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 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
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?