Thermometer at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort
It was 80 degrees when I pulled up at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort yesterday at 5 PM with over 400 miles of Smoky Mountain motorcycle rides already behind me. 8 hours ago I was on the Cherohala Skyway as the soft morning glow and gusty winds made the lonely road seem like it was in another world. I decided to make the day a trifecta and go home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s hard to believe it’s still March, early spring has arrived!
Morning on the Cherohala Skyway. I'm parked on the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee.
I had reservations about going out today, I’d been putting it off. I knew I would not find many good motorcycle rides in the areas I was searching. It was either too far out of the mountains or too far to into them. I was hitting the single lane back roads in the National Forests near The Dragon at Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway, as well as the best ways to pass through the semi-urban areas to the north.
Who knows where this is?
I found something cool out in the Cherokee National Forest that will get it’s own motorcycle blog post shortly. One of the more useful things I discovered is one of the most direct ways to connect The Dragon at Deals Gap to I-75 south of Lenoir City.
A long view of the Cherohala Skyway as it winds into Tennessee
I suspect many riders follow US 129 to Maryville, then take US 321 north when headed for the Interstate. There is a way to minimize the traffic and avoid more than half of the four lane US 321.
Take TN 72 north from The Dragon at Punkin Center. When you reach US 411, cross it onto the East Coast Tellico Parkway and follow it along the lake area. It will become Axely Chapel Road at the north end and will intersect US 321. These are not outstanding motorcycle rides, but they are a heck of a lot better than the alternatives and get you off the four lane on some scenic and curvy motorcycle roads.
Calderwood Lake is one of several along US 129
I don’t really care much for riding in this area, but it’s only because there are so many really great motorcycle rides once you get in close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s hard to shine when pitted against them.
I’ve been mostly focusing on find the connections between the better rides so you can link them together. If you have the time when passing through, they are the most enjoyable motorcycle rides I can find for those who would rather stay on the back roads and savor them. The views are certainly more entertaining. Watch out for turkeys in the road.
How many of you have seen the Chillowhee Dam from this side?
My “wake up and dream” cruise on the smooth and sweeping curves of the Cherohala Skyway was the highlight of the morning. The rest of it was on a web of roads which weave through the more remote and rugged sections of the national forest. A few of them start out as decent paved roads, but quickly diminish to single lane unmarked trails that become more potholed and full of gravel as you go. On most, the pavement ends long before the road does.
5 PM on a Tuesday evening in late March at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort
I’ll need at least one more good day to cover this area as thoroughly as I’d like. I’ve hit almost all the roads. The challenge now is how they work together to become the best motorcycle rides through the area, how well do the linked roads flow, can I find ways to make the good motorcycle rides last longer?
I know I can!
(Click on photos for larger views)
– 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 Busch – Cartographer