Motorcycle Heaven

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Smoky Mountains Dig Out After Freak Blizzard

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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 Maps.com

Written by americaridesmaps

December 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Great New Motorcycle Road Still Waits Completion

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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 Maps.com

Cross posted to The Cultivated Biker Blog

Written by americaridesmaps

December 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm

The Dog Ate My Motorcycle Keys?

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Photo - SofieLittle 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.

Photo - Jackie and her BMWTall 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.

Photo - Jackie ridingI 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…

>> Go To America Rides Maps.com
Cross-posted on The Cultivated Biker Blog

Written by americaridesmaps

December 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm

While Mapping Motorcycle Roads I Found the Andrews Geyser

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I was passing through Old Fort, North Carolina the other day hoping to find a road I might have missed on one of my motorcycle mapping trips, when I came across the man-made Andrews Geyser. The wading pond was frozen, the spout encased in heavy ice, and the grass surrounding the pool was a huge sheet of bumpy rhyme.

Photo - Andrews Geyser encased in ice near Old Fort, NC

Andrews Geyser encased in ice near Old Fort, NC

The Geyser was built in 1880 as a tourist attraction and to commemorate those whole lost their lives building the railroad that climbed from Old fort to Swannanoa, then on to Asheville. Until that time, Old Fort was as far west as the railroad went. The 3 mile climb through the mountains required more than 12 miles of serpentine track and seven tunnels. More details at  (

My explorations take me to the most unusual and scenic locations as I search out the best roads for my motorcycle maps. I’d passed the sign that directs you to the Geyser on the west end of town many times, but never ventured out to see it as the paved road does not make it all the way through the mountains. It’s a nice ride, but it doesn’t lead you anywhere else so it’s not on my motorcycle map of the area. Still, you won’t miss the signs.

If you’re passing through Old Fort on your way to reach those great two lane mountain roads nearby and have a little extra time, you might want to ride out and see the 80 ft. high plume. I got there late on the day when the temperatures never went much above freezing. Next time I visit, I hope it will be a little warmer.

Written by americaridesmaps

December 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Motorcycle Thought / Photo for Today

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“Sometimes the best communication happens when you’re on separate bikes.” – Author Unknown

Photo - Wayne and wife Jackei on Peel's Ferry, AR.

Wayne and his wife Jackie ride Peel's Ferry across Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas.

I harbor some remorse for those women who choose to ride shotgun with their spouse, they are missing the real thrill of motorcycling. Of course, they don’t have bugs in their teeth when they smile, but then I doubt they have as much to smile about. After in infamous snowmobile ride in Colorado (honest, we wouldn’t have ended up in that tree if we hadn’t hit the snow covered rock), my wife refuses to get on the back of any machine with me.  She’s been riding since shortly after we were married and that’s going on 27 years now. If you’ve seen some of my videos, you know, that girl can ride.

With the ground frozen and ice in the creek outside my window today, it’s nice to look at some summer photos when motorcycling is not quite as challenging. While I ride through the winter, as does Jackie, it’s a different experience entirely.

This is a photo of us on Peel’s Ferry which crosses Bull Shoals Lake in northern Arkansas. It’s a free ride, operated by the DOT, and it leads you into Missouri. It was so hot that day we used most of the water in our bottles soaking down our T-shirts and bandannas to keep cool. I may yet do a map of parts of Arkansas. There’s some nice riding if you know where to go. This ferry was part of a very nice day ride.

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Written by americaridesmaps

December 12, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Motorcycle Quote for Today

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Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.
  ~Hunter Thompson

Photo - Carving a curve on Charlie's Creek Road

If you're not hanging off it, you're not trying!

Ahh, one of my favorite backwoods twisties, Charlie’s Creek Road. My wife calls it “the most dangerous road we ride” and you can click through the link to read more about it in one of my other blogs. The “Tail of the Dragon” is tame in comparison. It’s predictable. Charlie’s Creek Road throws everyhting at you, tempting you to roll harder on the throttle then throwing it right back in your face if you give in too freely. Can’t get enough of roads like this and it’s not hard to. It’s part of a 100 mile loop I love which keeps you on the edge of your tires the entire time.

You find this road and the others in the loop on America Rides Maps “The Best Roads South of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – EAST“, a.k.a. the waterfall map, and it’s just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the time to check it out when you’re coming this way.

Written by americaridesmaps

November 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Motorcycle Gift – Be Fog Free

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Here’s another motorcycle tip from – how to keep your motorcycle face shield fog free for about $5.00. I’ve been using Cat Crap for years, in fact, the tub of it in the video is at least 10 years old and as you can see I’ve hardly made a dent in it.

You can find it online direct from the manufacturer at or just google it for other suppliers. I picked mine up at a ski shop one winter for my goggles.

The video doesn’t lie, the stuff works just like you see. Buy one for yourself and give one to a friend. It’s another inexpensive gift that makes a nice stocking stuffer and will be appreciated for years.

– More tips can be found at America Rides Maps.com

Written by americaridesmaps

November 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm