I'm lucky; I have a career that includes motorcycles as a large part of my work. Sure there are other aspects and responsibilities but deep down inside I, and more than 200 Army, Navy, and Marine Traffic Safety Program instructors, harbor deep satisfaction of knowing we ride motorcycles as part of our jobs. The greatest part of the work I do, is working for the men and woman of the American Armed Forces, and helping them learn safety on roadways, while in a car or on a motorcycle. The next best things are the vacations.
About two years ago I was fortunate enough to be part of an implementation team on assignment in Germany. While in Germany, I was invited to a guided motorcycle tour through Germany's Black Forrest. The tour in itself was more fun than, well--you fill in the blanks--and to make this ride sweeter, my fellow motorcyclists and I were offered a choice of the Benelli Tornado, KTM Duke or Super Duke, or a Moto Morini. The memories of that ride stayed fresh in my mind, and I can still recall the little roadside café we stopped at for lunch. Then last summer a friend of mine invited me to ride US 129, the famous--or infamous--Tail of the Dragon at Deal Gap. I was hooked before I reached the Overlook stop on the Tennessee side.
My friend Doug had made accommodations in nearby Robbinsville, NC. Our first night stay was in the SanRan Inn--comfortable accommodations and the owners are very friendly. The rest of the week we stayed at the Two Wheel Inn; a great place for a motorcycle layover, but the accommodations are not designed for hanging out at the lodge, so you better plan on riding most of the time. Each room has an attached private motorcycle garage, and I assure you that your bike will have equal accommodations.
US 129 holds a mystique for many riders attracting neophytes and seasoned enthusiasts alike; however, many experiences are available that are not part of the 318 curves that make the Tail of the Dragon. Other routes and scenic by-ways offer the traveler a motorcycle friendly excursion. The communities surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park do a good job at attracting and welcoming visitors. There are plenty of attractions, and accommodations to keep motorcyclists and non-riders busy. Located near Robbinsville, on US 129, is Wheelers Performance motorcycle Shop and Repairs. From what I could tell, the shop does a good job of keeping motorcycles running well, and if you wear out tires like I did, you can have your steed shod by Wheelers.
Once you ride the Dragon a few times, make a point to ride the other routes too. I recommend the Cherohala Skyway, a 41 mile roadway that ascends to 5,390 feet from 860 feet. There are many other routes, and I suggest you visit www.tailoftheDragon.com for route ideas. As with any adventure, you'll have to get the T-shirt, and the best place to buy a "Tail" souvenir is at the Deal's Gap motorcycle resort. www.dealsgap.com
Before you plan your trip, keep safety foremost in your mind. The Dragon has 318 turns, and most are very technical. If you or your bike are not experienced in tight turn radii--take it easy and enjoy the ride. The key to a great vacation is getting home safely, and sharing your wonderful memories with friends and family.
Be safe, ride safely--for the ones you love most.