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My First Tail of the Dragon Trip

Today I was getting a bit nostalgic, remembering the first big trip I had ever done – which as it turns out was on my Goldwing. When I say big trip, I mean multiple days. It was a trip down to the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap in North Carolina/Tennessee. When just taking the highway with no interesting scenery or detours, it would have been a straight shot at eight and a half hours and 540 miles. However, if you ride motorcycles you know, a big part of the adventure with a predetermined destination is the journey.

Beautiful Mountains
The Mountains are Beautiful

So… instead of the boring highway, I rode through the mountains making the trip take a total of three days to arrive at destination. Skyline drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are worth a trip in and of themselves with amazing scenery and gorgeous roads for a motorcycle. I would advise against riding these roads at night because of the wild life – especially black bears. You hear about motorcycle collisions with deer often, and they usually cause quite a bit of damage. Imagine hitting a black bear.

Skyline Drive - Black Bears
Skyline Drive – Black Bears

This trip took place in 2013, back when I wasn’t as picky about ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). When we got there it was soaring near 100 degrees with humidity around 95%. It was hot. Super hot. When riding down, I wore just a long sleeve shirt, mostly to protect my skin from the sun, and blue jeans. While riding the dragon I wore my riding jacket, but still just regular blue jeans. Today I would not do that – I would wear my riding pants, my riding boots (I wore just regular boots) and my riding jacket, and always a helmet.

Tail of the Dragon - post turn
Tail of the Dragon – Post Turn

If you are unfamiliar with the Tail of the Dragon, it is a road with a bunch of turns, 318 in 11 miles to be exact. The turns range from gentle and subtle to hairpin and switchbacks, making this a motorcycle riders dream of a road. Once you get past the other passenger vehicles and semi-trucks it is quite fun. Just make sure to ride to your ability, as it is easy to get carried away and then you will be adding your parts to the tree of shame.

The Tree of Shame

That’s right. The Tree of Shame which holds bike parts from all the unfortunate riders who lost control of their motorcycles while riding the dragon. It is an impressive site to see in person, but it will humble you quite quickly. Fortunately for me, I only scraped off a chunk of my highway pegs and even grinding a metal belly guard on my Goldwing.

Injuries from the Dragon
Injuries from the Dragon

This occurred when I took a turn a bit faster than I should and came in hot, but I held and didn’t lose control. In hindsight I probably should have adjusted my preloads, but overall this wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t embarrassing like when I attempted to make a sharp u-turn on an up hill slope attempting to go back to a spot to get a picture of a sunset. I unfortunately didn’t get that picture.

A nice thing about the dragon is there are companies like 129Slayer taking pictures of every bike that passes. When you get home from your trip you can go to their site and pull up your images and purchase them. It’s awesome.

All said and done – I’m itching to go back on my Ninja 1000SX. It can lean a lot more and would be a heck of a fun bike to take on the dragon.

Tail of the Dragon
Tail of the Dragon

Ride safe and keep the shiny side up.

I have a short YouTube video of part of the dragon. We mounted the GoPro on my buddy’s bike.