Senior Innkeeper George Brown shares his thoughts on his favorite pastime: motorcycling
I got my first motorcycle–a 1951 BSA–when I was 16. In the summer I used to ride barefoot, wearing cut-offs and not much else. The freedom of the open road was exhilarating and habit-forming. Over the years I acquired a 1978 Yamaha XS1100, a 1982 Suzuki Katana, a 1987 Yamaha FZR1100 and a 1996 Triumph Speed Triple 1050. I still have the last three and ride them as often as time permits. These days I have a more sensible riding wardrobe–an Arai helmet, Thurlow leathers and Bates Riding Boots.
I have been riding in Western North Carolina for 40 years. Bryson City is at the center of what many enthusiasts deem the best rides in the country, from relaxing scenic rides to challenging roads with complicated twists and turns. The American Motorcycle Association ranks the close-by Tail of the Dragon, Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway among the 15 best rides in the country. The Fryemont Inn is an excellent base for exploring the Smokies on a motorcycle–after a long day on the bike, the on-site dining room and bar make it unnecessary to ride around in the dark searching for good food and libations.
Here are just a few of the great rides that are close to Bryson City North Carolina and the Fryemont Inn:
TAIL OF THE DRAGON
The Dragon is a mountain pass on Highway 129 along the Eastern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Officially called Deal’s Gap, the Dragon begins 42 miles from Bryson City at “Fugitive Bridge”. Harrison Ford famously jumped off this bridge in the movie, “The Fugitive”. Other movies filmed along the Dragon include “Thunder Road” (Robert Mitchum, 1958) and “Two Lane Blacktop” (James Taylor, 1971). Covering 11 miles with 318 curves, it is considered very challenging by most riders. https://tailofthedragon.com
THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
The highest and longest continuous route in the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. It has 26 tunnels, 168 bridges, and 6 viaducts. The Southern end of the Parkway is just 10 miles from Bryson City at Milepost 469. The 90 miles between there and Asheville is thought by many to be the most scenic. There are many overlooks where you can stop and enjoy the amazing vistas, and the Parkway has a 45 MPH speed limit which makes this ride very relaxing. https://www.blueridgeparkway.org
A National Scenic Byway, the Cherohala Skyway connects Highway 143 in Robbinsville, NC to Highway 165 in Tellico Plains, TN. First opened in 1996, this wide and smooth road runs through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests. There are 51.8 miles of some of the best scenery anywhere in the country with elevations that vary from 900 to 5400 feet. The road has many sweeping turns with well-marked overlooks for enjoying the fabulous views. You can reach the Skyway from Bryson City in a little over an hour via a pleasant ride on Highway 143. http://www.cherohala.org
THE ROAD TO NOWHERE
Lake View Drive, more commonly known as the “Road to Nowhere”, begins just outside Bryson City and runs approximately 6.5 miles inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its construction is like that of the Blue Ridge Parkway with many gentle curves and some beautiful vistas. Its destination is, literally, nowhere. The road was never completed after the construction of Fontana Dam, and it ends at the entrance to a tunnel. It’s a fun, short motorcycle ride that leads to some beautiful hiking trails. One set of trails is reached by walking approximately 1200 ft. through the tunnel. Another trail, Noland Creek, begins at a trailhead just before the end of the road. There is ample parking at the trailhead and at the tunnel. https://www.greatsmokies.com/gsmnp/road-nowhere.html
The Blue Ridge Mountain scenery is breathtaking, the temperature in the higher elevations is cool in the summer, and the curvy roads are fun and challenging. It all adds up to great riding!