Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Dragon Slayer: A Ride Deep into Coal Country

While in Pikeville a couple of days ago, we picked up a map of Appalachia's motorcycle rides.  This is no small area.  Appalachia stretches from Northern Tennessee through eastern Kentucky as far east as Ohio and north as southern Pennsylvania.  Needless to say, there are a lot of square miles and a lot of different motorcycle rides. 

Today we are headed north on US 119; this road is God's gift to Motorcycle Riders. After making the turn on KY 160, wet stopped in Lynch, Kentucky, at an old Coal Mine, part of the National Mining Museum. We are cold, so some coffee and to warm up was right on time. The Lamp House Coffee Shop was the right place at the right time. So after a cup and a walk around the old train station, we are on our way.

Today our main goal is to ride the Dragon Slayer KY 160 from Lynch, Kentucky to Big Stone Gap, Virginia. This runs up and over Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky. This road is very challenging because of the change in elevation and tight winding curves. This ride reminds me of the Tail of the Dragon with better views. We stop at the top of Black Mountain for pictures and a great view.

Once off the Mountian, we stop in the picturesque town of Big Stone Gap for lunch. This town that sits in the Powell River Valley is a gateway to Appalachia. After a great lunch at Curklins, a fun place with outdoor seating, it serves the regular bar fare with various lunch specials. We plan our way back to the gap.

We decide to head back up the mountain on US Highway 421 from Pennington Gap, VA, to Harlen, Ky. This is a much different road with long sweeping turns on an excellent 4 lane highway. Once in Harlen, it's back down US 119 to the gap. It was a good day. Tomorrow is our last we plan to go out with a blast.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tennessee Lost Highways: The Two Headed Dragon

We are in Cumberland Gap to ride some of these Appalachian motorcycle roads for a week. This area contains some of the country's best motorcycle roads in Nation.  Most of these roads are unknown and unspoiled by the lack of commercialization. 

It's day 2, and since we had such a long day yesterday up to Pikeville, we decide to take a shorter ride. This ride did not disappoint.  Called the Two-Headed Dragon, Kentucky 74, which turns into Tennessee 90, is one of America's great motorcycles roads.  This road will make your heart stop. Very unique because it climbs in and out of valleys with no traffic lights or urban obstructions. 

As you climb, the two mountain passes the overlooks will take your breath away.  There's plenty of tight twisting turns, and in the valleys, long, fast sweeping turns with some straightaways.  Keep alert because a set of hairpin turns are right around the corner. 

Once we turn south on US 25W, we get more of the same roads until we get to La Follette, where we stop for lunch.  After eating some good Mexican food, we make our way back to the Gap.  We follow TN 63, which follows the base of the Mountain Ridge.  The views with the sunny fall day and the changing leaves are quite the sight.  It's a good day.   

Once we get back to the Gap, we reflect on the ride and the fall colors.  It is hard to imagine anything better, and who would choose the Tail of the Dragon over this?  This is truly one of Tennessee's Lost Highways.  Tomorrow we have another ride planned with the words Dragon in it.  It is time to be the Slayer of the Dragon. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Cumberland Gap: The Run to Pikeville Kentucky (Hatfields and McCoys)

We are in Cumberland Gap to ride some of these Appalachian motorcycle roads for a week.  As it's called, the Gap is a mountain pass that lies at the southern end of Appalachia, right at the Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia border.  

Appalachia from here stretches north through Kentucky and West Virginia; this area contains some of the country's best motorcycle roads.  Most of these roads are unknown and unspoiled by crowds.  There are more mountain roads here than a man could ride in a lifetime.  

If you're used to going to the Maggie Valley every year to ride the Tail Dragon and the Cherohalo Skyway, I suggest that you change it up and head to Appalachia.  You won't be disappointed by these undiscovered roads.

Our first ride is to Pikeville, home of the Hatfields and McCoys feud.  We had already been to see these sites, so this ride was all about checking the sales rack at Mineshaft Harley Davidson. Which was a jackpot; pick up a nice jack and sweatshirt. Our stop for lunch was in Jonesville at A Better Burger.  It was one of the best burgers that we have had in a long while.  

The highlight of this ride is passing over the mountain ridge on US 119.  This road separates Appalachia from the Shenandoah Valley. The ride up the ridge has all the twisting turns and scenic views a motorcycle rider could ever want. We stop close to the top and take it all in.  

As we travel along US 119 after climbing the ridge, you are flying along a mountain river.  There is a bridge every half mile, or so each one named after a soldier killed in the last decade's middle eastern wars.  As I cross these bridges, I realize as a former soldier that this could have been me.  To honor these fallen soldiers, we must live for them and not waste a minute. 

It's going to be a great week, filled with great rides and the scenic roads that they are on.