Crusing on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must for anyone attending the Honda Hoot Motorcycle Rally in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Our very first day of Honda Hoot action was everything a motorcycling enthusiast could ask for: perfect weather, excellent riding, great new friends, site seeing, and even some American Motorcycle History 101. Our day began early at 8 a.m. as we loaded up our Honda CBR1000RR and our fully decked out Gold Wing and set off eastward towards the Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
Situated only a few miles from Interstate 40, the amusement park sits on top of a lush, green mountain. A short chair-lift ride takes you to the top of the mountain and into the beautifully kept park. Strolling in, the first thing we noticed was the giant loop-equipped roller coaster under construction. However, they still have a few weeks of work left before it’s complete. This meant that we’d have to settle for their Geronimo Drop Tower ride.
As we climbed into the chair and slowly made the ascent up the 55-foot tower, the view of the valley below was incredible. Then, as the operator released the lever, we plummeted down in total free fall. The ride only lasted a few seconds, but the thrill was so exhilarating that we had to do it a few more times until our sides hurt from laughing so much.
Up next was a walk through their super authentic looking ghost town. It’s crazy to think that something like this even exists, let alone on top of a desolate mountain. There were a ton of cool things to look and laugh at in addition to a killer band rocking out a perfect rendition of Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can You See” jam.
Without a doubt, the Wheels through Time motorcycle museum is one of the most amazing collections of historic American-made motorcycles we’ve ever seen. What makes it better is that the curator, Dale Walksler, has a story for each and every one of the hundreds of machines inside.
A Wild West themed pseudo gun fight followed and was the classic good guy sheriff versus a gang of rowdy thugs. Guests lined both sides of the faux town and got to watch a pretty authentic looking gun fight, complete with smoke, loud gun rattle, and some decent acting.
We skedaddled right after so we’d have some time to stop by the nearby Wheels through Time museum. Once we pulled into the modest looking museum we were greeted by the grounds keeper and all-around good dude, Trapper.
Walking inside, I hadn’t a clue of what I was about to see. Words do not describe how cool this place is. The museum’s curator, Dale Walksler, gave us a guided tour and suddenly one hour turned into two, then into three – before you know it was almost 5 p.m. and we hadn’t even seen half of the bikes inside!
His museum features only American motorcycles, the likes of Indian, Henderson and Harley-Davidson, which he has found and restored all in-house. Each one of the machines Walksler houses has an amazing story that he simply rifles off the top of his head. The sheer knowledge of not only the bike, but its previous owner’s history is astonishing. And that’s not even the best part. The majority of the motorcycles inside run! Yes run… and I’m talking about turn the gas switch ‘on’, prime the carb and either kick, pedal, or spin the rear wheel and in a few seconds these historic pieces of mechanized art are banging, popping, and shuttering with life.
To tour the place you’re going to need a couple hours of free-time and according to Walkser, to do it properly–spending three minutes at each bike, its going to take you 17-hours to see the entire place, meaning that we’re definitely going to have to pencil in some additional time soon.
Afterwards, my head was about ready to burst with all of the knowledge Walksler pumped into my cranium, so it was time to head back to Honda Hoot HQ at the Marriott Knoxville Hotel. We said our goodbyes, fueled up and were on our way back via the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The two-lane road meanders through untouched, pristine nature settings. Outlooks and pull-offs are littered all across this bowling ball smooth roadway and allow riders to take a break and take in the same beautiful scenery as its been naturally for hundreds of years. The only real drawback to the roadway, if there even is one, is its ultra-conservative low speed limit of between 25 and 45-mph. And it’s heavily enforced by North Carolina police, so watch out.
As the sun started to set low in the sky, we hit downtown Knoxville for some dinner and evening action. And despite my early assumptions, Knoxville has a very metropolitan vibe with a variety of great (and affordable) bars and restaurants. Going to sleep that night I couldn’t believe all the cool things we did in just a day … and we’ve still got three days to go. I can’t wait until tomorrow.
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