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Last Friday we took ride. After a couple weeks of rain, we were ready to take advantage of some nice weather. From where we are staying near Benton, TN we rode east on Hwy 411 about 40 miles to the Little Tennessee River where we turned south. After following the river for a while we began a section of US Highway 129 known as The Tail of the Dragon. In an 11 miles stretch there are 318 curves as you cross from Tennessee to North Carolina. It is considered the holy grail of motorcycle roads in the US.

Naturally, there are those who ride it as fast as they possibly can, and they account for the death statistics that grow every year. If you ride it like we did, observing the 30 MPH speed limit, it is a beautiful ride through some spectacular country. No one passed us on the entire route, but a couple bikes did pull over and let us go by. I will admit that I was going a little more than 30 MPH a few times. While you certainly had to keep your eyes on the road, it was not really any worse than some of the other roads I have been on around the country. Highway 136 in Northern California, Ortega Highway in Southern California, and a few others come to mind.

At the southern end of the Dragon in Deals Gap is the biggest motorcycle oriented tourist trap I have ever seen. There must have been 200-300 motorcycles parked in the lot, plus maybe 5 cars. We window shopped but couldn't bring ourselves to pay from $22 to $25 for a T-shirt that said “I Rode the Dragon” or some such phrase.

We continued on, following much of a well know route called the Cherohala-Dragon 120 mile loop. This took us over the Cherohala Skyway, a road that follows the ridges in one of the highest and most remote and rugged sections of North Carolina-Tennessee. The road took 34 years to build, opening in 1996. The views were spectacular and the ride was every bit as good as the 11 miles of the Dragon. In fact, I enjoyed it much more because the curves were mostly sweepers instead of hairpins. The speed limit varied between 40 and 45, and I did a pretty good job of holding it down to that most of the time. We stopped at several of the pull outs and enjoyed the views. As we neared the highest point in the road the temperature dropped to 69 degrees. That was some nicer than the 87 degree weather at the lower elevations.
Rather than complete the whole loop as some folks do, after we were out of the mountains we took a different and more direct route back to Benton, stopping for dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Etowah, TN. Trust me when I say, Tennesseans don’t know how to make Mexican food. At least it was filling.

It had been a while since we had a nice ride. This trip was only about 175 miles in total, but the scenery was spectacular and the ride was great fun. We’re looking forward to more rides if the weather continues to cooperate.
 

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A group of us rode that loop back in 2006. Really nice roads. Unfortunately we chose a day when traffic was very heavy on the Dragon. We really could not enjoy it what with having to watch for the slower bikes we were coming up on and the faster bikes that were coming up on us.
 

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That whole area up there is great to ride. We have a local "Dragon Tail" called the WolfPen Gap Loop and it too has a bikers tourist trap called Riders Hill. Although it is not so pricey and they do offer service at very fair prices and good meals. Glad you had a good time and "Survived" the Dragon Tail. :cool:
 
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