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

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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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Another Cold Winter Day – Photo – Snow on motorcycles

Photo - Snow on motorcycles

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

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

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

Stay warm!

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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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Photos From Another Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Riding Day

Photo - 15 mph road sign

15 MPH NEXT 6 MILES - You've probably discovered a good ride when you see signs like this.

So I’m wrapping up this new motorcycle ride map which covers best motorcycle rides in the eastern half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I’m finally to the “get out and ride” stage. Most of the really tedious work is done, the stuff that keeps me in front of the computer. Today I took the afternoon to go out and ride some of the closer roads and it was superb.

When I do a map revision, I typically re-ride almost all the roads from the existing map to re-familiarize myself with them.  I think it’s the best way to judge newly discovered roads against the others I already know by making a fresh comparison. As some of my maps now have more than 50 featured roads I’ve got a lot of miles to cover. Sometimes a road I once considered top-notch pales a bit when new and better ones are discovered. When I do find a new road, I then seek out the best routes to connect them all together. All-in-all it adds up to a lot of mileage.

With a good frost this morning and temperatures that never creeped out of the 40’s, I saw only a few other motorcycles out on the road.  It was warm enough to leave the heated gear on the coat rack. Mid-week traffic was light and it was a great day to be out on the bike. Recent rains had helped clear the roads of the de-icing coating and gravel that had been laid down during the last cold snap.

Photo - Mountain view from one of the roads

I snapped this photo atop the climb one of the great new roads made over a mountain. Views are sometimes better once the leaves are off the trees.

As is usual only a few of the new roads were really good rides though the two I found were so outstanding either would have made for a successful day. I routed my commute between them to include NC 215 so I could shoot some more video along the way for the upcoming production. Damn, that road is fun now that the south end has been repaved. The fresh asphalt has been exposed long enough that the oily surface has aged and the grip on the baby bottom smooth tarmac is outstanding. It’s a Jeckyl and Hyde experience though – as soon as you pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway the new pavement ends and the road quality becomes dangerous in places. Be on your toes where they started patching and paving the north side. I wonder if it didn’t get compacted enough as the gravel in the asphalt is loose. It’s really hard to see how bad it is until you’re in it and by then you’re slipping and sliding just as you enter the hairpin curves.

Photo - NC 215 winter view

Winter riding has it's own beauty - I enjoy the contrast to summers lush growth. This is NC 215 south of the parkway, one of the better sections.

The first road I added was one surprisingly close to home – Crabtree Mountain Road. The last time I explored it there was a long section that wasn’t paved. That’s not unusual in the mountains. The easy sections along the valley floors get paved. The steep sections that climb up and over the mountain passes don’t as it requires so much effort and expense to prepare and then maintain a decent roadbed in the steep and rocky terrain.

Photo - View from Crabtree Mountain Rd

Outstanding views from atop the pass on Crabtree Mountain Road. The smoke plume from paper mill in Canton is easy to spot

Crabtree Mountain Road connects NC 209 (now known as “The Rattler” video here) to NC 215 at the town of Canton. It not only makes a connection between two already great rides, but is a great motorcycle ride on it’s own merits. The scenery in the valley is picturesque as the road winds along with the course of a stream through a collection of nice curves, then darts south to start the steep climb over a high pass. Two of the photos included were from the high point on the road. It then plunges down the mountainside through a series of hairpin turns and switchbacks before it runs into Thickety Road and connects to NC 215 near I-40. Watch for gravel near the top of the pass, but otherwise the road is in good condition and a nice ride.

Photo - Silversteen Road

High quality pavement on Silversteen Road gives you the confidence to exploit the unending series of curves.

The second road I added was near Lake Toxaway and I suspect it may become one of my new favorites. Silversteen Road connects the fabulous riding on NC 281 to one of the twistiest sections of US 64. This road had me thinking of The Dragon at Deals Gap. Though a third shorter than the Dragon at at 8.1 miles in length, the tight curves are relentless throughout the ride. Also, like the Dragon, while it doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery, you’re too engaged in just maintaining control to let your eyes wander to the horizon. It’s easy to find from NC 281 as it intersects on a hairpin curve, and the southern end at at US 64 is marked by a gas station.

Progress is going to have to wait a week as I’m taking a short vacation. I be back in the saddle after Thanksgiving. I posted some of the video I shot today at my Youtube Channel – http://youtube.com/americaridesmaps. Until then, enjoy the ride.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1HbSTAk7C4

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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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Great Motorcycle Rides North of Asheville Discovered

It’s not often I have such a successful day when out exploring for new motorcycle rides to add to my maps but Friday was one of the best. Most of the roads I evaluate don’t measure up against my strict standards – low traffic, engaging scenery, and a challenging and fun motorcycle ride. Nearly every road I explored turned out to be good enough to add to my map of “The Best Motorcycle Rides North and South of Asheville, NC”.

Photo - river north of asheville

Most of todays rides were through the valleys near rivers. The twisty roads hug the banks.

The weather was ideal – atypically warm, sunny, and clear. The first hints of fall color were starting to emerge in places. Most of that is concentrated in the highest elevations right now, see the post to follow for some photos of the best color. The bulk of todays riding was searching out roads to link and connect to the already outstanding rides previously discovered.

Photo - river north of Asheville

I stopped here for a break along NC 197. It's a great ride as are the roads which connect to it.

I had been avoiding the area around US 19W due to the construction to widen the road to 4 lanes. Part of the mission was to discover the side roads which skirt around it. That construction will be going on for quite some time. I found a bunch of them.

Photo - The lake at roaring Creek, TN

You can see a hint of fall color near this lake along Roaring Creek Road in Tennessee.

I also located a nice loop ride south of Johnson City, Tennessee, a good road to make loops near Roan Mountain, and quite surprising, still more great rides near Little Switzerland and the Diamondback. Much of the riding this trip was down low, through the valleys and along the rivers which are rides you can do pretty much all year round, places to go  after the Blue Ridge Parkway has closed for the winter season.

Photo - Stopped near Roan Mountain

This road turned out to be a great way to make a loop ride when doing the popular ride over Roan Mountain. There is one very short but well maintained unpaved section.

I’ll be adding these new motorcycle rides to the map  The Best Motorcycle Rides North and South of Asheville, NC” this week. It’s almost done with the upgrade to the new and improved format slow but sure.

Photo - mountain view

The skies have been unusually clear lately and the long range views are outstanding.

I got some great photos of the start of the fall color in the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll find some nice stuff starting near Boone and Banner Elk, in the area around Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains, not so much near Craggy Gardens, and then some north and south of Asheville. It’s still a little early, the peak will come next weekend, though it will continue through the lower elevations for a while. Next post will show you some color.

America Rides Mapshttp://americaridesmaps.com 

_______________________________________________________________________________

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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The Most Challenging Motorcycle Ride Found? A day with the map guy.

I am either;

  1. Getting too old and out of shape
  2. Coming down with the flu
  3. Rode harder than I have in a long time

It’s probably a combination of the first point and the last. I awoke last night sore from the chest down due to throwing my bike around all day in my never ending quest to discover the best motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains. It was not planned to be such a day but it turned out to be quite an adventure.

I set out around 8AM for Shady Valley, Tennessee, home of “the Snake” motorcycle ride to make a delivery of motorcycle maps to the Shady Valley Country Store. Plan was to ride up, enjoy the Snake, make the delivery, then check out half a dozen roads nearby in hopes to add some to my motorcycle pocket maps. I knew one would just be a connector route. I didn’t have high hopes for many of the others, though a couple held promise.

It was beautiful and cool up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning. Skies were clear and bright. Even the half hour on Interstate 40 to Asheville was pleasant. There’s little traffic before 10AM once you leave the highway and I pretty much had the road to myself. I watched hopefully for bears north of the city, then enjoyed the run up the wonderful new sections of pavement to pass Mt. Mitchell. Looks like they’ve pretty much wrapped that job up. Saw one grouse, a few hawks, but no bruins.

Photo - on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Clear, cool, breezy morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Altapass.

I stopped to tweet my first photo at an overlook where I could count on cell phone reception. Though hurricane Earl was approaching the coast, here in the mountains no impact was expected. Even so it was noticeably breezy.

I hit one brief delay for tree work, and another for guardrail replacement. I surprised a flock of turkeys as I came near Little Switzerland. Passing Linville, I left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roseborugh Road, one of those handy unmarked crossroads that descends through a series of tight turns to NC 105 at Grandfather Mountain. NC 105 took me north through the congestion of Banner Elk. Broadstone Road led me west of Boone to Valle Crucis. NC 194 led to US 421 which I followed through Mountain City and into Tennessee to reach Shady Valley.

A brief pit stop turned into a decent delay as I took time to chat with several riders, mostly locals, and return phone calls when the intermittent cell reception cooperated. I figured it would take a couple hours to see the roads I wanted, then I’d zip back home as I came.

Photo - Shady Valley Country Store

The sun was still shining at the Shady Valley Country Store though the winds were getting gusty. Things would change as the afternoon wore on.

The first few roads proved less than expected. They were a decent ride for a cruiser maybe, though it was not type of rural scenery that makes a road interesting. I explored another after a couple bikes passed in the opposite direction to find it intersected the fourth road at an unknown point. Still nothing special. I turned to backtrack on the fourth road so I would be sure to ride it end to end and was thrilled to find the short leg wonderful. Nice sweeping turns through pretty countryside. Hopeful, I spun about at the intersection with 197 and headed back. The remainder disappointed. Too much straight and only mildly interesting. It was worth adding to the map but not recommending highly. The natural flow dictated I bypass the next on the list meaning another backtrack to explore the better alternative.

The last of the most promising roads was accessed from US 321 near Watauga Lake. It was tight, it was twisty, but it didn’t appeal. It was then that serendipity  struck. Rather than continue on my planned path, instinct told me to detour onto another road. I followed it through turn after turn after turn and it went on and on and on. All the while I expected it would peter out  into a goat trail but it just kept going without letting up. Mile after mile on narrow, sometimes poor, blacktop it climbed through the mountains finally dumping me out at Banner Elk Highway. I pulled into an abandoned gas station to take my notes and decide how to describe it.

I kept asking myself, “But was it fun?” There was no doubt it was challenging, very challenging. It kept you on the edge the whole time. It never let up. I ride the Dragon routinely and this road is much more difficult and sustained. I’d come up on some traffic and had to simply ride behind it, no room to pass, so I didn’t feel I could give it an accurate evaluation. Nor was I sure what lay at the other end. Only choice was to ride it back and see where it came out.

As I turned about my heart sank. A school bus turned onto the road ahead of me. While it looked empty, this would still be an exercise in pain as it could only crawl through the narrow serpentine climb ahead. What a relief when it pulled off within a few hundred feet. It wasn’t long before I had my answer. This road WAS fun.

Unimpeded I rode it enthusiastically back as I’d come. A few miles in I remember thinking, “If you get out of second gear on this road, look down – you’re riding a moped”. I reached the point where I’d first turned on to it and continued past. The road name changed, but its character did not. I continued mile after mile carving through the exquisitely tight turns, dodging gravel patches, potholes, and debris now falling on the road from the increasing wind. I was so happy when US 321 appeared at the margin of the screen on the GPS. I’d found a new way to link a couple major roads. Awesome.

That ride was worth the trip. I stopped and entered the notes in my Blackberry. From there I turned onto US 321 to head on to check out the last couple roads. The weather was deteriorating. Skies dark, winds gusting, it didn’t bother me a bit. Shortly, I came up on another biker who suddenly veered off on another road back in the area where I’d just been riding. I circled back out of curiosity to see what business this cruiser guy had in such a rugged area. The road he chose was a superb cruiser road and I caught up to him just as he pulled into his yard at the junction with the first great road. Bonus! Instinct paid off again.

I returned to US 321 via the cruiser road to make time. It was getting late and the weather would soon add more to the challenge of these tight roads. After a short ride on US 321, I started down the last of them which turned out to be a disappointment. A few miles in I spied a road connecting to it I felt needed exploring and eventually found a better approach though I did waste a good bit of time on dead ends and gravel lanes. Plan was to take this road a few miles, then turn onto another to make my way back towards Mountain City. As I approached the turn, instinct took over again and I purposefully rode past it.

The GPS showed the road I was on getting tighter and twistier and it was climbing higher into the mountains. Thats usually a pretty good indication it’s going to deteriorate to nothing once it nears the top and the road grew narrower and more challenging as it went on. I considered just giving up on it, but something made me go on. The smell of fresh rain on a dry road filled the air and I started hitting dark patches of pavement. I was really questioning myself when I emerged  atop a pass with a rugged valley stretched below and signs warning of a steep descent and switchbacks appeared. It would have been beautiful in nicer weather, but the dark and angry clouds only hastened my urgency to continue on, dreading the thought of having to retrace my steps.

I’ve ridden a lot of miles in the mountains yet never seen switchbacks as tight as these. I plunged down through the valley wondering where I’d end up, hoping I’d find some landmark to steer me back to something familiar. When the road ended, I looked at the sign ahead to see I was on the road I’d meant to explore next. Another great ride found, and I was ready to wrap things up after this last road.

It was longer then I thought and I reached US 421 south of Mountain City. It was now 5 PM. Rain was coming down in sheets. I turned south towards Boone. The Friday evening traffic before the holiday weekend crawled and stalled in the rain. I dreaded the idea of going into Boone and  veered off on 194 to bypass it. More traffic. I stopped near Banner Elk to top off the tank and called home to let my wife know I wouldn’t be there for dinner. We discussed the weather, the traffic, and decided I’d prefer the exposure to the elements on the Blue Ridge Parkway over the hazards of this crazy traffic. It was the right choice. The rain let up once I got up high.

I coursed through the mountains in the twilight relatively unimpeded. It got cold but I made good time. Reaching Asheville, I merged into the traffic jam that clogged Interstate 40 all the way home. Arriving in my driveway as darkness fell, I’d had a successful day. I’d discovered some great roads. I had reason to go back with hopes of more. I had money in my pocket. Sometimes, a cartographers life is to be envied. I wish I had more photos, but I got swept up in the riding. Maybe next time.

wayne@americaridesmaps.com

America Rides Maps – from north Georgia to north Virginia, the best motorcycle rides

_______________________________________________________________________________

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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Motorcycle Touring the Blue Ridge Parkway in One Day – What was it Like?

On Thursday I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle from the start at Waynesboro, Virginia, 469 miles to the southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. As I progressed I paused to snap photos and posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a recap of the experience;

Photo - sign at start of Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts where the Skyline Drive ends near Waynesboro, Virginia.

I chose to start at the north end as I knew I’d need to leave at daybreak. The morning fog has been so heavy at the southern end I didn’t want to chance it slowing me down or making for pictures of nothing but white mist. I spent the previous night in Richmond and left before 5 AM to make the 1 1/2 hour ride to Waynesboro in the darkness.

Photo - sign at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

I took these photos the previous day as I expected it would be too dark to take them on the actual trip. I was right.

I fueled up in Waynesboro, grabbed a cup of coffee and a pack of doughnuts to sustain me, and headed on my way. It would be the last time I stopped to eat or drink. 469 miles is a long way at the 45 mph speed limit. I had no time to waste. At least that was my attitude early on.

Photo - morning at the lake on Otter Creek

The sun comes up at the lake on Otter Creek. Easy ride so far.

I had the road to myself in the early morning twilight. Within a few minutes I’d seen both deer and turkey. The road starts a gradual climb to elevation here though nothing like the heights reached further south. With no other traffic on the road, my speed crept up a bit, something I’d fight the remainder of the trip. As you get comfortable and into the rhythm of the road, the temptation to take things at your more comfortable pace is always there taunting you. Knowing how far I had left to go didn’t help.

Photo - Above the clouds approaching Roanoke

I paused at this overlook to top up on oil, lube what was left of the chain, and take a few moments to savor the views I was rushing by.

I was also facing the challenge of not knowing if my chain would last the trip. It was already shot before I left, adjusted to the end of the swingarm, far beyond the normal limit. It now sagged precariously and was making noises that had me wondering when it would snap. I’d never seen a chain smoke when lubed before, and I took advantage of opportunities to slather it with lubricant whenever my concerns peaked. I prayed it would not jump the sprockets when carving through a turn and catapult me into a rock face or over a precipice.

Photo - me and my bike along the Blue Ridge Parkway

A fellow biker snapped this photo of me at a rest stop. Riding from Florida to Maine and back, he and his wife were enjoying the parkway on their return.

Traffic remained surprisingly light through the morning with few holdups to pass slower vehicles. I watched the parkway wake up, the rangers and maintenance crews come to work and start their labors. Finding cell phone coverage to post my photos was always a challenge. You never know when it will be available, sometimes there in what looks like the most unlikely spots, other times absent where you think it should be a strong signal.

Photo - near Doughton Park

By mid morning there were plenty of other motorcycles on the road. This photo was taken somewhere near Doughton Park.

My first stop for gas necessitated a detour into Floyd, VA. Knowing where the nearest gas stations are is one reason I map the area so throughly. You can waste a lot of time looking for them if you don’t know which way to go. While in Floyd I popped in for a minute to see Derek at the Hotel Floyd, one of my favorite places to stay.

Photo - Historic cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There are a few historic cabins along the road in southern Virginia.

As I crossed into North Carolina and entered the high mountains I knew cell phone coverage would be much more limited. The curves tightened up bit and the road was often wet from spotty showers. It would be another day with temps approaching near 100 in the valleys, but at elevation things remained tolerable so long as I was moving. I somehow avoided all but a slight peppering of rain which felt wonderful at the time.

Photo - Grandfather Mountain

Passing Grandfather Mountain I felt I was back on home turf though still a long, long way to go.

Delays had been brief so far, and I planned my next fuel stop to coincide with a quick stop to say hello at the Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, one of my favorite places to eat or overnight. I fueled up in Spruce Pine. It was tempting to get a good meal, but I forced myself to press on. The real hold ups came as I approached Asheville. Tree crews and road construction caused significant delays and I hit the “commuter section” during evening rush hour.

Photo - French Broad River Overlook

It was a great relief to finally cross the French Broad River southwest of Asheville and begin the climb to the highest and most scenic section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The sun was drawing near the horizon as I carved my way along the high ridge tops of the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway I consider my back yard. Thunderheads lurked and the road was wet in places, but my luck continued.

Photo - at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Reaching the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I knew there was less than 40 miles to go to reach my goal.

I reached the southern end of the 469 mile ride with daylight to spare and took a pause at the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I grabbed a few photos but found the battery was now dead on my cell phone. Here they are now –

Photo - start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The Southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.

While my Blue Ridge Parkway in a day adventure was completed, I still needed to get home. Noting the evening traffic, I chose to avoid going into Cherokee and got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway now headed in the opposite direction. I rode through to Soco Gap, then passed through Maggie Valley to finally get to my home in Waynesville.

Photo - sign at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Go through Cherokee or back the way I'd come? I chose to return home via the Blue Ridge Parkway of course.

My chain lasted the trip. My rear tire is bald. It’s time for some service on the engine. New parts are on order and it will take this week to get the bike roadworthy again. Next week? I might just poke into east Tennessee. I’ve too long ignored the area between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville. If I can locate at least a dozen good rides there it will warrant a new motorcycle pocket map. I discovered some great roads along the Virginia / West Virginia border on this trip, several of which will be added to existing America Rides Maps. It will take a few more trips north to determine how the map of that region will lay out but it will come. For now, it’s catch up on the work I left, update the existing maps with the new rides I discovered, and make preparations for the roads ahead.

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America Rides Maps – the best motorcycle pocket maps money can buy

_______________________________________________________________________________

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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Last Blue Ridge Parkway Section Opens Friday – Personal Road Report

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151

Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151 on the south side of the closed area.

For the first time in 18 months or more the entire 469 miles length of America’s favorite motorcycle ride, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will be open for travel. I’ve patiently watched and waited for this day, trying to sneak peeks at the progress on clearing the slide area near milepost 400 without success. Despite a grueling bicycle ride to make first hand observations, I was put off by the high fence and $5000 fine for trespassing, and have had to simply wait for the announcement. Work is still being done and there will be temporary traffic lights to manage traffic at a nearby tunnel.

Photo - fence near closed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was put off by the high fence and $5000 trespassing fine from getting a first hand look at the progress.

Work continues elsewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway clearing the damage from one of the most severe winters on record. One of the worst hit areas near Linnville is now pristine again, an amazing job considering how badly it was affected. Ice and wind storms had covered the road with fallen trees and debris. Riding through now, you’d have to know what to look for to see evidence of the devastation now hidden by fresh summer greenery.

Photo - View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

Paving continues between Mt. Mitchell State Park and Asheville, most concentrated near the Craggy Gardens area. The southbound lane is nearly completed and the quality of the new roadway is outstanding. You’ll hit a few delays and a mile or so of road that has been top-scraped in preparation for new asphalt. There are some rough sections and pot holes. The north bound lane still has a way to go and while the killer pot holes have been filled, the road is rough for many miles. It has also been prepped, but the pot holes are more numerous and it’s a bumpy ride.

Photo-section-of-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-damage-near-Linnville

The volume of trees down on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linnville was amazing. You wouldn't know it looked like this riding through now.

A recent hazard to be aware of is near Mt. Mitchell State Park where guardrail replacement is being done. A very slick sand is found in places near this work and motorcyclists should be vigilant and exercise caution. This video shows what to watch out for.

http://americaridesmaps.com The best Blue Ridge Parkway maps

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Another Great Motorcycle Ride to be Added to the List – My Secret

It’s not all that frequently I miss a great motorcycle ride in my explorations. I really try to be thorough as well as intuitive, so few slip by. Still, I can’t claim to know ALL the great roads in the southern Appalachians, just the vast majority of them. I continue to find more, and quite embarrassingly, they are too often close to home. Everyone believes they know ALL the great roads right in their back yard. Time and again I am proven wrong, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Stop reading now if you think I am giving this one away. No photos, no road names, nada. I just gave away 30 routes at the Asheville Bikefest for free and people gobbled them up. Nor is this a post about the Asheville Bikefest, I think you may be getting sick of hearing about that, but be cautioned, there will be more to come. The event was far more successful than expected and stuff is flooding in. The only reason I mention the event is because I found this great road because of it.

As Route Master for the Asheville Bikefest (there I go again, last time) I spoke with countless people helping them find the best rides in the area and getting them to see the most in the time they had. When you’re passionate about something, even work becomes fun. I went almost non-stop for four days and I had a great time. That’s why I founded America Rides Maps.

So anyway, this guy wants me to direct him to one of the two dozen local roadside waterfalls, which I do, so he can get of picture of his bike behind it. Yeah, you can actually drive behind this waterfall right off the road. He didn’t find it. Why, I don’t know, it’s one of the most obvious roadside waterfalls there is but that doesn’t matter. What matters is this guy doesn’t give up. He gets directions which lead him off into the forest. He rides and rides everything in sight, exploring places I know better than to go. He never finds it.

The next day he comes back to me and tells me he couldn’t find the waterfall. I’m a bit incredulous, it’s so easy. I redirect him. He relates his adventures and tells me he found this awesome motorcycle ride. I’m dubious. If he couldn’t find the easy waterfall do I believe him now? I made a mental note of it nonetheless. About an hour later I’m talking to a couple of women. They’re buying maps of the areas closest to them (we all think we know our own back yard), right down the street from the “event which will not be named again in this post. Out of curiosity, I ask if they know of this road the guy mentioned. “I live on that road, it’s great!”

So I can’t resist. Today I have to check it out. It rocks. Who cares how or why I missed it.   I’ll add it to the “The Best Roads South of Great Smoky Mountains State Park – EAST” map tomorrow. The other routes in the area I’d previously identified were detours around a congested town and a four lane section of road which formed one leg of a 100 mile+ triangle of superb riding. Now I think I’m looking forward to the detour more than the great rides that lead to it.

I have some more leads to follow up. I know some will be disappointing. I think I’ve done at least one and rejected it, my standards are high, but you never know. I’d be very pleased to find another jewel.

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Waterproof Testing – America Rides Motorcycle Pocket Maps

Making the most of the recent cold weather, America Rides Maps does some serious product testing of their Motorcycle Pocket Maps.

See them online at http://americaridesmaps.com

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