The Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley
This is a great loop that takes you on some good back roads in
. An added bonus is there are some good places to eat and visit along the way.
A Great North Carolina Loop
From Robbinsville take US 129 north. Good places to gas-up in Robbinsville are the Texaco, Solo and the new Skyway Convenience Store. If you need anything for your bike or a souvenir stop by Wheelers Motorcycle Shop just two miles north of Robbinsville. Wheeler has been featured on Speedvision and other television shows.
Heading north you come to the
after about 8 miles. If it’s a release day you might see rafters on this class 5 rapids for the next 7 miles. There is lots of action on this river so stop and watch if you have time. The best place is the falls about 6 miles down river. You’ll see the crowds gathered. at this hot spot.
Stop at the Tapoco Lodge if you need any Tail of the Dragon gear. They also serve meals on a limited time schedule. Tapoco offers both inn rooms and cabin rooms in a peaceful mountain valley setting and it’s just three miles from the Dragon.
Just around the bend Slickrock Trail begins on the south side of the
Little Tennessee River
. This trail leads back into Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness Area with some of the best hiking in the
. As you cross the bridge you’ll see the Cheoah Dam off to the right. This dam appeared in the movies Two Lane Blacktop, In Dreams and The Fugitive so locals call it Fugitive Dam. In Two Lane Blacktop the old one-lane bridge was shown. The pilings to your left are from that bridge.
After the bridge you’ll climb The Slide, a tricky couple of corners where you need to stay right to avoid anyone coming at you over the double yellow. After the sharp curves there is a good place to pull over and see Fugitive Dam from the top.
Back on US 129 north you come to NC 28. The Tail of the Dragon store is located on US 129 just past the intersection on the left. Stop and say hello to Ron or Nancy. Taking NC 28 South you’ll be on what locals call the Hellbender. This road is in good condition having been partially repaved in 2007. There is a little bit of everything for the first ten miles; tight twisties, sweepers, and some fairly long straights. Don’t get carried away here or you’ll find yourself too fast for the next corner. The road follows
for the next nine miles and there are some scenic pull-offs along the way. Often the water is so cold that it provides natural air conditioning.
After crossing the
you’ll soon come to
. The old Texaco gas station has been completely remodeled into a motorcycle themed Pitstop. Stop for souvenirs, lunch, beer, gas or just to see the place.
is also a good place to plan your next stay in the area. Accommodations range from camping/RV hook-ups to
rooms and even cabins. Want to go all out? Rent one of their luxury houseboats moored on
Heading back out on NC 28 east you’ll come to some of the tightest twisties in
. Another mile or two and you’ll see the Fontana Dam turn-off. Bear to the left and in a little more than a mile you’ll find the scenic Fontana Dam, the highest dam in the
Eastern United States
at 480 feet. You can ride/drive across the dam which is part of the
Backtrack to NC 28 and hang a left. You are now on the sweeper sections of the Hellbender. Don’t let the new pavement lure you into too much speed here …. you can find trouble if you really want to. You’ll pass
, a small waterfall right on the side of the roadway. This road is good all the way to the intersection of NC 143 before it straightens.
Passing through the rural community of Stecoah you’ll see the Stecoah Diner on your left. Like their original restaurant in Andrews, the Burger Basket, their featured meal is the homemade hamburger. Even Nancy and I like them!
Continue easterly on NC 28. You’ll come to the Wolf ??? a gas stop with broasted chicken and snacks. Here the road turns to 4-lane. I will only warn you once in all caps …. WATCH YOUR SPEED ON THE 4-LANES IN
. This is where the NCHP plays with their radar toys. Go nine miles and take a left onto US 19/74. This is still 4-lane so remember the CAPS above. Take US 19/74 east and you’ll see the new Partons Trading Post on the left. This is another good place to gas-up and get a snack. Real friendly people and clean.
Continue east and take Exit 67 into
. A great place to eat here is on
at of course the Everett Street Diner. You can also get a pretty good pizza for the area at Anthony’s Italian Restaurant on
Taking US 19 (the back way) to Cherokee is interesting. We don’t much care for Cherokee itself, so we pass right through holding our wallets and have some fun on US 19 between Cherokee and
. Too bad the traffic here is usually dreadful. It’s such a good road in places, just watch for some bad paving.
we have eaten at the biker friendly Salty Dog’s Seafood and Grill. Now let it be known that we do not eat seafood in the mountains. Just something that doesn’t seem right about it. We had the buffalo wings, potato skins and a beer. Don’t stop here if you are looking for atmosphere, but it is clean and the people are friendly.
Just down the street is the world famous Wheels Through Time Museum. Don’t miss this if you are within a hundred miles. The museum holds more than 275 antique American motorcycles, many of them extremely rare. And every one in the house runs! Sometimes the owner Dale will fire one up and take off burning rubber for a lap or two inside the museum. My favorite is the one of a kind, mostly hand built 1916 bike that was found in an old home in
in 1967. No one knows of any other motorcycle bearing this Traub emblem. The engineering was years ahead of its time. It is a truly priceless motorcycle.
Plan to spend a couple of hours at least in the Wheels Through Time. There are many exhibits with period tools, signs, parts, posters, photos and backdrops.
If you are looking for a place to rent a motorcycle on this loop we highly recommend Gryphon Bikes of Maggie Valley. There are several cruisers to choose from at reasonable rates.
Continuing easterly on US 129 take a right on US 276 right through downtown Waynesville. This is a quaint downtown with many spots of interest if you want to walk a while. The old Mast General Store is one of our favorites.
Back in the saddle continue of US 276 on some country roads to
. Here you’ll take a right onto NC 215 and begin climbing to the
Blue Ridge Parkway
. The curves start-out as sweepers and the scenery is rural. Soon you’ll cross a small causeway over
Continuing to climb the curves tighten. We suddenly came upon a downed tree that could have been a serious problem had we not been paying attention. A good habit to get into when riding these mountain roads is to always expect the unexpected.
A must stop is at the waterfalls of the
. A great place for some photos and a Red Bull.
Still climbing you’ll reach the
Blue Ridge Parkway
at Beech Gap, Milepost 423.3. From here take the BRP south (west looking at a map). The next 15 miles are some of the most scenic on the Parkway. The highest point on the BRP (6,047 feet) is at the Richard Balsam Overlook, Milepost 431.4. Be warned, the speed limit on the BRP is 45 mph and it is a good idea for safety reason alone to keep you speed within reason. There are hefty federal fines, traffic can be a hazard, and this is no place to go off the edge of the road.
There are a number of pull offs on the Blue Ridge Parkway to stop and take some snaps of the distant vistas.
From here it is all downhill. At Balsam Gap , Milepost 443.1, you have the choice of hopping down onto the 4-lane
74 to zip back to Robbinsville or continuing on the BRP to Cherokee at Milepost 469.1 and then backtracking to Robbinsville. If you have the time take the much more scenic and relaxing BRP.
MILEAGE QUICK ROUTE HOME: 205 miles, 6 hours not including stops
MILEAGE BRP ROUTE HOME: 218 miles, 7 hours not including stops
CLICK HERE FOR MAP (PDF)