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Monday, September 28, 2009

US 129 - Tail of the Dragon

I realize that you can find thousands if not tens of thousands reviews on “The Tail of the Dragon”/ US 129. It may be the most famous motorcycle road in America if not the world and has been photographed and written about for years.

However, I figure I might as well add my 2-cents about the “Dragon.”

In order to make the statement “318 curves in eleven miles” every bend (no matter how slight) in the road must be counted and they each add to the mystique of the ride in small ways. The aspect of the road that sets it apart is that there are no access roads on the official 11 miles of the Dragon.  When one does not have to worry about exits and entrances to the road the ride becomes more enjoyable.
Just east of beginning of the Dragon is Deals Gap where you can find the Deals Gap store. At the store you can pick up a t-shirt and/or patch, grab lunch or a snack, and fill up the bike.  If you are so inclined you can even spend a night in one of the rooms.  Be ready to ride carefully through the full parking lot.

If you are riding a cruiser or tourer do not expect to get above 3rd gear very often. Many of the curves are very sharp and can cause some anxiety if a commercial vehicle or RV is approaching, but are great if the road is not clogged up. 

One should really pay attention for the inexperienced rider also.  There are enough sharp curves that many bikers end up crossing the center stripe which has the potential for problems.  I know that the biker in front of me crossed over at least 10 times, which made me back off.  One should be versed in proper riding techniques before riding the Dragon.

On the western 1/4 of the Dragon there is an overlook where you can view Calderwood Dam (picture to the right). It is a great view and well worth stopping for a few moments

I did find that the NC 28 that runs from Almond, NC to Deals Gap is a great road! Many of the roads in the Smoky Mountains area have plenty of twisties and great scenery. Getting to the Dragon was a great ride and worth noting.

Would I ride the Dragon again? Yes, but I would enjoy getting there as much as the official 11-miles. Every rider needs to experience the Dragon. It is too fun to bypass and of course it is fun to tell others that you road the Dragon. The next time I go to that area I plan on staying a few days so that I can enjoy several of the other roads in the area.

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