Clarksville, Tn — I just returned from an amazing weekend in one of the most spectacular places on earth, the Smoky Mountains. There’s not a biker on the planet who either hasn’t been there, or has it on their bucket list.
Does the Tail of the Dragon ring a bell?
I was asked to join a friend on this trip, Jay Christopher, who is a local firefighter and a very experienced biker. I jumped at the opportunity, as he and I both love to ride, and ride, and ride, taking very little time for anything else. Cheap hotels, good food, a good night’s sleep, then up and at ’em bright and early.
We left early Friday morning and FLEW up I-40 to our destination. After a quick lunch, we checked into our hotel, then we were off. We spent the rest of the afternoon up in the mountains. Our destination was the Devil’s Triangle.
The Devil’s Triangle is just north of Oak Ridge Tennessee in the Cumberland Plateau. Best known for its unusual layout of two lane roads. It’s also known for the Brushy Mountain State Prison. James Earl Ray it’s most famous prisoner. The prison is closed now, but you can still see what remains.
The Triangle is a 44 mile loop that includes Tn 62, Tn 116 and Tn 330. This is NOT a ride for the beginner, because it features tight twisties, deep rock strewn gullies just off the pavement, steep drop offs and little room for error.
I rode the Devil’s Triangle earlier this year for the first time, and I was pleased at how my skills have improved since then. My confidence is higher now, and the “intimidation” factor wasn’t as great. It’s a BEAUTIFUL ride. Some say they like it better than the Tail of the Dragon.
Saturday morning, we met up with Jay’s brother, Roy, and we were off again.
The highlight of the day was making our way to the Dragon. When we arrived, the mountain was covered with bikers, sports car enthusiasts, crotch rockets and anyone who likes a driving challenge.
We pulled into Deal’s Gap for a quick breather before hitting the Tail.
I spoke with a father and his son from Alabama, who had just arrived for the week. They were so excited, and I thought, “what a blessing” to spend that time with your son, doing something you both love. They were staying at the Deal’s Gap Inn.
It was about 12:30 when we hit the Dragon, and the mountain was SOLD OUT! Lot’s of traffic, including some who appeared to really have no business up there, but we managed. I mean, you really shouldn’t be in a big hurry when riding the Dragon anyway.
One of my favorite parts of the day was the Foothills Parkway. I really loved that stretch because it’s a more “laid back” section of the mountains. A time to relax a little after the adrenaline rush of the Dragon.
Sunday, Jay and I took off for another trip through the Dragon, and were greeted by a near tragedy. When we entered the Tail of the Dragon, we were greeted by a chaotic scene. A biker had slid off the road and down the embankment. As we approached, we asked if they needed any help, and the rider himself said “I’m ok, just a little embarrassed.”
After we finished the Dragon, we took a break at the landing area, then we were off to the Cherohala Skyway or as some refer to it, “The Million Dollar Highway.”
As we ascended up the Skyway, we ran into a thick fog and our visibility was about 20 feet. Quite the “white knuckler” for a while, but it was so refreshing and cool. There wasn’t a lot of traffic at that time of the morning, so we had more room to ride and it was amazing.
After a quick lunch in Tellico Plains, we headed for home.
We stayed on the back roads for most of the return trip, traveling Tn 68, 58, then Tn 70. I got a real “baptism” of sorts as I had to put on the rain suit for the showers we would have the rest of the way home. I’m not an experienced rain rider, so this was a new experience for me.
It wasn’t that big of a deal, really, and I was quite proud of myself. That is until another biker passed me on the interstate in a driving rain, with no windshield, and just a pair of goggles.
I want to be like him when I grow up.
All in all, a trip to the Smoky Mountains is a must. Whether you’re camping, or renting a lodge, or a cabin, or just “shacking up” in one of the hotels, you just can’t beat the scenery. White water rafting, canoeing, hiking, or just riding your ten speed, its a wonderful experience.
But for bikers, it never get’s old riding in God’s country. The people are friendly, the atmosphere is amazing and the views are SPECTACULAR!
If you haven’t been, you need to go. If you HAVE been, then you know how I feel at this moment!