Got a call from some of my old college riding buddies wanting to come down and ride the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ next week. I thought it was a great idea as the weather has cooled and I had not ridden with these guys in a while. The Dragons Tail, as if you didn’t already know, is regarded by some as the best motorcycling road in the United States. The ‘Dragon’ as it also known is a winding road in Deals Gap North Carolina with 318 curves in 11 miles. And by curves I don’t mean the Grady curve in downtown Atlanta, I mean serious 30, 60, 90, and 180 degree curves!! The length of the Dragon does not seem like a long way, but if you thought of the curves of a racetrack and knew how grueling that mile and a half can be, 11 miles is a very long way for a road like that. In and around the area are hundreds of miles of great riding roads, including the Cherohala Skyway which is quickly becoming the number two motorcycling destination in the area with its remote 60 miles of scenic mountain highways. More sweeping curves at higher speeds much like the Richard B. Russell Highway here in Georgia, just better pavement.
To plan a trip to the “Dragon” you must first get on its official website which is “tailofthedragon.com”. It is very well done and just packed with useful information including maps and directions, where to stay, where you can service your bike, eat, fuel up, riding events to join, etc… It also rates area roads and gives reports on the policing of the area as the roads are well patrolled by the local Johnny Law. As you can imagine, thousands of bikers make the trek up there every weekend in the fall before the temps get too cold and snow smatters the roadsides. I have been there in summer months when it is so crowded that you have to get in line at the country store just to wait to get out on to the road to follow the million bikes in front of you. Pretty much like being in a parade. I have also been up there in the winter when I believe I was the only bike on the road. Awesome. No, more than awesome, religious.
The ride from Atlanta is about 150 miles and takes about three hours. I go up 400 through Dahlonega on 19 and through Blairsville on 129 and take 129 right up to Robbinsville which is in North Carolina. It takes about an hour more but is better riding than the 75 to 575 highway route. Plus you get to have breakfast at Two Wheels Only Resort in Suches, Georgia, which is a treat in and of itself. Robbinsville is the last town before the Dragon and is about 18 miles from the Dragons start line. Many sport riders trailer up as the 3 or 4 hours on a board hard seat is a bit much, but most riders, especially the cruisers, come from all over. Last time I was at the Dragon I saw some Asian looking people at the country store and approached them in an effort to overcome my shyness. Turns out they had flown all the way from Japan to ride the Dragon. That’s how good the roads are! There is also a link on the official website to a site called “killboy.com” who is the self proclaimed official photographer of the site and has some pretty nice photo spreads of the bike and car clubs making runs down the dragon. He also sets up cameras and randomly photographs those passing through the more interesting turns and puts them up on his site to purchase. I have several such shots hanging in my office. Almost makes me look like I know what I am doing. I also like the video links that show you actual footage of riders who video themselves taking these ‘declining radius’ curves. Some of the footage actually show some crashes and illustrate the Dragon is not one to be trifled with. Very cool stuff.
I panicked last year when I heard that the ‘government’ (I’ m with the government and I’m here to help) planned on straightening the road. These rumors about the Dragon’s future are probably unfounded. The rumor first involved a proposed Interstate that will follow US 129 from Robbinsville to Knoxville. This is virtually impossible because of various endangered species that exist in the area and the fact that US 129 ROW borders the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is a hands off area for any such projects. Another new rumor has the road being shut-down to all but foot and bicycle use. Highly unlikely, but hell – a great excuse to get up there soon. I’ll give you my report after our return. To paraphrase the new BMW ad (second only to Harley marketing) we hope to put the “Dragon’s tail between its legs”!!
Well, signing off for now. Remember, ride strong, ride safe, and in the end, make sure you ride home.