Southern States Tour – Day 44

Day 44 Route
Day 44 Route

The weather varied today. It was raining lightly when I left this morning. At higher elevations, it was very foggy. About noon, the rain had stopped and the sun began to shine through the clouds. Late in the day a light rain started once again. Temperatures reached 88 but cooled off in the early evening when the rain returned.

Day’s distance: 138 miles
Total trip distance: 7,998 miles

Today, I was on my way to one of the country’s notable motorcycling roads, the Tail of the Dragon. Because the weather was predicted to be less than ideal, I shortened my tentative route and put off the Cherohala Skyway ride until tomorrow.

I left the house about 8am and stopped to put air in the tires and gas and oil in the bike. With everything set, I left Waynesville and returned to the western-most section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just like yesterday, the parkway was beautiful with scenic overlooks, only today it was too cloudy and foggy to see much.

Just the start of the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Just the start of the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There was little traffic on the Parkway, and when I saw two motorcycles pass me coming the other way with their hazard lights on, I thought that was a great idea since I was only going 25 or so in the worst spots, which seemed to be the elevations about about 4700 feet.

Many of the roads follow local rivers, such as this scenic pull out.

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

As I reached the end of the Parkway and the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I detoured into Cherokee for a latte. The Cherokee Coffee Shop had really excellent coffee and treats. They roast the beans themselves, several times a week, and the results might just be heaven. A definite stop if you’re in the area.

I worked on catching up with the blog while drinking coffee. It was well past noon by the time I was back on the bike. Then another BMW rider flagged me down and wanted to ask about my GoPro mounts. We compared notes about a number of things until about 1pm. I was glad for two things: my day’s route was shortened and the weather was dry and much nicer than expected.

I crossed into Tennessee while riding Hwy 441. At this point, it was quite breezy and the fog had returned. Of course, there is an obligatory bike photo 🙂

Great Smokey Mountains
Hwy 441Smokey Mountains

The Tail of the Dragon begins in North Carolina and ends in Tennessee. I would be riding it the other way. I took the opportunity before entering Townsend, TN to stop watch the folks tubing down the Little River and to soak my shirt in the cool water. It was getting a bit hot by then and humid. I think it was 86 degrees or so.

During lunch I made a quick call back to Seattle. It seems that along both the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains, my cell coverage with AT&T has been very spotty. It was good to catch up with events back home.

Entering the Foothills Parkway,

IMG_2814

I would ride the ridge between the Smokey Mountains to the east …

Foothills Parkway looking east
Foothills Parkway looking east

and the Tennessee River Valley to the west.

Foothills Parkway looking west
Foothills Parkway looking west

The time finally arrived. I have been looking forward to riding the Tail for a while. I was grateful the surface of the road was dry and that it wasn’t a weekend when the road is full of bikers who go much faster than I can on an unfamiliar road.

The Tail of the Dragon has a reported 318 turns in just 11 miles. I’ve ridden twisty roads – many of them – but this road has what I believe to be the most concentrated set of curves I’ve ever ridden. Here’s a short video of a few of those curves.

A very fun event occurred as I was about half way through the Dragon. The odometer turned 30,000 miles!

Turning 30 (K) on the Tail of the Dragon!
Turning 30 (K) on the Tail of the Dragon!

Deal’s Gap is a motel, gas station, and gathering place at the start of the Dragon.

Deal's Gap, NC
Deal’s Gap, NC

Arriving at Deal’s Gap, I was told I had to visit the Tree of Shame. If you wreck while riding the Dragon, it is custom to hang something on the tree. You’ll see x-rays, fenders, etc. on it.

The Tree of Shame, Deal's Gap, NC
The Tree of Shame, Deal’s Gap, NC

I noticed after the ride that over time I’m using more of the usable surface of the tire. Bikers would say that my ‘Chicken Strips’ are getting narrower. I’m a conservative rider, as you can tell, but at least the rubber ‘hairs’ are no longer there 🙂

Examining my 'Chicken Strips'
Examining my ‘Chicken Strips’

I left Deal’s Gap tentatively headed for Robbinsville to stay the night, but ended up stopping for a cold drink at the Pit Stop, part of the Fontana Lodge. It began to rain and I decided to stay here for the night. The Lodge has two pools and a lazy river and two restaurant on premises. I used the pool and lazy river, then went to the Bistro for dinner.

While being seated, I noticed there was only one other table occupied and they were talking about the Dragon. I introduced myself and ended up eating with them, telling tales of motorcycling and sharing information about routes. I love the motorcycling community and am privaledged to be able to spend time with folks like Butch, Cody, Karen, and Viann.

There was a nice sunset tonight.

Smokey Mountains sunset
Smokey Mountains sunset

Tomorrow I plan to ride the Cherohala Skyway before detouring to Marietta for Thursday service appointment with BMW of Atlanta.

3 thoughts

  1. One of the best things about the Tail of the Dragon is the lack of necessity for shifting (for the most part). Keeping it in a lower gear gives you the torque you need through the curves and you are almost certainly going to come up on another curve before needing to go up a gear.
    Great riding!

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