Sunday, June 27, 2010

Great Smoky Mountain Dual Sport Rental

Talking about services that are hard to find, try to find a place that will rent you a good reliable motorcycle that you can explore back roads with!  We have that rare place here in Townsend Tennessee, right on the edge of the National Park. 

Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rental  (GSMmotoRent) is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Dan and Debbie Dickie.  The business just started in April of 2009, and they are already exceeding expectations. What they offer is a way for street riders to sample Dual Sport riding, and give those who ride their street only bikes to the area, an option to explore some different back roads.

Their fleet consist of Kawasaki KLR 650s, Suzuki DR 650's and DR200's. All of the bikes are fully serviced and ready to ride. Dan said that the KLR's are the most requested,but that the DR200's are popular with ladies and people new to off road. 2 of their KLR 650's have been lowered to accommodate people who just prefer a lower seat height.

To rent a bike all you have to have is a valid motorcycle license. There is limited gear available, so they suggest you bring your own. Dan said that many of their customers ride in on street bikes, and store them in the GSM Garage while they go out exploring. 

If you need help figuring out where you want to go they have mapped routes available that direct you to some of the areas more scenic roads. You're free to travel wherever you wish, and to any state. It just depends on how long you want to rent the bike for. From their location its a short ride through the National Park to Cades Cove, where you can take the Parsons Branch gravel road to Hwy 129 (aka the Dragon)
If you want to stay close to your bikes, they have a rental cabin and a rental camper available. Both are located directly behind their shop, and are right on the river. If your interested, you'll need to reserve these ahead of time.  

If you've ever thought you would like to try out a Dual Sport bike this is the perfect opportunity. Give Dan and Debbie a call. You can also connect with them through our links page.

Brasstown Bald - One of the 3 High Rides

Brasstown Bald (The Highest Point in Georgia) may have the lowest elevation (4,784') of the 3-High Rides, but it is just as spectacular. Granted, you do have a take a $3 van shuttle up the final climb to the top, (unless you want to hoof it up the 1/2 mile trail), but the 360 degree / 4 state view and the mini museum are well worth the effort. They also request a $3 parking fee donation.  I've spent $6 bucks before and gotten a lot less! There is also small souvenir store at the bottom parking lot.
The original tower was built in the 1960s to serve as a fire watch tower, but now serves as a watch tower, museum, and tourist destination.The Volunteer Rangers who staff the museum are super nice and eager to answer any questions. Debbi Pratt, (seen here posing with K.J.)  is one of the Rangers we met. She said that her and her husband are volunteers, and that her mother and father were the original volunteers at the tower. Pretty Cool!

Take the time to read some of the history of this area while you're at the top. When you look at the old pictures of the area, and see how it was once decimated by logging, you will be amazed. 

In 1832 much of the land you can see from  this tower was given out in the "Great Land Lottery". 18,309 people won 160 acre tracts, and 35,000 people won 40 acre tracts of what was formerly Indian land... The only problem was the Indians were still on it! 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Three High Rides!

We made it back from our incredible trip of riding the highest points in the Smokies, and I have to say it was one of the best rides I've ever been on! 2 days, 656 miles, perfect weather (which is rare this time of year) and so many curves that you could see visble wear on the sides of your tires at the end of the day

Originally we wanted to call it this ride The Smoky 5, but we found that you can't actually ride to the highest points in South Carolina and Virginia, only close to them.

However, you can ride to the highest peaks in North Carolina (Mt Mitchell - 6,684 feet), Tennesee (Clingmans Dome - 6,643 feet) and Georgia (Brasstown Bald - 4,784 feet), and all of them are just spectacular!

There were three of us that made the trip. Bob was on a BMW R1200RT, K.J. on a Triumph 1050 Tiger, and myself on my  Ducati Multistrada. This is the type of sport touring ride these bikes are made for, and while the Duc and the Tiger were more nimble on the really tight roads, there was no debate that the BMW was the plusher ride.

Our megaloop started in Knoxville, so we hit the closest peak first, Clingmans Dome. To avoid the traffic of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg we went through Townsend and followed River Road ( a great road itself) which brings you out just above Gatlinburg at the Sugarlands visitor center.

Once over the mountain we picked up19 in Cherokee and followed it to Blairsville Georgia. Blairsville is on 19/129 and is the closest town to Brasstown Bald. Its very easy to ride past Brasstown Bald, because the road it's on, 180, isn't shown on many maps. This was actually the first time I had been there, despite passing by it for years.You have to ride a shuttle to the tower and museum located at the top, but it's well worth the $3 fee. 

Leaving Brasstown Bald we meandered on 76,106, and 64 towards Asheville. This route takes you through the incredible beautiful (and high rent) areas of Highlands, Cashiers, and Sapphire N.C. You can almost smell the money as you ride through! Traffic picks up noticeably in these towns, as does law enforcement, so be cool. We actually had one officer follow us for several miles, we suspect that Bob's helmet cam got his attention. Maybe he thought we were going to do standing wheelies through town and post it on You-Tube .

On Day two we picked up the Blueridge Parkway in Asheville, continuing North to Mt Mitchell. The temperature on the Parkway was in the mid 70's, and there wasn't a drop of rain to be found. The humidity was low, and the views were Incredible.
Mt Mitchell also has a restaurant, one of the few places you can get food on the Parkway.

From Mt Mitchell we continued North on the Parkway to Deep Gap where we turned off on 221 to West Jefferson N.C. From there we took 194, 88, and 421 (back to Boone) and 321 to Elizabethton. All of these roads are excellent, but you need to recondition yourself to look for traffic after riding so long on the BlueRidge. You can also feel the temperature go up as you drop from the higher elevations.

In the next few weeks I'll be making more post of places we stopped, and things to see along this route. 

Also, Cycleblend wants to recognize the people that make the ride to these peaks. 

Send us pictures confirming you visited each location, and well post them on the site and send you something that shows that you made "The Three High Rides"  (We're still deciding what that's going to be, maybe a sticker, key fob, or something else of high value!) the thing is, you can't get it if you don't ride it. We also want to hear about cool places you visited, good places to eat, and any other details of your adventure you would like to share. Well get more info posted on this ASAP. In the meantime. if you make the rides, make some notes and take some pictures!

Connecting the three highest points could be done in one long day, but I don't know if I would advise it. These are great roads, and the curves just keep coming. Trust me, at the end of the day you'll know you've been on a ride.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coming Soon - The Smoky 5!

It will be few days before I post the pics and recap, but I'm leaving out this morning ( 6-17-10) on a ride I've thought about some quite some time, riding the 5 highest points in 5 state in the Smokys. "the Smoky 5" The goal is to ride the highest roads in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Wish me luck.
Details to come!

Recommended - Helmet Sunblocker

Here is an inexpensive product that is well worth the money. I had this tint strip on my previous helmet, but when I got my new brain bucket I forgot to order one. Well, it took one ride on a sunny day to remember how much I liked it.

The Helmet Sunblocker is a pre-cut strip of tinted material that fits inside your face shield and it does a great job of keeping those extra bright summer (and winter) rays out of your eyes. It comes in especially handy early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon. It sits high enough that you aren't looking through it all the time, but when you need it, all you have to do is tilt your head down a little and you can keep that fiery ball in the sky from cooking your corneas.

It comes in two models, the standard model, and one that is cut to fit Arai Helmets that have vents in the shield. (This is the one I have). I actually preferred the strip to be slightly higher on the shield, and trimmed it with an exacto knife to get it just the way I wanted it. 

Beware of other tint strips that require you to do all the cutting yourself. I tried one of these and it was so much trouble that I ended up just trashing it. The original Helmet Sunblocker is inexpensive, easy to put on, and works great.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

US 129 Still Rock Blocked

I rode up today to see for myself, and yes, 129 (aka The Dragon) is still blocked by the massive, and seeming getting worse, rock slide. Honestly, I was hoping to be able to get a closeup view of the scene, but TDOT has the road blocked right at the base of the Foothills Parkway.

They have done one very nice gesture, and that is put a person there to redirect the heartbroken out of towners who didn't know the Dragon was out of commission for the time being. The lady that was there today in the oppressive heat (she ask that I didn't use her name) was extremely nice, and had a map with her so she could show people the best way to get to the other side of the Dragon.   

You can still ride the twisty parts, but you have to come in from the North Carolina side, which means going through Tellico, and across the Cherohala to Robbinsville (a great ride itself). 

According to the press the contractor has a $195,000 incentive to have it open by July 1st (19 days). they also say that there is a very large "unstable mass" of rock that they have measured to have slid 4 feet, and that this has to be dealt with first. Estimated completion is July 31st.

To see some video of the slide go to

I hope the contractor hasn't spent that $200 Grand yet!  

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cool Bike - 1960 Harley Servi-Car

"Bess", is a 1960 Harley Servi-Car which was purchased by the current owner about 3 years ago. Claudia said that she first saw the bike in an older copy of Walneck's Classic motorcycle magazine and decided she wanted it. She was able to contact the owner, who lived in Connecticut, but as luck would have it, he had changed his mind about selling the bike. Luckily Claudia was able to talk him in to parting with it, and now "Bess" has a new home.  

The history of this particular bike was that it's chopped remains were found in a field where it had been left to rust away. It was restored, and had a springer front end off of an older model Harley added. Now that Claudia has it, and can now be seen regularly ridden around Knoxville.

These are pretty neat bikes. Built as workhorses, Harley Servi-Cars were made from 1932-73, and were originally designed for the automotive service industry. (Get it ? Serve-A-Car ) The box on the back was designed to be large enough for a mechanic to carry his tools and parts. Also the first Servi-cars came with a tow bar so that they could be towed behind a car. The idea being that a mechanic could deliver a car to a customer, and ride the Servi-car back to his shop. For this reason the rear axle of the Servi-car has a 42" wide track so that the Servi-cars wheels would follow in the tracks of the car that was towing it.

Of course with the versatility they had, Servi-cars became popular with everyone from Police Departments to Food Vendors, and were in use for years. (You just have to wonder how big of a cooler would fit in the back!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BMW ROK Rally in Del Rio this Weekend

This weekend (Thur/Fri/Sat) the BMW Riders of Knoxville (BMWROK) are hosting their 11th Annual Rally  at the TWO Creeks Campground in Del Rio Tennessee (between of Newport Tn and Hot Springs NC). This is a beautiful area, and there is great riding in any direction out of the campground, either on pavement or dual sporting.

I've been to a BMWROK Rally before, and they put on a very good event. The last rally of theirs that I attended had 85 riders, from all over the United States. This is a camping crowd, but a few hit the local hotels. Camping isn't a requirement, but the campground is where the action is. As of tonight (6-2-10), there are still some campsites available.

The price of the rally is $45, and that includes three nights camping, dinner, breakfast, Rally Pack, door prizes, a grand prize drawing, and custom ride maps. For more info and registration check out , and