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Offline Northkaibab

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Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« on: October 12, 2014, 06:44:58 pm »
Hi, all, just got back from seven days and 2,600 miles riding from NE Ohio down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all over western North Carolina & eastern Tennessee. Here's a summary:

Day 1, Sunday 10/4: US 250 / US 50 through SE Ohio to Winchester VA, then down to Front Royal, VA and Shenandoah NP. Camped at Matthews Arm in the Park. These routes are very "twisty", even a bit technical in spots due to some 180 degree corners. Traffic was light on a Sunday, and the campground was nearly empty. Great weather!

Day 2, Monday: Matthews Arm in Shenandoah to somewhere past Fancy Gap on the Blue Ridge. Had planned to camp at Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge, but after a beautiful morning, it was raining when I got there, so I peeled off to Sparta NC and spent the night at the Applachian Inn (recommended). The speed limit in Shenandoah is 35 mph, which was actually enjoyable, and traffic again was very light. After the morning in Shenandoah, 45 MPH on the Blue Ridge seemed too fast, but I did get used to it.  :047:

Day 3, Tuesday: Started before sunrise in rain and heavy fog and after about 10 minutes on the Blue Ridge had the closest encounter with a deer ever in my riding career. This friendly fella charged out of the bushes and ran right in front of me at full speed (for him...I was only doing about 35 mph). No way to see the darn thing until he was RIGHT THERE, and no time at all to even squeeze the front brake which I always "cover" with two fingers. For perspective, I've been commuting to work 200 days a year for 15 years through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is way over-populated with deer. So I know how unpredictable these critters are, especially from about an hour before sunset to an hour or so after sunrise. And, oh, by the way, this is mating season when Bucks are full of testosterone and love to (literally) chase the ladies. I let the desire to get an early start get in the way of my hard-won knowledge and darn near had an accident as a result. Lesson learned!

After an uneventful rest of the morning and early afternoon, I got past Asheville, NC to the highest and most twisty part of the Blue Ridge which is also filled with climbs and descents. A little bit south of Mt. Pisgah, the heavy rain started and visibility dropped to near zero. Riding became pretty challenging, but didn't feel unsafe thanks to Mr. Michelin's PR4 tires. I elected to press on and see if I could get west of the rain rather than waiting for it to pass. Conditions deteriorated, but I managed to keep going...followed by another rider on what turned out to be a BMW 1200 RT. I later apologized for slowing him down, and he thanked me for keeping him safe. (Maybe we were both telling the truth.  :015:)

The rain ended at about the same place the Blue Ridge did, Cherokee NC, which is a bit touristy, but IMO, far nicer than places like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on the other side of Great Smokeys National Park. After about another hour's ride, I set up camp the the Cheoah Point campground on Lake Santeetlah. This is just off US 219 and about halfway between Robbinsville, NC and the Dragon. It is a small campground, but highly recommended, the US Forest Service does a decent job with facilities like this. Spent three nights here, enjoyed them all, despite more rain every day.

Days 4 & 5, Wednesday - Thursday: Rode the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, US441 across Great Smokeys National Park and a bunch of other roads in that area. The Dragon is a hoot, from a motorcycle culture standpoint. The motorcycle "resort" at Deal's Gap was crawling with bikes and riders of every size and shape at 10 am on a Wednesday, even after a night of hard rain. The Dragon deserves its reputation, but I didn't enjoy it much, too many really slow curves. I far preferred the Cherohala Skyway and TN Rte. 68 from Ducktown to Tellico Plains where the Skyway begins. In contrast, I can't recommend anything about US441 and Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Great roads for riding, but the place was totally overrun with folks in cars (on a Wednesday), many of whom were obviously driving mountain roads for the first time. Also, the western approach to GSMNP is about 15 miles of stoplights and every tawdry tourist trap in Pigeon Forge that the Amerricun mind could devise. There may be ways around Pigeon Forge and I did manage to bypass Gatlinburg, but 441 itself was not reward enough.

Days 6 & 7, Friday & Saturday: On Friday began the return trip via US19 through Maggie Valley, NC (home of the Wheels Through Time MC Museum, which I didn't seem to notice) then I-40 to Asheville, I-26 north into Tennessee, I-81 northeast to I-77 to Princeton, WV, then US219 up to Lewisburg, WV. Not a bad day's ride, despite two hours of heavy rain on I-81. US219 in West (By God!) Virginia was a very nice ride, despite drizzle the whole way.

On Saturday, I had planned to follow US219 north to US50, then US250 into Ohio, but it was raining pretty much everywhere south of the Ohio River, and I had had enough of wet, twisty mountain roads. So I took some wet interstates home instead, and when it wasn't raining too hard, enjoyed the cruise control and the light traffic. Believe it or not, the WV turnpike has some great high-speed "twisties".

Summing up the trip, I was about a week or two early for the peak Fall colors, but did manage to catch what may have been the peak of Fall rains. Campgrounds and motels had plenty of vacancies during the week, and, except for the Dragon and US441, most roads had sparse traffic. I highly recommend both the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and there's almost no end of good motorcycle roads in that part of the US.

A final note on the Trophy. I had been toying with the idea of trading in my 2013 TTSE for a new FJR1300. But after 7 days of some pretty demanding rides, I guess the Trophy and I have bonded. It ran like a champ, and easily handled heavy loads, wet, twisty roads, and pouring rain on high-speed interstates. I made my share of technical mistakes in the (many, many) corners, and the bike compensated for all of them with nary a complaint. The weather protection, ergonomics, handling and seemingly endless torque in any gear, just won me over. At one point, after about an hour of heavy rain on I-81, the bike that had been following me pulled off and I totally stopped seeing other motorcycles. Yet I felt safe and in control. That's when it became clear: while there are a lot of other great bikes out there, the Trophy is more than good enough for me, especially when it is wearing a set of Pilot Road 4 tires.

Mike

Offline Coconut

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2014, 08:35:10 am »
Sounds like you had a great week - thanks for sharing  :169:

No Photo's ?


Offline nervouswreck

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2014, 07:20:51 pm »
*Originally Posted by Northkaibab [+]
Hi, all, just got back from seven days and 2,600 miles riding from NE Ohio down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all over western North Carolina & eastern Tennessee. Here's a summary:

Mike



Hi Mike, just noticed your posting.   Sounds like you had a good trip despite the weather.   We did that area two years ago and a had a really nice time riding all the twisty roads around western NC.   Did you cancel your planned western trip or is that coming up?   

Mike H.

Offline Northkaibab

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2014, 09:34:29 pm »
*Originally Posted by nervouswreck [+]
Did you cancel your planned western trip or is that coming up?

Thanks for the comment, Mike. It was a good ride, and I was amazed at the number of motorcycles down there, as well as the MC-friendly nature of many of the towns.

Yes, I did cancel the western ride for this year. For several reasons, I couldn't spend two weeks away from home. The Blue Ridge and southern Appalachians are hardly second best, though.

Mike S.

Offline nervouswreck

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2014, 11:18:39 pm »
That is a very true statement Mike and it is a lot closer to get there.   That area as well as northeastern GA is on our agenda for next year.   I love the west but it takes so long to get there from our area.   I have done three trips out there and not sure if there will another.   But never say never.

Offline Northkaibab

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2014, 01:07:18 pm »
*Originally Posted by Coconut [+]
Sounds like you had a great week - thanks for sharing  :169:

No Photo's ?



Hi Coconut....maybe a few photos which I'll try to post in the next couple weeks.

Mike

Offline Northkaibab

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2014, 01:25:47 pm »
*Originally Posted by nervouswreck [+]
I love the west but it takes so long to get there from our area.   I have done three trips out there and not sure if there will another.   But never say never.

You're absolutely right about that, Mike. One of the reasons I stayed "East" this time was the roughly four day investment in just getting to the Rockies and back from Akron. An even bigger investment for you from Eastern PA.

So I can understand your reluctance to go West again. I've done a number of car camping and backpacking vacations in the West. But I still haven't done trip #1 out there on a motorcycle. So Colorado and Utah are on the short list for 2015.

In the mean time, if the weather isn't too bad on Sunday, I'll probably ride US6 and some of the forest roads in northern PA. I like them at least as well as the Blue Ridge and Smokeys.

Mike

Mike

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Re: Skyline / Blue Ridge / Western NC and the Dragon
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2014, 03:55:30 pm »
Nice write up.  I did the BRP for the first time last May and it was a zen experience.  I, too, stayed at the Alleghany Inn in Sparta.  Hopefully you didn't make the same mistake that I did and eat at the little pizza place on site.  Ugh...

After seeing these on the Parkway, I had to pick one up at the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center...

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