2012 Tail of the Dragon and Beyond

This 2012 tour saw the three amigos depart London, Ontario on the morning of May 20th.  It was a beautiful day of riding on I75 with an unexpected detour just short of Knoxville because a section of I75 decided it would rather occupy space in the bottom of an adjacent ravine. As exciting as this was for the section of the highway involved it was less than desirable for anyone wanting to get to Knoxville, pretty inconsiderate of the highway I think.

We stayed just north of Knoxville in Lake City the first night as this was to be our launching point for the “Devil’s Triangle” the morning of day two.


Day 2 we rode the Devil’s Triangle and south through Oakridge Tennessee and onward to the Tail of the Dragon. It was the perfect time of year. A wonderful blend of sunny skies and lack of smokey presents on the Tail. None of us had any notion of doing our best Isle of Man impression but the posted speed limit…..on a motorcycle…..on the Tail of the Dragon…..seriously!

From there we made our way south and then west along the Cherohala Skyway looping around south at Tellico Plains and eventually east before stopping for the night in Murphy.

On the advice of the motel clerk we took the short (apparently the clerk has distance issues) walk to this little spot. Awesome! On the walk back we stopped at the gas bar/ variety store next door and made a purchase of liquid refreshments with which to toast the success of the trip thus far.


Day 3 we rode back north along a section of Moonshiners Run and the Tail of the Dragon in reverse (and then some). We carried on from there back toward Knoxville but bearing to the east we took the Foothills Parkway and found ourselves by that evening in Gatlinburg or what I like to refer to as Niagara of the south.


Here on the right you’ll note the entrance to this little strip mall off the south west side of the street where we were delighted to find a moonshine outlet where you could actually sample the many flavours that presently defining this libation, Marin “Popcorn” Sutton would roll over in his grave, because everyone knows real moonshine has one flavour, “cough, cough sputter, holy crap!”

We tried a couple of the flavoured samples but then insisted on a sample of the punch in the guts stuff. Whoooooeee! it does have a bit of a punch. I’ll stick with Scotch. Would loved to have been able to fit a bottle somewhere to bring home. Alas one of the coms to motorcycle travel sometimes.

We left here the next morning and went south up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee and then east.

We followed the parkway most of the day. We donned our rain gear early thinking it looked like rain but shed it near Asheville as the sun made an appearance. Notice I said appearance, it was short lived. This is the second time I have been on the parkway and other than the beautiful twisty roads I still have yet to see the wonderful scenery because once again it was overcast and eventually raining.

Now the rain, that is a curious story. One moment I am riding along the road under a canopy of beautifully lush trees, with the occasional glimpse of a rock face to my left and shear drop off to my right, looking at the sky overhead thinking “hey we might just be OK.” Then suddenly,  the road executes this extraordinary 180 turn around the end of a rock outcropping and we are instantly heading in the opposite direction and the view overhead was remarkably different, within a minute a downpour . Now if you are familiar with the parkway then you know a downpour here redefines the amount of rain one would expect could possible drop from the sky at one time. The phrase falling in buckets doesn’t really do it justice. There was nowhere to pull over so the option that remained, however unpleasant,  was to get really wet and learned to love it so I rode on.

It was moments later I notice that the other two amigos were no longer behind me but with all the twists and turns they could be just a few seconds behind me and it would be hard to know. With no place to pull over I carried on to a point where the trees opened up along a ridge in the mountains and a strategically positioned tourist information building beside the roadway. I dismounted and sought cover under the overhang of the building to take inventory of current level of saturation, turns out it was considerable. I looked back down the road for my partners…..5 minutes….10 minutes….. clearly they had noticed a spot to pull over that I had not.  About 15 minutes later they pulled it, dismounted and one walked right by me and into the men’s room . The other brought me up to speed on their activities in the past 15 minutes of our journey. Apparently they had astutely observed a pull out for a picnic area and surmising that such an area must come complete with shelter and not be too far off the roadway they elected to check it out. Well they were wrong on both counts but dismounted their bikes nonetheless to see if there was anything that could be done to prevent from getting any wetter than they were. It was at this point the other rider, who shall only be identified cryptically as JR, peeled of his leather gloves and caught up in the excitement of the moment, balled them up and fired them through the trees and over the edge of a cliff. Highly therapeutic he would later share with me as they would no longer serve much purpose as a comfy riding glove anyway.

We dried off as best we could and carried on through the rain taking in the Diamondback south out of Little Switzerland. This was enjoyable but would have been awesome under drier road conditions. A short section of highway by any definition but very nice and fairly recently repaved. We got separated somehow along this stretch of road, my fault entirely but with the miracle of the modern cell phone we got reunited in Boone for the evening.

IMG_0228 z3 amigos

The next morning we headed north out of Boone along 421 “The Snake” toward Shaddy Valley. We actually stayed on this road all day as it weaved through the countryside all the way back to Richmond, Kentucky. This was an amazing stretch of road but a very long day. A must if in the area. By the end of this day we were praying for straight road.


The last day was spent on I75 north and the push home.

Great company, incredible route, awesome trip!


Enjoy the video and soon I hope to post the map of the route.

Remember, ride far, ride responsibly fast (if that’s your thing) but most of all RIDE!   


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