All About the Ride

PRD_IMG_0792eople who don’t ride motorcycles or drive sportscars don’t always “get” the notion that a road can be a destination. Or that a vacation doesn’t have to include a specific place as a goal.

When I left home, I knew the general areas I might be visiting, but had few specific locations or place objectives. I did have one destination road in mind, however, the Cherohala Skyway. (A “destination road” is a road people travel to specifically to experience. There are actually quite a few destination roads in the Great Smoky Mountains region. All destination roads have a name, not just a government-assigned route number.)

As I planned each day’s route, I kinda-sorta had to think about where I might end up when finished riding for the day. When traveling by bike, it’s sort of important to me to stay in a place within walking distance of eateries. Because I’m usually either too tired or too hot to want to get back on the bike to ride someplace for dinner. Plus, alcohol — even a little bit — is a big no-no for me when riding the bike.

When I left Pigeon Forge, I had no idea where I’d be that evening, but I did know it wouldn’t be in Tennessee at the end of the Cherohala Skyway. Of course, that meant I’d have to ride the Skyway twice — out and back — which was not an unpleasant prospect. But first, I had to get to the North Carolina end of the road.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The NC end of the Skyway is in Robbinsville, sort of on the complete opposite side of the mountains from Pigeon Forge. I could have cut straight across the park, but decided to head around the western edge of the park instead. That meant skirting just inside the northern edge of the park — an altogether lovely road — then taking the Foothills Parkway to US-129 at Chilhowee.

Gorgeous Blue Sky
Gorgeous Blue Sky

The weather was perfect. Low 60s and not a cloud in the sky.


I stopped at the Cades Cove store (inside the park) for a potty break and some snacks. That’s where I met the bear you see in the first photo. And where I saw the sign featured in the following image. It was hanging in a bathroom stall.

Because people can be idiots.
Because people can be idiots.

Cades Cove wasn’t as busy as the last time I’d visited, but there were still way too many cars for my liking, so I continued on my way.

I exited the park at the Townsend entrance and hopped on the Foothills Parkway. It took me to US-129, not far north of where the Tail of the Dragon (THE most-famous destination road in the area) starts/ends.

Look what I spotted along the way…

Barn Quilt
Barn Quilt

…somewhere between exiting the park and entering the Foothills Parkway.

I had the road all to myself.

I’ve ridden The Dragon on a few different occasions now. It is a nice road, but there are many nicer ones in the area with higher speed limits — it’s only 30 mph on The Dragon — that don’t attract tons of people.

I actually managed to zip into a pull-off to grab a couple of pictures.

As seen along Tail of the Dragon


As seen along Tail of the Dragon

Because The Dragon is such a popular road, there are several spots along the route where photographers station themselves and take pictures to sell. was the pioneer of that practice at The Dragon. I decided to buy a couple of the images, which are shared below.

The next two images are copyright by and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. Killboy does nice work.

ToadMama on Tail of the Dragon


ToadMama on Tail of the Dragon

It’s a great business idea, really. How often does one get to capture good images of oneself actually riding? Killboy has done so well he has his own store at the intersection of US-28 and US-129 selling all kinds of cool stickers, t-shirts, and other stuff. It’s right across from the original store/restaurant/motel complex at The Dragon.

Killboy's Dragon Sculpture
Killboy’s Dragon Sculpture

I wasn’t going to stop at the other store, but that’s where the real potty is, so…

The other Dragon.
The other Dragon.

I HAD to get a selfie there, too.

Then it was on to the Cherohala Skyway via the northernmost leg of the Moonshiner 28. I did say there are lots of destination roads in the area, right? In my opinion, it’s actually WAY more fun than The Dragon. So much so, that I had to double back and enjoy it a second time for Hubby.

Another giant chicken.

I gassed-up in Robbinsville at a station that also had a Subway restaurant AND sold fried chicken. Great photo op, eh?

Then it was on to the real fun. Finally.

Info Sign


Near the Robbinsville, NC entrance.

The weather really was perfect. I rode for quite a while before finally giving in to the complaints from my rumbling belly.

This pretty much exemplifies the entire route.


Great day for a picnic.

I took my trip before prime season. The whole time I sat there and enjoyed my leisurely picnic lunch, NO vehicles rode past. Not one. It was only when I was ready to start off again that another bike or two rode by.

No Tractors or Scuba Divers Allowed!

Yes, I know what the sign really means. I just find it funny.

At another rest area/overlook, later in the day.


Teeny-tiny Flowers

I reversed direction at the Tennessee end of the Skyway and returned to Robbinsville. I think it was around 4:00 or maybe 5:00 by then. Too early to call it a day.

Actually, I could have called it a day, but there isn’t didn’t seem to be enough going on in Robbinsville, when compared to other locations, to make me want to stay for the night. So I stopped at the Giant Chicken again — free wifi — secured a hotel via phone, and rode to Bryson City. That’s where my day officially ended.

Question for y’all… do you care to see videos? I captured some in the hollers of West Virginia AND on the Cherohala Skyway. They take a bit of time to edit. Raw footage is REALLY boring. If no one really wants to watch them, I won’t bother. If some of you would like to see them, I will make time. So please let me know.

4 Replies to “All About the Ride”

  1. “…a road can be a destination.”

    Riding is when and where the notion that “it’s all about the journey” becomes real for me. Seldom does it matter where I’m headed; sometimes I end up where I’ve intended; and often my planned path changes en route. Yep, that’s what it’s about for me.

    As for videos, I do occasionally watch rider’s videos while I’m eating lunch or dinner (is this motorcycling thing a sickness?), but that isn’t the solid answer you’re seeking, is it?…

  2. Oh you are making me homesick! All our roads, named or not, be still my heart!

    You still have to come back when were home, ok? Promise??? Our favorite times are early spring or Novemberish…

    And I seem to have so little time to read that I would probably skip the videos, but don’t take my word for it.

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