A Cautionary Tail, of The Dragon

Like many bikers from this planet, the initial draw to the Smokey Mountains is to ride The Tail of the Dragon. That eleven mile stretch of road is unique, fascinating and the characters it attracts? Well, it’s worthy of a good documentary. However, after a few times around the Deals Gap campfire telling biker lies and comparing road stories, it soon becomes as clear as making a corner that the area surrounding The Dragon has much more to offer than one road.

Don’t get me wrong, The Dragon is a road worthy of riding. The first dozen times I rode it I was completely out of my depth. I went too fast, I went too slow, I had no sense of line, rhythm or even what I wanted out of the road. Sort of like my life.

In truth, I was driven by fear that the road wanted me more than I wanted it: on the pavement, in the ditch, or over the side of the mountain. Now that I’ve ridden the road more than a hundred times I have learned of its gifts and demands; its costs and benefits. And its dangers, many of which don’t come from the pavement.

If anyone is foolish enough to believe the The Tail of the Dragon is easy to ride well, they really shouldn’t be riding The Tail of the Dragon. Or a motorcycle.

Sure, any idiot can ride it a few times and not crash – hell, I did. But to ride it well? Not so easy. I can honestly say I’m a half-decent rider, I can touch the foot pegs down, hit the apex, snick over and exit under power. But, of the hundred plus times I’ve ridden that demonic road, I’ve probably ridden it well three, four times. Maybe once. And, when I say well, I don’t mean fast or slow or even safely, I mean becoming the the road like it’s a part of me. At least a part of me I like.

Which is not to say there were times that pieces of the bikes I’ve ridden on that road shouldn’t have ended up on The Tree of Shame. While it’s beyond this post to unpack the inglorious stories that lead to the dubious honor of being hung on that tree, I’m just glad I haven’t ended up there. Yet.

But, as a motorcycle destination, there are few if any places to compare. Perhaps not so much for The Dragon itself, but for the roads that surround it.

It isn’t hard to spend weeks, even years exploring the roads in the area. Be good to yourself; if you have any bike-blood flowing in your veins, don’t wait until it’s too late to ride The Smokey Mts, The Dragon, The Devil’s Triangle, Route 28, The Cherohala Skyway The Shenandoha Skyway, The Blue Ridge Parkway, or any of the hundreds of roads, trails and gravel paths that lead to places every biker should explore . . . at least once.

Today, I ride The Dragon. Again. I’m frightened. Can’t wait . . .






2 comments so far

  1. Don Robertson on

    Has anybody heard from Walter since the 7th?

    • islandbikers on

      I’m alive and well, on my way back to Prince Edward Island. I’ve spent the last two weeks in biker heaven, met some fantastic people. I’ve just been too busy to post on the blog. God willing and the Creek don’t rise, I figure one or two more posts should wrap it up. Thanks for asking!

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