Showing posts with label Smokey Mountains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smokey Mountains. Show all posts

Monday, 26 December 2016

Pigeon Forge Motorcycle Base Camp Trip Planning

The Smokey Mountains are a motorcycle Mecca for a reason.
Using a combination of and I've been planning day trips from Pigeon Forge, which seems a sensible place to explore the Smokey Mountains from.  The process can serve as escapism on a foggy, freezing drizzle Boxing Day, or it could be  pre-planning for an inevitable trip.

I've variously daydreamed about driving the Tiger down in a van over the Christmas break to New Orleans and Key West, as well as riding down to The Tail of the Dragon next August for a complete solar eclipse.  There are a lot of good reasons to figure out possible rides for when I'm eventually in the area.

Pigeon Forge is located just south east of Knoxville and offers a great launching point into the Smokey Mountains.  The area around there is covered in desirable roads:

The only trick with a winter trip is changeable weather.  It looks like next week in Pigeon Forge would have been a bit challenging:

It's a roll of the dice going south in the winter but the summer's a sure thing.  Maybe I'll find myself in the Smokey Mountains next summer when the moon hides the sun.

200 KM East Loop

230KM Pigeon Forge low land loop

Pigeon Forge 300km South Smokey Mtn loop

240 KM loopback Dragon's Tail

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Week After New Years: Take 2

If it's a seven grand proposition to get over to California and rent a bike to ride the Pacific Coast Highway, how cheaply could I do something else?

As if by magic, this popped up across the road from work this week.  If they're asking between five and six grand, it would be a straight trade for the commuter car I drive to work in the winter. This type of motorcycle transportation system has a cargo carrying capacity of over 3000lbs, so it would comfortably carry a bike or two.  
Tiger to scale
in that van.

The Tiger, a fairly substantial adventure bike, is about 89 inches long, 34 inches wide at the handlebars and 55 inches tall.  The cargo area in this kind of van is 124 inches long, 53 inches wide at the narrowest point of the rear wheel arches and about 53 inches tall.  With the windshield removed, even two tall adventure bikes would fit in the back of this thing with only a bit of handlebar overlap.  Two six hundred pound bikes would barely dent half the load capacity of the van.  It would barely feel a single bike at all.

With the Tiger (and maybe a Super Tenere) loaded in the back, we could make the great escape south on the week after New Years.

It's an all day trip to Knoxville.

If we left on New Year's day we could be in Pigeon Forge on the edge of the Smokey mountains that night.

Monday morning we could hit one of a number of local motorcycle friendly routes.  There are so many choices that other than a freak snow storm, we'd be on excellent riding roads, making miles in January.

Best Western Toni has a sale!
Pigeon Forge is nestled right in the middle of it all and their winter temperatures feel downright spring-like compared to what we have up here - hovering around 9°C on average.  It's cool, but no cooler than riding in the mountains around Phoenix was last New Years.  On warm days we might get right up into the high teens Celsius.  It's a bit of a chance, but the reward would be getting some beautiful winter rides in while the north is under a blanket of snow.

Compared to the Californian coast, you can get fantastic hotel deals down Knoxville way.  The Best Western in Pigeon Forge has a $74 Canadian a night deal on, and it's a 4+ star reviewed place with indoor pools and hot tubs and included breakfast; the perfect launching point for a series of rides.

Lots of pretty roads around Pigeon Forge
Being a regular winter work week for most people, the roads would be empty.  The Tail of the Dragon is only 54 twisty miles down the 321 from Pigeon Forge, and at that time of the year it'll be anything but packed.  The Dragon is just one of many excellent motorcycling roads in the Great Smokey Mountains area.

After exploring the Smokey Mountains from Monday to Thursday, we'd get a good night's sleep and make the drive back back north into the frozen darkness on Friday (giving us a spare day or two in case of weather).  The costs aren't anything like trying to get out to California.  With no airfare or motorcycle rental, the most expensive bits aren't there.  On top of that I'd get to ride a bike I love instead of getting on a rental I'm ambivalent about.

Compared to the seven grand California week, this one comes out to about sixteen hundred bucks depending on how getting my hands on a cargo van goes.  There is more of a chance of weather getting in the way but if it holds out it's a dramatically cheaper way to ride some fantastic roads in the middle of winter.

Maybe I could get Enterprise Rent-a-van to sponsor the trip...

Cost breakdown:
- swapping out the Mazda2 for a van, I think I can about break even there.  I only use the Mazda for the 10 minute commute to work in the winter - the van could easily do the same thing for not much more in gas because the commute is so short.
- gas down and back (assuming 15mpg) ~1500 miles = 100 gallons of gas ~380 litres @ $1 a litre = ~$400Cdn in gas for the van (gas is cheaper in the States).
- Food & toll costs on the commute, say $100 each way: $200US ($250Cdn)
- Hotel for the week (Sunday night to Friday morning) in Pigeon Forge: $411Cdn
- Daily bike gas & food costs: say $100US ($150Cdn) per day, so for Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu it'd be about $600Cdn

All totalled up, that's 2 days of travel and four days on two wheels in Tennessee for about $1600 Canadian dollars.  That's $5400 cheaper than the same amount of time away in California, and with six less airports.

Friday, 12 August 2016


What a ride down the Appalachians would look like next summer (for the solar eclipse!)

Elora, ON

4 h 19 min (286 km)
Entering the United States of America (New York)
4 h 19 min (286 km)
Entering Pennsylvania
3 h 11 min (224 km)
State College, PA
37 min (40.0 km)
Entering Maryland
Entering West Virginia
Entering Virginia
Passing through West Virginia
Entering Virginia
2 h 59 min (233 km)
Entering Tennessee
1 h 15 min (82.9 km)
Deals Gap
Cherokee, NC
54 min (51.1 km)
Entering Virginia
8 h 6 min (553 km)
Lexington, VA
Entering West Virginia
Entering Virginia
Passing through West Virginia
7 h 3 min (539 km)
Entering Pennsylvania
Williamsport, PA
3 h 38 min (274 km)
Entering New York
3 h 38 min (274 km)
Batavia, NY
Entering Canada (Ontario)
3 h 44 min (243 km)
Elora, ON

with hotel stops
might be good for a couple of days in the Smokey Mountains.

6 h 29 min (447 km)
1.  Clearfield, PA
5 h 27 min (390 km)
2.  Inn at Mountain Quest
6 h 41 min (518 km)
3.  Knoxville, TN
1 h 34 min (94.2 km)
3.5   Deal's Gap - Tail of the Dragon
2 h 25 min (162 km)
4.  Ashville, NC
8 h 26 min (581 km)
5.  Harrisburg, VA
5 h 39 min (437 km)
6.  South Williamsport, PA
7 h 3 min (496 km)