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riding in the Smokies(2 posts)

riding in the Smokiesbianchi boy
Jun 2, 2001 8:32 PM
Just got back from a 3-day business trip to Gatlinburg, TN, at the west entrance to Great Smoky Mtn National Park. Packed my bike, hoping to get some rides in after work each day. It rained every day, of course, but miraculously cleared off (or at least quit raining) around 4 pm on Thursday and Friday, so I got in a couple of great rides.

On Thursday, I rode from the Sugarlands visitors center just outside Gatlinburg southwest along the Little River toward Cades Cove about 40 miles out and back. It started out with a 4-mile climb, then a 14-mile downhill, and then 2-mile climb -- and all of that reversed on the ride back. What a blast! All the climbing was worth it for that 14-mile downhill - including several stretches where you can easily maintain over 30 mph for several miles. That first & last 4 miles were the steepest, so I really flew over that last stretch -- so fast (over 35 mph sustained) that I had to put on the brakes because I'm not used to riding that fast on a windy, wet road.

On Friday, I drove to Cades Cove and did two laps on the 11-mile loop road, which is one-way traffic the whole way. That would have been a blast, except it is fairly crowded with sightseers in cars looking for wildlife. It was kind of fun in a way, though, as the usual roles were reversed -- I was passing all of the cars and could actually ride the route faster than most cars could, even if they weren't sight seeing. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, they close off the loop road to all auto and truck traffic, so that is really the time to ride there, but it didn't fit my work schedule.

I would have liked to ride up to Newfound Gap, at the TN/NC state line, and perhaps onto to Clingman's Dome (over 6,000 feet), but just didn't have time. The weather was also pretty iffy with lots of storms rolling through and I didn't want to be up on ridge top in a lightning storm. I also wasn't real keen on the steep, winding descent on wet roads. Perhaps another time.

If you haven't ever been to the Smokies, or ridden there, I would highly recommend it. Just be prepared for the traffic and wear bright clothes. You wouldn't want to ride the main roads on weekends, or during the fall leaf season, but weekdays are usually pretty good. The pavement was pretty rough on a few stretches near Cades Cove, which had me wishing I was on my steel-framed bike. The biggest problem with riding there is the scenery is so pretty that it's very tempting to take your eyes off the road more than you should, particularly going downhill on a curvy road with steep drop off.
re: riding in the SmokiesHaiku d'état
Jun 4, 2001 7:13 AM
thanks for the report! i'm planning a trip with the wife to the tri-cities area in fall, and taking the road bike. have wanted to ride clingman's dome for some time; couple other climbs, including beech mountain, are within a relative driving distance.

what kind of elevation gain?