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David

Petting The Dragon

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David

02.jpg

 

Deal's Gap is a pretty famous motorcycling road. It contains 318 curves in a short 11 miles, and is located mainly in TN, right on the eastern border with NC.

 

Almost everyone has heard of this road, and riders come from all over the world to ride it. Weekends are crazy--it's not uncommon to see 300 bikes at the gas station that marks the eastern terminus, and another 100 at the western ternimus, referred to simply as "the overlook."

 

Those who tackle the dragon not only come from all over the world, but they come on every type of machine: Goldwing, sport bike, Harley, and more recently super motard.

 

I have a mixed relationship with the place. I hate crowds, I hate idiot riders who stray across their lane into mine, and just honesty I hate "famous" places. They usually leave me wanting more as the experience doesn't match the hype.

 

If you visit Deal's Gap on a weekend, you'll encounter mainly slow cruiser types who are just having fun enjoying the great road. And you'll encounter sport bike heroes who trailer their new R-1, GSX-R1000, or ZX-10R up Friday night, drink heavily, and then ride far above their ability the next day, speaking proudly of the battle scars, often two up without any gear.

 

Anyway, in spite of all that, I really love the place on a weekday when it's deserted, especially if the surface is clean. Obviously it's a beautiful place visually to ride, but it's also challenging--largely because curves are piled on top of each other without any straights (usually) to give you a breather and some time to set up for the next curve. Worse, if you blow a curve or suffer a mental lapse, you must put it behind you--there is just too much happening to dwell on the past.

 

It's very difficult to ride it hard on an RT. You'll never feel more like the RT is a heavy pig than on this road. And the lack of cornering clearance is a challenge (ask Shawn, Lone RT Rider; he scraped his freakin' side case right behind me). When you get to the end, you feel whipped. Mitch was pretty close behind me, and I expect he expended a whole lot more energy than I did.

 

Riding it on the Ducati was easier for me. Wonderful cornering machine and lots of power. It wasn't uncommon to lift the front a tad powering out of corners. But there's enough braking/slowing to make it difficult to keep the weight of your wrists.

 

Before this run I'd only been through it on my new 12GS once, two weeks ago, and it had been raining and the road was still very wet. I was leading and holding everybody up, I think. I felt like I was taking every corner very gingerly.

 

Fast forward to Friday, though. Perfect day. I was feeling pretty good. Traffic was thinning. And I felt like I'd take a shot at it. I turned the video camera on just because I had plenty of tape left and figured it might be fun to watch it later.

 

I felt good on the run. You'll see a few mistakes, but largely it was a good solid ride and a complete hoot. Rather than put music over the video, I'll just let the engine sing. There's no editing--it's a straight take.

 

The full video starts out with me warming up a bit on the NC side (1 mile). The road is rough and I'm just trying to get a feel for the road. That lasts for 1:00 minute.

 

At about 2:00 minutes I come across some bicycles. Then I pass three other motorcycles at about 2:45. It picks up from there with only one other rider at 7:50.

 

===== BEGINNING OF VIDEO LINKS

 

Click here to see the full 13 minute QuickTime video. It's 43MB.

 

Click here to see a shorter 6 minute QuickTime video pulled in one chunk from the middle. It's kind of the heart of the place and will let you get through it faster. It's 18MB.

 

===== END OF VIDEO LINKS

 

Personally I enjoy tight to medium-tight sweepers (like the Cherohala), but a road like Deal's Gap just begs to be ridden by a GS. That huge contact patch in the front, small "flickable" wheel in the rear, wide handlebars with leverage, and low-end torque overcome any compromise from the dual-sport tires (Anakees in this case).

 

I hope you get a chance to ride it some day. At any pace it's a marvelous experience. Sometimes. I guess it depends on who else is on it and how you are feeling that day.

 

01.jpg

 

03.jpg

 

===== OTHER NOTES

 

The "official" length, from the overlook to the gas station, is 9.3 miles, and the fastest time by a non-professional was 11 minutes, set about 12 years ago when there was no traffic to speak of. That's an average speed of 50.7 mph. If you subtract the time I got stuck behind the traffic, my time was ca. 12:45, for an average speed of 43.8 mph. So that's fairly slow against that measure.

 

The bike has more in it though I'd need to ride it differently with better body position. You'll hear a few "scrapes" (like at ca. 10:30). That would allow greater speed at similar lean angles, though it's hard to get each curve right.

 

The tires have more in them, though the rear slid a few times. But it was all predictable.

 

The surface has a ton more in it.

 

But the sight lines don't have much more to give. I was very comfortable "seeing" ahead at this speed, but I would not be comfortable at a faster pace. I found myself consciously setting a pace that would allow me to avoid a bicyclist or car running wide (you can see a shot of four sport bikes partly in my lane).

 

I'd love to go back and try it again on a weekday free of traffic and without crammed-full extra-wide sidecases and a big bag strapped to the top! tongue.gif

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Frank Cloud

I just rode the gap about a month ago for the first time. Took a day off to make the trip. It was a hoot. Don't think I'd tackle it on a weekend.

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russell_bynum
cool.gifcool.gifcool.gifcool.gifcool.gif

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David
I just rode the gap about a month ago for the first time. Took a day off to make the trip. It was a hoot. Don't think I'd tackle it on a weekend.

 

Frank, one thing that makes it a hoot is that there's not a single intersecting road in the entire stretch. thumbsup.gif

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Barry Cottrell

Great video, David! I rode the Dragon for the first time last summer, and can't wait to get back. We rode it on a Monday, and there was almost no traffic. What a blast. thumbsup.gif Thanks for reminding me.

 

Barry

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David
Great video, David! I rode the Dragon for the first time last summer, and can't wait to get back. We rode it on a Monday, and there was almost no traffic. What a blast. thumbsup.gif Thanks for reminding me.

 

Barry, your sig line is hiliarious in this context. grin.gif

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of the dragon, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

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David_S

I'll wait until I get to work to watch the video (dial up here at home) I envy you living close to those roads. I'm going to take a weekend and go down. I just have to run the dragon and the Cherohala on the GS for comparison purposes against the KRS. I had trouble keeping up with RT's on the KRS but I have a hunch that may be different on the GS.

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Bill1100

I've been through Deal's Gap five times, including once in the rain. blush.gif The first time I rode through the Gap I think I hyperventilated the whole 11 miles. It's amazing how easily a bike as large as the RT can be flung around those switchbacks... cool.gif

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John Diakonis

Great video David ! By the way can you show us how you mounted the camera to be able to take such good footage? Thanks, John

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Jim VonBaden

I have a 4 mile stretch of road within 5 miles of my house that looks just like the top picture. I run it 2-3 times a week.

 

Considering I live only a couple hours from the BRP you would think I would have ridden it by now, but Skyline Drive (35mph and patrolled heavily) is all I have done so far.

 

Jim cool.gif

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Shawnee Bill

Love that first picture! grin.gif

Loved the video, thanks!

Now I have to go back and run the Dragon on a weekday, the one time I made it was on a BUSY Saturday, but that did force me to ride at a easy pace, just had to keep a close watch in the mirrors for the crazies that just blew by no matter.

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ShovelStrokeEd

I envy you living close to those roads.

 

Ex Hog,

Its even worse! You should see the road he takes to get there!

 

David,

I really liked 30. What a day trip, 30 to 411 to the Cherohala, back over 129, loop around on 28 and hit 129 again. Or, go ride the Foothills Pkwy or any of about 200 other roads in the area. I've gotta move back up there.

 

Ed

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Venturello

I did it on a rental car during my visit in Atlanta. Brakes where smoking and tires almost ruined after a run through that road and the others around it (David forgot to mention that, the dragon is NOT the only good road in the region, there are MANY wonderful ones).

 

One question: how is the LEO situation there? I guess there are many accidents... how has the law replied?

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David
Great video David ! By the way can you show us how you mounted the camera to be able to take such good footage? Thanks, John

 

John, I've got a series of pictures, taken while making the mount. I'll put them together in a new thread in Hexheads! I was happy with it.

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Mike O

David (or anyone else who might know),

 

Why was Deal's Gap laid out as it was (besides to entertain us riders?). From watching the video, it seems they could have reduced the number of curves.

 

Now, that they HAVEN'T reduced the number of curves is to our advantage, but I thought I'd ask. What a wonderful twisty road. I lived in NC for 10 years and never heard of Deal's Gap before this board.

 

One of these days... (Deal's Gap is on my list).

 

Mike O

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David
I really liked 30. What a day trip, 30 to 411 to the Cherohala, back over 129, loop around on 28 and hit 129 again. Or, go ride the Foothills Pkwy or any of about 200 other roads in the area. I've gotta move back up there.

 

Ed, I got to the Gap via 30, and shot some video there, too. Rather than wear people out with another video, though, I'll post it in a week or two. It was fun! smile.gif

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MattS
One question: how is the LEO situation there? I guess there are many accidents... how has the law replied?

 

Juan Miguel ... check out http://www.tailofthedragon.com for some answers.

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David
One question: how is the LEO situation there? I guess there are many accidents... how has the law replied?

 

Juan Miguel, the enforcement is tougher now than it's every been. As far as I know, they don't mind the kind of run I've done, and I've chatted with many of them. What they are after is intimidation, riding outside your lane, and really fast speeds during some straighter sections. A few weekends ago nine patrol cars were there and issued 29 tickets.

 

In terms of deaths, yep, there are some. Three weeks ago a rider on a GSX-R1000 died when he hit a tree, apparently doing a wheelie from which he couldn't recover. I would guess that a half dozen go down on a typical weekend (the fast majority on R-1 and GSX-R1000 models). That's why I seldom run it on the weekend during high season. Both El Paseo outings are outside that high season, by the way, and we seldom have traffic.

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StretchMark

More like "Spanking the Dragon". Nice run!

That's about as light as you will see traffic on the weekend.

 

Lately, I have been avoiding Deal's Gap, preferring to run the Cherohala. Over the last 2 years, I have helped 3 riders yank their bikes out of ditches, had to turn around twice due to semi-trucks getting stuck on the tight turns, got myself stuck doing a u-turn and had to ask a couple cruiser guys to push me up a bank so I could get my back tire out of the gravel blush.gif and performed a nice 0 mph drop in the parking lot of Crossroads of Time while the 300 sport bike riders Dave mentioned watched blush.gifblush.gif. It's a road that gives me butterflies, raises my heartrate, and makes my palms sweat.

 

For some reason, I was ready for Saturday, and looking forward to taking on the Dragon again. I was excited about trying out a few things I have been working on. It just wasn't meant to be that day. frown.gif

 

Glad you guys had a great ride! We'll try it again.

 

Side cases eek.gif Holy shiite!

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kg8820

thanks for sharing the expreience and video.

i only heard about deals gap some five years ago and for now it will have to remain in "grail" status.

your writing is exceptional in it relates without pretension.

-k

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Andrew

Awesome road and great lines, unlike some of the ones coming the other way (your photo of the right hander where there are a number of bikes coming the other way is scarey) BTW I watched the video before realising it was you and despite my recent problems on this DB I thought I would post anyway because it was so good. You said you had something in the locker and you were dead right. thumbsup.gif

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Shawnee Bill
Why was Deal's Gap laid out as it was (besides to entertain us riders?). From watching the video, it seems they could have reduced the number of curves.

My cousin tells me that road is an OLD wagon trail that has just been upgraded to it's current state. The route was picked for the least elevation changes to make it easy on whatever was pulling the wagons, to do that they had to follow the the contour of the hills. You will notice very minor elevation changes along most of Hwy 129.

He has lived in Maryville most of his life and works for the power company that operates the dam there. He works in town but HAS to drive out there a few times a month. He says until the internet there was very little traffic on 129, very few motorcycles. But in about the last 10 years it has just grown almost out of control.

Edited by Shawnee Bill

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Laura

I feel exhilerated and exhausted at the same time! Fantastic and love the sound also. I wasn't prepared for such great audio and had my speakers turned up in my office. My coworkers know I ride so they started laughing.

 

I've not yet experienced the dragon at any degree, this was the closest I've gotten, so far. I don't imagine I'll be carving those curves as fast as you did. Thanks for giving me the fantasy of riding that road that skillfully. Nice video.

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David
I feel exhilerated and exhausted at the same time! Fantastic and love the sound also. I wasn't prepared for such great audio and had my speakers turned up in my office. My coworkers know I ride so they started laughing.

 

I've not yet experienced the dragon at any degree, this was the closest I've gotten, so far. I don't imagine I'll be carving those curves as fast as you did. Thanks for giving me the fantasy of riding that road that skillfully. Nice video.

 

Glad you enjoyed it! smile.gif

 

The audio was actually picked up by a remote microphone in a windsock in the tankbag. Nothing special. Because of that, I was surprised at how well it turned out.

 

The new "can" on the GS makes it sound better, but the sound doesn't approximate the RPMs--for instance, I was near readline in 3rd gear for much of it, but it sounds like about 5k RPM. Similarly, powering out of the corners it sounds "labored" when it fact it was about 4k RPM.

 

Anyway, I thought it was cool that it picked up the sound of the oncoming sport bikes, too. thumbsup.gif

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Laura

Anyway, I thought it was cool that it picked up the sound of the oncoming sport bikes, too.

 

That WAS cool and I loved the little adrenaline burst I got when you came up on the tourers, waiting for an opportunity then ggggguuuuurrrrrrr..... right past. The sound made me feel like I was right there. A little adrenaline while sitting at my desk is always a treat! I'm easy.

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Biff Motor Works

David, I've just got to get there! Now that I am laid up in a boot for the next three months ( torn achilles) I won't be doing it any time soon, so that vid was just what I needed. Please post some more as I won't be riding at all this summer frown.gif Thanks, and am looking forward to making a trip there and trying to pet the dragon myself grin.gif

Biff...

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David
Please post some more as I won't be riding at all this summer frown.gif

 

Will do! I have the Cherohala in the can, and also Route 30 in the Sequatchie Valley. This week it's time to do some river crossing! smile.gif

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David_S

David when you get a chance please post a bit about your mounting. I thought he video was pretty darn good and would love to get mine mounted up on the GS before Cody.

Thanks,

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David
David when you get a chance please post a bit about your mounting. I thought he video was pretty darn good and would love to get mine mounted up on the GS before Cody.

 

Post on this put up over here, David.

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Limecreek

Great video David, but what really caught my interest was the sweet sound of your machine. I thought for sure you were on the Duc, listening to that low throaty sound all through the video. So it was a real surprise when I saw the sig line at the end...1200GS.

 

You've got some great roads back in your neck of the woods, enough so that I've now penciled in a trip for next April. When are those Paseo dates again?grin.gif

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David

Well, we'd love to have you, Greg! What some riders from Texas have done is arrive at my house Thursday night, and then we all ride over there together on some fantastic roads. Like 30, which I'll post a video of next week! smile.gif

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russell_bynum

I thought for sure you were on the Duc, listening to that low throaty sound all through the video. So it was a real surprise when I saw the sig line at the end...1200GS.

 

Same here. thumbsup.gif

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RightSpin

Awesome video David! I'm going to watch it again with a map to get a better understanding of where some of the landmark turns are and what they look like. It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun.

 

Oh how I hated missing it this time. If only we could turn back the hands of time. smile.gif

 

I look forward to your presentation of the Cherohala. thumbsup.gif

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ctforand

David,

 

How much grade or elevation change is there on that road? From the video it's really hard to tell. For a long time I had many more problems descending compared to ascending, but then I learned the trick of just picking a gear say 2nd or 3rd and running the full range of the tach. That helped me avoid the diversion of zillions of shifts, control my speed better, and the higher rpm range gave me a lot more compression braking effect on roll-off, greatly increasing my comfort level on the road. Now when I'm on the BRP, every 20 or so miles I take the side roads just to get to play like that!

 

The other thing that I noticed about that road is that it doesn't appear to have the huge banking that Va 58 or 220 have. At Mayhem III this year we had the pleasure of riding those and the exhilaration of swishing inside-to-inside apex on many, many, many (seemingly endless) steeply bank tight S turns left me needing plastic surgery to remove the smile! In Roanoke I also thought (though I get the feeling most of those with me though I was nuts) the switch backs w/huge in/out elevation changes were a blast, something you just don't get to do everyday, unless you're very lucky! Again, couldn't really tell (video has such a way of leveling everything out), does Deal's Gap have any of that?

 

Did those sport bike guys with their heads and knees sticking in your lane annoy you? That makes me so mad. When I was driving up to Palomar observatory I almost took off a guy's head w/my rental car. I was 2' from the double yellow, within MY lane. I was so mad at that guy. In fact, if he'd have hit me, I would have had a really hard time feeling sorry for him at all.... Your ride looked great! I loved the lane control and lines.

 

Your video was of great quality and the audio complimented it so well. You know, with the audio you captured and sitting 3" from the screen, after a while, I could actually smell the ride - it was so visceral!

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Barry Cottrell
Great video, David! I rode the Dragon for the first time last summer, and can't wait to get back. We rode it on a Monday, and there was almost no traffic. What a blast. thumbsup.gif Thanks for reminding me.

 

Barry, your sig line is hiliarious in this context. grin.gif

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of the dragon, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

 

Har! I hadn't made the connection with my tag line until just now. I guess I see it every day so it has sorta " disappeared". I saw the phrase on the back of a pickup truck a few months ago, and it reminded me of Deals Gap, and how much fun it was to run the Dragon; and so appropriate to the Dragon's personality! It WILL eat you if you " meddle in the affairs...".

Again, what a great video. Thanks.

 

Barry

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David
How much grade or elevation change is there on that road?

 

About 1,000 ft., based on this map from the Tail of the Dragon site:

 

elevation.gif

 

For a long time I had many more problems descending compared to ascending, but then I learned the trick of just picking a gear say 2nd or 3rd and running the full range of the tach.

 

Bill Hawkins and I have experimented with that, and you'll notice that I did very little shifting in the video. I stayed in 3rd for the vast majority of the run, getting the RPMs up near redline on the straights. Every once in awhile I'd shift down to 2nd to power out of a sharp curve, or touch 4th on a long straight.

 

The other thing that I noticed about that road is that it doesn't appear to have...huge banking...

 

The corners are so tight, and drainage is such an issue, that the road has a pronounced crown to it. Still, I'd say most of the corners are banked pretty well, but even then the transitions are so severe that quick flips from the left to the right usually result in a front end that's light and almost off the ground. You'll see that in a few places, where it almost looks like a wheelie, though it isn't.

 

Did those sport bike guys with their heads and knees sticking in your lane annoy you?

 

Yes, it pissed me off! Normally I try to hold my line and make them flinch as a lesson for the next curve, but this time there were more of them than me. smile.gif But if I see it coming and have some extra concentration available, I'll throw my arm out as a signal to get in their own d@mn lane.

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JungleJim

David, great video. I got something similar last fall with the K1200RS group when we went there. It is truely awesome to ride it. I am reminded of the weekend everytime I start my bike with the official Deals Gap Dragon key ring! Great memories. Some of the best time spent is at the Gas Station at Cross Roads of Time. What a hoot to see all the action and people watching.

As the famous line goes: "I'll be back". thumbsup.gif

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David

Thanks, Jim! smile.gif You got a link to that video? I'd love to watch it.

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Shawnee Bill
Thanks, Jim! smile.gif You got a link to that video? I'd love to watch it.

 

Watch it? Nah, you really want to run them side by side to see who wins grin.gifcool.gifgrin.gifcool.gifgrin.gifcool.gifthumbsup.gifnono.gif

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David
Watch it? Nah, you really want to run them side by side to see who wins. grin.gif

 

Not really. I tried that with Jim at Laguna Seca and lost! grin.gif I only got by him because he made a mistake, and that pissed him off so much that I was toast at that point.

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BULLman

I thought the reason for so many turns was that the DOT tried to follow the whiskey trial from the local sheriff's bottle after a hard night of bending his elbow. Maybe I heard wrong.

 

I remember the first time I found the dragon by accident. I was tooling around on a '83 Suzuki GS650L (my first bike, cost me all of $200) with 43k and before I knew it I was in the land of curves. Not normal Fla curves, but curves that were blind, sharp and either went up or plunged down. I wasn't in Kansas (Fla) anymore Toto!!! It was great - but a lot of work! Later in the day, all I remember was that "I would give $1000 for a place to pull over!" If I saw a place to stop, I was going too fast to pull over. Finally, I drageed my sorry a$$ into my parent's house and they asked how was my ride went. I told them I was out by Robbinsville told them about the road I ran into. They replied "I think there is some famous road was lots and lots of turns on it. The sport car guys really like the road." My only reply was that "I think I FOUND it!"

 

I have since complete the dragon a couple of more times. Once on a Valkire Tourer, only had a couple of weeks - couldn't find the right gear. Snails were passing me I was going so slow. Best part of that ride was that nobody had to witness it! thumbsup.gif The place was empty.grin.gif Recently, I rode (not even in the driver's seat) in a Camry on the way to the Honda Hoot. blush.gif It was rainy, plus the ride to&back from Lynchburg, TN took a lot out of me. It was nice to actually "look around" and sightsee a bit. grin.gif The most obnoxious thing I say was a guy trailering his cruiser thru the dragon (and I thought I was a geek for riding with my dad) wouldn't pull over to let us by. nono.gif He did pull over for other bikers cool.gif, but it was on a blind turn! frown.giffrown.gifdopeslap.gif A moment later I was horrified to see a tractor trailer, going the other way, taking up both sides of the road in a turn! eek.gifeek.gifeek.gif I yern for those "good old" days of yesteryear (maybe 10-11yrs ago) dopeslap.gifdopeslap.gif

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Art..

I petted the Dragon the morning after you posted this. What a blast. I threw sparks 4 or 5 times. There were two wrecks during my run, a ZX7 in the ditch on one of the 180 degree left handers (near some wooden posts) and a Harley off in the trees coming the other way (near the power cut). There were about 30 bikes at the store, and maybe 15 at the overlook. It was a great day to run it, but I'm with you, I would not want to be there on the weekend..........

 

Ride tale to follow as soon as I get unpacked and have some family time........

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Shawnee Bill

In 1972 I attended the Trans-Am Motocross at Road Atlanta, best MX race I ever saw!

After the race I drove in my Dodge Dart to my Uncle's in Maryville Tenn., it was late afternoon so I just looked at the map for the shortest route, I saw this road, Hwy 129, that looked to be the shortest route and headed off that direction. So it was late and DARK when we got to the east end of 129 and I was in a hurry, I was just following white lines that disappeared into the black ahead of me, I kept wondering what kind of road I was on, couldn't see anything. About halfway I got pulled over, no ticket, just chewed out and told to slow down as I was on a dangerous road.

Ever since then I have wanted to go back and run that in the daylight so I could see what I missed. Then last year I began hearing about "Deals Gap, the Tail of the Dragon", it took me several months to connect that that was my road.

Finally made it back last month on the bike thumbsup.gif

 

My Aunt hates that road, can't believe anyone would actually go there on purpose blush.gif

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NJGaryD

Holy Toledo....

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Kirbo40

/hijack

 

David,

 

That line was on a T-shirt worn by a character in a book I just read- "The Outsiders" by Melanie Jackson. Wonder where Barry got it from. Yeaah the book had a dragon in it.

I know- I read a lot of odd books.

Ok read further & see he got it off a truck. Cool line no matter where it came from.

\hijack

Edited by Kirbo40

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Z-Man

David, tres smooth, tres kewl.

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chadhargis

Over the holiday weekend, myself and a few friends spend the long weekend riding in the mountians of NC and East Tennessee. We stayed away from the park and Deal's Gap since we figured it would be packed with squids. Instead we concentrated on areas further north and east from there. We found several excellent roads that rivaled the Dragon. One such road was US 421, also known as the "Motorcycle Playground" http://www.motorcycleplayground.com/roads421.html. On the way back home I hit Hwy 116 in Tennessee starting at Lake City. A WICKED fun road with no traffic, and 180 degree hairpin turn climbing uphill. Excellent!

 

I still think the Skyway is my favorite road. I simply love riding it, and it gets better with each ride. Can't wait to get back there in a couple of months!

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soboy

I love riding the Dragon and the Cherohala, along with TN 68 that we take to get up there from Atlanta. I scraped pegs on the Dragon the last time I rode it, and it impressed me so that I had to get a Dragon sticker for my helmet. Still, I think I prefer the Cherohala for its sweepers and incredible scenery. The Dragon has become quite the weekend tourist destination - it is like riding in a parade of bikes on Saturday and Sunday now.

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ToyCollector

I think you just helped BMW sell me a new GS I have been on the fence about. thumbsup.gif Time to sell one of the Harleys.

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