The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tail of the Dragon


        Riding the Dragon can be a pretty harrowing experience, yet each year thousands of bikers flock to this stretch of two-lane Highway 129 that winds along the border of the Great Smoky Mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina.   


The embayment of Hazel Creek along the Little ...
The embayment of Hazel Creek along the Little Tennessee River (Fontana Lake) in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, located in the Southeastern United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Riding the Dragon

        Here's a short overview video of some highlights of the ride on The Dragon.  For best effect view full screen.



        The 11 mile stretch of 318 curves has become a well-known lure for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts throughout the U.S.    This piece of highway is part of U.S. route 129 passing through Deals Gap along the border of the Smokey Mountains National Park.   The scenery is spectacular and the ride can be pretty scary, especially on those days when the bikers are out in force taking the curves like madmen.   During the summer almost every day is one of those days.

         I've driven this route numerous times over the past many years so I'm familiar with the ride, but the thrill never dissipates no matter how often I drive it.   My trips have always been in an enclosed vehicle so I never drive as fast as the bikers do.   Those motorcyclists will ride your rear end until they find an opening to pass.   Even though I feel more safe and secure in my vehicle, having a biker flying past from behind or from the opposite direction can be a tense sensation.   More than once have I seen a biker who has gone down for one reason or another.  Indeed, so many accidents occur on this stretch of road that the Blount County Rescue Squad maintains a presence in the ready during summer week-ends.  Fortunately most of the accidents are relatively minor, but death and serious injury is no stranger to many who have taken a tumble on their rides.

         During my vacation I drove the stretch twice.  The first trip was southbound to Fontana Dam, then on to Cherokee, NC and up through the Smokey Mountain Park to return home.  On the second trip I drove a group of family members down to Blue Ridge, GA, then over to Murphy, NC, and finally up through the Dragon during the sunset hours.  Either direction you go it's twenty minutes or so of thrilling driving or riding.

          With so many travelers going this route, photo concessions are set up at a number of places along the way so visitors can get a souvenir shot of their vehicles or motorcycles on the road.  To follow are some links where you can see my van as I pass by the various photographers.  If you go to the linked photo you can click on the arrows at the sides to see other shots of my van in action.

X-treme Sports Photography


KillBoy Photos


Moonshine Photo


     Whether you are a fan of extreme sport driving or just enjoy mountain roads in a beautiful setting, this route is a destination that you might want to think about driving if you're going to be in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park area.  There is plenty in the area to keep you busy for a vacation whether it be for a few days or a few weeks.   Highly recommended.


The Dragon From the Biker's View

      If you're interested in the full Dragon ride experience,  here's a GoPro video from a biker's perspective.   Those who experience motion sickness might want to avoid this video.   But if you like those virtual reality amusement park rides then this might be entertainment you'll enjoy.  For full effect, crank up the sound and watch full screen--the bigger the screen, the better the effect.  If you want more views of Dragon riding, there are hundreds of videos about this to be found on YouTube.

Try this one first...




         Did  you enjoy the ride?   What is the most thrilling road that you've ever been on?   Have you been on this road through Deals Gap (the Dragon)?     Do you tend to get carsick?







51 comments:

  1. An awesome post Lee, I love to read about things I have not heard about before, I have learned something new today. Thanks.
    Yvonne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvonne, This place is probably little known if you're not a biker or sports car enthusiast or live near there.

      Lee

      Delete
  2. That would be a thrill in my sports car. Never been on that stretch of road, although even I-40 through the mountains around Asheville is a lot of fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex, I-40 is a merry-go-round compared to this roller coaster of roads. But I agree that driving I-40 through the mountains is an outstanding drive.

      Lee

      Delete
  3. Looks like fun! ☺ (No carsickness, thank goodness.) I've never been in that area, but the most thrilling and scary ride of my life was by bus, driving through the Alps, from Zurich to Milan. Picture it: Big bus, narrow, twisty mountain roads, no guard rails. The driver would lean on his horn every time he had to turn a corner, in case there was oncoming traffic. The scenery was spectacular!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie D, I can imagine the thrill of that Alps ride having seen many pictures of that area. That would be a great ride.

      Lee

      Delete
  4. I rarely get car sick unless I'm a passenger and reading. I wouldn't call the scary roads I've been on 'thrilling'. Pikes Peak Auto Road was terrifying. The Nacimiento Pass Road in CA off coast highway 1 was a white knuckle drive as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JoJo, I'm not familiar with the Nacimiento Pass Road, but I've driven up Pikes Peak and that was a lot of fun though scary as you say.

      Lee

      Delete
  5. Oh wow. I'm a pretty careful driver, but the ramp to the parking garage at work is a bit corkscrew.

    I now sound like the oldest, most uptight person to haunt your page...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nasreen, Those parking garages can be a bit nerve wracking to drive through--too dark and confining.

      Lee

      Delete
  6. I actually live on 129 on the lower end of the Dragon. As a local living here the notoriety of this road is both a curse & a blessing. You have to be very cautious when pulling out of the driveway these days. You get halfway into the road, and here comes a knee dragger or a Mini around the curve hauling butt, getting primed for the real curves up ahead. What people don't realize is that people with families live along this road. I'm a rider myself, but show some respect please! I hear sirens go by my house daily, repeatedly in the summer. Each year there are at least 6-10 deaths, and between 200-300 non-fatal accidents. Fun comes with a high cost!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jack (Unknown), so good to see you visiting my site. When I clicked on the name I was pleasantly surprised to be taken to a Google Plus page with your name on it and that photo of you on your motorcycle.

      Where you live is a beautiful area, but I can understand that situation of pulling out of your driveway. Some people on that road drive like maniacs. I got a taste of that when I had to pull off onto one of those tiny shoulder areas facing oncoming traffic--I thought one of the approaching vehicles was going to surely crash into my van. You'll never catch me biking on the Dragon, but your message to those who do is one that I hope will be heeded. Be careful pulling out of your driveway. One of these days when I'm in Maryville I'm going to have to get back together with all my good old friends like you.

      Lee

      Delete
    2. I would enjoy that Lee. I seldom see any of the old crowd these days. It's sad that people drift apart, but that's life I suppose.

      Delete
    3. Jack, the few people I do talk to and not very often tell me the same thing. Even though they live in Blount County they don't see old friends that often. I should start calling people more often. I think about it and then I get caught up in doing stuff around the house or something. Yeah, that's life.

      Lee

      Delete
  7. I'm not keen to drive the Dragon; but, it does make me want to hike the Appalachian trail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ann, driving the Dragon is not too bad, but those other drivers can be pretty scary. I don't know that I could ever hike the entire Appalachian Trail, but I'd like to hike parts of it.

      Lee

      Delete
  8. I wonder if I have been on this part of the road. It's possible. My parents moved to Asheville when I was 16 and I got to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to my high school (a much more sedate portion). I loved that drive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tamara, The Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful drive. I've been on most of it--maybe missed a few parts since I've taken it in pieces and not in its entirety. The Dragon is a much different experience than any part of the Parkway that I've traveled, but it's fun to drive if you're not overly afraid of those types of roads.

      Lee

      Delete
  9. Of course, with my new book out, I'm particularly enamored of anything to do with Dragons, so I had to read this post. What a thrill of a road! I won't show my husband because he'd want to drive it. He's one of those ex-jet pilots who thinks fast is the only speed in town.

    ReplyDelete
  10. C.Lee, I was thinking of the dragon aficionados like you when I decided to use that title. A tricky way to attract a few more readers. For bikers this road is kind of a holy grail or something of a similar quest.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete
  11. I did the Tail of the Dragon once. It was too much for me. So glad I finally reached the Foothills Parkway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pop Tart, was that in a vehicle or a motorcycle? Foothills Parkway is a leisurely drive compared to the tension elicited by the Dragon. But aside from the others on the road, if a driver doesn't feel pressed to drive faster than they feel comfortable with then the Dragon is just a curvy road where you have to be extra careful.

      Lee

      Delete
  12. Can't say for sure that I've been on the Dragon but I do have fond memories of Asheville, Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smoky Mountains. I can see the allure for bikers but don't know how they can enjoy one the most scenic areas in America going that fast. And yeah, if I'm not driving I get a little woozy on roads like that ;-) Great post, Lee!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diedre, I guess the scenery is not the object when a biker rides the Dragon, but it's all about the thrill of getting through it and not crashing. So I guess the concept of "enjoyment" is relative in their cases.

      Lee

      Delete
  13. I have driven less dangerous roads than that and wondered what kind of idiot would design such a death-trap of a highway. (I think it was US 33 through the backwoods of Brown County). The bikers can have it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CW, I'd imagine that most highway design is determined by the geography and maybe the old Indian trails that have existed for perhaps centuries. A straight safe highway might be ecologically bad.

      Lee

      Delete
  14. Not a fan of motorcycles, brother was killed on one and both my dad and my uncle suffered injuries caused by the drivers of cars that don't 'see' motorcycles. . .BUT a nice meandering drive is always nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DG, I've never owned a motorcycle nor have I ever wanted one. Sorry to hear about your brother as well as the injuries suffered by your dad and uncle. I've seen a couple of accidents on the Dragon, but the riders after just laying on the roadside for a bit just got back up on their bikes and continued. I'm just not that kind of adventurer.

      Lee

      Delete
  15. More power to those willing to go out there. The moonshine photo was my favorite. Ride on Arlee! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheena-Kay, all the photos were pretty similar. They look like they're from a Chrysler commercial. But since you can't really see the occupants you'd never really know it was me, my sister, and my wife.

      Lee


      Lee

      Delete
  16. It seems like a fun ride in theory, though I'm not sure I could handle it in real life, given my longtime propensity towards motion sickness! I'm in my thirties now, and my father still seems to think I'm faking it or doing it to myself. He was practically in tears when I got sick in the car coming home from part one of my first root canal at age 23, though since I have a very dark sense of humor, his reaction seems pretty funny in hindsight.

    My most nerve-wracking road was up in the Golan Heights, near the Syrian border. Very unusually for Israel, there was a snowstorm, and our bus driver refused to put his defoggers on for the longest time. He was having a fight with our tour guide, refusing to turn back. All along both sides of the road, there were barbed wire and danger signs warning of live landmines left over from the Six-Day War and/or the Yom Kippur War. Finally, the driver backed all the way up in the snow. It was a very narrow, one-way road, without any place to turn around or make a U-turn. Some of the people on the bus felt like 10-20 years had just been taken off their lives, and were afraid we might've slipped into Syria in the ice and snow on the mountain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carrie-Anne, there might be something to your dental visit and the sickness. The other day after some dental work I came home and very nearly got sick. This is rare for me so I really think something about the dental procedure upset my stomach.

      Your bus ride sounds terrifying indeed. Plenty to be concerned about driving in those parts and the weather and war situation just add to all of the things to worry about.

      Lee

      Delete
  17. I wouldn't like those bikes near me since they take risks but I can see why they want to drive this stretch. I want to drive it but in a car:) I bet it's beautiful in The fall. It feels relaxing even though they are going fast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Birgit, when the bikes pass it freaks me out and the oncoming ones can be pretty scary too. I guess they're having fun though. It's been a long long time since I rode that road in the fall. In recent years it's only been in summer when I was visiting.

      Lee

      Delete
  18. Looks like it would be an awesome ride. The idea of photographers set up along the ride is nice.

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mason, I suppose one photographer saw an opportunity and when that one started doing well the others followed. It was a smart idea I think.

      Lee

      Delete
  19. that was an awesome ride! When my ex and I rode on his Harley we didn't have spectacular views like this but I enjoyed feeling the air in my hair and you smell so many other things than you would in a car. I keep telling my current hubby that I want a 3 wheel Harley. He just laughs..:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, one is so much closer to natural surroundings on a bike so it makes sense about the smells, the feel of the air, and the 360 degree views. I've seen the 3 wheelers on the Dragon. Still, I'll stick to my van.

      Lee

      Delete
  20. What a gorgeous setting and scenic route! I'd definitely ride it in a car, not a motorcycle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen JG, I'll leave the motorcycle riding to the more adventurous souls. Driving in a car is enough thrill for me.

      Lee

      Delete
  21. Wow, that was cool! Love the "Tail of the Dragon" name. I've never been to that particular stretch of highway. The closest I've come to something like that is driving through mountainous Pennsylvania. That's beautiful country too.
    I've been so tempted to get a GoPro -- I'd like to put it on my dog and see what he sees, how he sees it... especially if we could be in a safe space for him to run full speed (greyhounds run up to 45 mph)...

    That's also really neat that you can get pics of your vehicle as you're driving past. I had no idea they do stuff like that!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michele, I'm thinking I'd like a GoPro as well. The video quality looks great and it would be fun to just film from the dash of my van without having to mess with the usual camera stuff. Putting a camera on a dog might be very interesting.

      Lee

      Delete
  22. Many years ago my dad and I loved riding like this. I was always on the back; exhilarating enough. I stick with the car these days, but probably wouldn't turn down a slower ride through this stretch.

    Awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dolorah, I'm not going to be on the back of a motorcycle for anything--well, maybe for a million dollars or some tidy sum.

      Lee

      Delete
  23. These bikers are real pros travelling at 80? mph along those roads! The hands you see in the youtube show the biker maneuvering his bike - they call that the death grip. Let go for any reason at high speed and its goodnight. The bike ahead is obviously faster but I can't help but admire the sleek, agile moves around those bends. Now That takes years of practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spacer Guy, from the video the ride seems so smooth that it seems like he's not going very fast at all, but he's going faster than I would drive in my van on this stretch of road. The guys who create sparks while dragging the metal knee pads on the pavement are really scary.

      Lee

      Delete
  24. Lee, we've driven the Dragon many times over the years and like you I feel safe in a vehicle. Those bikers are crazy some times! In recent years we saw one biker almost hit head on with an on-coming vehicle when he went around a curve too close to the yellow line. It was one of those "Holy Cow" moments while I clutched my heart. I'd like to take that drive this fall. I don't usually get car sick but if DH takes the curves too fast then it tends to make me a bit dizzy at times. I'm really looking forward to fall weather! 🤗

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cathy, I'd like to drive the Dragon in the fall when the leaves are at peak color. It would undoubtedly be spectacular. Many a close call on that road and you're right about the "Holy Cow" moments--there can more than a few if the bikers are out in force.

      Lee

      Delete
  25. I'd hate the bikes passing me, just thinking they'll take a tumble and I'd run over them. Can't say I've driven fun roads, I've driven terrible roads though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat, hitting or running over a downed biker is one of my fears. Especially on The Dragon there's nowhere to go in most places other than onward over the fallen or over the side into the abyss of forestland. I've been on terrible roads too and they weren't terrible because they were scary.

      Lee

      Delete
  26. This looks like a thrilling ride. My Zoomie says, "Pick me! Pick me!" Me, the driver of said Zoomie, wants nothing to do with driving in the mountains. I don't mind being in the mountains, I just don't want to be in a car as a driver or a passenger on said mountain roads. My daddy, then my father-in-law, cured me of ever having anything other than arrhythmia or a full on heart attack on mountain roads in a car. :) Their idea of making use of the overlooks was to drive a zillion miles an hour to the parking spot, putting on the brakes AFTER arriving to the spot, and well after I am sure I'm watching all of this from Heaven instead of from the car.

    The mountains of SC/NC/TN/GA are one of the most beautiful places on earth, especially in the fall. I just don't want to be the one falling. :)

    Have a blessed day!

    ReplyDelete

Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee