Slaying the Dragon at Deal's Gap - Hwy 129

This was a grand six day road trip:
  • Two days from to North Carolina.
  • Two days on the Dragon.
  • Two days on the way back.
For Pete it was an eight day trip, including a day each way from/to Denver.

The goal was to ride the dragon. Highway 129 from Tennessee to North Carolina.
The Tail ends at Deals Gap but the Dragon continues well into North Carolina.
We also wanted to do the Cherohala Skyway and other curvy roads.


We rode hwy 50 East, then 13 South to Springfield, then 65 South to
Arkansas, got on highway 14 (a great road for motorcycles)
and rode to Marion, just NorthWest of Memphis.

I had to pull the windshield off after an hour. The head buffeting was making me sick.
It rode the rest of the trip strapped on top of my bags.

We stopped at a state park for lunch.
There was no rain at all, and was a great day.

Begin the trip! Takeoff Thursday morning, 7am.
Bill on a H-D Sportster 1200C and Pete on a Suzuki SV650. Neither is a touring bike, but they did alright.

Here is what the Sportster had:
- Boss Bags saddlebags loaded with rain suit, gloves, and overboots, tools, fuzes, air compressor,
spare tire tube, tire plugging kit, Slime, 2 quarts of oil, voltmeter, wire, connectors, duct tape,
zip ties, electrical tape, more tools, spare footpeg and shifter peg, and so on.

- Tail bag with cold weather gear including fleece vest, electrical gloves, socks, and jacket liner. Misc stuff.

- H-D rollerbag suitcase with clothes, toiletries, battery chargers, Tylenol, GasX, etc.

- Coretek mini tank bag with lots of stuff including Tylenol, eye drops, goggles, sunscreen, throat drops,
batteries, maps, gum, chapstick, etc.

- Small leather tank bag below the Coretek with my IPod.

- Handlebar bag with stuff I don't need, license plate bag with spark plugs, Loctite, anti-sieze.

- AirHawk seat cushion. Alaska leather sheepskins.

- Lindby bar engine guard with Kuryakyn Switchblades

Pete tooling down the road to Arkansas

Bull Shoals lake near Diamond Hill in Arkansas for lunch

Spent Thursday night in Marion Arkansas (NorthWest of Memphis a couple of miles)

No Photos because it rained on and off all day.

We rode East on I-40 through Memphis, then Nashville, then almost to Knoxville.

Pete's speedometer stopped working near Nashville. We ate lunch at a gas station,
while Pete called Meg at home and got her to look up Suzuki dealers along our route.

Sunlight broke out over Maryville, TN and we traveled down "The Dragon" to Robbinsville.

I dropped my bike in Maryville in a very slow-motion fall, when I stopped at a traffic light, and
the strap on my boot covers caught on the footpeg preventing me from putting my foot down.
Picked it up using the MSF method, no damage, and rode off.

We went to the Suzuki dealer to see if they could fix Pete's speedometer - no such luck.

However, highway 28 was so much fun we rode it each day. No bad motorcycle roads in North Carolina I guess.

Had lunch at a small restaurant with the surliest wait staff in North Carolina.

Then we rode the Cherohala Skyway with on and off rain, and rode down the Dragon again.

the Cherohala Skyway at just over 3000 feet

the Cherohala Skyway

the Cherohala Skyway

the Cherohala Skyway

the Cherohala Skyway

Pete suiting up with warmer clothes, at just over 5000 feet
on the Cherohala Skyway with a Harley group

Just over 5000 feet on the Cherohala Skyway with a Harley group


©Southern Images
And finally another run down the Dragon's Tail, headed to the motel in Robbinsville after buying a dragon helmet.
( Awfully close to that yellow line of death, Bill ! )


We rode up and down the Dragon early in the morning so we could have the place to ourselves.

Then we had breakfast at the motorcycle "resort" at Deal's Gap, shopped a bit.

Then we rode the dragon some more, and stopped to watch the world race by. Posted speed limit
is 30 MPH. I went from 25 to 35. I got passed by a Hyabusa going at least 70 MPH in the smaller
S-curves. It was pretty to watch, but nothing I would want to do. I stopped wearing earplugs on
the Dragon so I could hear "them" coming up behind me.

There were some wrecks, including one where an SUV clipped a bike and they stopped just around a
curve. Two sport bikers came screaming around the curve, saw the stopped vehicles, locked up their
brakes, fell, and went over the edge a bit. I was coming around another curve, and was waved down
by some folks who were spreading sand over some oil near the edge and sweeping it away. Another crash.

After grinding the corners of both footpegs, the front muffler, the bolts holding the muffler, and the
kickstand and bracket, I learned to really lean into the corners with my upper body and push the bike
more upright to avoid most of the grinding, and still be able to turn. Not quite hanging off the bike,
like the sportbike riders. I think a Buell Ulysses would make a better bike for this sort of riding.
Anyone want to trade?

Then we went for a long ride away from the area, taking back roads, including Hwy 28 again, and back
to the San-Ran motel.

View from the top of "The Dragon" early in the morning

View from the top of "The Dragon" early in the morning

Bill and Pete at Deal's Gap at the bottom of the Tail of the Dragon, just inside North Carolina. Population 6

Early Morning crowd at Deal's Gap

The "Tree of Shame" with pieces of bikes that got "bit" by the Dragon.

Follow the leader

Hmmmm..... Tow your own wine barrel wherever you go....

Touch that knee and it'll leave a mark...

A tad over the line....

Bill and the fuzzy green dragon go round the bend

Pete leans left       ©Southern Images

Bill heads into a curve. Fuzzy dragon clings to the handlebars.

Pete leans right (Bill is at the top of the photo)




See Bill lean. See Pete lean. Lean, lean, lean. Everybody leans. You should lean, too.

The pause that refreshes...

Howdy there......



Rain      ©

Sunset over the water      ©

The dam at daytime      ©

The dam at night      ©

We left in the dark of the morning, after replacing a running light. It was pretty
spooky going up the Dragon and not being able to see around the corners. You could
see in bright contrast the skid marks of cars and bikes going off the road and
into the mountain, or over the edge. I hadn't noticed them before, and it really
drew my eyes. And, whatever you are looking at, that is where your bike wants to go.
Yikes ! I don't think I went faster than 25 MPH. (Posted speed limit is 30 MPH)

We rode US 129, 411, 132 to Maryville, and then to I-40 to Nashville. Then I-24 towards
Paducah and cut West through the Land between the Lakes, and then NorthWest to Cape Girardeau, MO.

Some rain, and an 18-wheeler sponsored tidal wave over Bill.

Pete's speedometer started working near Nashville. The Sportster took a rock to the headlight
that made spiral cracks in the glass. Very weird day.

Rode through "The Land between the Lakes" SE of Paducah, over bridges and through parks.

Spent the night in Cape Girardeau, MO


North through Taos, MO and other towns to Hwy 50, and then home.

The center of the Sportster's headlight fell out, so I called a dealer near home
and had them hold one for me to pick up on the way. ( I ordered some protective
headlight film from Griot's Garage when I got home. )


Pete went back to Colorado.
2,250 to 2,500 miles for me. Add 1,300 for Pete.

End of the journey for Bill, though Pete still has over 600 miles to go.

Only casualty was an $85 headlight.
And Pete's Speedometer

The gas tank is sporting a new image.