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By: PoniPrincess of TheCarolinaRider.com.
Frog and I were piled up on the couch one evening recently with a cool beverage in my hand and the remote control in his. It could be a similar beginning to one of your evenings as well, but this one was going to launch an adventure. Devil’s Ride had ended for the season and we were tired of Bigfoot re-runs so there we were with old episodes of Moonshiner. Gotta love them mountain moon shining boys! Frog casually mentioned, “You know that show is just a few hours up the road from us. We should ride up there sometime.” That’s all I needed to hear. How could you not want to visit the home town of Popcorn Sutton? So a little bit of research and a great phone conversation with Teresa of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce found Frog and I couple of days later firing up the bikes and headed for a weekend in Maggie Valley, NC. Some mountain roads and cool breezes were on the itinerary. Beyond that we were leaving it up to the Road Gods…and some advice from www.maggievalley.org.
We left out of Rock Hill on SC5 and took it north into North Carolina. About 20 miles outside of Shelby, the flatter roads of South Carolina started climbing and getting a little twisty (that’s a motorcycle term). Even though it is June spring was still at these elevations so the wild flowers were blooming in all shades that Crayola could ever think of. Trees were still in their early fresh green color having not yet been burnt from the summer sun, but judging by the calendar that wasn’t far off. Small yellow sunflowers spiced up the large patches of lavender blooming along the road sides. Clouds and sun exchanged places against the backdrop of Appalachian Mountains. In the words of Frog, “It’s looking pretty Squatchy around here.”
Less than three hours into our journey we drove in between two mountain ridges and nestled there was the town of Maggie Valley. Naturally we were hungry (when are we not?!) so we drove up and down the one main road hunting a whistle wetting spot. I couldn’t help but continuously be drawn to the eclectic building of The Salty Dog restaurant located about half way down the barely 2 mile long road. Large lobsters are painted on the walls facing the parking lot and a huge cartoon dog was painted right on the road side. How could you not have fun in there? Signs and banners announced the site was ‘Biker Friendly’ (as though there were any other way to run a business!) but the litmus test of bikes in the parking lot completed it…this was obviously a great biker hang out!
The next day we had a yummy breakfast at the Maggie Valley Inn where we spent the night. It’s a very nice hotel with some amazing amenities. They have a fully stocked Tiki bar that is always hopping and we enjoyed a good band one evening. If you are looking for a place to stay you might want to check them out at www.maggievalleyhotel.com.
It started raining pretty hard that day so we decided to take in Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. It was one of those O…M…G moments. I don’t care what kind of biker you are (as long as you are one!) you have GOT to see this place. Over 38,000 square feet of vintage bikes and they all still run! Dale Walksler, the owner, is a rabid collector and restorer of any type of American motorcycle. You may have seen his TV show a couple of times, “What’s in the Barn?” When you walk in the door you are greeted by the nicest people who are more than willing to answer any questions or even set you up with a volunteer to personally take you around the museum, kind of like a docent, but that word just doesn’t seem to fit here. Upon entering the main hall your lungs fill with the earthy smell of bikes, bike parts, and leather (someone needs to make cologne like that!). Frequently during the tour your ears tingle with the rumbling of a motor from a bike that is probably 40 years old. Every day the volunteers of the museum demonstrate the workings of most every bike on the place and there are over 300! If you don’t do anything else, make dang sure you allow a couple of hours to tour Wheels Through Time, www.wheelsthroughtime.com, on your trip to Maggie Valley.
Since the weather wasn’t the very best for riding we also took in some shops along the way. We stopped at Maggie Valley Biker Wear and met Wanda. She is the nicest proprietor I have ever met. Her shop is full of neatly displayed shirts, saddle bags, and helmets. She has cool biker jewelry and because she is a seamstress she will sew on a patch for you while you wait! If you need anything like rain gear, bandanas, or a belt stop by and see her.
The rain had let up a little so Frog and I decided to do some sight seeing. Teresa of the Chamber had told me about a ski lodge that had some amazing views that we should see so off we went in search of a ski lodge…in June (never said I was bright, huh?!) We took Fie Top road off the main drag right where Ghost Town is, and we started a gentle ascent up a nicely curved road. Then it started getting curvier (another one of those motorcycle terms that only we writers can make up!) and more upper as in a 15% grade up! WooHoo! We passed nice mountain homes with natural waterfalls in their yards and still kept climbing. Then the clouds disappeared as we burst through them at the top of this mountain. Truly, we were above the clouds! The sight at the top of Cataloochee Ski Area was a religious experience for sure. I now know what Sir Edmund Hillary felt like and why he did it. It was tough to imagine many feet of snow on the ground when there are spring flowers all around, but it would be worth coming back in the winter to find out. Check out their website www.cataloochee.com and make plans to spend some time snuggling with your snow bunny up there.
It was approaching another meal time so we heated up some brakes coming down the mountain and headed for Legends Sports Grill. I had seen a bunch of bikes there the day before so it must be a good watering hole and it was on the recommended list from the Chamber of Commerce. It’s a nice bar with lots of memorabilia on the walls and real sweet waitresses. We had a great meal and got a chance to speak with the owner, Joe Higel. He’s a lively guy who is very passionate about bikers coming to Maggie Valley. He and his staff will make very sure you are well served and the glass doesn’t go dry. They have a real nice website www.legendsofmaggievalley.com you can look at and pick out your meal before you walk in the door. That way you have more time to see all the cool stuff on the walls.
Maggie Valley really is a place for everyone…especially those of us who love to eat. One of our meals we decided to try out J Arthurs right in the middle of the town. We had noticed the full parking lot a few times and so reckoned it was a good spot. Their sign boasted the best prime rib in town and they weren’t kidding! Frog had the prime rib sandwich with the au jus (he calls it gravy) and I had the best salad ever. It’s a very well run restaurant with attentive servers and I didn’t see a plate walk by that I didn’t want to just grab off the tray. Their website is www.jarthurs.com. It’s not noisy and has a very peaceful feeling to it. A very nice place to unwind after wrapping yourself around the curves of the mountains!
In every town there is one restaurant that all the locals know, where all the politicians hold caucus, and even the reverend shows up at his regular time. In my conversations with Teresa she had mentioned Joeys Pancake House is just such the place in Maggie Valley. She was right. Fresh coffee and cooked bacon filled the air as we entered. We were quickly seated and encouraged to peruse the menu. Good Lord at the pancake choices. Who knew you could put Reece’s cups in a pancake?! Well, Joey’s Pancake House does. No, I didn’t get them, but I was curious. Maybe I’ll spring for a batch just to say I did on my next trip. Don’t deny yourself the delicious breakfast waiting for you here. See their website for more yummy eats www.joeyspancake.com. They are open late for breakfast if you need to sleep in one morning, but don’t go on a Thursday ‘cuz their closed.
Frog and I decided to do some more touring before we headed east towards home so we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The clouds kept the secrets of the mountains hidden from view, but we enjoyed traveling for quite a while. There are more motorcycle roads in this area than anywhere! We discovered some maps of loopy tours that you can take for a few hours or all day which circle back to the valley. It would be so easy to spend a week in Maggie Valley eating and riding your way through the mountains. Eventually we set the course for Rock Hill and peacefully enjoyed the trip with many great memories and full tummies.
Could there be a better life?