Blue Ridge Parkway Closures

A short stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed November 1, 2012 through April 2013 to stabilize a failing slope. It involves all of the north bound lane and a portion of the southbound lane, and it’s very noticeable dip when riding through.

Temporary traffic lights will stagger one way traffic through the work area, expect short to moderate delays. Gates above the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area and just south of NC 128 to Mt Mitchell State Park will be closed November 1 to isolate it for the construction.

You can still ride NC 80 a.k.a the “Devils Whip“.  NC 80 plunges down from the heights through a series of switchbacks, then a nice long curvy section takes you to the junction with US 70.   You can also ride NC 226A a.k.a. the “Diamond Back”. Tthe Diamondback Motorcycle and Sportscar Route as it winds from Marion, NC to the Parkway at Milepost 334. Over 190 curves in a fun and fast 12-mile ride climbing 2000 feet and dropping 10 to 15 degrees in temperature.

At the top of the route is The Switzerland Inn and the Diamondback Motorcycle Lodge – a fun place for groups to “camp” without camping inconveniences. The Switzerland Inn has spacious, newly renovated rooms and suites (many with spectacular mountain-valley views) plus two patio bars and the full service Chalet Restaurant. The Chalet Restaurant serves gourmet favorites and classic breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.


Route 80 and Route 226A

The scenery and excellent road conditions of the Blue Ridge Parkway are no secret.  However, there are two routes to be explored off the Parkway in Western North Carolina.  Not many travelers know about this hidden treasure, but its curves and scenery are too nice to be kept a secret. NC 80 leads to the Blue Ridge Parkway in a series of hairpin turns.  Another road off the Parkway, NC 226A, is also unknown to many. Deemed too twisty by many, it has been all but abandoned by car drivers. These two routes offer everything a biker could want—good scenery and fun roads. Points of interest: The views of Lake Tahoma; the curves of NC 80 and NC 226A; views from Black Mountain Overlook, Three Knob Overlook, and Deer Lick Gap.

Ride your bike along the Diamondback (226A) and Route 80, enjoy the scenery and stay with us at the Switzerland Inn.  The Switzerland Inn has a wonderful Friday surf and turf buffet that is not to be missed.  Ask about our Blue Ridge Parkway Room Special.


Riding Safely in NC Mtns

  • Wearing protective gear while out on your bike is the first and most important step you can take to insulating yourself (and your skin) from pavement, rock, cliff faces, and mean mountains in general.
  • Wear bright colors – especially at night. There is an appeal to the sleek black look, but outer vests made of the fluorescent stuff combined with reflective striping can go a long way to making you visible on the road.
  • Optimal lane position depends on what kind of curve you’re taking and the hill you’re approaching. The best way to learn is by taking a rider course near you. By being in the middle of the lane you’re creating a safety margin. If you find yourself facing a car that has gone into your lane, you’ll still have the rest of the road to your right to perform evasive maneuvers.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with an area, slow down. Take your time because no one is impressed with the person that wrecks due to his or her negligence of the surrounding area. Besides, you have to slow down to see the amazing natural beauty the mountains have to offer.
  • A lot of the curves in the area are “blind” – you don’t really have a lot of lead-time to assess what’s coming at you around a curve.  Slower speeds give you the advantage when it comes to split-second decisions. Learning and practicing evasive maneuvers with a local motorcycle rider course can help.
  • This sign is funny, but it also carries a serious message. This sign warns you that the curve ahead will get tighter as you ride through it.  So think of “descending radius curve guy” as a warning not to take things too fast or you may find yourself in the same funny pose!

There is plenty of space for motorcycle touring groups at the Diamondback Motorcycle Lodge.  The Switzerland Inn is the ideal location for a casual, fun and friendly NC mountain getaway.

The Beautiful Diamondback

The Diamondback – NC 226A leads from Marion, NC to the Blue Ridge Parkway with numerous switchbacks and steep twisting turns. There are approximately 194 curves in the 12-mile loop.  There are absolutely incredible sweeping views of the Catawba River Valley and Blue Ridge mountain ranges. The route has a smooth road surface; most of the curves are slightly banked, and absolutely beautiful scenery! It climbs significantly and has many sharp corners.   Here are some tips to help you enjoy the ride:

Keep your motorcycle under 45 mph, ride slowly and carefully, and heed any warning signs. The smoke-belching, view-obscuring truck is mostly absent from the road. Obey all safety laws about riding your motorcycle, like wearing helmets and keeping the headlight on.

Stop for a meal along the route. The Fowl Play Pub and Chalet Restaurant will be open in April. Stop in. Drink in the views and stay a while.

Pull over for the scenic overlooks.  It only takes a  minute to pull over, enjoy the view and continue on down the road. Make additional stops for wildlife. The smaller size of your motorcycle means you can do this just about anywhere.

Stay overnight. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a mixture of campgrounds, but you might not have the cargo-carrying capacity for a full set of camping gear. At the top of the ride, The Switzerland Inn is one of the best places to stop for the night.


MC Blue Ridge Rendezvous

Tour headquarters for this year’s MC Blue Ridge Rendezvous will be the historic Switzerland Inn at Milepost 334 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Switzerland Inn was built in 1910, perched at the peak of NC 226A, locally known as The Diamondback Motorcycle and Sportscar Route.

A motorcycle-friendly inn sits on right on the Parkway and is an ideal base camp for riding NC’s mountain roadways.  The best way to get there is the Diamondback Route. Twelve miles of mountain highway with 190 curves, hairpin twists and double-back loops.

From tour headquarters at The Switzerland Inn, the MC Blue Ridge Rendezvous riders will be touring the surrounding area, including a visit to the famed Biltmore House in Asheville, the incredible Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, and the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap with its 318 curves in 11 miles.

Read the full article below or in Motorcycle Classics March/April issue.


Every year, we toss around the idea of hosting our own motorcycle tour. We get to hit some really amazing shows, so wouldn’t it be great to spend a couple of days riding cool roads with like-minded motorcycle maniacs right before a big show? Like, say, the Barber Vintage Festival? The idea comes up like clockwork, and like clockwork we end up too busy to make it happen. Well this year is different, because this year we’re going riding, thanks to Bill and Debbie Kniegge at Blue Strada Tours.

You might remember Bill by way of his 1975 BMW R75/6 “Old ‘N Fast,” a stinkin’ quick gentleman’s express we featured in the January/February 2010 issue. A  motorcycle enthusiast to the core, Bill worked in executive marketing positions in the California offices of companies like Husqvarna, Bell Helmets and ATK Motorcycles before moving on to found two companies of his own, MCM Engine Technologies and Moto Sport Panniers.

During his California days, Bill would regularly organize motorcycle tours for himself and friends to various events. It was a fun diversion from the stresses of his other responsibilities, and he discovered he had something of knack for the biz. In 2008, Bill and Debbie decided it was time to shake things up, so they packed up house and moved, trading the fast pace of Southern California for the more genteel environment of North Carolina. Once settled in, they established Blue Strada Tours.

Bill’s since become a familiar sight in the region, leading riders from the U.S. and abroad on tours of discovery through the incredible back country of North Carolina, which boasts some of the finest motorcycling roads in the world (just ask the American Motorcyclist Association; its members say three of the top 15 in the country are there).

From his perch on a motorcycle, Bill’s become uniquely acquinted with them all — and we’ll ride the best of them in the Motorcycle Classics Blue Ridge Rendezvous.

Your headquarters will be the historic Switzerland Inn at Milepost 334 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Built in 1910, this motorcycle-friendly inn sits at the peak of the Diamondback Motorcycle & Sports Car Route, a 12-mile mountain loop with 190 curves, many of them doubling back almost 360 degrees. From here, we’ll head out on day tours of the surrounding area, including a visit to the famed Biltmore House in Asheville, the incredible Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in
Maggie Valley, and the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap with its 318 curves in 11 miles.

We’ll gather on Sunday, Oct. 1, and ride Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 2-5. Wednesday afternoon, riders will have the choice of heading home or joining me for an additional 400-plus-mile ride to Leeds, Ala., and the 7th Annual Barber Vintage Festival.

We’ll give ourselves time for a relaxed ride, rolling into the Barber Motorsports Park around noon on Friday, Oct. 7, just in time for the start of the most exciting, fastest growing vintage motorcycle event in the country. We’re encouraging other riders to join us on the way to Barber, and we’ll have a special VIP escort the last 50 miles or so to the museum.

Three days of incredible riding in North Carolina, followed by two more days of bombing down the back roads of North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, wrapped up with an escorted ride to the Barber Vintage Festival.

If that doesn’t sound like a classic ride, I don’t know what does. Reserve your spot now at — see you there!

Richard Backus

Driving NC’s Mountain Roads

Mountain Views from Switzerland Inn, NC
Mountain Views from front lawn at The Switzerland Inn, NC

A crisp chill is in the air and the early mornings are usually frosty, but now is a great time to see the unfiltered views from The Diamondback (NC226A) and the Blue Ridge Parkway. With the leaves mostly on the ground, the panoramic sweeps of mountain ranges and NC valley communities is at its best.

It is not too late to enjoy a warm afternoon ride through the twists and turns of North Carolina’s western mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Marion, NC take 226A, what we call The Diamondback, to the Parkway entrance near Switzerland Inn (MP 334). You can travel 226 but it is under construction as they smooth out the curves and inclines. Luckily 226A is keeping its banking hairpin curves and switchbacks.

Right off the Parkway entrance ramp is the Switzerland Inn, Chalet Restaurant and Fowl Play Pub. They are closed until April 2011 but it is a great place to remember for your 2011 family vacation or a romantic weekday getaway. Reservations are available online and their business office is open M, W, F from 9 to noon.

Take a Ride on the Diamondback

Ride along with Jackie (from America Rides Maps) as she careens down the Diamondback Motorcycle Route. Accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Diamondback is one of the big three motorcycle rides in North Carolina, joining the Snake and the Dragon in the short list of top NC motorcycle rides. Included are scenes from the Switzerland Inn, one of the top motorcycle and sports car friendly destinations on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ride the Diamondback, Little Switzerland, NC
Sweeping curve at the foot of the Switzerland Inn's front lawn

Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, NC, is just at the peak of 226A (The Diamondback) at Parkway Milepost 334. The Inn’s Chalet Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Enjoy amazing gourmet specialties or a sandwich and salad served at the edge of the panoramic view of the valley below.

Stop at The Fowl Play Pub for a glass of wine or a frosty beer and stay a while to visit The Switzerland Inn shops. From ice cream to gem stones and hand-crafted collectibles to Diamondback t-shirts, decals and patches, the shops at Little Switzerland have something for just about every interest.