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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cool off at a natural waterpark

Seems like everyone in the South looks for ways to cool off during the hot summer months.  My son and I are no different, even when on our summer trips we look for ways to stay cool.  We have taken rafting trips during our last three summer trips and we visited a unique natural water-slide in North Carolina while on our 2011 summer trip.
Sliding Rock is a favorite for many vacationers
Just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US 276 intersection and north of Brevard, NC lies Sliding Rock.  Sliding Rock is overseen by the National Forest Service and has an entry fee of $1/person.  Lifeguards are on duty ensuring safety for all.

Sliding Rock is a natural 60-foot waterslide that flows in to a 7-foot deep pool that was developed by the US Forest Service for this recreational area.  The water flows quick enough to "push" swimmers down the slide and into the pool.  The water is very cold, but is refreshing on hot summer days.
My son enjoys a slide as he heads to the pool at the bottom

Most in our group did not put on their swimming suits and participate, but the natural surroundings were great and it was nice to relax watching and laughing.  The ride to get there was great.  We road the Wayah Road to Franklin, NC where we jumped on SH 28 (Moonshiner 28) down to Highlands.  From Highlands we road US 64 through Brevard turning north on US 276.  The roads are great.  Twisties, bridges, shaded stretches, sweeping curves, and awesome scenery.  We passed by some great waterfalls between Franklin and Highlands.
 Bridal Veil Falls has a pullout directly under the falls
Uniquely named Dry Falls
When we left Sliding Rock we continued north to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we head southwest to US 74 where we headed back to Robbinsville.
Cloudy day on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The ride to Sliding Rock is worth the time even if you don't stop, but if you are there the $1 fee is a great value to look at, if not experience, this natural waterslide.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cherohala Skyway - riding above the clouds

Tellico Plains is known to bikers because it is the western gateway to the Cherohala Skyway, "A drive above the clouds."  The national scenic byway was opened and dedicated in 1996 and is well deserving of it's designation and the small Charles Hall Museum in Tellico Plains is also a well deserved destination.

The skyway is a favorite of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike.  In Tennessee the skyway is TN 165 and North Carolina labels it NC 143.  At the eastern end of the skyway is Robbinsville it connects to US 129 a.k.a. The Tail of the Dragon.  The skyway passes through the Cherokee National Forest and at times through clouds, much like the day we headed home during our July 2011 trip.
View from an overlook on the skyway
The 43 mile two-lane byway is well maintained with numerous scenic pullouts/overlooks as well as access to the Indian Boundary Lake Recreation Area.  Elevation ranges from 930 ft above sea level to at the Tellico Plains River in Tennessee to 5390 ft at Haw Knob on the NC/TN state line.
Indian Boundary Lake - just off the Cherohala Skyway
View of the Smoky Mountains from the Cherohala Skyway
Sweeping curves, tight switchbacks, great elevation change, and renowned scenic views make the Cherohala Skyway a bikers road.  The long sweeping curves allows continuous acceleration with a hard lean into the curve providing for a big grin as you exit the curve and prepare for the next one.
Sweeping curves = big grins
Shortly after leaving Tellico Plains there is a good series of tight curves and elevation change.  In the middle portion of the Skyway there are more of the sweeping curves and longer straightaways.  As the skyway nears Santeetiah Lake there are more of the tighter curves and the road descends form the higher elevations.
The one of the many curves on the skyway 
The skyway twists and turns around the southern end of the Santeetiah Lake providing great views and more opportunities to drag floorboards (if you are on a cruiser - the FJR loved the road and ate up the curves).  The skyway intersects the famous US 129 just 5 miles west of Robbinsville, NC and 16 miles east of Deals Gap store and the Tail of the Dragon.

We had a great time riding the Cherohala Skyway on the way to Robbinsville.  We enjoyed it so much we rode it again as we headed home from our trip.  This road will not disappoint a biker regardless of the speed one wants to ride.  One can ride it nice and slow to enjoy all the views or at a crisp pace smiling on every turn.  This is a great American scenic byway with great destinations at both ends.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Less traveled, great curves, and miles of smiles - Wayah Road, NC

Any biker that has ridden very long has probably heard of the famed US 129 a.k.a. The Tail of the Dragon that runs through the Smoky Mountains in the southern state line area of North Carolina and Tennessee.  The promoters of the road claim it has 318 curves in 11 miles.  I have ridden it 7 times, but I have never attempted to count the curves.  It is a lot of fun and well worth riding, especially on a non-holiday weekday (on the weekends and holidays the road is heavily traveled).

While on my annual summer trip in July 2011 we stayed seven nights in Robbinsville, NC, a mere 18 miles to the east of Deals Gap and the famous 11 mile stretch of US 129.  During that week we rode several other roads that I would greatly recommend to any biker who enjoys riding the twisties.
Shaded, smooth, and scenic - Wayah Road
One road that I had not heard or read much about, but planned on exploring, was Wayah Road.  Wayah Road (known to the locals as Thunder Road) is east of Robbinsville about 14 miles.  We rode US 129 South to Topton, NC and then turned north on US 19/74 for 2.2 miles before heading east on the two lane Wayah Road.  To the left is a parking lot, restrooms, and a put in for the rafters.
A friend on his Harley enjoys the road
The 27 mile Wayah road had sweeping curves, tight twisties, bridges, elevation changes, and some straightaways where we could open up the throttle.  Shaded most of the way and traveling adjacent to the river, for many miles, the road is full of great scenery.  About 10 miles into the ride we rode past the beautiful Nantahala Lake.  We crossed over the river several times allowing for scenic views of the cascading Nantahala River.
Sweeping curves and tight switchbacks can be found on the road.
Nantahala Lake - a big lake with cold blue water
The Nantahala River running through the Nantahala River Gorge
The entire group really enjoyed riding the Wayah Road, enough so that later in the day we decided to ride it back to Robbinsville instead of taking an alternate route.  We also rode it a third time on the last full day of riding.
Slow or fast the road will make you smile
Some of the group took it at a lesuirely pace while others of us enjoyed a crisper pace, either way the road is a great stretch of pavement worth experiencing when you are in the area.  An added benefit to the road is that it will take you to Franklin where you can catch US 28 a.k.a. The Moonshire 28 to Highlands, NC and see two picturesque waterfalls (thats for another post).  So, Wayah Road is fun and at both ends are proper destinations for biker.