Day 3: Wake up number three! Cracking my eyes open on this third morning brought a new little flutter in the belly. Could it be butterflies from knowing that our wait is over and we will soon be riding on the Dragon? Or did I have a little too much spirit at Mickey's Pub last night? LOL! No worries here friends. I was ready! I did take in some fruit and apple juice for breakfast and that helped settle my excitement. And excitement it was! For days now, I have been hearing and reading all kinds of things about riding this little stretch of road on US 129 called the Tail of the Dragon. A few months ago, Rick, a fellow blogger over at Keep the Rubber Side Down, visited this area with his sons. Just like anything else in life, it still lacks the full impact of what this kind of riding can have, until you experience it yourself. There was a general feeling of excitement and anticipation among all of us on this morning, as we got our bikes ready to roll for a big day of riding.
The Lone Ranger lead us south on Hwy 74 to Hwy 28. The morning was still cool and we were fortunate to be having great weather! This river was still smoky where the sun has not finished burning it off for the day. When I saw this I started thinking in my mind, "Smoke on the water, the fire in the sky!" Deep Purple rocks! LOL! Note the broken limb hanging over the road the the picture above. The Beav and the Lone Ranger went over and broke it off as far as they could. We talked about it and imagined an RV or Trailer coming through there and... BAM!
What a beautiful view!
Our ride along this route took us to Hellbender 28. This run turned out to be a great prelude to what we were about to encounter on the Dragon. Sort of a warm up road, if you will. The curves and grades were a little more severe than anything we've encountered thus far, but still allowed a bit playfulness on the motorcycles. We were having fun going up this road! There were a couple of areas that had some small loose rock laying right in the damn middle of the curve. Twice, I hit those rocks just right (or maybe I should say wrong) and I would get squirrely in the rear end and, weee! Talk about a surge of adrenaline! All you can do is hold on to the grips and ride it out. I knew I would grab some solid asphalt just as quick!
Leaning to the left and leaning to the right, up and down we rode! After a few miles of fun on the Bender, we came to Deals Gap, the popular gathering place for other Dragon slayers. We pulled in here so we could get a stretch and a drink before we started the next leg of our adventure. After a little while, enough time had past and we all just kind of looked at each other and said, "Ready?" It was answered with the excitement in our eyes and the smiles on our faces..."Ready! Let's go slay the Dragon!"
We started the Harleys and one by one, in single file, we left the gathering area and turned ourselves onto the infamous highway. The Lone Ranger was in the lead, followed by the Beav, then Harley, and last but not least, me! I choose to be last so I would not slow anyone up until I knew how I was going to handle it. I was still not sure how extreme this road was going to be, but I have heard some pretty hairy stories and have seen some really crazy video clips about riding this road. So last it was!
The road seemed to be kind to us in the beginning, as if to say, "Relax... enjoy the ride." It kind of gave you a little boost of confidence that things were going to be everything you wanted it to be. Not too scary and just crazy enough to get lost in your own world of riding the twisties! The first few hairpin curves gave me a feel for just how tight these maneuvers were going to be, and I was handling each one with confidence and ease. Within a few curves you, start increasing your pace. It's as if the road is taunting you,"Is that all you've got?" The first time I came into a tight curve a little hot, I just leaned that much harder, drug the back brake a little and ssccrraaapppe! Ohh! Well, that was an eye opener! No time to dwell on what just happened because here is the next sharp curve again. LEAN! Whew! Again, curve! Ssccrrraaaappe! Wowee!
I was getting into the rhythm by now, it felt like I was riding on a piece of Christmas ribbon candy. Lean right, two, three, four... lean left, two, three, four... lean right, two, three, four... lean left, two, three, four. These curves were so close together, you had to be ready for the next one before you completed the previous one!
Photo of Lady R Another Photo of Lady R (I will be getting these and more on a disc soon.)
I noticed the word painted on the pavement... SLO! When you see this, which was often, your usually about to encounter a blind and sharp hairpin curve. Sometimes, something big coming in the opposite direction will suddenly appear and scare the breakfast out of you! Yikes!
Now, add a steep enough grade going uphill, so when your in the apex of a curve, you have to tilt your head way back to see up the road you are about to cover. It literally looks like you've got to climb a wall of pavement. THROTTLE! Brapt... brapt...brapt! Down shift, don't lug it, Brraaapppttt! Good grief! Woo Hoo! This is fun! Ssccrraaappe! Oops, scraped again! What the hell, who's counting! Ride this road! Ride like there is no tomorrow! Woo Hoo! I was shouting my glee outloud! This was the most invigorated I have ever felt riding my motorcycle! I was having a blast. It was challenging, it was scary, it was fun, it was new and different from anything else I have done! What a ride!
We pulled over at the end of our first run through and reflected on what we just experienced. The Beav said he heard me scrape loud once and it kind of startled him. But then he heard me Woo Hooing and he knew all was well. We all had something to contribute to the conversation and we were all in agreement that another run was definitely in order! Everyone thought the ride was awesome.
The "Tree of Shame"! The broken bike parts and remnants of other brave riders before us, served as a humble reminder, that the Dragon is not to be taken lightly. It will bite you! I had to include this picture to let you see there are no pieces of Lady R's ride on this tree! Woo Hoo! If you'll put your cursor over the picture you can bring it up closer. Notice the pair of boots hanging from a limb. The Lone Ranger laughed and said, "Someone rode right out of their boots!" LOL!
I kept up with the boys and didn't have any problems handling what came around the corners. They said I could be happy and, "I did all the women riders out there proud". That means a lot to me coming from these pals of mine and Harley. This experience was more thrilling than any roller coaster I've ever been on. And I love roller coasters! Now I can say I slew the dragon!
To be continued...
This is still just the beginning of day three. After we did the first run of the dragon, we took the Scenic 360 and the Cherohala Skyway loop and wound back up at the Dragon's Tail. Which we did again and then again. After the third run we felt like we got our funs worth so we headed back toward Bryson City and Mickey's Pub. I thought this post was long enough, just telling the tale of the Lady dragon slayer, so I will continue this day with another posting. Stay tuned, some of the best pics yet to come! Lady R