Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tail of the Dragon

We settled into Murphy, NC and prepared for a long week of riding.

First on the To Do list: Tail of the Dragon which boasts 318 curves in 11 miles.

Shawna at the Tail of the Dragon store

The downside to riding my own bike instead of riding pillion behind Lance is that I get no in-motion photos.

The upside... wow. Just wow.

It's good that we tackled it on a Monday morning as I expect it's full of lunatics of one variety or another on weekends.  Mostly we were the only lunatics we could see in any direction.  The few cars and one small delivery van we encountered all promptly pulled out of the way.

When we got to the bottom I was pretty out of breath. Time to turn around and do it the other way, of course.

The Tree of Shame, thankfully we added nothing to it

We worked part of Moonshiner 28 onto our route as well, it was a tasty little section of road with some real surprises. In days gone by it was a path taken by moonshiners on their way down the mountain, sometimes pursued by police at high speed. The surprises on Moonshiner 28 came in the form of sudden and unannounced stop signs at Ys in the road, none of which were visible on Rever (the GPS version of Butler Maps).  So we'd be zipping along, strategizing each corner, fully engaged in the moment, and SURPRISE stop sign RIGHT now.  I got to practice my quick stops and am learning to let up on the rear brake just when the tire starts to lose grip, and throw my weight onto the front of the bike with a big handful of front brake.  It's still not comfortable but it's becoming less unnatural.

Lunch at Tapoco Lodge on the river

On Day 2 we did the Cherohala Skyway.  The curves just go on and on and on for this ridgetop route.  At one point we were in Tennessee, and we finally found some altitude, reaching from our starting elevation of 1500' to over 5000'.  I typically ride in front of Lance because he worries about me, but I lost him somewhere on the mountaintop which is odd. I waited for him at the bottom, thinking he was just leaving a little space so he could zoom down and catch up with me, but when he didn't show I pulled up Google Maps (we share locations) so I could see where I lost him.  He was still on the mountaintop and his blinking face was not moving around on the map so I turned around to go back for him. On the way back all the scary things went through my head... where he stopped - isn't that about where those two 15mph curves were - maybe he didn't see the gravel at their apexes?  By the time I arrived I was so relieved to see him in one piece, with bike upright. Turns out his Super Tenare died, I arrived just as he got it running again, and we limped home.  Subsequent investigation points to an electrical issue - beyond our scope - and the local shops are backed up for weeks. So we'll load it up and find a repair shop somewhere down the road.

Lance has film to work on - the learning curve has been steep (early attempts with camera mounts produced shaky and unusable video, spoiling all the Utah footage) but we finally have some VR footage he considers presentable. Somehow it's fitting that the first VR film we release will be the Tail of the Dragon. He'll be posting it on YouTube shortly.

We'll circle back to this region for sure, and next time we'll plan to stay longer. There are still so many roads of the Great Smoky Mountains left unexplored.


  1. Do you use a GoPro? Great pics.

  2. Not at this time. The camera he's been working with lately is a Nikon 360, which offers a 360 degree view. The watcher can change the angle and therefore ride it backwards, and look up and down, it's fun, but it's also tricky to get good footage.

  3. Glad you found the problem so the rides can go as planned.