Riding the Tail of the Dragon.
I took a solo trip up to the Deal's Gap area of North Carolina to ride a section of US129 known as The Tail of the Dragon, The Dragon's Tail or simply The Dragon depending on which store is selling t-shirts. It is a mecca for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts because it has an 11 mile stretch that contains 318 curves with no side roads or driveways to worry about. As you can imagine, many people see how fast they can run this without getting busted by the ever present police. Other than a driver losing control in a corner or coming up on another vehicle that is going much slower, the biggest danger is the oncoming traffic. Tractor trailer trucks are the biggest problem as they can dangerously block corners. The oncoming lane crossers are another hazard to watch out for.
I rented a cabin for a night in nearby Robbinsville that worked out well. http://www.dragonsrestcabins.com/ Each one room cabin has it's own covered parking and a queen bed along with a set of bunk beds. The one room was big enough that if someone had ridden with me it would have been fine. The only drawbacks were the lack of wi-fi signal in my room due to a damaged router and a busted TV remote. Also, the water heater is a little small so I would have to significantly shorten my shower if someone was joining me.
There are some fantastic riders along with some first timers like myself. I did the full run 3 times and was amazed and how much I learned and improved. By no means am I ripping ass through these turns like some people do and I think I realize my current limitations. Unfortunately on my first day someone got too exuberant and made a very poor decision that cost him his life. He was only about 20 minutes in front of me so I came across the scene of onlookers before the police or ambulance arrived. I didn't realize how severe it was at the time and found out the next day while in one of the gift shops. Apparently, he did a quick pass on the left, got back in his lane and didn't have enough time to slow down before a hard left turn approached. He locked up the back wheel and flew straight ahead and in to a tree while going down the side. While talking to the guy at the gift shop, he also told me that a girl had flipped her Miata sometime in the evening as well but survived. I remember her on my tail for my very first run on the previous afternoon. She was very aggressive and I assumed she knew what she was doing and pulled to the side at the first opportunity. Apparently, she was driving similar to that later in the night and rolled in to a ditch but he said she was OK.
One of the cool things about riding the route is they have photographers set up and take very high quality pictures of your ride along different points. Here is a link to some action shots of my weekend on the Tail of the Dragon.
As fun as the Dragon was, I enjoyed the Cherohala Skyway much more. It is a longer, well maintained road with big sweepers, great views and 3000ft of elevation changes. It stretches 37 miles from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC and reaches an altitude of 5390ft. It makes for a longer trip from Atlanta but still easy to make it to Deal's Gap in one day.
I plan on making more trips up to area for many years to come and hopefully the weather will be as great as it was for this trip. Maybe next time I can get some buddies to schedule time so we can do it as a group.