Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weekly Update - July 13, 2011

Way busier last weekend than the July 4th holiday weekend preceding it...mostly due to the Wing Ding rally being held in Knoxville this year.  Lots of highlights, sorry to make you wade through all that. ;)

This week we have a contribution from a fellow enthusiast that I will quote in below.  I've been thinking about adding people's stories about visits to the area in the weekly update.  If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, email it to me at and I'll consider it for the update.

Ok on to the good stuff!

Submitted by Andy Simmons - LEO

"A first timers trip to the Dragon and Deals Gap

I bought a new bike in January of this year and decided that I would need to take a trip to the legendary Tail of the Dragon that runs across part of North Carolina into Tennessee. Considering I was upgrading from a 1982 Suzuki GS1100e to a 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (in the super sport touring model) it seemed like it was destiny.

I enjoy rides by myself and this one would be no exception. Although most people consider it dangerous riding on your own I just stuck to the fundamentals and made my way from Sparta, North Carolina where I had attended a charity event to Deals Gap, on the map it looks like a short, straight forward ride but I was mistaken. I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway not too far from Sparta and soon realized that I was on one of the most scenic roads that I had ever been on. There is a scenic overlook so often that if you stopped to take in the view or snap a picture at each one you would never make it from one end to the other. I found it easier to pick a distance (20 miles) and then stop at an overlook, take a quick picture get back on the bike and continue on. At this point you are probably wondering why I am rambling about the Blue Ridge Parkway, well its because I also got caught with my pants down by the weather. It went from being the most beautiful day to pouring rain, foggy and driving through the clouds. Of course I had rain gear and rain protectors for my soft luggage but I wasn't really prepared for was extremely limited visibility. Immediately the pucker factor set in, the flashers went on and I learned how not to be in a hurry. I learned quickly that the North Carolina mountains have weather of their own, pack rain gear, warm gear and cold gear because the weather changes at moment's notice.

I rode the rest of the way to Deals Gap making my way through Robbinsville, North Carolina onto highway 129. Parts of 129 from Robbinsville to the Gap are quite “twisty” and start to give the thoughts and feelings of “What did I get myself into?” “Am I ready for this?”. At one point as I neared the Gap (according to my GPS) I was convinced that I was already on the Dragon. Sharp curves, a few switchbacks and the road paint with arrows pointing to pull offs for the slower vehicle or rider. Much to my surprise 18 miles and about 30 minutes after leaving Robbinsville I saw a sign advertising the legendary as I rounded the last corner I caught view of the Deals Gap Resort (

The entire parking lot was full of motorcycles and I had a hard time even finding a place to park. I saw everything from your most expensive Harley to Sport Bikes with riders in full leathers, everybody in the parking lot was animated about their last ride and it was LOUD, slightly intimidating but exactly where I wanted to be.

At this point it was about 530 PM, I checked into the resort (room #4) and began to soak it all in. A bikers dream, bikes winding up the Dragon while others finished their ride and pulled into parking lot or continued back down to Robbinsville. It might seem insignificant that I was in room #4, as I pulled up to this room I realized that I was situated directly in front of the Tree of Shame. That seemed like karma or the Lord trying to tell me something....The Tree was staring me in the face saying,”Insert your part here.”

I got unloaded and decided to eat something, here are a few key tips about the Deals Gap Resort:

-The grill, store and resort close at 7 PM
-You cannot get a cell phone signal
-They do have a phone to use a phone card or to call 911 (No collect calls)
-If you don't get to the resort in time you must ride all the way back to Robbinsville
The moral of the story is that if you can't get there before 7, eat in Robbinsville, bring a phone card or don't plan eating or using a phone. Of course this is up to you. It should be noted that if you go to the NC/TN line on the Dragon there is a wall/fence by a private neighborhood. If you stand on the wall or in that area you might be able to send a text or on a clear day make an actual phone call.

I got up early the next day so I could get started on my first trip up the Dragon. I must say I was slightly intimidated, nervous or just unsure of what this legend would be like. I put on my safety gear (Fieldsheer Armorered Jacket/Pants, Joe Rocket Boots/Gloves) and started up to the first corner. As I leaned into that corner and soon after 317 others I was hooked. I took my extreme time through the first run and just enjoyed being on a LEGENDARY stretch of road. When I finished up the 11 miles I pulled into the turn off on the other side and relished the moment, not only did I ride the Dragon but I didn't get bit, not a single piece of my bike or gear had to be added to the tree of shame. Over the next few days I rode the Dragon, Skyway, Moonshiner and other mountain roads and wondered why I lived in Central North Carolina instead of the mountains. Our roads are flat, hot and quite boring after being in the mountains for almost a week.

After riding for about four days I picked up a few points from my own riding, veterans and just all around good bikers, I figured I'd share some of the things I picked up:

Push/Pull – As you begin to ride you WILL NOT be the fastest, you probably won't be the slowest but don't let the person behind you push you faster than you want to go. If you try to ride these roads faster than your ability you will crash, use the pull offs to let the faster rider by and continue your ride. There is no shame in using the pull offs, that's what they are there for. Once that rider goes by do not let them pull you, if you try and keep up with someone who is faster than you this can put you above your ability or above your bikes performance and cause you to do something stupid. Just ride at your pace and enjoy the freedom and opportunity presented to you. 

Pull offs – Use the pulls off, if anyone is behind you on a bike, in a tow truck, minivan or any other kind vehicle just cruise into a pull off and let them by. Once they are by you can pull back out safely and continue your ride.

Overlook – Don't get your attention focused on the overlook at the top of the Dragon. There will be bikes parked there with people hanging out, taking pictures or exiting/entering traffic, slow up and continue your run. Stop at the Overlook coming from Tennessee so you don't have to cross the center line to get in.

Lane discipline – I promise you that if you don't stay in your lane you are going to run another bike off of the road or run into a vehicle that is not forgiving. I don't care if you go 10 MPH or 30 MPH, stay in your lane. I saw plenty of people in the wrong lane, both bikes and cars. It's not impressive if you go into a corner hot and come out the other side in the WRONG LANE. For all of our safety ride at a safe  controlled  pace.

I cannot wait to get back to the Dragon but for now I am stuck riding the hot, flat roads of Central North Carolina. Don't forget to keep the shiny side up and rubber on the road. Till next time......."


RC 51 Mark said...

I'll take central NC over South Florida right now !

powding said...

I'll take central NC over North Texas any day of the week! Talk about flat boring and HOT!

Dan'l said...

This sounds a lot like my first trip to Deals Gap. Each trip just seems to get better and better now. The Skyway and Moonshiner are a must if your in the area.

RedTSquared said...

Great write up! More first timers could use this chunk of info to help them I bet.

Glad you had a safe great trip!!

Erik said...

Pretty sure I stayed in #4 too, great view!!!

Good read, that's how I feel about the whole place too. Just ride your ride.