Advice tidbit number 2: If you enter the Tail of the Dragon from the Tennessee
side you are on the drop off side, as in, if you go too far right in your lane you will
drop off the mountain. If you enter from the North Carolina side you have the
mountain to your right and the oncoming traffic lane to your left.
The website I had checked out said 'DO NOT SIGHT SEE WHILE YOU ARE RIDING
THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON'. Let me reiterate that....DO NOT SIGHT SEE WHILE
YOU ARE RIDING THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON!!
It can be deadly and it can be as dangerous as you make it. Riding
unexperienced, too fast, and careless will get you killed. BUT if you ride in your
OWN comfort zone and handle curves well, you can really enjoy riding the Tail of
the Dragon. There are riders who are on the tail to see how fast they can go.
There are some pull offs along the route, if you have riders behind you that want
to go faster than you, pull into the pull off and let them pass. Do not feel
pressured or pushed to go faster than you are comfortable going, you can
seriously injure yourself and/or your motorcycle. Do NOT ride in a staggered
formation if you are in a group. You need to be single file, you will need your
whole lane in some of the turns.
We conquered the beast and waiting
at the end was Deals Gap and across
the road another cool place with a BBQ
Pit on the front porch. At Deals Gap
sits the famous 'Tree of Shame', The
Tree of Shame is a just that, a tree. It
is draped with motorcycle parts gathered
from the road from the unfortunate souls
that were burnt by the Dragon and didn't
make it through unscathed. You have to
take your picture in front of the Tree of
We had a blast riding the Dragon and actually wanted to do it again, faster of
course. But it was nearly 7:00 pm by this time and starting to get dark, NOT a good
time to be on the tail!
They also have rooms to rent at Deals Gap. Since it was close to getting dark and
we had no where to stay for the night we inquired on a room. They said they
book up for Labor Day weekend a year in advance. If you are planning to stay at
Deal's Gap, plan ahead!
The lady at the counter told us Robbinsville, NC would be our best bet. We fired
up the bikes and continued on 129 towards Robbinsville, keeping an eye open on
the way for any campgrounds. On the way to Robbinsville we passed a few
mountain lodge resorts but none with any vacancy. We also rode pass the
Tapoco Dam, the Dam that the infamous scene in the "Fugitive" was filmed. The
scenery continues to be absolutely beautiful.
We arrive in Robbinsville at dark. We pulled over to the first motel we seen, the
San-Ran Motel, a quaint little family run place. The vacany sign was lit! While
checking in the owner tells us we should ride the Cherohala Skyway before we
leave the area. I knew we didn't have time but wanted to check the map to see
exactly where this was.
Tom and I find the Cherohala Skyway on the map....it was on the way to the Tail of
the Dragon, damn! Oh well, now we know and we wouldn't have had time on this
trip to take such a scenic ride anyway.
We get a great nights sleep and wake up in the morning to numerous bikes parked
in front of the rooms at the hotel. I love it! It seems every time we travel we wake
up surrounded by fellow riders, whether at a motel, hotel, or campground.
A quick stop at the local grocery to get Gatorade and almonds, fuel up the bikes,
then onward to Cherokee, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway!!
We had an amazing ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway - beautiful!!!
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The chart stops at 40 degrees; a 45
degree day at 60 m.p.h., feels like 32
degrees; a 49 degree day at 60 m.p.h.
feels like 38 degrees, according to the
windchill calculator at
Click the chart to enlarge
|Our trip to the Tail of The Dragon in Tennessee to North Carolina and
cruising the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee, NC to Fancy Gap, VA.
1,182 miles - 3 1/2 days - 6 states - Beautiful scenery -
Every riders dream roads - Great people & places!
|Map of the Tail of the Dragon
on US 129, TN/NC
Road Trip Stories
The Blue Ridge Parkway/Tail of the Dragon
Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway
& The Tail of the Dragon
|Blue Ridge Parkway Map
Click to enlarge map/you can then zoom
entire map in new browser window
Tom and I have been wanting to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway for many years.
Finding enough time to take this ride was nearly impossible. Tired of missing out
on such a beautiful ride, we settled for a long weekend to make the trip, Labor Day
Our plans were set, we would leave on Friday morning. Dominating the news
during the week leading up to the weekend was the arrival of Hurricane Isaac.
Threatening to move from the gulf; north-east to the Ohio/Kentucky/Tennessee
area at the exact time we had planned our trip.
We decided in order to make the most of three days and beat any bad weather
from Hurricane Isaac, the best route would be to haul ass down I-75 from Ohio to
North Carolina, enter the Blue Ridge in Cherokee, NC then leisurely ride the Blue
Ridge north back towards West Virginia then west to Ohio and home. Since we
were going that far south we decided to hit The Tail of the Dragon (318 curves in
11 miles) at the Tennessee-North Carolina border. We've heard many stories
about the Dragon and thought it would be a shame to be so close and not ride it
Our route: Get on I-75 in Sidney, OH and go south on all the way to Knoxville, TN.
In Knoxville we would hit SR 129 towards North Carolina. The Tail of the Dragon is
on SR 129. Riding the tail would take us to Robbinsville, NC and from there we will
make our way to Cherokee, NC to start the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We had our bikes packed and ready to roll before going to bed Thursday night.
We would leave our house at 7 a.m., travel 20 minutes to town to gas up and hit
Interstate 75 south. We were fueled up and hitting the entrance ramp on I-75 at
7:30 Friday morning. The morning was beautiful with clear blue skies and cool
temperatures in the 50's. The traffic was heavy, it was Labor Day weekend after
all, but rolling smooth. The only obstacle I had to overcome was my hesitation
(fear) about going through Cincinnati, Ohio at 9 a.m. on a Friday morning, on a
holiday weekend, during rush hour. I-75 in Cincinnati is not pleasant in a car, on a
We rolled through Cincinnati and
crossed the Ohio River bridge into
Kentucky without a hitch! We made
our first stop just south of Florence, KY
where we topped off the tanks and took
a short 10 minute break. We were back
on the road by 9:30, making great
time! So far the weather was holding
out beautifully. One more quick stop
at a rest area along I-75 for water
and restrooms, then on to our planned
stop south of Williamsburg, KY, to get our
helmets on, feul up, and take a quick
look at the weather radar. Check the helmet laws for the states you are traveling
We hoped to make it to Knoxville, TN, stay the night and be fresh for the Tail of the
Dragon in the morning. I had checked out a great website with TONS of
information at www.tailofthedragon.com prior to leaving that was all about the Tail
of the Dragon and they suggested motorcyclist arrive in the morning hours (and on
a weekday) to avoid the sport cars and truck traffic. Well, since it was a holiday
weekend (probably the WORSE time to go) I at least wanted the 'time' of day to be
in our favor.
The radar check in Williamsburg did not look promising and making it all the way to
Tapco, TN, the start (or end; depending on which direction you are coming from)
of the Tail of the Dragon. It was looking like we may have to ditch that plan and cut
over to North Carolina and hit as much of the Blue Ridge as possible in our
weekend journey before the storm washed out our whole trip.
We decided to forge ahead and make it as far as we could before being forced to
head east to avoid Isaac. I-75 in Kentucky and Tennessee is a BEAUTIFUL ride.
Such a pleasant change from 75 in Ohio. We were thundering through the
beautiful mountains, both of us melted into our seats, our bikes rumbling in unison,
enjoying every mile of the ride.
I don't even know what time we rolled into Knoxville, but we knew we had plenty of
time to hit SR 129 and tackle the Dragon that day. We checked out the map and
seen when we hit Alcoa, TN we would be getting close. In Alcoa we stopped for a
Gatorade and peeled off the long underwear we started the day in, the
temperature was rising and we were sweating our asses off!
We were back on the bikes and right in the middle of a traffic jam!! It must have
been close to 5:00 and everyone and their brother was either getting off work or
getting out of town for the long weekend. First bit of advice for anyone traveling to
the Tail of the Dragon....DON'T GO THROUGH ALCOA, TN!!
Finally making it through Alcoa and back to smooth riding, I now had to time think
about where we were heading. The TAIL OF THE DRAGON! You hear all the
stories...."I scrapped my foot boards the whole time", "somebody dies on the Tail of
the Dragon every day", "semi's jack knife on the turns and run motorcycles off
the road". Go to http://tailofthedragon.com/dragon_trucks.html for proof!
But....since I had checked out the website prior and read all the myth busters I felt
a little more at ease! But still, it WAS 318 curves in only 11 miles, and it was still
And here we are, getting ready to tackle the beast on a FRIDAY EVENING on
LABOR DAY WEEKEND!! After riding over 400 miles already that day! WTF!?!
Have I lost my freakin mind?! Needless to say, I was starting to get nervous for the
first time. I had heard that they no longer allow semi trailers on this part of 129,
well then, why all the signs for several miles leading up to the Tail that read
something like..."Truck Advisory...S curves ahead...steep grade...etc...Tractor
trailers may want to consider an alternate route" to me that doesn't mean 'banned'
that means ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK and I am sure many do! When I see the
signs, then I REALLY start to get nervous! Do a search 'trucks on the tail of the
dragon' and you will see ample proof that trucks ARE NOT banned.
We see several more indicaters we are
about to begin our descent into the
Dragon. Time to pull over one last
time and gather my nerves. A swig of
Jack, a smoke, and hell yeah, let's
tame this beast!
SPOILER ALERT!!! DO NOT READ
FURTHER IF YOU WANT THE TAIL OF
THE DRAGON TO BE A MYSTERY
UNTIL THE DAY YOU ENCOUNTER IT!!
ON THE PARKWAY. GAS IS
AVAILABLE NOT FAR OFF THE
PARKWAY AT ANY OF THESE
US OR STATE HIGHWAY
US 250 - MP 0
US 60 - MP 45.6
VA 130 - MP 61.6
US 501 - MP 63.9
US 460 - MP 106
VA 24 - MP 112.2
US 220 - MP 121.4
US 58 - MP 177.7
US 52 - MP 199.4
VA 89 - MP 215.8
US 21 - MP 229.7
NC 18 - MP 248.1
NC 16 - MP 261.2
US 321 - MP 291.9
NC 181 - MP 312
NC 226 - MP 330.9
US 70 - MP 382.4
US 74A - MP 384.7
US 25 - MP 388.1
NC 191 - MP 393.6
US 276 - MP 411.9
US 74/23 - MP 443.1
US 19 - 455.7