Day 3 continued... We were still pretty pumped up from just having made our first run up the Tail of the Dragon. 318 curves in 11 miles was very exhilarating! But wait, there's more! We are planning to make a loop around, taking in the Scenic 360 Hwy then connect to the Cherohala Skyway which would bring us back to the beginning of the Dragon's Tail. The scenery we were about to experience is absolutely breathtaking!
Before we got too far away from this area, we came across a great little diner called "129 Motorcycle Pit Stop." It was lunch time and we needed to eat something before we continued with our exploration. We were all very delighted with our food. Good old fashioned hamburgers, Philly Cheesesteak, and great french fries. Yum, yum! I don't know about anyone else, but I had worked up an appetite! The folks working this little joint were very nice and friendly! I would definitely recommend stopping here for a meal and a drink if you're in this area.
The next portion of our ride was more relaxed and steady paced. Our route today, we will be taking us out of North Carolina, crossing into Tennessee and back to North Carolina again. The roads would still curve and wind around a bit, but not as severely as on the Dragon. As we made our ascent up the Scenic 360, we could see creeks that ran along the side of the road, and they were providing a great view of the running water. We pulled over at one spot, for a stretch, and just took it all in.
I love the way it sounds in a place like this. It's very peaceful as the water makes a bubbling wooshing noise while it cascades across the rocks and boulders that help produce a gentle rapids. As bikers, we enjoy a lot of sights and smells while riding that you can't experience in a car but, every now and then, you just have to stop, turn off the motor, and listen to the beauty. When we got to the start of the Cherohala Skyway, we all made sure fuel was plentiful, as there would be no more gas stations before we got to the end of the Skyway. It was only about 60 miles or so. Everyone gave a thumbs up so off we went. As we continued our progress, the elevation increased and our views started to become more open.
The higher we climbed, the more breathtaking the views got. They were the perfect backdrop for a pretty day of riding. All of a sudden, pop! Ooh, my ear! Pop! Ow! My other ear! In just that instant, things got thick in my head. It was right about then that I saw the sign that stated, "Elevation 5000 Feet", No wonder my ears popped! After yawing a time or to, I realized I might get a big fat bug right in my mouth, all because I was trying to adjust the pressure in my head. I decided the sudden thickening and dulled hearing didn't matter that much, it just made things a little quieter for the moment. LOL!
We pulled over to take advantage of the great overlooks along the way.For some reason, Harley just loved these dead trees. I thought they looked pretty cool too, so I took a picture of them. It was kind of odd to see this these dead protrusions in the middle of a lush green forest.Continuing on around the loop, we stopped whenever we saw a good picture opportunity. Oh yeah, more water! A lake in the mountains is heaven on earth!We found ourselves back at Deals Gap with about three hours of daylight left. It was unanimous among us all, that we had plenty of time to make our second and third run on the dragon's tail. Having slain the infamous dragon earlier in the day, we proceeded up the narrow twisting road with a stronger confidence. This time around was rewarded with a greater sense of accomplishment as you conquer the curves with a little more speed and agility. And true to it's reputation, going up the second time was every bit as exciting as the first time too! Woo Hoo!
This is the overlook that rewards you at the north end of the dragon's tail. It's spectacular!While we were stretching at the overlook, we met a man and his wife, who were going to hike down a path to fish in the river you see in this picture above. The man said it was about a mile down to the water. I could see me hiking down to the water, but I would have some serious issues hiking back up! We couldn't believe they wanted to fish that bad, but they claimed to have done this many times here before. More power to them! Hike on! LOL!
After we came back down the dragon's tail, for our third and final run, we got to have another go at the Hellbender 28 on our way out of the area. Again, it was as if the road was bidding us a final farewell and reminding us of all the fun we had. We stopped in at the Hellbender 28 Pitstop and had a beer to celebrate the fact that we all became dragon slayers this day, and talked of the next time we can come back. So far, this trip has brought many rewards and beautiful views. The Tail of the Dragon may have been the primary reason for drawing us to this location, but we have not been disappointed with anything yet!
When we got back into Bryson City, we had our usual couple of "nightcaps" at Mickey's Pub before turning in. Tomorrow will be another great day. We're going to make our way across the Smokey Mountains into Gatlinburg and ride up to Cade's Cove. Night, night!
To be continued...