s the grand mountains which surround it that make it a worthy destination for those seeking great motorcycle rides. Too many are satiated with a relaxing cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway and miss out on the fabulous and challenging rides found on every point of the compass. I’ve already hinted at those to the northwest near Hot Springs and the “Land of the Waterfalls” to the southwest in earlier posts.

Photo - Lake Lure

Scenic Lake Lure, south of Asheville, in the Hickory Nut Gorge

One of the most popular areas to visit is south of the city, the Hickory Nut Gorge area. Home to Bat Cave, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock, it’s a Mecca for tourists and sightseers with it’s stunning scenery and attractions. Don’t be lulled into complacency as you make the approach on the long flowing valley roads – once you hit the mountains the curves, climbs, and descents begin as does the fun. While the main roads may be choked with traffic at times, those who venture off them onto the back roads will discover some amazing rides and the company of local motorcycle riders who flock to enjoy them.

Photo - View from NC 80

Early winter view from NC 80, one of the most challenging rides east of Asheville

Looking west, still more great rides present, many of which are worth the time and travel to enjoy them. Recently dubbed ‘The Diamondback” (you’ll be hearing more about these rides soon), a combination of loops using NC 80, US 226, US 226A, NC 180, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other roads will give the motorcycle tourer everything he’s come for whether you’re cruising along enjoying the sights or looking to to get a knee down and drag some pegs.

Photo - Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee

Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee, north of Asheville

My personal favorite area though lies north of the city. It’s a vast region, crossing the border into Tennessee and will give you some of the longest and most enjoyable rides through the highest peaks and deepest valleys in the east. Sparsely populated, dotted with small towns, the twisting two lane back roads which lace through this area are mostly devoid of traffic and waiting for you to enjoy in solitude. Because most choose to take the Interstates which bypass this rugged region, it’s a hidden gem which gets bypassed and lies mostly undiscovered.

From the city, the Blue Ridge Parkway courses northwest towards Virginia. The roads which intersect it lead out into the surroundings and make it an avenue for including on great long loop rides all along it’s course.

Photo - Bike riding north of Asheville

Long winding rides through lush mountain scenery devoid of traffic lie north of Asheville

Long rides, short rides, nice cruises or challenging curves, stunning sights, great scenery, and a motorcycle friendly city at the hub, the mountains surrounding Asheville should be on your motorcycle radar. Home to the Asheville Bikefest May 13 – 16, it’s one more place to add to your list of great motorcycle destinations.

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Still More Great Motorcycle Rides Near The Tail of the Dragon – Georgia Beckons

A quick look at a map will reveal Georgia is much closer than you thought, and the mountains which make for the great motorcycle rides in North Carolina and Tennessee do not know anything about state borders. While they play out once they reach Atlanta, they do not give up without a strong effort. The region has been a popular motorcycle paradise for as long as I can remember.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs1fk74FmQQ

The most well known motorcycle rides such as Wolfpen Gap, Suches, Blood Mountain, Blue Ridge, are a favorite destination for motorcycle riders from points south. As they are the first that motorcycle adventure tourers reach, and are so easily accessed from the major metropolitan areas, and are such great motorcycle rides, they tend to get all the attention. Like the Tail of the Dragon, they attract thousands of riders who come for the challenging roads and beautiful mountain scenery.

Photo - View from the Nottely Dam

Riding across the Nottely Dam in North Georgia

Because these notable motorcycle rides get all the attention, it’s just like the situation at the Tail of the Dragon – some of the best rides get overlooked. There are plenty more and you don’t have to spend hours to reach them.

Photo - Dales pit stop in Suches, Georgia

Dales, a popular pit stop at Wolfpen Gap is strategically located at the intersection of some of the most popular motorcycle roads.

In my comprehensive explorations of the North Georgia area, I discovered a surprising number of wonderful two lane mountain back roads which either straddle the border with North Carolina or lie just beyond it. Once you get off the main arteries and away from the traffic, there are hundreds of miles of wonderful twisty and scenic two lane roads to discover and enjoy. I had quite the adventures on my many trips into the area.

Photo - Bikes lined up at Dales

The parking lot at Dales is a constant parade of motorcycles here to enjoy the fabulous rides.

Don’t let the videos fool you. It’s not all screaming sport bikes like the Tail of the Dragon, though if that’s what you’re looking for it’s here to be found. There are some really great rides just over the hill you can have all to yourself and make your motorcycle vacation a memorable experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMaBFEg72sk

So far I’ve suggested:

Guess what? There’s still more to come. There are more great motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains than anywhere else in the nation. Plenty more to turn you on to.

Visit America Rides Maps to get an idea of the thousands of miles of great riding just waiting for you to discover.

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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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