Our day started with a free hotel breakfast and then we went out to get the covers off our bikes. After stowing the covers and drying the saddles we were ready to ride the famous Tail of the Dragon! This is a stretch of road on US 129 that is 11 miles long and packs in 318 curves. If you plan on visiting, make sure you get familiar with the road before you decide to rip it up. There is some really tight curves that can sneak up on you. Law enforcement also likes to hang out there, especially on the weekend, so don't get too crazy. There are a lot of things to see in the area. Fontana Lake is beautiful and the Cheoah Dam is nearby too. This dam became famous when Harrison Ford jumped from it in the movie "The Fugitive".
Our first stop was to get some stickers that proved we were there. There are dragon logo stickers that you can only buy at the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort. The sticker looks like the sign without the letters. They will serve as a badge of honor and a reminder of our road trip.
The parking lot at the motorcycle resort was packed! Bikes of all kinds were in the lot. Everything from full dress Harley's and Gold Wings to high end super sport bikes. The great thing about riders is the friendly community feel. We may look like a bunch of riff raff sometimes, but I have met some cool people on my rides. I will likely never see them again, but I still tell the stories!
Another legendary feature of the motorcycle resort is the "Tree of Shame". At some point it became a tradition to take pieces and parts from wrecks that happen on the dragon and hang them in the tree to serve as a warning to riders to keep things under control. There are definitely some sobering thoughts when you see this tree.
After our pit stop we are ready to hit the road and tame the Dragon! After the Dragon we will make a large loop on the Cherohala Skyway, which is a road that will take you through parts of the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests.
Here's the loop:
The Tail of the Dragon enjoys an international reputation and people from all over the world go there to ride. It is even so popular that several photographers set up in the curves to catch you in action on your own bike! The most well known photographer is Killboy.com. Check out their website and you can see some examples of their work and there is always something interesting to see in the highlights section.
Me and my buddy Jeff even purchased a couple of pictures of our ride down the dragon!
Riding through the Dragon was exhilirating! We managed to get there early enough to miss most of the traffic so the road was all ours as we carved the hills. As we came out of the curves into the valley there are some great views of Fontana Lake and we used this as a time to take a break and take in the views. I have to admit, it was starting to get rather warm and that chilly mountain lake looked awfully inviting. There was a family fishing off the dock. We shot the breeze with them for a few minutes as their kids stared at us like we were space men!
We mounted up and headed on to the Cherohala Skyway. The character of this road is much different than the Dragon. There are wide open vistas and long sweepers. It was truly a relaxing experience where you can enjoy the beauty of the mountains. There are plenty of pull offs to take pictures and rest, but not much in the way of gas and food so make sure your stomach and your tank is full enough to get you through.
We planned on eating lunch about midway through the Skyway in Tellico Plains, TN. Sometimes the best laid plans don't work out. We took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up just riding more of the skyway. There was a great bush sculpture that marked our mistake at this intersection.
By the time we rolled back into Bryson City we were starving. Our first mission was to find some local food. We hit downtown Bryson City and decided to go to Jimmy Mac's. This turned out to be a great choice. The food was excellent and even though they were packed, the service was still fast!
After a large dinner we rolled back to the hotel exhausted. We had successfully survived the Dragon and had another great day touring on our best 2 wheeled friends.
What I learned:
- A GPS is a very handy tool to have for questionable intersections.
- Road bicycles can actually go VERY fast downhill
Ephesians 4:29 NIV "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Even in a crowd as diverse as the one at the motorcycle resort there was a great sense of community. There were people of all ages, and walks of life, but we all had motorcycles in common, and that was enough of a bond between strangers to feel like you belong. How much better would the world be if we focused on the things that bring us together, rather than the things that pull us apart?