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.

Pigeon Forge

PF_IMG_0767What a weird name for a town, right? I got so used to it over the years, I forgot how unusual a name it was. Not that I had ever been there before, I just knew it was close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). And home to Dollywood, the amusement park Dolly Parton financed and built in/near the town.

I never did see Dollywood. The last time I was in the area, I stayed in nearby Gatlinburg. And that’s how I missed the particular attraction that drew me to Pigeon Forge this time around.

But I am getting ahead of myself…

About an hour after leaving Gate City, VA and entering Tennessee, the weather got MUCH better.

Town in Tennessee
Town in Tennessee

I was glad the rain had left the area, but it actually got a bit warmer than I would’ve liked.

An old bit of Americana.
An old bit of Americana.


Goats on a Roof!
Goats On The Roof!

It was around 3:00 PM when I finally reached my destination. This fun souvenir/gift shop called Goats on the Roof. Why?

Because they have goats on the roof.

Goats on the Roof
Goats on the Roof


Real goats, hanging out on the roof.
Real goats, hanging out on the roof.

I’m glad I finally saw it, but it wasn’t nearly as fun as I thought it would be. They did have lots of fun t-shirts, though.


My friend, Tracey, has much cuter goats.

From there, it was on to the town of Pigeon Forge. “Town” may be a stretch for the bit of geography I visited while there. It was all a bit over-the-top if you ask me.

The Pigeon Forge strip.

Like most national park gateway towns, it was chock-full of retail stores, attractions, souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. And all of them try very hard to grab folks’ attention.



They did have very nice giant chickens.

It seemed rude not to grab a selfie while there. I mean, they’d gone to great lengths to make their cocks attractive.


I scoped-out the lodging options as I drove through Pigeon Forge on my way to GSMNP.

I’d much rather hang out here any day.


It was significantly cooler among the trees.


The stream beside the road helped.
Lovely Scene

There was a tiny stream gurgling loudly through those big, moss- and lichen-covered boulders. I sat and listened for a while, disturbed only occasionally by a passing vehicle.

A few small remnants of fires.


My favorite boulder/stream again.

Below is a larger reminder of forest fires in the not too distant past.

Fire Damage

I was going to ride further into the park, but it was getting colder. So I decided to head back to the visitor’s center where I could use the free wifi and my phone to book a hotel room. I chose a place close to the park, on the edge of all the touristy madness.

Once I’d checked in and unpacked, I realized I didn’t feel like walking anywhere, or riding, to get dinner. So I ordered a pizza from a place the lady at the front desk recommended. It was actually delicious.

Shortly after that, I retired for the evening, and slept like a rock.

Good People on the Snake

2_IMG_3193This past weekend, Hubby and I went on a three-day ride from Virginia, into West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, then back into Virginia, the state we call home.

When planning the trip, I tried to include some new roads along with a few of our favorites. One of the roads we enjoyed on Saturday was Tennessee’s US-421 / The Snake.

Later in the day, when discussing our ride, we couldn’t remember if it had been two or three vehicles we’d come up behind that actually slowed down to let us pass. Really.

I know it’s hard to believe. But watching the video confirmed that THREE drivers actually slowed down to let us pass on The Snake. Hubby’s response to my confirming that it had been three separate drivers was, “Good people, all of them!”

Sadly, cars/trucks/buses letting motorcyclists pass is a rarity here in America. Even though motorcycles can usually travel about twice as fast as cars on curvy roads. I guess it’s that whole “me first” or “wait your turn” mentality.

Saturday was actually the second time this year we’d ridden The Snake. The road only got a brief mention after our first visit. This time, I took the GoPro and captured the ride on video.

The Snake’s web page (link shared above) describes the road as 33 miles long with 489 curves as it crosses three mountains and one valley. My video only includes about a 14-mile segment of the road, the really fun part, which is shown on the map below. Sorry, I didn’t count the curves in that portion.

I’m sure the rest of the road is nice enough. As snakes go, though, which would get your adrenaline pumping more, one that’s all stretched out, relaxing in the sun? Or one that’s all scrunched up, unpredictable, and ready to strike?

Snake Map

The video ends about 4 miles from Holston Lake. It’s a pretty four-mile ride to the lake, and the crossing is picturesque, but I wanted to focus on the FUN stuff. I deleted some of the straights in the valley to make the video a bit shorter. It’s running at 2x speed, too.

I was also going to post it at regular speed, but the video was too long for YouTube. If anyone wants to see the video at regular speed, let me know and I can edit it down.

I hope you enjoy the virtual ride.

Amazing Roads and Opportunistic LOVE

This past weekend Hubby and I enjoyed a fabulous three-day ride south and west of our home in Virginia. We covered 850 miles on wonderful motorcycle roads in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and even parts of West Virginia.

I plotted the route using the Microsoft Streets & Trips software, but used my America Rides Maps (Virginia Mountains Set) to select many of the roads.

The Map
The Map

I’d been wanting to really put those maps to the test. And guess what? They passed with flying colors. Really. We spent three days riding a series of really awesome motorcycle roads. It was tons of fun. We were having so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t even think about taking a picture until late in the day on Friday, after we’d already been on the road for many hours. You know I’m having fun when I don’t think about pictures, right?

Along Indian Valley Road in Floyd County, Virginia.

We ended up staying in Hillsville, Virginia Friday night.

Sunset from Hillsville, VA.

Lucky for us, there was a Bojangle’s about 15 minutes from our hotel, so we both enjoyed a nice breakfast on Saturday.

Hubby and Me

It wasn’t even hard to convince Hubby to pose for a goofy selfie with me.

From there, we rode into downtown Galax, looking for LOVE. (Since it was along the way, I figured we ought to stop.)

Galax, VA LOVEwork

Fortunately, the LOVEwork was right where it was supposed to be.

For the record, I saw the LOVEwork in Christiansburg, but it was hot, there was rush hour traffic, and it was on the opposite side of a busy street, so I opted not to stop for a photo. But I saw it. That counts in my book.

My Real Love

After a brief break, we continued south into North Carolina and then west and north to Mountain City, Tennessee.

Four States in Three Days

Why Mountain City? That’s where The Snake begins. 🙂

Hubby at the NC/TN border.

I missed The Snake on my solo trip earlier this year, so I figured it would be a good destination road that both of us could enjoy.

The Snake totally lives up to all the hype.

And enjoy it we did. Seriously, it’s a FUN road. That road alone was worth the trip.

The Snake


Shady Valley Country Store, about midway on The Snake.

From there, we headed north into Virginia, to Abingdon then East on 58 through the Jefferson National Forest. A repeat road for me that I really, REALLY enjoyed during my solo trip. We then followed 16 into Marion where we stopped for lunch before continuing north on the Back of the Dragon.

Marion, Virginia


My not-so-observant Hubby.

We chose Macados for lunch after discovering that the BBQ place we’d really headed for was closed.

After we were seated, I said to Mike, “Did you see the giant dinosaur head on the wall?”

His response? “What dinosaur?” Sigh…

We continued making our way north and east toward Paint Bank, Virginia, where I’d reserved a room at the quaint Depot Lodge. En route, we stopped at the Wolf Creek Indian Village near Bastian for some more LOVE.

Bastian LOVEwork


Yet another lovely road.

Hubby enjoyed the ride just as much as I did. The weather verged on hot at times, but was very pleasant for the most part.

The Depot Lodge in Paint Bank, Virginia


Lobby at The Depot Lodge


Paint Bank General Store


View of the store from our second floor porch.


Chillaxin’ on the porch.


Our room at The Depot Lodge


Sadly, the caboose was already booked.


Outbuilding at The Depot Lodge


View of the lodge from the rear lawn.

Sunday, we had to hurry home to get the dogs from the kennel and so I could get ready to head off to Rockville, MD for work.

Humpback Bridge near Covington, Virginia.

I’d read about the bridge in a pamphlet at the hotel. A pamphlet which did NOT clue me in on a special bonus we’d also find at that location.

Humback Bridge (notice anything odd?)


We’d accidentally found another LOVEwork. How cool is that?


Covington LOVEwork


Hubby, reflecting inside the bridge.


A bit further north, we stopped at this Falling Springs overlook.


This may be the largest waterfall in Virginia.

That waterfall was easily visible from the overlook along 220 north of Covington, yet another AMAZING stretch of road.

Road south of the overlook.

We continued north on 220, all the way to Franklin, West Virginia. It was a beautiful, scenic ride alternating between mountains and valleys. Spectacular, really.

Feanklin, WV

From there, we headed east on US-33 — one of Hubby’s favorite roads — north and east through the Shenandoah Valley, and then, at New Market, east on US-211 to Warrenton.

It may sound repetitive, but that particular series of roads we covered overed three days was probably the best series of roads we’d ever ridden together. Except for maybe in the Italian/Swiss/Austrian Alps. Really. It’s a route we WILL be revisiting.


Here’s a link to my Spotwalla tracker map with a couple little caveats. I forgot to start the app on my phone, so it looks like we started in Elkton, Virginia. Also, my phone battery died just east of Luray, so it appears that we never made it home.

I hope you enjoyed the recap. Now, I have to get to work.