17 www.BlountPartnership.com a ride on the nearby, 18-mile long Foothills Parkway. The Tour de Blount bicycle ride each May is the area’s largest gathering for both recreational and racing cyclists alike. Encom- passing rides of 25 to 75 miles in length, the tour takes in much of the Chilhowee Mountain area of Blount County. The most strenuous route climbs the famed “Wall” of Happy Valley Road. The Dancing Bear Bicycle Bash has grown from a rec- reational ride for friends and Dancing Bear Lodge guests into a respected ride that is responsible for a large chunk of the cycle tourism in Blount County. The annual September gathering fea- tures lodging at one of the area’s premiere vacation spots, gourmet chef-prepared lunch and comes complete with ride support and numerous post-ride activities. Heightening September as the month of choice to cycle Blount County is the recent addition of the prestigious Blackberry Farms Pro-Am Classic. The three- day event following close on the heels of the bash features some of the biggest names in interna- tional cycling. American greats George Hin- cape and Christian Vande Velde both took part in recent years, with the $30,000 purse donated to various charities. If a more leisurely cruise on either bicycles or motorcycles is more to your liking, Foothills Parkway offers more scenic and sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To the south, riders can peer over Happy Valley into the Smokies and beyond, while the views to the north gaze over Maryville, Knoxville and the great valley floor. Looking to the west rid- ers will discover Thunderhead Mountain, which is considered the highest peak in the western half of the national park. There is also an opportunity to trek up to the famous Look Rock Tower, a 1.2-mile hike. This tower is free and offers a 360-degree pan- oramic view. Big for 2018 is the return of the Harley Owners Group, of H.O.G. Rally in June. This event, sanctioned by Harley-Davidson, is the largest motorcycle gathering in the Eastern U.S., bringing in an estimated 12,000 riders for the week. For all things motorcycling, a great local resource is Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. Located at 1820 W. Lamar Alex- ander Pkwy., Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson caters to every riding need from apparel, to in- formation on local clubs and rides to live music at the adjacent The Shed Smokehouse & Juke Joint during the summer months. The tranquil ride from Townsend to Cades Cove and around the 11-mile Cades Cove loop showcases the beauty of the valley, along with the history of Appalachia with its original settlement homes, churches, and cemeteries of this early commu- nity. The 20-mile per hour speed limit and many stopping points allows riders to take their time and enjoy the spectacular wildlife and wildflowers. The 3-mile Happy Valley Road and grueling, staircase as- cent of Butterfly Gap both con- nect with Foothills Parkways and are considered by area bicyclists as two must-see climbs. A 15-mile ride from Townsend to Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge gives riders a chance to experi- ence Townsend, “The Peaceful Side” of the Smokies, as well as Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The Townsend area has many outdoor activities, unique river- side/mountain top lodging, craft shops, a heritage museum and numerous seasonal festivals. The short journey up Highway 73, also known as Little River Road, will take you to the exciting areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.