Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

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

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

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

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

photo - slide closes park

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

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

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

The Cherohala Skyway – NC 143/ TN 165

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

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

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

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

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

US 19 – Near Burnsville

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

yancey county slide

Photo source – Yancey County News – Large boulder blocking road

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

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

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

photo - small slide on Blue Ridge PArkway

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

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

NC 63 – Leicester Road

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

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

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

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

So where are the blessings in all this bad news?

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

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

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

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

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Blue Ridge Parkway Rockslide Update for Motorcycles – photos

It has been the year for rock slides. There were 6 major ones in southern region of the Smoky Mountains. Interstate 40 near the North Carolina – Tennessee state line is still being worked on with one lane closed. Be aware traffic backs up there on Fridays and weekends, 30 minute delays are advertised. If you’re planning on staying on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (link to map – .pdf) factor the delays into your travel time, or better yet, stay on the south side of the park.

Photo from Blue Ridge Parkway this morning

I was out on the BMW this foggy morning. Traffic is increasing on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially motorcycles.

The fence and gates are still visible at the Dragon near Deals Gap even though the rock slide there has long been resolved. It’s a reminder of when the road was first closed, then open only from 8 Am to 8 PM. It’s been open since August and you can plainly see where the rock slide happened along the lake. I still stop at the pull off to take photos occasionally.

Photo - rock slide site on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Little change is evident from the road. Most of the work is going on above, terracing and stabilizing the slope.

The rock slide on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Pisgah is yet to be resolved completely. It was supposed to be done by the start of September. The road is open for travel, but only one lane. Timed temporary traffic lights are positioned on each side of the work area to regulate traffic, and the duration of the delays seems to have been decreased. It used to 5 minutes, but now it feels like less. Maybe I’m used to it.

Photo - traffic lights on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Temporary timed traffic lights manage the traffic through the work area. It seems like they've decreased the wait times.

Looking at the photos I took today and comparing them to the last set, there is little visible difference at the rock slide site. As I’m up there often, I can see subtle signs of progress. While it looks pretty devastated along the road, it’s comparatively minor in contrast to the amount of work that has been done to terrace and stabilize the slope above. They were still drilling rock today so there’s work yet to be finished.

Photo - motorcycles pass the rock slide on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The delays are short, there's nothing challenging, motorcycles of which there are plenty have nothing to worry about.

Also be aware there is another delay for tunnel work as you reach Mt. Pisgah. Another set of temporary traffic lights controls traffic there as well. The scaffolding came down weeks ago, the road bed has been freshly paved, and when I passed today they were raking the edges of the road. It appears this delay is nearly over.

So long as I’m relating Blue Ridge Parkway road conditions, there is still paving going on north of Asheville. I thought they were done here when I passed through a couple weeks ago and raved about how nice the pavement was. When I went through a couple days ago they were putting another layer of fresh asphalt on top of the already wonderful road that was there. It’s SO nice! I hit two delays, one near Craggy Gardens and another further south, but they were not long waits. This second coat is going down fast so it won’t be long before they move out of there.

I’ll sum all this up in the somewhat monthly newsletter I put out (subscribe bottom right of page). There are a few paving projects I need to ride out and check on. If you have any info to add, please send it to me.

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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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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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Deals Gap, NC -Tail of the Dragon Reopening April 12

PRESS RELEASE
April 9, 2010
For Immediate Release
Contact:
Ron or Nancy Johnson
800-768-7129 or 828-479-8400
Tail of the Dragon, LLC

Tail of the Dragon Reopening

April 12, 2010

ROCK SLIDE UPDATE April 9, 2010:

The rock slide on US 129 is located between the Dragon and Happy Valley Road/Foothills Parkway.

TDOT has announced in a press release that the 11 mile section known as the Tail of the Dragon will be open from 8 am to 8 pm beginning Monday April 12, 2010. The only access is from North Carolina US 129. THP announced that there will be zero tolerance for traffic violations, so I’d travel the Tail with extreme caution. Please obey the traffic laws and report any undue harassment to us. We will forward all complaints to the Tennessee and North Carolina senators and representatives who worked so hard to get the road open.

We will continue to post the latest information here so keep in touch. The only alternatives from 8 pm to 8 am are the Cherohala Skyway and US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains. There are many great roads in North Carolina and the Cherohala Skyway is clean.

http://tailofthedragon.com

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50 Great Motorcycle Roads Near the Tail of the Dragon

Photo - Jackie and her BMW

Even #1 Riding Partner, my wife Jackie (a.k.a. BMW Girl), has not ridden all the roads - yet!

I was wondering this morning just how many great motorcycle rides I’d discovered in the areas I’ve suggested as alternatives since the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap closed due to the recent rock slide.

So far, I’ve posted info about several areas;

Photo - Jackie rides

Does this bike make my butt look FAST?

I pulled out my America Rides Maps and starting counting. I hit 50 long before I got to the last maps that covered the great motorcycle riding areas I’d been describing. Closer to 70, probably more. I tried not to count rides where the road changes names along it’s course twice or even three times. It gets a little confusing, there are just so many.

Don’t let the rock slide at the Tail of the Dragon obstruct your motorcycle vacation planning. It could be a blessing in disguise. After all, Deals Gap is not known for it’s scenery, mountain views, waterfalls, or picturesque countryside. Imagine what waits just over the hill.

Visit  or contact http://americaridesmaps.com for more info.

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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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Tail of the Dragon Closed for Months? Motorcycles Should Go Elsewhere.

Photo - Smoky Mountain Rider and BMW Girl at the Tail of the Dragon

Smoky Mountain Rider and BMW Girl at the Tail of the Dragon

The rumor mill is churning and I’m trying to sort through it all, but this much seems official. Tennessee has closed the Tail of the Dragon (US 129 at Deals Gap) from the rock slide are to the state line. Even though North Carolina offered to provide traffic enforcement, Tennessee has declined the offer and closed the most popular motorcycle ride in the region until the situation is resolved.

How long will it remain closed, I’ve seen various estimates. Initially one lane was reopened at the site of the slide, but closed the next day. Then there was talk it would be reopened by today. Now the rumors emerging are indicating it will be two months as blasting and bolting are required to stabilize the site. I’ve not seen an official proclamation yet.

I’d like to again urge you re-evalute your motorcycle vacation planning to explore other areas in the surroundings. With all the road closures currently in effect, the traffic loads are shifting onto what few back roads remain and the quality of motorcycle riding in this area will be seriously diminished.

The good news is there are a wealth of fabulous alternatives, hundreds of miles of great two lane uncongested twisty mountain back roads in the immediate area for your motorcycle touring enjoyment that are too often overlooked due to the Dragon’s notoriety. You can get free advice and recommendations on your motorcycle vacation plans by contacting http://americaridesmaps.com. I will be following up with suggested alternatives.

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New Rock Slide Affects Motorcycle Vacation Plans to Smokies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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