Named one of the top 20 driving roads in the world by multiple magazines and motorsport authorities, a tucked away road known as “The Dragon” or “the Gap” (to locals) draws bikers and sports car drivers the world over. In just 11 miles you will experience 318 turns. And when I say turns I’m not talking about a gentle sweeper – some of these are full on switchbacks. Driving through in a car will leave your forearms burning and your clutch leg feeling like rubber. Along with cars, bikes of all shapes and sizes can be found here. You’d be amazed who you might see there – from a pro AMA rider to maybe even an actor. In fact, Norman Reedus (Daryl from the Walking Dead) was recently there filming a new series.
The Dragon is tucked in the hills bordering Tennessee and North Carolina just west of the Great Smoky Mountains and taking the road for the full journey will have you traveling across state lines. The scenery is like none you have every witnessed in your life with it’s lakes, overlooks, cliffs, and greenery. Keep your eyes peeled because there is also a good chance you may spot some of the local wildlife, including: black bear, coyotes, turkey, and bobcat. You’ll honestly feel like the road is just icing on the cake.
Multiple photographers along the route like Killboy.com or US129photos.com assure that your ride will be captured along the way. All you need to do is visit their sites when you get back home, find your favorite shot and they will deliver it right to your door. But one absolute can’t miss spot along the way is Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. The store has a diner built right in so you can grab a cold drink along with a world class burger, or just a quick snack. Don’t forget to pick up a T shirt along with one of their one-of-a-kind dragon stickers as a badge of honor as proof you survived the trip. Also, at the resort is a very well known spot known as the Tree of Shame. You will find hundreds of bike parts hung from the tree acknowledging all the momentary lapses of concentration that resulted in a rider not keeping the rubber side down. Finally, if you’re just too beat to make the trip home, or if you want to shoot the gap a few more times, book a room at the motel. The rooms are affordable, super clean, and your bike can park right at your door.
A word of warning however. As Dragons go, this one can bite – and bite hard. The road isn’t for the novice or faint of heart. Too many riders find themselves riding above their ability level and can quickly end up in trouble. The folks at Deals Gap Motorcycle Result host a safety awareness day each year. There you can see posters and displays of both cars and bikes crashed due to carelessness. A couple simple rules of thumb: don’t ride above your comfort level, watch your speed, and most important – don’t cross the double yellow line. Each and every year dozens of fatalities are recorded by people that didn’t head those simple rules. However, it’s just a road, and a little common sense will guarantee that you have an experience of a lifetime. Being in my own back yard, I’ve been on this road dozens of times, both on a bike and in several cars. Make the trip – you’ll thank me for it!