Friday, August 01, 2008

A Week Out of the Saddle

Roaring Fork Motor Trail
Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Smoky Mountains National Park

Hey! Remember me? I used to post here. Actually, I've got five rides to document from my weak notes - probably just mileage.

Anyway, I'm out of town this week and not riding, but I hope to get back in the groove on Monday. My family is vacationing in the Gatlinburg, TN area this week. I had planned on bringing a bike, but the logistics didn't work out. Once I got here and saw the layout, I'm glad I didn't bother.

Gatlinburg itself seems like a nice place, but we're not staying there. Our condo is in Sevierville, which is a long drive down the "Parkway" from Gatlinburg. Not since Las Vegas have I seen a more car-centric location. The Parkway is a four lane (plus turn lanes) highway with high speeds and no bike lanes. There are sidewalks that cross a multitude of streets and driveways. Plus, the traffic is thick. I drove my wife and daughter to an outlet mall about a mile away, and it took 10 minutes in each direction! If I had brought the bike, I wouldn't be able to use it for any travel to restaurants or other tourist spots.

It's likely that there are alternate routes that would be good for recreational rides, but as a tourist, I haven't been off the main drag.

Now, I should say right now that I could have done a little research to find cycling routes in this area. First, I should have contacted cyclist, mechanic, blogger, and Boilermaker Gatlinburg Spokejunkie for information. She describes great rides around the area, and I'm sure she would have had some great suggestions. Next time for sure!

This makes me wonder how visitors seen my town. I've written often about the great options I have. Since I live in the country, I can get to a quiet county road about 30 seconds from my front door. My commute to work and trips to shopping are easy and calm. I'm a lucky guy.

However, those passing through Lafayette/West Lafayette will see the foreboding traffic and inaccessible roads near the hotels next to the interstate, or the four lane racetracks around the mall - much like what I've seen here. While I find riding around campus to be easy, newbies may be intimidated. I know which two streets to avoid downtown to make any ride a breeze.

I guess my point is that there is potential for good riding just about anywhere, but we (especially me) should be more open to a little exploration before passing judgment. Next time I'm on vacation, I'm going to do the homework before hand, and take some rides to find the good stuff.

And, I'm going to give Gatlinburg another chance when we return someday. Also, I'd like to offer the Spokejunkie a chance for rebuttal. Drop me a note or leave a comment with your response.

Miles Ridden: 0


Blogger Apertome said...

I love the Smokies, but hate Gatlinburg. Never been to Sevierville. At any rate, it looks like you're spending some great time in the park ... which is excellent. When we were there and went through Gatlinburg I was amazed at all the people who went down to the mountains ... to drive go carts? I really don't understand that at all.

Anyway, I hope you have/had a fantastic vacation.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Marla...O.A.F. with altitude said...

Fortunately, the go carts are gone. Yeah, the sight of town is a bit...umm...overwhelming. I'm basically there for the park. And there are a few places to ride.

Cades Coves is an 11 mile loop that is closed Wednesday and Saturday until 10am to cars. You get a great chance to view the wildlife without getting mowed over. I'm trying to think, Balsam Mountain Road on the NC side is a little used unimproved road in the park. You can go out and back or make a much longer loop incorporating some roads. You can ride any of the roads in the park, just watch out for tourists. Oh, Parsons Branch Road out in Cades Cove is gravel and closed in the winter to auto traffic.

The little trail I ride isn't very long, but it's what I have. For the MTBer's out there, well, you have to go across the mountain to Bryson City and the Tsali network of trails.

Another suggestion is to stay in Townsend. They have a decent greenway along both sides of the highway. And there is a resort that supposedly caters to cyclists. I'll have to get back to you on that one.It's considered the quiet side of the Smokies.

Gatlinburg is SLOWLY going through changes to get back towards a gateway community. But, the whole of the county is not a very bike friendly place. Though I've seen a few more commuters in town!

Another ride close to the area and Sevierville is English Mountain. Challenging!

Nice picture from Roaring Fork. That's the area I do some of my trail maintenance and historic restoration for the National Park. Another area to ride in the winter because the road is closed to autos.

Next time you're here, drop me an email and tell me what you want. I'll try to find you some good rides.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Marla...O.A.F. with altitude said...

Okay, here's the place in Townsend that I was trying to think about.

They also have the yearly Bicycle Bash(coming up) and a 6 hour MTB race.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

A friend of mine goes every year to Cades Cove with her family. This year she biked the loop twice... with her eleven year old daughter. It sounds like they had a blast. They saw deer, bucks with velveted antlers, two black bears, and other bikers. You have to get away from the main drag.... there's a reason the call it a drag!

8:08 PM  
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6:38 PM  

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