The Tail of The Dragon Motorcycle Destination
In was spring 2007; I think mid-May when my friend Alex and I first rode “The Tail of the Dragon.” Boasting 318 curves in an eleven mile section of Highway 129 in Swain County, NC it is a veritable dream come true for sport car enthusiasts and motorcyclists alike.
Leaving my dog; Charlie in a local doggie inn, I rode my Harley roughly 200 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville continuing to Bryson City where I had reserved a rustic cabin. Alex, his wife and two sons were to meet me there. He would be towing his big Yamaha on their utility trailer.
The parkway is a biker’s dream, as well. I’d been riding motorcycles for decades along the curvy two- lane but seldom ventured beyond Asheville. The maximum speed limit is only 45 mph with lower limits being quite common. Meandering through several states, it is federal property and law enforcement is strict however the slower speeds offer the opportunity to enjoy majestic views, wildlife and to just enjoy the ride.
Arriving at Kirkland Creek Campground late afternoon I registered and found our cabin in the small campground. My motorhome would never have made it into the area designed primarily for pop-up tent campers and smaller travel trailers. The half dozen cabins are spaced comfortably around a very well stocked trout pond. For a fee (which I paid) we each caught a trout that the campground host cleaned and prepped for dinner one night during our stay.
The one bedroom cabin featured an ample front room with a pull-out sleeper sofa (my room), a small kitchen area complete with a range, microwave and full size refrigerator, a sleeping loft and the bedroom/bath. Alex and his wife would have the privacy of the bedroom while the two boys set up a small tent outside to have their own private quarters.
It was late evening when Alex and his family pulled into the tiny drive and the night air was turning cold. The boys built a blazing fire that we sat around long past midnight. Other campers visited and we listened to their stories of riding the dragon with great anticipation of our adventure soon to come. There was no television, no radio, no modern conveniences except indoor plumbing! It was great.
Deals Gap where the dragon sat was about thirty miles from the campground past Fontana Lake and along a scenic mountain byway. We stopped several times to take in the beauty. The kids stayed at the campground while Alex’s wife rode on the back of the bike with him.
As we approached the “Motorcycle Resort” near the base of the dragon, traffic increased. A group of Nissan sport cars were parked at a nearby gas station and many high powered crotch rockets flew past bored with our slow and legal speeds. The resort is a store full of motorcycle accessories, a grill and rooms to let. Vendors selling their wares were set up in the parking lot which was full of hundreds of motorcycles from Japanese manufacturers to Italian, German and American muscle. A few hundred feet away bikers were lined up awaiting their run up the Tail of the Dragon.
Finally it was time for us to do what we had come to do…Alex was on my right and we began the first incline. Alex like to go fast, I didn’t. He pulled out ahead of me and roared up the mountain and out of sight. I tried to keep up but instead found a rhythm at a comfortable speed and began leaning this way and that into and out of the tight curves. They didn’t seem to end. I’d have to break rhythm once in a while to navigate a hairpin turn so sharp my foot pegs scraped the pavement sending up a shower of sparks.
Nearing the top I saw Alex headed back down. He wasn’t that far in front of me after all. I too turned around at the top and headed back down for another 318 curves…the roadway was lined with onlookers and photographers. The photographers constantly snapped away at the riders then posted the photos online. Later in the day I picked up several of their business cards at the resort and once home was able to download photos of myself as I handled the curves showing I had conquered The Tail of the Dragon!