I had work to do in Asheville and Greensboro so that provided the foundation of a great trip 5/1-4/09. . So I headed to Asheville Friday 5/1 and stayed up in WNC for the weekend and then back to Greensboro and then home on Monday.
I had a wonderful weekend of mixed things. Ended work up in Asheville Friday afternoon and had decided to stay at Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground in Cruso NC (between Waynesville and Brevard on US 276). To get there rode up 19/23 to Enka and hung a left onto NC 151. (last chance for gas at this intersection) It was about 4:30 and folks were heading home from work so traffic there was heavy. Once onto 151, just a few cars/pickups heading out of town. Soon they had all turned off as the road thru the valley ends. The valley portion ends abruptly and you round a curve and no more houses, only forest, curves and uphill. There really isn't much traffic on this road. So little in fact that on visible turns left or right, the inside track is the only one clear as forest debris will be on the outside lane. It is a tight little road, not overly wide. 2nd gear was right for it as there are many many turns marked 25 mph and more than a few 15. Great ride up it. Only traffic encountered was a few bikes heading down.
Once at the top went west on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the section where Pisgah Inn is. Again, a Friday afternoon and no traffic. The smooth pavement and sweeping turns provided a nice contrast to 151.
At the junction of US 276, got off and headed north. (the route south to Brevard is by far better pavement but didn't have time to run to Brevard and back this time) Again the road is empty and I am free to ride the ride I wish. Because there is enough broken and cracked pavement some care is given to the midturn and exit of the turns. If you have ridden either side of the mountain on this road, you know the north side (Waynesville) is a bit tighter of the two. (in reference to this, 151 is still a tighter road than the north side of 276.
Once down the mountain, it is just a short piece until you suddenly arrive at Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground. I can only find good things to say about this place. They serve up good food (limited menu), fairly priced. The grounds are well kept. The hospitality warm and helpful. The tent price was great (15 bucks). The cabins looked more than adequate. I camped over by the river. My only apprehension with that was 276 runs just on the other bank. I have camped places where late night or very early morning traffic would be a distraction to rest. Here there simply wasn't any night traffic. The noise of the river provided a good cover to other noises without being intrusive. There was a larger group renting cabins and they had a good fire circle that night (fires allowed only in that fire ring). It was nice to visit and sing with them. I left before quiet time but was far enough away that it wasn't a concern.
Next morning, had to delay packing up when breaking camp as being next to the river most things had a heavy dew/mist on them. It wasn't unexpected, just be aware if you are camping. You can start to do things and then use their breakfast as time to eat and visit while things finish drying.
The location is good if riding along the southern part of the BRP, heading to the Dragon or north to Hot Springs. I am glad I stayed there.
Once I left there I headed north about 8 miles and picked up 215 south (only gas is at this intersection). Man I do enjoy that road. It isn't as tight as 151 but still not a sweeping road by any means. The first part off 276 is through some residential, resort, community stuff and is marked 45. No need to press the speed here as it provides a time to enjoy the area you are passing through. Once past Lake Logan that ends. As the road climbs the turns builds. Again for mid morning Saturday morning, I did expect some traffic but nothing was in front of me the whole way up. Running up this valley is West Pigeon River. The guys I saw coming out of the stream seemed to have pretty good stringers of trout. The only surprise I had was a wild turkey standing in the road as I rounded a turn. It sprung into flight as I passed just a little below it.
Where 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway intersect is a great overview to the south. Get off on the parkway and go west 100 yds. The Courthouse View is pretty impressive.(around 5200 ft) As you look due south you can see Lake Jocassee on the horizon and upstate SC stretching out beyond that. If you go east on the BRP for about 1/4 mile you can get a view of the valley you just rode up (the Mt Hardy Overlook)
The ride down the south side of 215 is like the ride up, relatively tight, perhaps a few less switchbacks and few more short series of turns to flick back and forth in. Once down you think you are finished but there are a few ridges to go over that will have you seeing 25 mph advisement signs again. I met a few more cars/pickups heading up the mountain now but they seemed to be in support of a bike race heading up hill as well
This runs into US 64 about 15 miles west of Brevard. I went west on 64 then towards Franklin. As expected, you are back in traffic but even then it was relatively light. As I was getting to Lake Toxaway there is an intersection with 281. I took this. It was a great choice just be aware there is about 5 miles of it that is gravel (best gravel road I have ever seen, nice shoulders, wide road and GUARD RAILS). Even with this, 281 is a joy to ride. There are tight sections and sweeping sections. The ride thru this prong of the Tuckaseegee valley is a delight and a good choice.
281 dumps out onto NC 107, if you go left you can head back up the mountain to Cashiers. I went right towards Sylva. On my ride this is where the threatening clouds began to rain. At Caney Fork, I hung a right. It has been years since I ran up this wonderful road and even in the rain enjoyed the short ride up and back. Be sure and explore the side roads in your travels. Along the way I stopped at Judaculla rock. Once finished I headed on to Sylva via Cullowhee.
I got gas, some supplies, and money and headed back to Cullowhee and picked up SR 1001 out through Speedwell, Tilley Creek over into Macon County and Ellijay. This is a road I have ridden many times over the years and one that is still a pleasure to ride. It has sweeping sections, tight sections, valley sections and is just a feel good road on a small but well paved road.. Again it was without traffic this 1 pm Saturday.
Once back to US 64, I again headed west into Franklin with light traffic. There I picked up NC 28 heading towards Bryson City. At first I am lined up with traffic with spaced chances to pass. Some cars turn off, some can be passed and finally I am without a set of tail lights in front. It is raining pretty good so I don't push much at all. Still it was easy enough to run 15 over most advisory signs. It was a good ride, even in the rain, even with the traffic at the start. This ends at 19/74. Made a left here and headed towards Nantahala. I was meeting up with some ADVriders later for supper and was scouting out the place. I still had some time and seriously looked at 28 west where it leaves 19/74 and heads off to the Tail of the Dragon. I passed it this time and went on to the cabins where supper would be. The others were still out riding. I went down to the Nantahala river and watched the paddlers a bit. I again considered the Dragon. I finally declined as I had ridden 30 miles the first day and then about 130 this day of wonderfully twisty roads, and with the exception of maybe 30 miles, this was WITHOUT traffic and LEO, all of which would be highly present on the Dragon for a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps I will try to visit that section of pavement on a weekday morning in the middle of winter.
Went back to Cherokee to set up camp where I was meeting friends. It was a scenic wonder of a ride. Rain was clearing a bit, clouds hanging along the mountains and valleys, air cool and still. Made for a brisk 4 lane ride back to where the campground was.
It is such a change camping in a big campground as compared to a small one. The cabin we had was with a bathroom and was 93 bucks /night. It is a good place to stay still. This part of the trip was to be meeting up with a friend and his son (age 7 and caught his first trout Sunday) for fishing for a few days. Cherokee has a great fisheries program and the stream runs through the campground. So it works to camp and fish there.
There was an RV near the cabin with a bunch of bikes outside. ( 3 Harleys, an ST1300, and a Duc ST4). They had pulled them up from Miami. In talking to them they were just kinda hanging out, not wanting to ride in the rain. Pity, you don't come the the NC mountains to avoid rain. Some of my best rides have been in the rain.
Once set up my friend arrived and we welcomed each other to what might be our last fishing trip together. He and his son had declined the BBQ so I headed out for a few hours back to Nantahala while they were going to fish a little and go get supper. The ride back to Nantahala was as nice as a few hours earlier.
The BBQ was hosted by an ADVrider who was finding a reason for those that have been doing some NC Tag a rama stuff to get together. There were a few of us there. Most were somewhat local but while I came from 300 miles away, one dude was from VA Beach. That is a long haul. It was fun to swap stories and meet folks beyond a screen name. Food was great as were the laughs. Then it was time to go back to camp and join friends.
When around Cherokee a few things did catch my notice. We ate one meal for supper at Prime Sirloin Buffet, just across the street from the Casino. The Buffet was a nice varied one, good choices of meets and veggies and stuff 10.99 which isnít so bad in a tourist place. I would eat there again without question. We also did the Museum. They have done a first rate job of sharing a story of a people. I was glad I gave a few hours to this. The Qualla arts center across the street then has some impressive examples of current local artists. And then there are the bears. Like NC State did with wolves around Raleigh a few years ago, there are done up bears all around the business area of Cherokee. I think about 15 of them. I enjoyed just scouting them out like a scavenger hunt and seeing who did them and the creative thoughts that are each.
The time in Cherokee was filled with good friendship stuff. Then Monday morning it was time to leave. (seems the Miami crew decided it was better to maybe get wet as well and get out of the RV as they finally went for a ride). Typically when in Cherokee I use 23 and 441 to get across to Waynesville as it is all 4 lanes. This time I took 19 across Soco. As might be expected, it was quickly following cars up the hill and getting past them only to then fall in behind cars going down and just letting the bike run against the engine to keep speed down to their slower than desired pace. I think even with the few extra miles going around Soco and Maggie, it is much more restful to just cruise the 4 lane without feeling the imposition of pacing slow traffic.
Once then back on 40, it is a 'joy' (NOT) of setting the cruise and riding the slab the 230 miles home. All in all it was an awesome trip.