A Fun Motorcycle Ride out of Maggie Valley, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley

The Rattler” motorcycle ride

Map – Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains

The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga

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Photo-Wayne Busch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Click for larger view

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

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– 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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Not Good Enough for 100 Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides

I’ve just released a map of the Smoky Mountains which shows nearly 200 motorcycle rides highlighted on it. Here’s one that won’t be on it, not good enough.

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A long section of bad pavement gives way to some great curves.

Yesterday, Jackie and I hopped on the bikes to follow up on a rumor of yet another good motorcycle ride tucked away in the mountains. Possibilities were high as the area northeast of Hot Springs, NC, is ripe with some of the most challenging and technical motorcycle rides you’ll find anywhere. The two lane roads that wind through these Tennessee mountains hug the edges of rushing creeks which snake the bottoms of shady valleys or carve steep steps through gaps and passes.

This is no place for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced motorcycle rider, though by the time you reach it those riders who won’t accept the challenge have already turned tail and run. Roads like NC 209, NC 208 probably give most riders as much thrill as they want. Only the adventurous consider these approaching roads just a warm-up and look to kick the ride up a notch with more challenging pavement.

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There are some very nice sections of Grapevine Rd, but overall, NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

I remembered Grapevine Road as soon as I turned on it. I’d been told by a couple people they thought it was a great motorcycle ride, but for some reason I couldn’t remember I’d not put it on one of my maps. I quickly figured out why.

The pavement was in such bad shape. Broken and potholed, sunken, bumpy, strewn with gravel, rocks, and loose asphalt. Add to that steep grades, devilish tight switchbacks, unforgiving drop-offs, and you’ve got a real handful, especially on a big bike.

The reason I’d come back to Grapevine Road is the last time, I made a quick judgment and turned around. Not having gone all the way through, I didn’t know how far until the pavement improved. I knew it had to get better as it approached more civilized areas to the south.

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Jackie votes "thumbs down" on Grapevine Rd.

It was a long ride until the pavement smoothed out. Once it did, there was a decent section with some nice curves which become more sweeping and open, but little of scenic appeal.

Some may like this road, but there are so many better ones nearby, it’s the least appealing. Jackie gave it the “thumbs down”. No reason to recommend Grapevine Road.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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

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

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See the map “Best Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains
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Motorcycle Riders Enjoying Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Color

This year, I spent the peak of the leaf season riding my motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I photographed the scenery and captured other riders on their motorcycle vacation as they roared past. I selected some of the better ones and a few video clips to share memories with those of you who made it this year and to show those of you who are coming next what they’ve missed out on.

Watch on YouTube http://youtu.be/fQEqdbrt1fI

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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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Motorcycle Friendly Lodging – Gear Head Inn near Bryson City, NC

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View form the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon - Big Witch Overlook near Cherokee

Another great motorcycle friendly place to stay in the Smokies and I got you another discount! Read on…

A gorgeous afternoon on the Blue Ridge Parkway with clear blue skies, amazing long range views, and those wonderful, wonderful curves, provided a stark contrast to the touristy mess that is Cherokee as I came off the parkway, passed through town, then pointed my wheel west on US 19 towards Bryson City, NC.

As soon as you’re out of town the pleasant green returns and two lane US 19 winds its way along the pretty Oconoluftee River for several miles as you leave the Reservation. It was easy to spot the Gear Head Inn sign and I pulled into the quiet spot cradled in the hillside along the road.

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The Gear Head in Near Bryson City, NC

The first thing that struck me was how fresh everything looked. The green metal roofs looked new, as did the paint, in fact everything showed it had been resurrected and restored to a standard that exceeds anything I’d seen in the surrounding properties. The lawns were well tended, the pool sparkled, and the first impression is that the owners have put a lot of time and effort into this making this motel a labor of love. It shows.

Jim was finishing up the last of the renovations to the spacious lobby and the room was both inviting and welcoming. Mary met me at the door and invited me in.

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The rooms are huge at the Gear Head Inn

The cold glass of spring water she brought me was welcome on this hot late summer afternoon, and I spent some time getting to know them and finding out what they had to offer the motorcycle vacationer.

The motif reflects Jim’s passion for performance automobiles, and while he’s primarily a car guy at heart, I think any performance vehicle gets his motor running and he loves the motorcycle visitors. They’ve designed this place for people who love their rides, two wheels or four, and want a place where car and motorcycle enthusiasts feel at home. It’s a great place for people who frequent the numerous custom car and motorcycle shows in the area.

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The pool - note the lights

Was I surprised when Mary showed me a room! Jeez, they are huge! Totally out of character from what you typically find in these smaller roadside motels. Must say I’m impressed.

They’ve got a bike cleaning station waiting, a nice fire pit centrally located for sharing those stories about the days ride in the evening, and nice level paved parking set well back from the road. Mary even knew of a roadside waterfall I’d yet to discover and she shared its secret location with me – sorry Mary, that was a mistake, I’m a blabbermouth and I’ll be checking it out ASAP (ask her about it).

They’ve got a few motorcycle groups coming in over the next couple weeks, but would love to see a few more. As an incentive, they’re offering a 10% discount through December if you tell them I sent you or bring in one of their cards I’ll be sending out with all America Rides Maps orders this fall.

PS – take a look at the lights by the pool – (They’re giant gear shift levers – how cool!)

Gear Head Inn

 

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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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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.

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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!

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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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Bargain Motorcycle Tires Online? Caveat Emptor

The most important piece of gear on your motorcycle is one where I often see riders make poor choices.  Riding a motorcycle,  particularly on the curvy back roads of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains,  is an exercise in maintaining and maximizing traction. Your tires are your two points of contact with the road. Losing traction on either of them can quickly have severe consequences.

Too often though, I stumle across discussions where the emphasis is on finding the cheapest tires with the longest lifespan, and buyers often turn to online discount outlets to purchase them. If you’re buying a newly released tire online, you’ll probably do OK. If you are buying an old stand-by tire however, you may not be getting such a bargain after all.

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How fresh are your tires? Look for this code. This tire was manufactured in the 40th week of 2008.

Tires have a shelf life. The rubber compounds degrade with time, becoming harder and loosing flexibility. High performance tires may have a shelf life of less than 2 years. Sport bike tires are usually good for about 3 years. Touring bike tires may go as long as 5 years before they are degraded to where performance is affected.

The problem one can run into buying online is you have no way of knowing how old the tires you purchase are. It’s very possible they’ve been sitting in a wharehouse for years. Much of their life has been used up before they were ever mounted.

I once bought a 6 year old bike which had 600 miles on the original tires. Great deal. I quickly noticed a steering wobble that had me wondering if I’d been duped. It rapidly got worse and worse. All thoughts of causes ran through my mind, none of them good. The first remedy was to try fresh tires. It was an immediate cure.

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This tire was produced in the 12th week of 2010. Note the difference in the appearance of the rubber - you can see in the photos which tire looks older.

The old tires looked brand new. They had very few miles on them. Time had taken it’s toll, and I was concerned at how quickly they got to approaching dangerous levels of performance.

So how do you know how old a tires is? It’s listed on the tire. Amongst all that DOT code, manufacturer info, and branding, look for a small rounded rectagle with 4 numbers in it. The first 2 numbers are the week the tire was manufactured, the second two the year. For example, 44/10 indicates the tire was made in the 44th week of 2010.

I believe it’s best to buy tires from a local shop where you can see what you’re getting. As important as they are to your safety and riding enjoyment, insuring you have fresh tires should be standard practice for good motorcycle riders. Old tires may be cheaper, but there’s a good reason for 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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