Day Three - Little Switzerland Tour (242 miles)
Finally, Monday morning came and we were hoping the traffic situation would be minimized.  We started with an excellent breakfast in Maggie Valley at Joey's Pancake House (KMZ).  We headed west on US19 and caught the BRP once again for an extended run.  I cannot begin to tell how much I enjoy the Parkway.  Every turn is sweeping not one decreasing radius turn in the 469 mile length of the Parkway.  Mile after mile of gorgeous scenery with the best road conditions you could imagine.  Our first stop was the Wolf Mountain overlook (KMZ) at milepost 424.8.  We stopped next at Walnut Grove overlook at milepost 396.4 (KMZ).  I could have run the Parkway all day but we exited just south of the French Broad River at NC 191 and headed south.  NC191 South to Hendersonville proved to be pretty unremarkable and I thought afterwards we should have just stayed on the BRP, exited on I-26 and blasted down to Hendersonville.  Once in Hendersonville we took US176 south.  The road south of Hendersonville is rather flat but the twisties pick up as we approach Saluda.  Saluda is home to the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the steepest grade of railroad in the U.S.  In the early 1800s the ability to transport passengers and goods over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Asheville and west into Tennessee was essential when this 3-mile grade up Saluda Mountain opened on July 4, 1878 cresting in the center of Saluda, where it runs parallel to the main street of the town. It was the beginning of a new era for the Saluda area, bringing prosperity and a new way of life to the settlers.  US176 roughly follows the railroad so it was a rather quick descent into the town Tryon.  The road follows the Pacolet River and is in decent condition but I thought as I rode it would be better going up the hill than down.  We stopped along the road for a break (KMZ).  In Tryon we caught NC108 north toward Lake Lure.  At Mill Spring we took NC9 north (KMZ) into Lake Lure, there we stopped to investigate taking a dip in the lake but we decided to continue.  Shortly after we passed Chimney Rock.  We could see the rock so we felt no need to fight the crowds in climbing to the top.  Just beyond the rock we stopped along the French Broad River for a respite.  We headed north on NC9 which shares itself with US64 and US 74A.  I made a mistake (even after looking at the map twice) and turned on US64 west when we wanted to continue on US74A (KMZ).  We missed two good opportunities the first was the route I had intended, up US74A.  The second was north on NC9.  We ended up back in Hendersonville rather than near Asheville, what a blunder!  US64 was nice in this area so it was not a total loss.  We blasted up I-26 to put us back on the BRP. Exit #6 off of the Interstate, west on NC146, north on NC191 put us exactly where we exited the Parkway earlier in the day.  Back on the Parkway at MP 393.6 we headed north.  We stopped at MP 375.3 Bull Gap overlook.  Next was our stop at Toe River Gap MP 354.8 (KMZ).  This stop had a nice view of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in NC and east of the Mississippi.  We were nearing our final destination for the night, the Mountain View Motel (KMZ) in Little Switzerland.  At our stop at Bull Gap Steve called ahead to make sure they knew we were still coming and to verify our special room accommodations.  Steve had reserved the best room in the motel.  They regretted to tell us they had double booked the room and that they would have another room for us free of charge.  Obviously that was ok with us.  We got to the motel fairly early in the evening so we rested up for a short time and went into Spruce Pine to eat.  We found a local eatery called Cedar Crest (KMZ) in the downtown area.  It was overpriced with poor service to go along with the poor food.  We don't complain about food much but this was really bad.  Afterwards we headed for our nightly ride.  We rode west on US19 to Double Island Road (KMZ) located just west of Micaville.  The road's entrance is south of US19 but doubles back underneath US19 and continues north.  I found this road on the internet and we were plenty excited about the ride.  The road was plenty scenic but it was rather tight and traveled through a lot of residential areas.  The road climbed up Chestnut Mountain and down to the banks of the North Toe River.  We looped around on the road marked as Wheeler on the DeLorme map but it was named something different (which now escapes me).  Back the way we came put us down back on US19.  We continued south beyond US19 and went south on NC80.  NC 80 is seriously twisty, a fact belied by its important-looking number and innocuous designation on maps. It looks like a straight-ahead, more direct route up the mountains than nearby U.S. 221. This road has got to claim its share of unsuspecting white-knuckled tourists: "Honey, why don't we take this route 80 here. I think it goes straight to the Parkway".   It is almost a little too tight but with the lack of traffic on Monday night it was a pleasure.  NC80 dumped us back on the BRP at MP 344.1.  We headed back north and stopped at MP 338.8 Three Knob Overlook (KMZ).  We had stopped at this overlook in 1996 so being the nostalgic types we stopped there again.  Back to MP 330.9 to our exit for the motel.  We hung out in the parking lot of the motel that night and talked with some other bikers for awhile.
Day Three - Little Switzerland Tour