Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - We drove from Roebuck (near Spartanburg), SC to the Trails End RV Park near Waynesville, North Carolina. The roads were pretty good and we were able to setup without difficulty. The drive was about two hours and mostly on freeways with lots of construction.  We got lost and drove into Waynesville and then turned around to call for navigation help. Several roads have construction, so we could not follow the GPS.

After getting the RV situated, we decided to take a drive and check out the Blue Ridge Parkway where it travels through the Great Smokey Mountains NP. WE drove to the town of Maggie Valley to check it out before we moved onto the parkway and then into the park. The parkway is somewhat narrow but well paved. The park way is also covered with trees making the drive like going through a tunnel. We drove most of the way through the park before turning around to return to the RV. The day was beautiful there was no wind. The mountains in the park are mostly in the 5,000 foot range with the highest peaks at under 7,000 feet. The elevation really makes a difference in the temperatures we are experiencing; especially at night. We don't need the furnace during the day or the AC unit at night. The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is well worth exploring and it is a great location for motorcyclists to ride in a safe, beautiful environment. It is okay for bicycles, but you must really watch for cars. We chose not to ride the parkway, but to look for places where there is less traffic.

Thursday, May 18, 2023 - We decided to drive into Asheville, to look around and to also do a couple chores. We went to the Trek Bicycle Store to see about getting the taillight on Lisa's bike fixed. We also got some great info on where to ride in the area. We then went to the art district of Asheville to a sandwich shop that was recommended by a person we met in Greenville. We bought one sandwich there and then drove to a Subway where I could get a sandwich. The sandwich at the shop was very good, but that was all they offered. It was mostly a bread shop. We went to Subway and then we drove to what is the first interior mall that was built in North America. It is called the Grove Arcade.

The Grove Arcade is the first indoor mall in America. Finished in 1928, it provided very high-end shops for people of wealth to peruse. It is still a nice mall with very nice shops. Be sure to check out the photo blog to see the photos of the Grove Arcade. Lots of high-end shops and eating establishments. There is also a large, multi-story hotel that was built adjacent to the Arcade. After exploring the Grove Arcade, we walked across the street to take a self-guided tour of the Basilica of St. Lawrence that contains the largest dome in the United States for a Spanish Renaissance design. Also, there were no nails or glues used in the construction. There is only one metal band that goes around the base of the dome. There is no other metal in the building and it is built with bricks that are all cut to interlock. Pretty nice. Lots of stained glass too.

Friday, May 19, 2023 - Today, we rode the bicycle trails at the Arboretum of North Carolina. There is a fee to park at the arboretum, but the nice young man at the Trek bicycle shop told us where to park and that we could ride into the arboretum. We found a parking spot and asked a lady where to go. With her instructions, we easily rode into the arboretum. We rode the gravel roads and trails for about an hour before checking out the flowers at the arboretum. There was a very nice Japanese bonsai display at the arboretum. There is also a very nice model train track that operates on certain days in one area.

Saturday, May 20, 2023 - We drove the shorter distance to ride bikes through the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley itself is only about three miles long, but there is also another three miles of uphill that is paved going up to a road that we took to drive to the park. We drove all the way to the end of the paved road in this park which is the trial-head for hike that is about five miles out and back. After getting the bikes out and set up, we rode the length of the valley looking at the meadows and looking for wild animals. There are also several buildings in the valley that have been abandoned, but maintained (somewhat) by the parks service. We are able to go into and explore each of the buildings. When we reached the end of the valley, we decided to get a workout by climbing the hill back up to the dirt road where we came into the valley area. It turned out to be three miles in length and 900 feet in elevation change. It was quite a workout for me, since I am pretty-much out of shape. Lisa did great on her EBike, since she simply had to move the power setting to "Sport" to help her get up the hill. After the climb, we coasted down back into the valley to check out the buildings. At the school, we watched an elk run by on the outside. There were lots of wild turkeys all around. We did not see any bears though. After the ride, we walked up the trail to the "Woody House" which took us over a couple cool bridges and over the stream a couple of times. We ended up getting four miles of hiking distance.

Sunday, May 21, 2023 - Today we drove to Chimney Rock State Park to meet Chris Davis and Mitzi Williams to hike up the hill to the top of Chimney Rock. The drive to Chimney Rock took about one and a half hours. This is an amazing place and should be on your bucket list of things to do. We drove halfway up the mountain side to the parking lot where we could take shuttle up to the base of the peak. We chose to walk up the trail to the base of the peak. It was a walk of about 500 feet of elevation change. We then began to climb the 700 steps on the stairs that lead to the top of the ridge. Along the way, the views are outstanding. Once we got to the top of Chimney Rock, I was taking photos and heard a "click-click" nearby. I turned just in time to see a lady's IPhone go sliding down the rock and over the 200 foot cliff. Her husband was not too happy about her losing her camera. They have a snack bar at the base of the climb to the top of the mountain, so we stopped for hot dogs and sandwiches. We then began the hike to the top of the mountain when Lisa failed to raise her foot high enough on a step and trip onto her knees and chest. She had scratches on her knees and her wrist was sore. We decided that we had climbed high enough and decided to head back down. There is an elevator from the snack bar to the parking lot, but we chose to walk. It was a great day with Chris and Mitzi and their two dogs Gus and Daisy. Daisy got to make most of the trip in a backpack carried by Chris.

Monday, May 22, 2023 - Today, we plan to spend the entire day at the Biltmore Estate located south of Asheville, North Carolina. The Biltmore Estate is made up of several key business endeavors, but it primarily revolves around the 250 room (43 bathrooms), 178,000 square foot, home modeled after French Chateaus. The cost to enter the house for a tour was $102 after all surcharges and taxes were added, but it was well worth cost. It is an amazing house with huge rooms and wonderful furniture and paintings. It is hard to explain the beauty in words, so I recommend that you check out the photo gallery on the home and gardens. They do not allow you to take videos in the home, so photos are the best that we could do. After exiting the house, we walked the gardens. The Spring Garden is a little past bloom and the summer plants have yet to bloom. It was still beautiful with lots of mountain laurel and rhododendrons about. We ended up spending two hours in the house and at least that amount in the garden areas. This is the largest home in America and some members of the family still live on the estate premises. The estate also includes several large hotels, bike paths, horse riding paths, and lots of biking trails (some paved and some not).

Tuesday, May 23, 2023 - Today, we drove to the small town of Brevard, North Carolina where we walked the streets of the rustic town to visit many of the tourist-oriented shops. Brevard is well know for its focus on the center of town and the small shops that operate there. It is also the home of Brevard College of Art and Music. It is also well known for an abundance of "white squirrels" in the region. We went there to see all three of these parts of the community. We started with lunch at the Rocky's Grill and Soda Shop. This is an old-fashioned soda shop that you might have found in the 1950s. The hamburger and grilled sandwiches were great. We sat at the counter like we would likely have in the 1950s. After lunch, we walked though the town to visit several of the small "tourist-oriented" shops. We found several gifts that we thought would work well for Christmas gifts. We then drove to Brevard College because we had been told that there are quite a few white squirrels there. We did not find any though, and decided to go to the parks located in town. We finally found a park with a white squirrel that we photographed profusely. Check out the photo gallery. We then drove back to the RV near Maggie Valley.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - Today we got up early today to drive for two hours to ride bikes at the Cades Cove Loop located on the eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stopped at a nice, little breakfast restaurant in Maggie Valley to have breakfast. We then jumped on the road for the two hour drive through the Great Smoky National Park to Cades Cove. The first hour of driving took us to a place just north of Gatlinburg, North Carolina. We then turned easterly for the 45 minute drive through beautiful green foliage, winding roads, along a fast-moving stream. When we arrived at Cades Cove, we were in a line waiting for parking to come available. We were about third in line from the front of the line. As we waited, a brown bear walked across the street in front of the car in front of us. Pretty cool. When we go to the front of the line, the park ranger directed us forward to a lot that had on opening and as we drove in a car departed, so we got to parking right away. We set up our bikes and rode to the start of the eleven mile looping ride. One-way traffic and no cars! On Wednesdays, only bikes and walkers are allowed on the road.

The park ranger also mentioned that just down the path, Yo-Yo Ma was giving a small cello concert to anyone passing by. We hustled down there and got there just as he was finishing is music. He is doing a music in nature tour wanted some local footage for his concert in Knoxville. He came up to all the riders and talked to use for about ten minutes. Lisa and I (mostly me) got a chance to talk to him directly for a couple of minutes. Be sure to see the video about this part of today's ride. Sometimes, we just get lucky and things like this just happen to us. Yo-Yo Ma is a very nice man and fun to meet

The ride was excellent. Eleven miles and 750 feet of climb. Lots of bikers and lots of walkers, but not hard to navigate around them. We saw about eight bears on each loop (we rode the loop twice) and lots of wild turkeys. The scenery was outstanding with huge meadows and clear skies. There were about five places where the climb gradient was over 10% and as much as 15% in one place. It forced many riders to walk their bikes up these grades. It was an excellent ride and I would recommend it to all. Even the drive to the ride start is beautiful. After leaving Cades Cove Loop, we drove to Gatlinburg to follow a different route home. Gatlinburg is like the "Branson" of the Smoky Mountains. Severe tourism with people all over the place and zip lines, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and much more. We couldn't get through this town fast enough.

Thursday, May 25, 2023 - We depart for Peek Mountain RV Park in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.