Tail of the Dragon

Mar 04, 2013 View Comments by

Tail of the Dragon“Hey Nick, you are getting really low on that bike. Let me get a picture of you dipping into a turn.” I set up at a corner where my friend Nick just scraped the pegs on his rented KLR. This should be a good spot I think. I have one eye on the viewfinder of my camera and the other on Nick coming up on the corner. Right as he dips the bike down to the lowest point, I hit the shutter and breathe. (I always hold my breath while shooting.) It is only then that I notice the cop rounding the corner. I look at the photo on the camera and let out a chuckle. It’s perfect.

This is U.S. 129 in North Carolina, or, as it’s more commonly known, “The Tail of the Dragon.” An eleven-mile section of this road starts at Deals Gap, NC and takes you into Tennessee by the means of 318 turns. It’s the number one motorcycle road in America; at least that’s what the guys over at www.tailofthedragon.com will tell you. I’m not sure if they are right simply because of the traffic. I have ridden some stuff in Kentucky that has virtually the same amount of twisties, but with no traffic at all. However, this road is awesome, so people come from all over America just to ride this eleven-mile stretch. It’s not all motorcycles here either. The day we rode it, a convoy of original Mini Coopers rolled through slowing down all the people like Nick and I. This can be fun too, just buzzing through the turns looking for the slim places to sneak in a pass. The road is so tight that smaller bikes like a KLR650 or my Husky TE610 are actually faster than the big bikes. There is nothing more fun than passing a crotch rocket on your dual sport bike loaded up with camping gear.

As you can imagine, this is the kind of road and atmosphere that just screams “hooligan.”  Cops are there to keep it safe, and the bikers have developed a nice warning system for the other riders. The riders will tap on the top of their helmets to let you know that they just passed a cop. Luckily, this road is so tight that people don’t get much above 50 mph even in a short straight, but that is still well above the 30 mph speed limit. All in all, it’s definitely worth the drive to ride this iconic road, and if you don’t have a friend with a good shutter finger, there are guys like www.killboy.com and www.us129photos.com that hang out at the famous corners. They shoot everybody and when you get home you can look yourself up online and buy the photo from them, but there are no guarantees of scraping pegs in front of a cop like the photo above. That was just meant to be. “Nice dip Nick.”

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About the author

Commercial fisherman to pay the bills. Adventure Rider for the smile on my face. Documenting it all as proof that anyone can live this dream.