Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop | Favorite Ride

Our associate editor's trip down memory lane

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT Trace through Land Between the Lakes
The Trace through Land Between the Lakes offers scenic picnic areas for a mid-ride break.

These days, I’ve become so enthralled by all the great motorcycle roads around the world and on my bucket list that I forget about the ones close to home. For this ride, I retraced steps from my early riding days with a 140‑­mile Tennessee motorcycle loop around my hometown of Dover, which is located on the Cumberland River about 30 miles west of Clarksville and, as the crow flies, a little over 60 miles northwest of Nashville.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

I was joined by my husband, Jake, on his Can‑­Am Ryker Rally, and I was aboard a Honda Rebel 1100T DCT test bike.



We started out at the Dyers Creek boat ramp, just across the river from downtown Dover. Then we rode across U.S. Route 79 and onto Bumpus Mills Road. This road has some of the best curves of the loop – the perfect way to get our blood pumping at the beginning of the ride.

When we got to the end of the road at the junction with State Route 120, we turned north and stopped at the family‑­owned Bumpus Meals Diner. We had hoped to pop in for a bite of their handmade desserts and a cup of coffee, but the diner was closed that day as the family and staff were enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Can-Am Ryker
My husband, Jake, and I revisited many of the roads we explored as high schoolers with fresh driving licenses.

Oh well, onwards we went. The next stretch of the ride took us into Kentucky on State Route 139. It can be tempting to pick up the speed on this road, but we knew we couldn’t get too carried away. Much of this land is farmed by Amish communities, and you never know when you’ll run up behind a horse‑­drawn buggy just over the next hill.

An optional spur is to take a right on State Route 164 and visit the Oak Ridge Country Store. We love their homemade cheeses, deli sandwiches, and local canned and pickled foods. There are other stops along the road where you can purchase smoked meats, honey, fresh produce, and other goods.

We continued our Tennessee motorcycle loop north until we came to U.S. Route 68, where we turned west for 15 miles and rode over the Cumberland River and into Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. We turned south at the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, also known as The Trace (not to be confused with the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi).

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT
State Route 232 has nice sweepers and little traffic, allowing us to ride at our own pace without having to worry much about other drivers.

The Trace is a beautiful road that runs right through the center of LBL. Along the way are the Golden Pond Visitors Center and Planetarium, picnic areas, a bison range, campgrounds, the Turkey Bay OHV Area, and the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.

We continued through LBL and back toward Dover. At the end of The Trace, we turned west on U.S. Route 79 and popped in at Brien Dill’s Piggly Wiggly. I worked at this grocery store throughout high school and college and still enjoy stopping by to visit with past coworkers and the owner, Brien, who rides a BMW R 1250 GS Adventure and loves chatting about motorcycles.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop
My first employer, Brien Dill, always has a smile and loves chatting about bikes.

Down the highway about 6 miles, we turned south onto State Route 232, also known as the “Baby Dragon.” Unlike the famous 11‑­mile road in East Tennessee with a similar name, the Baby Dragon doesn’t have tight, technical curves, but it has plenty of long sweepers with good visibility. By the time we got to the end of the Baby Dragon, we were getting hungry, so we stopped at Southernaire Motel & Restaurant for a meatloaf plate with turnip greens and black‑­eyed peas.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT Baby Dragon
Cruising down the “Baby Dragon.”

After a tasty lunch, we continued east through the towns of Stewart, Tennessee Ridge, and Erin until we got to Cumberland City, where candy‑­striped steam stacks from the TVA power plant stretch up into the sky. We rode down to the ferry, paid 75 cents (tickets are $1 for out‑­of‑­state motorcycles), and hopped over the river.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop
Southernaire has an extensive menu, but you can’t go wrong with the meatloaf plate.

The last leg of this route goes through Indian Mound, the part of Stewart County where I grew up. Maybe I’m biased, but this is my favorite portion of this favorite ride. The roads through the Mound rise up over ridges and snake down along creeks and past fields of cattle. The last road is Old Highway 79, the curviest road of the loop.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Can-Am Ryker
The TVA power plant employs many local residents, including my dad, and the ferry just south of the plant offers a quick jump across the river.

At the end of Old Highway 79, you’ll find yourself back on U.S. Route 79 and just a stone’s throw away from the boat ramp where we began this route. Revisiting these roads and stops that have always been a part of my life gave me a renewed appreciation for my community and town. Sure, there are places in the world with more dramatic views and more exciting roads, but at the end of the day, these are the roads I’ll always come back to.

Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Resources


  1. Great story. Have wanted to do that loop for long time. Maybe when weather is good we should meet anbe the tour guide.

    • Thanks, Rocky Rhodes! It’s a great little area with some nice local spots. Definitely worth checking out if you like small towns. Dover has two motels, and there’s plenty of camping in LBL and along the rivers if you want to go that route. For food, other than the spots I mentioned, there’s also Mama Mea’s (pizza, pasta, burgers, wings), The Dover Grille (Tex Mex), Guadalajara (Mexican food), Lance’s Pizza & Subs, and the Dip Dairy Freeze (burgers, milkshakes). Fort Donelson is nice if you like U.S. history or want a picnic spot overlooking the river. I’m always happy to offer recommendations to fellow riders!

  2. That’s a daily ride for me because I live in the area. The baby dragon tail portion (232) is the most dangerous, not because of the curves, but the local drivers who cross the lane often while on their phones. Take a right on the intersection of 232 and 147 and ride to the end near the ferry and enjoy a fried bologna sandwich at the Danville boat ramp. Cool route for sure.

    • Thanks for reading, Cav Scout! We’ve probably passed each other on the road at some point. The Danville ferry and boat ramp area is definitely a good spot to mention for this route. I enjoy a good fried bologna sandwich, so I’ll have to try the one at the ramp on my next ride.

      And good point to mention about watching for local drivers who might not be paying close attention on 232. It’s not a tourist destination to the level of Deal’s Gap with loads of people flocking to the area just to ride that road, but it is a road that people live on and use for their daily lives. Glad to have another local’s perspective!

  3. This story is rich with helpful details and local flavor. We had seven inches of snow yesterday, so I needed to read something like this. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Carl! We’re getting some snow on Monday, so I’ll be staying off the roads this upcoming week. It’ll be the perfect time to read some other tour stories and dream about warmer days.

  4. Great story, thanks for sharing! I live north and east of Nashville in Gallatin, and have never really ridden around much in the area around LBL. Time to get that fixed! Now I’ll have what sounds like a pretty fun route to try!

    • You should definitely come try out our area this year! The ride from Gallatin to Dover isn’t too exciting if you go through Nashville and Clarksville, but it’s a nice area with some cool stuff once you get here. If you have ride recommendations in the Gallatin area, let me know!

  5. That sounds like a trip I would like to take I have ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of times my wife and I are from Florida and we usually trailer the bike up as we are not old LOL but in our early 60s the back just isn’t what it used to be. Enjoyed reading your article hope to make the trip soon! Thank you.


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