My tale of the dragon

Did you know? Famous motorcycle route is a curvy affair
By Paul Viau | Sep 22, 2011
Photo by: Carol Viau THE DRAGON SLAYERS — Three more bikers conquered the Tail of the Dragon, Left to right, me (with my tail draggin’); Hal Eastburn of Winter Park, FL; and Doug Mercer of Palm Coast, FL)

I’m sure many of you have heard of Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort in Tennessee. As resorts go, it’s a bit lacking in amenities. But as a Mecca for bikers, Deals Gap is the real deal — the home base for the world-famous, twisty-turny stretch of state highway 129 called the Tail of the Dragon.

Now, I must confess that after more than three years here in this biker paradise, I still hadn’t ridden the Dragon.

Sadly, I’ve been too busy (excuse) to get Ruby (my candy-apple red Kawasaki Nomad) out that much. I guess I’ve always been a bit afraid of our mountain roads. And I don’t exactly look the part of a real biker.

In fact, when I get ready to ride, my wife calls my combination of jeans, T-shirt with skull-theme, patchy vest, boots and dew rag — my biker costume.

This is a throwback to the recent movie, “Wild Hogs,” where four suburban wannabe motorcycle riders hit the open road and tangle with a menacing New Mexican biker gang called the Del Fuegos.

To the Del Fuegos, these “Wild Hogs” (John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy) were “biker posers.” Ouch, that hurts, because I know how they feel.

Actually, I saw the movie on a rained-out day at Daytona Beach Biketoberfest four years ago, with one of my best friends, Doug Mercer. It just so happens that Doug recently rode into Waynesville with one of his long-time biker-buddies, Hal Eastburn. There were just three of us, but since there were no Del Fuegos in sight, we decided to conquer the Tail of the Dragon.

Did you know? — The Tail of the Dragon winds through both North Carolina and Tennessee. The 11-mile stretch in Tennessee has 318 curves.

Take it from me, while you are riding the Dragon there is never a time when you aren’t both negotiating one curve and setting up for another. It’s a real test of skill, although I have to admit that Hal, who took the lead, finished the ride and had time to dismount, shower, shave, change clothes and pose alongside his Honda Valkyrie, before Doug and I rounded the last curve.

Still, we all made it safely and had the time of our lives.

Other highlights of the day were Doug dropping his bike, while parking, at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Tennessee; Hal doing “the Queen’s wave” when our return visit took us on the 9/11 parade route in Pigeon Forge; and me accidentally leaving the group and getting lost. Since both Doug and Hal are retired educators, I had to write 25 times, “I am impatient. I should not have left the group.”

The following day, we rode more than 100 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway on a clear, sunny day with Carolina-blue sky.

Both Doug and Hal left WNC exclaiming, “You live in the best motorcycling area in the country.”

We already knew that. I’m going to pay much more attention to the bumper sticker in my den that says it all: "Screw it. Let’s ride!"