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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Dog Ate My Motorcycle Keys?

Little bitch. Since I've exhausted all rational possibilities, blame falls on the newcomer, our dog Sofie. My motorcycle keys have disappeared. I wasted much of the day tearing the house apart looking for them. Had them just a day or so ago. Used them to pull the GPS off the bike so we could find our way to a Christmas party. Got that secret tool on the key ring to remove it from the bike. That was the last known contact.

My wife thinks she saw them the day after, put them on the key rack. They're not there now. I had plans to explore some roads today to confirm I'd not missed any for my motorcycle maps. I was ready to leave before the sun came up, but no keys. I searched everywhere, then growing impatient, I attempted to convince my wife I might use her bike to "make sure everything was running OK".

"My bike's fine", she retorted.

"But you know the battery needs a good charge in it with the cold weather" I alluded.

I don't know if that was the trump card or not, but she was in a hurry to leave for work and I didn't hear anything that countered my extremely plausible and rational argument before she left. I'm pretty sure it would hold up in a court of law if it came down to that. With permission essentially granted, once she left, I grabbed her keys and headed out on the road.

Jackie rides a Beemer. I could write pages about it. So different from my snarling Triumph Tiger, yet with a character all it's own. It's not just any BMW, it's a rather unique, if not exotic model, an F 800 S. I've never seen another one on the road. I could be convinced she owns one of the few in the country, if not the world.

Tall gearing means it's not likely to lift the front wheel with a roll of the throttle or an eager exit from a turn like the Tiger. In the saddle, it feels small compared to the roomy Tiger, almost toy-like until you glance down at the speedo. The riding position is comparatively cramped, though it's probably ideal for my wife outside of being typically Beemer tall for her shorter legs. It is deceptively fast, so composed you don't realize how quickly it accelerates. The twin cylinders are barely burbling at highway speeds, yet a roll of the throttle has it surging ahead with electric smoothness.

The mystery road was a good distance from home which meant the most practical approach was via the Interstate. While I hate the four lanes, this bike is so at home on it. It feels as if it were built for the Autobahn. Solid, planted, stable and in control, bumps and potholes disappear through the plush Germanic suspension as if they only existed visually. It didn't seem fair to limit it to the posted speeds, it was a long way from it's happy place where the speedometer would be recording triple digits and the engine would sing with Wagnerian enthusiasm. This bike can tour with a passive comfort that comes from the Teutonic drawing boards of it's BMW heritage and meticulous design.

After an hour or so of resisting the urge to roll the throttle to nirvana level, I pulled off the Interstate and started clipping down the back roads to reach my goal. I was barely getting a feel for the wet roadway when it turned to gravel. As feared, I'd not missed a great ride in my previous mapping explorations. I'm used to this, another mountain road that starts out with so much promise then half way in the paving crews just packed up and went home. Why bother with the first half? Your hot date disappears mid-prom when she catches you checking your wallet for the prophylactics.

I paused to mark the spot with spent coffee like the big dog I pretend to be, pulled up my hoody under the helmet as I'd misjudged how the day would warm once the sun came up, and spun about for the ride home. I distracted myself from the urge to really ride this bike home by methodically supposing all the potential places my keys could be hiding, a mental logic puzzle that worked for the most part. There would be no challenges for this bike that wouldn't risk a day in the pokey, at least on the highway.

The dogs were enthusiastically waiting at the end of the driveway when I pulled in and if those keys jingled as Sofie pranced about I couldn't hear them through my helmet. I went back to searching all the places I now knew they must be to no avail.

I'm pretty sure that one ride was inadequate to fully charge the battery against the winter chill and riding some twisty roads might do the trick. There's only one way to be sure...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Windstorm hits Carolina Mountains – Motorcycle Maps savings offered

Image - Wayne Busch
No photos yet - just getting back to normal this morning. I lost power most of yesterday as a wind storm moved through with gusts up to 100 mph. Sure glad I don't live on a mountain top. I saw lots of downed trees and spent the day chasing furniture and such blown off the porches while the house was dark and I couldn't work on my motorcycle maps. I saw some images of crushed homes, trees on cars, and even heard one dog was killed when a tree fell on the doghouse. It was strangely warm reaching 60 degrees.

This morning, clear, cold, and still with temps predicted in the teens tonight. Apologies to those whose
motorcycle maps orders did not get shipped yesterday, there is still plenty of time for delivery of your motorcycle maps before Christmas, those gifts will be there on time.


You have 24 hours to SIGN UP to get the biggest discount on maps ever! GO TO

Tomorrow morning, I will send out a coupon code to all newsletter subscribers with the biggest discount I have ever offered on
America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket maps. It's good on the already discounted packages, so you can save huge. YOU HAVE ONE DAY TO SIGN UP and get this discount. All orders delayed by yesterdays storm will automatically be discounted, you'll see the refund on your statement. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET THE DISCOUNT IS TO SIGN UP TODAY!

Do it now. This is a limited time offer. Don't worry, newsletter subscribers frequently get bonuses and discounts, but I don't think I'll ever go this far again.
America Rides Maps Free Newsletter Sign Up Form.

PS - those of you who already subscribe know I'm not one of those guys who pounds your inbox with junk. This is not typical and you may be surprised to see this offer. Jump on it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Motorcycle Tip - Be Fog Free

Here's another video motorcycling tip - how to keep your face shield fog free for about $5.00. I've used Cat Crap for years and it works. The tiny tub you see in the video is probably 10 years old and you can see I've hardly made a dent in it. You can order Cat Crap direct at or find it online via a simple google search. I bought mine at a ski shop to use on my goggles.

This is another inexpensive tip that makes a great gift for your motorcycle friends. It's a nice stocking stuffer that will be appreciated for years to come.

>> Go To America Rides -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rock Slide on US 64 near Cleveland, Tennessee

Yet another rock slide has occurred in the southern mountains, this time closing a section of roadway on US 64 in the Ocoee River Gorge of Polk County, Tennessee. A series of slides has blocked both lanes at mile 17.4 near the Ocoee 2 Dam. As of yet, it remains unstable as the remnants of rain from tropical storm Ida play out over the southern mountains.

Photos and more details can be found at this link;

TDOT's recommended detour route from Chattanooga and Cleveland toward the Copper Basin or McCaysville, Ga., is:

North on I-75 to Exit 60 at Sweetwater, then south on State Route 68 to Ducktown.

From North Carolina;

Take U.S. 74 to Ducktown and go north on SR 68. Traffic is being rerouted along State Route 68 through Tellico Plains and Sweetwater, Tenn.

The detour more than doubles the trip time between Copperhill and Cleveland.

>> Go To America Rides -

Great Motorcycle Tip and Affordable Gift Idea

Here's a video I made of one of my favorite motorcycle tips - how to self rescue should you run out of gas. It's not just practical, but affordable, and makes a great gift for your cycling buddies.

>> Go To America Rides -

Thursday, November 5, 2009

R.I.P. Fabio - You Are Missed

I was away on a mapping trip cataloguing the last of the great motorcyle rides near the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway when Fabio slinked out the door one evening to go about his night time chores - ridding the homestead of vermin and various other small and tasty creatures. That was three weeks ago to the day and he never reappeared. We are resigned to the fact Fabio will not be coming home.

Fabio was my cat, if there is such a thing amongst cats who are generally aloof individualists. I'm pretty much a dog person, just ask my two shadows Ajax, and newly adopted Sophie, who are my constant companions and partners. Fabio did his best to be "one of the dogs" and followed me around like the rest of the pack. He was fearless amongst other animals walking right up to those which roam the cove and touching noses with them. That was probably his undoing. Early on, he tried to befriend a skunk one night, and wore the residue of that encounter for weeks.

Little fazed him and I don't think he ever met another creature he didn't try to accept and learn to live with no matter how disagreeable they were at first excepting our original cat, Bella. Bella and Fabio never did come to an understanding, rather their relationship deteriorated into "kitty wars" which leads me to suspect Bella had something to do with his disappearance. More agile and lithe, Bella could always find refuge in the rafters of the car port where Fabio was unable to reach.

He was a rescued cat, saved from impending destruction at the local animal shelter. Though we had him for such a short time he always imposed his presence and had to be involved, sometimes to the point of annoyance. Whatever you were doing, he was there to help in his own feline fashion. The photo shows him "helping me" while working, chasing the cursor all about the screen to the point it impeded my efforts. He would stretch out on the desk next to me knocking everything in his way on the floor. He liked to lay behind the desk and chew through the cords and cables of the phones. And he could eat maps. He'd work his way into the cardboard boxes I store them in and chew and shred them into bits if I wasn't vigilant.

Despite his annoying habits, he was still endearing and demanded attention and adoration. In the evening, he'd curl up on me and sleep while I watched TV, nibbling at my fingers when he wanted his head scratched and stroked. Like any cat he spent most of the daylight sleeping though it was always within sight of me.

Bella has finally been able to relax and her world is back in order. I guess that's the way things are meant to be for now. But the rest of us are missing Fabio, he was a good cat. Rest in peace, Fabio. The office is not the same without you. Ciao.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Press Release: New Blue Ridge Parkway Series of Maps Released


New Blue Ridge Parkway Series of Maps Released

America Rides Maps has just released a new series of motorcycle pocket maps based on the Blue Ridge Parkway which expand the great mountain riding to more than 3000 miles.

Waynesville, North Carolina, USA - October 30, 2009

America Rides Maps now has complete end-to-end coverage of the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway and every great mountain ride in the surroundings! More than 3 years of research and exploration and tens of thousands of miles spent on the motorcycle personally riding, selecting, judging, and cataloging every paved road which connects to and is adjacent to the nations favorite scenic ride are now available in a 7 map package. Designed and created for and by motorcyclists, field tested and proven, these pocket maps are unlike anything else available and are an unparalleled bargain at the $30.00 package price.

Each year millions make the ride down the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway which traces the highest mountain ridges in Virginia and North Carolina from it's starting point near Shenandoah National Park just outside Waynesboro, Virginia, to it's southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. Along the way are spectacular views from high mountain overlooks, historic sites, and rugged natural beauty that has endeared the Blue Ridge Parkway as a national treasure.

America Rides Maps expands this 469 mile park ride to encompass the surrounding mountains highlighting more than 3000 miles of the most enjoyable paved two lane mountain back roads in the country. Designed to be accessible and easy to read, the maps fold simply, fit in a pocket, and highlight the kinds of information motorcyclists desire which other parkway-specific maps lack. They overlap and connect, are numbered in sequence from north to south, and provide such important features as the locations of reliable gas stations, distances between roads and exits, locations of significant attractions as well as all other connecting roads, cities, parks, and items of note to the traveling motorcyclist.

As nice as the ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway is, it provides only a fraction of the wealth of scenic, historic, and rewarding sights found in the surrounding rural mountains. With at least a dozen additional roads on each of the 7 maps selected for their challenge, beauty, and enjoyment, America Rides Maps reveals one of the best kept secrets - there is no greater concentration of fabulous motorcycle rides anywhere else in the nation.

"I'd been coming here for more than 20 years and thought I knew of the best roads. It was only after I moved here and spent a few years in the area I realized how little I had discovered" says
Wayne Busch, owner and creator of America Rides Maps.

Wayne lives only minutes from one of the most scenic sections of the parkway in Waynesville, North Carolina. A lifelong motorcyclist, he was always enamored with the great ride through the linear park and made frequent trips north from Florida to enjoy it and the surrounding mountains. Once he relocated to the mountains of western North Carolina, he discovered the parkway barely scratched the surface of the depth of great two lane mountain back roads found in the Smoky Mountains.

"I met too many people, like me, who thought they knew the area. I'd mention my favorite roads only to find they'd never heard of them or had been driving right past them for years" he reports. In response, heI began making local maps to help people find them.

"I'd take the occasional job leading tours to help make ends meet, and they always went well - I knew the roads so I could tailor the rides as we went to just what my clients were looking for. It confirmed I knew what people liked". Eventually, he decided to focus all his efforts on producing maps.

"I know what I don't like about maps, and I am determined to make mine useful" says Busch. "I tried a bunch of sizes before settling on pocket maps. Bigger maps are too hard to fold, tough to use in wind, it seems what you want is always on the other side, and they are never handy. They end up in the saddlebag which means you rarely use them. I designed my maps so you can whip them out at a stop sign, quickly find what you need, slip them back in your pocket, and keep moving. That's the way I ride."

It seems America Rides Maps is onto something. With a dozen maps in production and thousands sold through their on line store, business is growing while other map makers struggle in an age of GPS and the Internet. They don't just show you where the roads are, any map does that. America Rides Maps shows you where the RIGHT roads are and highlights them from all the others. Just because it's a squiggly line on a map doesn't mean it's a great ride. You never know until you actually ride it, and that's what they do. There's nothing else like them.

America Rides Maps
706 Underwood Cove Road
Waynesville, North Carolina 28786
(828) 734-2164
Fax: 828-456-5243

Wayne Busch / America Rides Maps
America Rides Maps
706 Underwood Cove Road
Waynesville, North Carolina 28786
(828) 734-2164
Fax: 828-456-5243

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toothless in North Carolina

I'm doing the best I can hopped up on the generic version of "hillbilly heroin". The new map is ready to go. I've got the brand new Blue Ridge Parkway Series of maps which give full coverage to the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway ready to launch. I just can't focus well enough to get my act together today and get the web site updated to post it on line. It all started with a visit to my dentist.

I went in for a cleaning Monday and he discovered a small cavity on a tooth which had been crowned 30 or more years ago. While unusual for me, it was still nothing major. I don't fit the dentist's nightmare that typifies many of my hillbilly compatriots in the mountains. First cavity I've had since childhood, a novelty for me.

I could tell by the glances back and forth between Dr. Yerko and his assistant things were not going as expected. As he drilled away at removing the infested portion of tooth near the edge of the crown, it came off. Then the filling and post from the root canal came out. At that point it was time for an x-ray and a little patient input.

Having spent many years in the medical profession, I have a good familiarity with reading X-rays. What I saw was not pretty. The tooth was cracked in a couple places. The damage from the cavity which had hidden beneath the crown was extensive. For the first time in my life, I was looking at having a tooth removed. Shame really, as I still have every one of them, even my wisdom teeth. So, it was an easy decisions, it had to go.

I'm pretty casual about such things and looked on the impending experience as something I would not otherwise know about personally. You only live once, so anytime anything new comes along, embrace it and get that under your belt. Looking back, it's an experience I will avoid in the future.

For an hour or so they set about removing that molar. It was coming out in pieces. After 2 1/2 hours in the dentist chair, they took a break. On return, Dr. Yerko informed me he was sending me to an oral surgeon down the road. His tools were not long enough to reach the pieces needed, and it would take a surgeon to cut into the gums and do what needed to be done.

Oh, boy, might as well get the most out of this experience. Off to the the surgeon and another hour in the chair. He went at it with much more vigor and enthusiasm but then I suppose that's what it takes. A few stitches, prescriptions for pain killers and antibiotics, a mouth full of gauze, and I was done.

I stopped by the pharmacy on the way home and dropped off the antibiotic prescription. Figured I wouldn't need the pain killers, I'm pretty tough that way. How wrong can you be? As soon as the anesthetic started wearing off, I headed to the medicine cabinet. Wholly cow, it hurts!

Now I'm washing them down with rum to make it tolerable. Figure I'd better get this posted before I hit the floor. I'm down to 31 teeth now. It's time to find a comfortable place to bed down, not too far from the bar. I've finally got a hillbilly smile (and the drool to go with it). I'll get the web site done tomorrow. It's the best I can do.

PS - no photos this time.

>> Go To America Rides -

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last Motorcycle Map of Blue Ridge Parkway Ride Done

711.5 miles. New one day record for a mapping expedition. A good chunk of that was on the Interstate though, so it doesn't really count. Still, that's a pretty good haul for the shorter days of the fall season when I typically average less than 500 miles per day evaluating two lane mountain back roads to find the best ones for my maps.

It had been raining since first light though never heavy enough to penetrate my gear and soak me through. Although the weather was fairly warm, my electric heated gear helped dry out any seepage. It was an effective tactic which helped keep me toasty warm even with a little dampness. Must give a plug to Gerbing heated motorcycle gear and Fieldshear outwear. 16 hours in the rain and I remained warm, dry, and comfortable.

As darkness came over me and the last of the two lane roads I wanted to explore passed beneath my wheels, I couldn't justify another night in a motel at peak season prices. Within reach of Roanoke , I-81 was calling me. The daylight was spent making a huge arc from Staunton, east to the Blue Ridge Parkway, south to the outskirts of Lynchburg, and then west across the West Virginia state line on what were mostly disappointing roads. The least likely prospects are left to wrap up the end of a trip, though some jewels were discovered.

Rolling out onto the dark highway the torrents came in waves and any thought of wet clothing was overshadowed by simply trying to see through the squalls kicked up by semi trucks and a smokey visor better suited to bright sunlight than night cruising. At times the best course was to simply lock on the glowing red pair of taillights ahead and follow them wherever they went as the road disappeared in the glare of headlights reflecting on the rain-fogged helmet shield, playing havoc with any detail of lane lines or signage. The worst of it was crossing the mile high mountain pass from Tennessee into North Carolina when the winds kicked up and the midnight darkness was illuminated only once by the flashing blue lights of a string of troopers gathered to work an accident. Without a car to follow I could have easily driven up one of those runaway truck ramps in the blackness of the storm.

So what did I discover? Fewer great roads than expected. It had been a while since I last came this far north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, all the way to it's end. I did hit it at pretty much the peak of color, and the days prior had been clear and sunny so I could fully enjoy the fall splendor. The trees were putting on a great show, but I am a harsh judge, spoiled by living near the best section of the 469 mile national roadway.

There are a wealth of rocky outcroppings and the occasional long range view. To the east, you are often treated to views looking out over the vast expanse of the Piedmont stretching to the horizon. To the west, you overlook the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley. The mountains here are distinctly separated by broad valleys which make them stand out in contrast to the flatter portions between them. Elevations are lower than near my home base, and the foliage reflects that. More oak and scrub which tends to turn yellow-orange-gold then quickly brown. Occasional bursts of red, but lacking the evergreens, birch, dogwood, and beech, found at higher altitudes to give a full rainbow of hues. Much or the roadway is through forested patches and the overlooks are less dramatic - they frequently highlight streams which course close to the road instead of the more impressive scenery found south. It's not that it's not a worthy ride and full of enjoyment, just not as eye-catching as what I am used to seeing. There's no place like home.

The really dramatic views are found off the parkway, often to the west as the mountains rise again into West Virginia. The roads through the valleys do have an appeal. Rural, farms and dairy pastures, and lots of historic tiny towns, their relevance lost to time. For those with an historic bent, viewing them is rewarding. I appreciate old homes, and they are found in both pristine preservation and admirable depreciation. In general though, these valley roads offer nothing special, though I did find a few exceptions.

Roads connecting to the Blue Ridge Parkway, typically a good location to find great rides, are disappointingly short due to the lower altitudes. Once the descent is made they either empty into towns or connect to unremarkable valley byways. Again, I noted the best of these.

The most interesting areas are found west where the mountains start to rise again. There are still valleys between them, but roads which cross the ridges can be fantastic. The closer you draw to the West Virginia state border, the more likely you'll find enjoyable riding. It confirms my desire to expand my travels into West Virginia and explore the border area in more depth.

This trip provides the information to complete the last map in the Blue Ridge Parkway series which means I now offer full coverage of every great ride adjacent to the park from end to end, locations of reliable gas stations, and suggestions to make a trip down that roadway a lot more interesting and enjoyable. It shouldn't take long to put it together as much of the work was completed before I left. First, a day of rest. Expect the newest America Rides Map this week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Snow - Blue Ridge Parkway Closes

As if to emphasize the clock is ticking on my efforts to complete the last Blue Ridge Parkway series motorcycle map, the first snow of the season has blanketed the Blue Ridge. It's not all that unusual, we were due for a good cold snap. Here today, gone tomorrow. Temperatures will soon be back in the 70's. The inch or so that fell around these parts will be gone by this afternoon.

It probably thrilled the throngs of leaf peepers in the area from parts south who stormed the shops for gloves, scarves, and warm coats. For them, this is just what was needed to make the colors pop and by the end of the week the show should be spectacular. In the mean time they can amuse themselves with a quick trip to
Cataloochee Ski area which opens this morning (and will probably close again tomorrow) or visit the elk at Cataloochee who are in full amorous frenzy. No shortage of things to do and see this season.

I read this morning
a car slid off the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday, possibly due to snow and ice, and find the gates closed when I went up to check the conditions. The white stuff won't last even at the highest elevations and it will be open again shortly.

In the mean time I've been diligently progressing on the new map and am right on schedule for a Wednesday departure. The next couple days will be spent laying out the routes, trying to devise the best strategy to cover more than a thousand miles of two lane mountain back roads that surround the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in as short a time as possible. I'll be straying across the border into West Virginia which clips the corner of this map and scoping out what will most likely be the next state I explore. Time is short, but I'm going to get it done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NEW MAP! - The Roads of Roanoke and Beyond

I've just finished the latest map, The Roads of Roanoke and Beyond. It's the second of the three map Blue Ridge Parkway - Virginia Series and catalogs 90 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as more than 2 dozen great roads in the surrounding area. There are also more than 20 good "connector roads" which give you shortcuts or the best routes to reach my top rated rides.

It was an exciting moment when I transferred the overlapping data from this newest map to the raw data file of the last map in the series. I'll be completing it as quickly as I'm able. Once done, America Rides Maps will offer the most comprehensive collection of great rides along the entire 469 mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway and enough great riding to give you years of motorcycle touring pleasure.

The race is on as fall weather closes in on us. There's a lot of preparation before I load up and motor north to begin the reconnaisance. Shorter days mean less miles covered and cooler weather will also bring it's challenges. I need to locate a new base to work out of. There will be challenges, but I'm looking forward to them.

Little time to take a breath or relax, got to keep pushing to get it done. For now, another milestone has been passed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Motorcyle Fall Color

Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Sun. Rain.

The weather has been wetter than usual lately so you grab your fun rides when you can. After playing hooky on Thursday, I've had to make up for the lost time in the office and the rainy days make that much more tolerable. When the weather broke on Sunday and beautiful blue skies set the emerging fall leaves against a nice backdrop we had to get out for a quick ride to enjoy them.

No agenda, no destination, we just tooled around on some of the local roads close to home. One hand on the throttle, the other holding the camera, I snapped a few photos as we went.

With each passing day the leaves move further towards their final demise with the explosion of color that signals fall is upon us. You can see the changes from day to day. We've yet to have any really chilly weather though it's sure to come soon. In the mean time it's grab-it-while-it's-good.

Blah, blah, blah, this is all just filler to give the photos something to hang on to. The pictures are from the lower elevations near Waynesville, Bethel, and Canton and you'll still note a lot of green on the trees. That won't last much longer. Even today the understory is far more pronounced with reds and oranges coming on strong to join the yellows and purples that came out a little earlier.

And so the show goes on and we hope for drier weather so we can get out more often and enjoy it. In the mean time, the view from the office windows and the porches will do quite nicely when too wet for casual riding.

>> Go To America Rides -

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Fall Color Motorcycle Tour

It was a good day to play hooky and who wouldn't have done the same given the opportunity. When a college buddy called to let me know he was in the area and had brought his motorcycle along with him, I needed little more to tempt me into getting out of the office for a day and enjoying fall as it nears it's peak of glory. It was a truly great day to be riding though what day isn't?

George is new to motorcycling and from Florida. Either of those two factors means mountain curves are intimidating. When combined, I was assured this wouldn't be a day spent testing the edges of the tires and sane riding technique. That's a good thing really as I'm still riding out the years probation I'm under for abusing my privilege to stay within the DOT's suggested speed recommendations on our wonderful roads. His choice of rides, a
Honda Pacific Coast, also did not lend itself to carving up the corners. It's one of those giant scooter-looking things, and while it has 800cc's of grunt, it lacks the attitude to apply it - it's more of a rolling tupperware party with barely a hint of metal meanness showing anywhere. No problem. With a spanking new tire on the front of my bike, an easy ride to scrub it in would be just the ticket before I put it to proper use another day.

I'd been looking for an excuse to revisit
Hot Springs, one of the classic rides in the area. It was fall cool this morning and I threw the heated gear on just in case, though I never needed to plug it in. A quick breakfast at Duval's in Waynesville, then out NC 209 into the countryside. Blue skies, crystal clear air, and clean roads welcomed us to one of the nicest close-in rides found around here.

We wound through the gentle curves of the pastoral valleys then climbed into the serpentine course through the higher passes. Were it one of my regular rides it could have been a morning of frustration. First a delay due to road work, then mowing, then a farm tractor, then a heavy truck easing down a grade in low gear as we worked our way north. Today these delays simply allowed more time to soak in the surroundings and gave George a chance to get accommodated to the roads without having to maintain a constant push to the edge of his comfort zone.

We paused in
Hot Springs and I took a few minutes to explore the town anew. It was once one of my favorite local runs as it is a great ride to get there, and is surrounded by a wealth of fantastic two lane back roads. I'd make the hour trip out, amuse myself with loops through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, then circle back into town for a beer and buffalo burger at the Paddler's Pub. The pub was always filled with bikers and the parking lot was a showcase of machines from near and far. It burned down last winter and has yet to be rebuilt, though I was encouraged to see piles of new cinder block stacked where it once stood.

I've yet to try any of the other small caf├ęs that inhabit the tiny town, and this morning it was too early to give any a test run. The
Iron Horse Station looks promising. I told George some of the history and errata of the place. There really are natural hot mineral springs here you can visit and soak in. It was a refuge in early days for those who came to enjoy them for "health" reasons, but the grand old spa resort had also succumbed to fire years ago. The town had served as an internment camp for German prisoners during WWII. The Appalachian Trail, that 2000 mile long footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine, passes right through the heart of it to cross on the bridge over the French Broad River. It's a popular place for whitewater rafters who come to ride the challenges of the rapids found on river. The surrounding national forests are full of hiking trails. That's an awful lot of attractions for a town so small it doesn't even have a traffic light.

We continued north along beautiful NC 212 as it traces the river where fly fisherman often outnumber the trout, then I detoured off on one of my secret little back roads to head into Tennessee. Climbing, dipping and carving through the hillsides, George convinced me this road was so good I had to add it to
my Hot Springs map. I suppose he's right, I'll revisit that map and beef it up with a few more of roads I'd kept to myself up until now.

Rocky Fork, Tennessee, we turned south to return to North Carolina and lunch called for a stop in Mars Hill. We landed at the El Dorado Latin Grill to satisfy my craving for a Cuban sandwich, though George's chicken thighs with blueberry chipoltle sauce was the special of the day and he reported it was excellent.

I-26 filled the short gap between
Mars Hill and Weaverville where George had stayed with relatives. I wanted to show him a good road right in town then get up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to give him the full monty on our one day tour. You can tell leaf peeping season is upon us as soon as you hit the parkway.

We plodded along through the boring section of the
Blue Ridge Parkway that encircles Asheville. The road declines from the higher mountains north to reach a low point south of the city as it fords the French Broad River on an elevated causeway. From there it becomes far more interesting as you climb to it's highest and most scenic section. As we gained altitude the turning of the leaves played out in colorful splendor.

If you know just where to look, you can get an awesome view of the
Biltmore Mansion sitting castle-like amongst the surrounding forests, though I didn't stop to share the view. We passed through tunnel after tunnel each time bursting out into the bright sunlight and just a little more color on the trees as we climbed higher and higher to reach Mt. Pisgah. I paused at selected overlooks to enjoy the panoramic views which stretched far into the hills of South Carolina and Great Smokey Mountains National Park to the north. The Pisgah Inn, Graveyard Fields, Looking Glass Rock, and The Devil's Courthouse all had full parking areas as we stopped to enjoy them. Already at the higher elevations the peak of the color may have passed. Graveyard fields was a spectacular red and brown, though looking down on the ridges below showed much of the seasonal rainbow was yet to appear in the forests. Only the tips of the ridges had been touched by the paint brush of autumn and plenty of yet green leaves wait for their final curtain call.

Completing our loop we left the parkway at
NC 215 wanting to share my wife's favorite local road with my good friend and rolled through the never-ending curves of color that led us back to Waynesville and then my home. Jackie was home from work and we enjoyed the premier local past time of sitting on the porch reveling in a good days travels and the tales that go with them.

As he prepared to leave George thanked me for the days tour. "You know, the Blue Ridge Parkway was really nice, I've seen it before from a car and it's a whole new experience on a motorcycle. But those little back roads you took me on were what really made the day, I've never done anything like that, it was the best experience I've ever had on a motorcycle, I enjoyed them more than anything else."

Safe travels George. Good to see you again and even better to spend a day riding with you. You know we've always got a room ready for you when you get the chance to come back.

>> Go To America Rides -

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quick Update - Printer Back In Service

Thanks to Joe from Mountaintop Printer Repairs, the laser map printer is back on line. Quality had been deteriorating and I finally reached a point where professional attention was needed. The usual maintenance fixes were not doing the trick. We're back on line and 90% fixed, quality is back to great and I can resume printing. New parts are on the way that will bring us up to 100%. They should arrive just in time to produce the newest Virginia map in full vivid color and crystal clarity. Thanks Joe!

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Never Know Until You Ride It

I'm back from my most recent trip mapping Virginia. It was one heck of an expedition averaging more than 500 miles per day on my motorcycle, mostly on two lane back roads. Areas I thought would be really good turned out to have little appeal. The area I thought would largely be a waste of time turned out to be one of the best. You never know until you ride it, that's why I do what I do.

I revisited some sections on the last map which overlap into this one which revealed previous roads connected to fabulous new roads. I'll be making some minor changes to "
North Carolina / Virginia Border Rides" to reflect these new discoveries. There are some outstanding rides you really shouldn't miss which cross the borders of these two maps.

The central point of this second Virginia map is the city of Roanoke. The
Blue Ridge Parkway cuts through the heart of the map touching on the very edges of the city. I explored a few roads close in to the city. While most of us don't get on the bike to ride the urban landscape, should you be staying near, there are a couple rides in close you may want to do to catch a nice view or a sunset from up high. Surprisingly few paved roads connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway on this map, so knowing where they are and which way the closest gas station is will be helpful.

The highest ridges of the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway run in close to the city. The character of them changes as you move north leaving the rolling hills of southern Virginia behind to enter the more mountainous and scenic peaks north of the city. Roads to the south side quickly entered rolling but relatively flat country and while there are more roads, I found fewer and fewer of them engaging me and making me want to come back and ride them again. I have a lot to eliminate based on this reconnaissance.

On the other hand, north of the city is the place I enjoyed most. Here the various mountain ranges are distinct, separated by long valleys. The roads which run through these long vallies are far more curvy than they appear on a map and some of the views are wonderful. Be warned though, I'm going to try to describe some of these roads as "adventure" roads. Some will like them better than others.

As I ripped along them on a bike built for this kind of terrain, bouncy, tight, sometimes technical in demeanor, I thought about what it would be like riding shotgun on a big cruiser, fully loaded, doing more hanging on than enjoying the beautiful scenery. I think your passenger might find the experience a bit demanding if done at a hurried pace. I'll try to identify these roads for you. On the other hand, at a relaxed pace and with the camera handy, I felt like I was riding through a national park at times. I can't help but recommend them.

There's one more map to go in this series to fully cover the entire range of the
Blue Ridge Parkway and the surrounding areas. I'll do my best to crank this one out by the end of the week. For the first time this year I plugged in my heated gear and really needed it as I climbed the high passes from Tennessee into North Carolina on the midnight ride home. It's going to be regular kit from now on. I have once again paused on the West Virginia border and stared into what looks like the promised land. I'm pretty sure I know where the sequel to these maps will lie.

>> Go To America Rides -

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Broke My Motorcycle - Again

The Triumph Tiger 1050 is often referred to as an "adventure bike" - a motorcycle that does most things very well and will go almost anywhere though in it's most recent iteration it is far more biased towards the road than previous incarnations. I have taken that "adventure" heritage to extremes - I've laid it down at highway speeds on the Interstate, ridden it through deserts, floods, and snow, and once completely submerged it in a river. All these things it has shaken off like a wet dog after a cold swim, though it has accumulated a collection of scrapes, scratches, and minor blemishes that tell the story of it's travels. Only a close inspection reveals them and amazingly few parts have ever broken. They are proudly worn like badges of honor boasting the invincibility built into this machine.

Well, I've broken it again, and it looks like I may have to pay the dues for exploring the boundaries of good sense. This time, it was mapping Virginia that led to the minor calamity. My stubborn intensity to actually ride and explore every potential road in an area to often leads me to places no reasonable person would consider, and this was another one of those foolhardy ventures.

I'd already lost more than an hour due to blinding rain and fog so thick you couldn't see across a two lane road. First sipping coffe in an empty greasy spoon, then near the parking lot sitting on a wet rock waiting for the ability to make out where I was going. When I could finally see the repair shop across the street, I set out.

The detour and road closed signs should have put me off. Still, I pressed onward, determined to discover if this was a temporary situation that required monitoring or something more permanent. While this road did not show much promise from the research, it did have a section that looked interesting and I leave no stone unturned. Nor did I want to retrace my route. The road was leading into the area I'd be working that day and in the interest of saving time I was determined to ride through whatever to get there and maximize my efficiency.

I should have turned back when I reached the bridge. Blocked with huge concrete barriers and orange warning signs, it spanned a deep gulch over a railroad track. I stopped to ponder the situation closer to discover a narrow pathway weaving between the barriers. I walked out on the bridge, the pavement and concrete irregular and broken, and jumped up and down vigorously to test it's soundness. The road on the far side led out into the farmlands. I could do this.

I returned to the bike, mounted, and quietly motored towards the slot skirting the very edge of the drop into the gulch. Approaching with cautious hesitation through the tall wet weeds, the bike suddenly lurched to a stop as the front wheel found an unseen mound of pavement hidden in the greenery and began to topple. With all my strength I wrestled it away from the drop and eased back. A timid approach was not going to get the job done.

I took a moment to summon my resolve, studied the line I would follow, focused on the point I would emerge, and released the clutch with a measured amount of throttle open. The front wheel rushed forward, bounded over the obstacle, and passed through the gap dead center just as planned. Unfortunately, the rear wheel was not quite on the same path and as it encountered the hump it slipped and skirted violently towards the slope. As momentum carried me trough, a loud SNAP occurred and while I slowed to a stop half way across the bridge my left luggage case spun along on the pavement beside me. When the bike leaned, it had caught on the edge of a barrier and broken off.

I parked the bike and retrieved the case as well as the bits of broken mounting brackets. Designed to quickly attach and detach with a simple key lock, most of these clamps were now broken. Still, one was intact and I remounted it on the bike and locked it in place. Somehow, there was enough left to hold it there, though it was anything but secure.

I carefully threaded through the barriers on the far side of the bridge and kept one hand reaching back to insure the case was still there as I proceeded down the road. As expected, this next section of road was uninteresting but the promising part lay ahead. The case stayed in place as I crossed the countryside. I watched the GPS as the curvy parts drew ever closer. My heart sank as I reached it passing a sign that indicated unpaved road ahead.

The next 12 miles or so was a bumpy gravel forest road, steep and twisty as it threaded through the trees and rocks of some obscure Virginia hilltop. My hand kept flashing back to confirm the case was still attached with every rough climb or big rock crossed. Were it to come off here, it would tumble down some steep slope and both the case and contents would likely be lost. It was still there as I emerged on the back side of a bleak and impoverished factory town, the umber brick relics of long abandoned mills and plants overgrown with weeds and rust, windows broken, once bustling factories now silent and abandoned to time.

Things did improve, and I covered a lot of miles through the rest of the day. Periodically, I put my hand behind me to feel the case still loose, but in place, and it remained there until I got home. I'd hoped to somehow drill, screw, and glue things back together, but it's hopeless. I'm going to need to buy a new side case. For the first time, I returned to my maps and completely removed any trace of that road. I don't want any chance you'll follow in my tire tracks. There are far better roads to ride.

>> Go To America Rides -

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hardtails Saloon, Maggie Valley - Hog Wings Anyone?

Ah, blessed sunshine. After all the rain lately it felt good to get out on the road. Time to make the rounds and check in with everyone. Same story everywhere, sorry about the rain with the Fall Rally in the Valley, but we all made do as best we could.

I was working my way down the mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway into Maggie Valley when the sky opened up again. I made a quick stop at the Mountaineer Restaurant to do an interview with a reporter from the Smoky Mountain News (seems I'm doing a lot of interviews lately), and ducked out of the worst of the deluge. Or so I thought. Further down the mountain I drove back into it again, and ducked into the first friendly looking place, The Hardtails Saloon.

I'd not been here yet. The Hardtails Saloon opened in June and I just haven't had the opportunity to check it out. Last time I tried, it was during a rally and the place was jammed, so I moved along. This was early afternoon and with the rain things hadn't picked up yet for the day. Fran, the owner was sitting at the counter and invited me to join her.

"You've got to try the Hog Wings" she insisted. They're like chicken wings, only pork. Always one to go with a recommendation, I agreed to test drive them. Within a few minutes a hot basket of sweet tiny pork ribs arrived and they were like candy! OMG good. Sweet, tender, cooked just right, I have to pass this on.

Add The Hardtails Saloon to your list of pit stops. Great place to cool your heels , have a cold brew, and chow down on some hot hog wings.

> > Go To America Rides -

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 2009 Fall Rally in the Rain

Photo: We had it all - Daisy the Pig, Hank the Bear, Moonshiners, Biker Girls ...

I suppose it's my fault for posting that TV Pilot video from a couple years ago that showed the best we could do during the rains of the 2007 Fall Rally in the Valley in Maggie Valley, NC. It must have reminded someone to open the faucets again. At times, I should have had a boat, not a booth.

Still, the crowds came out. Not as many as we would have liked, and I can't blame those who bailed on the event, though at times a little help bailing from those who didn't would have been appreciated. The rain started days before the event and grew progressively worse. By the time Friday rolled around, we were already pretty saturated. There were breaks in the weather, and when they came we were busy and tried to put on a good show.

I think we represented Maggie Valley well. A last minute effort from the lodgers and merchants of, we pooled our resources to purchase a vendor spot at the event. We passed out a good bit of literature from the Haywood County TDA and visitor guides from the Maggie Valley Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, raffled off a 3 day, 2 night, food / lodging / guided tour package, sold a good bit of Popcorn Sutton Moonshiner memorabilia, guided a lot of visitors to some great local rides, and I sold a lot of maps.

Daisy the pig (shown in the photo) was a big hit, as was 7 year old Ellie in her black leather chaps and pink Harley-Davidson gear. While she tore up the dance floor in the evening, she was too shy to get on stage, though the crowd urged her repeatedly. Hank the Bear got a much needed bath. I got a tremendous amount of support and volunteer help from Joanne at
the Mountaineer Restaurant, Gabie and Rob at the A Holiday Motel insured I was fed, Phil and Tammy from the Clarketon Motel made sure I didn't waste any time making trips to the beer tent, and numerous other All Roads Lead To people who came out and volunteered their support and assistance. I even made freinds with the fine ladies at Biker Bettys Apparel and Accessories next door who were so impressed with my maps they've offered to take them on the road with them.

Thanks to all who braved the weather to travel to the mountains and spend much of their weekend riding in the rain. I hope I've helped make your trip worthwhile and opened your eyes to the vast number of undiscovered roads that lace the surrounding mountains. When you come back, be sure to visit to get the best vacation packages and room deals for your next visit. The best of our riding season is just starting.

Go To America Rides -