Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Rock Slide Affects Motorcycle Vacation Travel Plans

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 - 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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Asheville Mayor Welcomes Bikefest

I pulled this off the Asheville Bikefest site -

Mayor rides. Nice to see a city that's so motorcycle freindly. It should be. Sitting right in the heart of the best motorcycle rides in the country, good to know you're welcome here. Asheville has so much to offer.
How about -

"Asheville Voted Top Beer City in America: "Beer City USA"

Music Venue - "Rolling Stone: Orange Peel one of top 5 music clubs in the U.S."

Outstanding Attractions - "Biltmore - America's Largest Home"

You really should look into this event and start making plans. May 13 - 16.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Motorcycle Map Give Away at Daytona Beach Bike Week

I've just donated $1000 of assorted America Rides Maps to be given away during Daytona Beach Bike Week.

Look for the Asheville Bikefest booth, but be quick! They won't last long.

For more info about the Asheville Bikefest, see -

Myrtle Beach’s Loss is Asheville’s Gain


Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Long, Cold, Winter

It's a sad sight, but such has been the coldest, snowiest, wettest winter in memory. I'm fighting a losing battle to keep the batteries charged with rides between the snowfalls. I'm normally one to brave the elements throughout the year, but with the snow has come ice which persists in the shady areas, and there are no shortage of places the sun rarely reaches in the high mountains. Ice and road tires do not mix, and with studded tires starting at $500 a piece, I can only afford to wait it out.

I've been making up the time with desk work and classwork. The web site is getting a long overdue rebuild and it's well on the way to where I can move on. Slowly but surely I'm becoming more competent with all the new software I purchased and I will soon turn to revising the existing maps for 2010. My classwork involves learning to master social networking so I can maintain better contact with you and offer more advanced features and exciting new programs. I've hired a coach, Sabrina Gibson, and am making steady progress learning from a master.

Upcoming changes to the maps will be relatively minor, with focus on adding more features, sights, and improving the Blue Ridge Parkway info. The main focus will be on "behind the scenes" stuff, better editing capabilities and improving the quality of the graphics and images.

I'll be laying out the plans for West Virginia come March. A soon as the weather permits I'll be hitting the road.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Updates and Changes at America Rides Maps

I realize posts have tapered off here at the Cultivated Biker. There is so much going on behind the scenes I owe an explanation;

Following a very successful year, I've made some major investments.

1) I've finally updated my systems and upgraded all my software. I'm now working off a MAC platform and it's a much welcomed change. All new top-of-the-line professional software has been purchased and installed. I am spending long days and often much of the nights learning how the new programs work and how to best apply them.

2) The current focus is on upgrading the storefront and improving the user interface to make it easier for you to find what you want, get the information you need, and locate the best bargains and deals. The SSL secure system has added new features and functionality over time and I am working to implement them. This project is close to completion.

3) The next task will be to update and improve the web site and better integrate it with the storefront. The approach I'm taking is to streamline and consolidate while adding additional features. Time for a fresh face and a makeover.

4) Once this is done I will turn to updating the maps for 2010. This years focus is on adding more detail and useful information. I anticipate only a few new roads will be added to existing maps. Now is the time to email your suggestions and recommendations to I'll be adding to the features along the Blue Ridge Parkway, improving the navigation that identifies the exits, and gradually adding more places to eat, stay, and visit on your travels.

5) Finally, I've hired an expert to help me make the most use of social networking to provide you with content and information that is full of benefits for you. The goal is to maximize security, prevent spam, and give you control over receiving the information which interests you. I have tons of stuff to offer, but at the same time, I don't want to become a nuisance. I'm trying to perfect a system which works best for you.

6) Already done - I've launched a new blog, Smoky Mountain Rider, easy to find at . Unlike the Cultivated Biker, which will remain the official blog for America Rides Maps, Smoky Mountain Rider is independent and will feature general and useful information about motorcycle riding in the region. On occasion I will be cross posting articles to this site.

7) I've also changed the newsletter to a new more functional host that will allow for better presentation and more control for you. Current newsletter subscribers have been informed of the coming change. Still working out the last few bugs, but it should roll out for February.

While my plate may be full, I'm working through it one bite at a time. Thanks for your patience and support and look forward to all the improvements that will benefit you.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Smoky Mountains Dig Out After Freak Snow Storm

This is what too many of my southern motorcycle friends believe is normal winter weather in the Smoky Mountains - freezing temperatures, snow everywhere, ice covers the roads, and we huddle around our home fires waiting for the the spring thaw. It's rarely the case, but just to reinforce the misconception here's a photo of the storm during it's peak on Friday -

Photo - snow falls at Foxfire Cabin in Waynesville, NC.
"Photo from the peak of the snow storm on Friday at Foxfire Cabin here in Waynesville, North Carolina, the heart of the Smoky Mountains.."

The last time this area had a snow like this was the great blizzard of 1993 which is still talked about with reverent infamy. I was not living here for that, though I was passing through the area and forced to stop. Little did I know years later I would come to live in that very same small mountain town.

We got something in the neighborhood of 15 inches of the white stuff which started out light and powdery then became wet and heavy later in the night. We lost power for a good while, many still wait for it's return. No internet service, even the cell phones stopped working a while. My wife was working in Asheville and despite leaving work at 1 PM, it was after 4 when I finally got her home from what is normally a 30 minute drive. The snow came faster than the crews could keep up with it on the interstate and once the hills started icing, the wrecks piled up. She got stuck on an incline, managed to work free and get off the highway, only to get trapped in the bowl of an icy intersection not far from home. She got towed into the parking lot of the nearby Lowes.

I managed to get there to rescue her and only made it up the hill to the house by piling several hundred pounds of rocks in the bed of the truck and letting the air out of the tires. We enjoyed the rest of the weekend shoveling the driveway and then the road so I could get her out to work this morning. I am one sore dude.

Just to prove to my warm climate friends that this is a fluke, just look back at the past couple blog posts to see I was indeed out on the bike earlier in the week, and as soon as the roads clear, I'll be back in the saddle again. It will probably be after Christmas though, as another snow storm seems headed our way on Thursday. Honest guys, this is not typical!

Photo - Wayne skis the Blue Ridge Parkway
"In the mean time I'll be skiing the Blue Ridge Parkway as soon as I can get there."

Don't feel bad for us here in mountain paradise, we roll with the punches. There will be plenty of motorcycle riding to come in the months ahead. And when live gives you lemons, put on the skis and head for the Blue Ridge Parkway as soon as the roads are clear enough. PS - don't eat the yellow snow, it has nothing to do with the lemons.

> > Go To America Rides -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Smoky Mountain Motorcyle Ride Coming Soon

Ahh, fresh tarmac. I wasn't long into the serpentine climb up the mountain I realized this road was better than I'd expected. It had taken an hour to get here, but then I didn't take the fastest route. Instead, I took the fun route, revisiting some of my favorite and most enjoyable rides on the southeast course towards Franklin, North Carolina. Taking the highway doesn't save that much time anyway. There is no direct route from Waynesville to Franklin through the mountains of western North Carolina. There are no direct routes anywhere. That's what makes it motorcycle heaven. You're not going to save much time taking the four lane, might as well take the back roads and enjoy the ride.

Photo - A view of Onion Mountain Road

"A section of Onion Mountain Road which has been paved."

I'd already accepted the disappointment that Onion Mountain Road was not yet completed having passed the eastern end of it on my way down. I could only afford a quick glance at the junction while keeping focus through the screaming tight descending hairpin curve, but even a brief view was enough to reveal this end was not yet paved. Knee down, bike laid over on the edge of the tires, it was far more important to concentrate on just how much throttle to roll on coming out of the turn before I jumped to the other side of the motorcycle and laid it into the next curve. I was having way too much fun to circle back, I'd check it out from the other end.

Photo - Where the pavement ends and the road beyond

"2.1 miles in the pavement ends but the roadbed has been laid. The remaining portion should see asphalt with warmer spring weather."

Every time I ride through here I find myself thinking I don't come this way often enough. These roads are stellar in quality, some of the most challenging found anywhere. There's rarely anything you could call traffic. Most travelers choose the "main" roads to pass through this rugged area of high peaks and forests leaving the back roads delightfully empty and welcome to enjoy at your own comfortable pace.

I turned west when I reached US 64 the principle east-west route through the area and headed towards Franklin, then turned north on 441 to make my approach to Onion Mountain Road and select the best connections. The detour and construction signs were still up, though obscured by black plastic now that the road was open to traffic again. Another hint the project was still in the works. While I'd hoped to find it completed, the road reports were cryptic in saying the road would be closed for paving until December. Once the cold weather sets in, the asphalt plants shut down. Come spring, they'll pull the plastic off the signs and resume work (I hope).

I assume the situation will be similar to the section of NC 281 which was paved last year and is now part of one of my favorite loop rides. They get as much done as they can preparing the roadbed before winter. When things warm enough, it's fairly quick work to come back and lay down the asphalt. Judging by what they've done so far, it's going to be eagerly awaited. It's the prep work that takes the time, cutting into the embankments and filling the road, adding culverts and bridges where needed.

Photo - A view from the roadside.

"The panoramic views are some of the best found in the area. They should get even better higher up."

Only 6.2 miles long, you might wonder why I'm so excited about this road. It's isolated from any towns, just a remote section going from nowhere to nowhere else. Once fully paved, it will make a strategic connection between other great rides that will allow you to avoid the traffic on US 64 and open options to link them together, more ways to bypass the four lane highway and town traffic. There's that, and then there's the road itself. Making the climb up Onion Mountain is one beautiful arc after another. As you gain altitude the road frequently follows a narrow ridge dropping precipitously on both sides. The views, especially with the leaves off the trees are some of the best panoramic sights in the region. It will be one of those roads where you pull over and take out the camera to remember it. When coupled with the other fabulous rides in the surroundings, it will be one you not only treasure but want to come back to and ride again.

2.1 miles of it are paved, then it abruptly turns to gravel. I didn't ride it through, though I could see the 4.1 mile section remaining had been prepped. From the end of the paved section it continues to climb up the mountain and I expect the views will get even better. I'll keep watching it for progress and make another visit in the spring. As soon as it's ready, I'll add it to the map of this area with the best connecting roads, probably another 15 miles of great riding for you to enjoy. With luck, it will be climbing the list of classic rides by summer and I'll be frequenting the area more often.

> > Go to America Rides -

Cross posted to Motorcycle Heaven Blog