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TomJefferson

Dragon Tales Yesterday

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The weather here in the Smoky Mountains has been simply fantastic this Labor Day Weekend so there's countless motorcycles running the twisties.

 

Yesterday, I had a BBQ to go to but wanted to get a patch sewn on a vest so I hopped on my bike and did a quick run out to the Dragon Harley to see Bert the patch guy. On the way out, I followed a wrecker. The wrecker stops at the hairpin before Rt 72 and there's a crotch rocket, oh man, it just looked like a pile of molten plastic and metal. There by the bike was the guys clothes, full set of leathers, shirt, pants, underwear, all cut right down one side by paramedics and opened like a zip lock baggie. I get to Dragon Harley and the rumor was the rider is toast. That is where the life flight landing pad is and the ambulance not only didn't stop but went by with no lights on. He apparently was riding in a pack, saw those guys, of sports bikes and lost it in the curve crashing into the guard rail.

 

While I'm getting my patch sewn and BSing with my friends that work there, My retired deputy buddy rides up on his Soft Tail. I thought he was doing the Blueridge. I invite him to the BBQ and we leave me in the lead. We hit this 90 degree turn and I'm watching him in my mirror. As he comes out of the turn, he's right on the white side line and then like magic, he just disappears. I think "Oh God", make it to the first side road and turn around. Sure enough, by the time I get back to the curve, there's a crowd, a truck and about six motorcycles. My friend had went into a 4' ditch, I'm talking down there. He was quite shaken and a bit disoriented but basically OK and because he wasn't going that fast, despite the bike digging a nice forrough, the bike was OK. A bunch of folks pushed that 700 lb bike right out of there.

 

He gets on and we stop at the church to make sure him and the bike are OK. He basically told me that just as he turned the curve a giant bug caught him in the eye and his eyes instantly watered. He wears prescription glasses so no side shields. He said the bug dive bombed him, came right down behind his windshield. He went on to the BBQ with me. I'll have to check on him this morning.

 

Beautiful perfect bike weather but I don't know guys. My 1 hour trip that turned into three is kind got me second thinking. Its weekends like this the mountains packed with motorcycles that shat happens especially on the Dragon. Just the short time I was at the Dragon Harley, I talked to people from four states the farthest away Texas. Its packed this weekend.

 

Tj

 

 

PS, I forgot. The state police were called which is how it works when there is a fatal accident.

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Yeah, I would only ride it during low traffic times.

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Glad your friend was not hurt. I hate driving with holiday traffic. The drive to my property has a 40 mile section that follows a river through a canyon. I have been driving that road for 35 years in both cars and logging/ tanker tucks. I know the road well and can outrun the best of them. My Chevy pickup with a 5k goose neck trailer and 8.5k Caterpillar will scoot through that section fast enough to beat up most drivers.

 

The start of this section of road is after a 4 mile 6% hill climb. Today on the way home with the dozer I was keeping up with a line of cars on that hill pulling it at 55 mph weighing in at near 21K total. The lead car was doing the speed limit and everyone else except for the first three cars behind the leader wanted to go faster. Sure enough the front cars would not pulled over to let the line of traffic go by. Every new car that came up behind me thought I was the slow one and they would bust their ass to get around me sometimes on blind corners over double yellows. After the first near miss I started to pull over when anyone got behind me. It did not take long for each one to realize I was not the issue. By the time we got half way through some stray dog was in the road on a blind curve and the whole line of cars came to a stop on the highway. The guy that I had just let around me was puckered up when I came around the corner as he thought I was going to plow him....he headed for the ditch but my Chevy and load were dialed in and I stopped with no trouble. "Lucky" the dog got out of the way before anyone came up behind me. By the time we got out of the canyon there were 30 cars lined up behind the leader.

 

I can't stand selfish drivers that never get out of the way for faster traffic. In situations like todayIf I can't be in the lead out running everyone I want to be the last in line. I pulled over at least seven times and never lost sight of the pack. I don't mind when people run the speed limit but when your holding up a line of cars a mile long you need to get off the road. Way too many stupid moves with folks thinking they are one car away from getting ahead when in reality they have 30 to pass.

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Many years ago, I totally screwed a vehicle up avoiding an animal. Damn near killed me and the girl I was with. I haven't done that since. I'll avoid them if I can safely but if I can't, its thump thump.

 

One thing nice about where I ride motorcycles here in the mountains, is there are pull overs everywhere. The serve two purposes really. They're a nice scenic view but also places to level traffic flow, pull off if you are obviously holding up traffic or pull off to allow somebody moving slow to get a good lead. People are actually pretty good about pulling over to let motorcycles by.

 

I did get out, this time on the Harley, yesterday. I figured most of the tourist would be heading home. Traffic was light. I figure good call on Sunday. My friends who own a hotdog business told me they sold out on Sunday it was crowded.

 

I haven't seen the stats on how many bit the dust this weekend. A few years back the governor tried to shut it down claiming insurance cost with a major police presence, road blocks even tickets for waving . The area gets a lot of tourist dollars from the Dragon so reporting is sporadic these days. Its so busy these days, we just assume someone is going to crash on the weekend or I should say multiple crashes. Us locals really don't run the 318 curves unless we have to. Unfortunately, we only three ways through the mountains south of I40, we often have to because its the shortest way from paint A to point B. Bring local, we know every curve and its not the curves that worry us but the inexperienced people. Man, I see flat land tags on a bike, I cringe. People just don't expect hairpins that tight. Its not an easy ride like the Blueridge even if you take it slow.

 

I'll be lucky to get a late evening run this week The damn hot humid temperatures are coming back, upper 90's and over 40%. It cooks you and your bike.

 

Tj

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I'm sure the Dragon will be crowded this weekend. It seems to be the first dry-spell we've had in a while.

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I'm sure the Dragon will be crowded this weekend. It seems to be the first dry-spell we've had in a while.

Not too bad, its still going to be a little cold and all the seasonal business' are still closed.

 

End of May is going to be really bad. The HOG rally is back and Memorial Day weekend might as well call it "Dead Guy on the Dragon Weekend." Personally have seen two people have accidents that they died on Memorial Day Weekend. One guy drove his Honda Trike right into the mountain and the other a kid on a crotch rocket just lost it on a curve. BTW, We can always tell. If the ambulance goes in lights going and comes out no lights, they're dead.

 

My nightly circle is 321 to the Marathon picnic tabes, cross the Foothills to the Dragon's tail, stop at the Dragon Harley to talk to Owen and Monica at the hotdog cart and Bert the patch guy, then buzz 129 back home. Sometimes Ill stop and say "hey" to the gravel pit crew. From my house, the round trip is 47 miles so a nice little quick get away daily circle.

 

I really only do the Dragon these days when I do the Skyway because its the fastest way back home without back tracking.

 

BTW, Everything i"m hearing we're in for a great concert season at "The Shed". Nice day that, do the Skyway come back the Dragon or vice versa and end the afternoon at the Shed listening to a band, a cold beer, BBQ, and going "Holy cow" at the half naked fat tatto girls. There are a few knock your eyes out too.

 

Tj

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BTW, Some of the stories you hear out there blow your mind. One guy on a stolen motorcycle lost it just below Chillohowee Dam and didn't find his body for days when he was stinking. Another guy lost it on 129, two mowers were moving one behind the other and the first one clipped the bodies leg off hitting the second guy in the head with a leg. Last season a guy from TX if I remember right was with a group. Lost it on the Dragon and went over the mountain. His staying on the NC side left and didn't realize he was missing til they got home. Searchers found him down the mountain. They say injured as hell he tried to crawl up the mountain to only run into massive bees and then not knowing down the mountain leads to nowhere crawled down the mountain where they found his body. Its so bad, Life Flight has a marked out landing pad. Its across from the Dragon Harley shop. Rescue on weekends hand out down behind Calderwood Dam, they haul them out, and by the time they get to the Dragon Harley the helicopter is waiting for them and LEOs have blocked off the boat ramp. Yes, I"m there a lot. I really enjoy the Foothills, nice ride, 50 mph sloping curves with a tight lean, great scenery, and nice pull offs.

 

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Tj

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Too bad a huge percentage of the Harley riders on the Dragon etc... won’t use the pull overs to let faster cars go by either.
They all think they are riding so fast lol, we call em rolling speed bumps and good Christ the three wheeled ones are mobility scooters and don’t, can’t stay in their own lanes.
They should just make it all one way only and sell tickets.


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The dragon was probably half crowded when we rode it. But even that was too many. 

 

I was disappointed by it. Too many slow sharp turns. Not enough sweeping turns which are more fun. 

 

When we did some mountain roads in New Mexico they had many long sweeping curves with a scenic view and very little traffic. That was awesome. 

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22 hours ago, Casper said:

The dragon was probably half crowded when we rode it. But even that was too many. 

 

I was disappointed by it. Too many slow sharp turns. Not enough sweeping turns which are more fun. 

 

When we did some mountain roads in New Mexico they had many long sweeping curves with a scenic view and very little traffic. That was awesome. 

I can only see your point if you ride a cruiser. For knee draggers what you're complaining about is what makes it fun!

It reminds me of the t-shirts they sell at the store there. Sport bike riders buy shirts that say "Put your bones on the line", while cruiser riders buy the ones that say "I survived".

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I can only see your point if you ride a cruiser. For knee draggers what you're complaining about is what makes it fun!
It reminds me of the t-shirts they sell at the store there. Sport bike riders buy shirts that say "Put your bones on the line", while cruiser riders buy the ones that say "I survived".



Perhaps for the 1% of sport bike riders at the dragon who are actually better than just competent riders. Most of those guys still fall into the same camp as the cruiser riders. Over their heads or slowing someone else down.
Most of the sport bike guys I saw didn’t seem to understand that keeping your head and shoulders on your side of the center line is as important as keeping your bike/car on your side of the center line.
The fastest bikes I personally saw that would actually pass or we’d pull over for and would continue to pull on us were the Super Motards. Most of the sport bike riders were still parking it in the corners and using sport bike acceleration on the short straights for any gains.
The dragon is fun before the crowds arrive and after they have left but there are tons of other good roads down there for whatever type of riding/driving you want to do that I found way more enjoyable.

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Saw this cloud on the way to the Dragon, it seemed fitting.
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Another death on the Dragon yesterday.  GA man, 73, over the side.    I've personally seen two fatalities this season.  I fear we've had a record year. Its not a good record to have really. 

 

The reason why this is so popular a motorcycle area and people come here literally from all over the world isn't just the Dragon.  Its there's enough good motorcycle roads you can't do them all in a week, more motorcycle related business' and event than you can count, and literally 1,000s of people on bikes any given weekend.  There's a mini-Sturgis every weekend.  Unlike say a Sturgis, this area is way more open to riders no matter what type of bike or lifestyle you embrace. 

 

The Foothills final segment opens Nov. 11.  Veterans Day.  That will double the Foothills length so it will now rival the Skyway. 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Longhair said:

I can only see your point if you ride a cruiser. For knee draggers what you're complaining about is what makes it fun!

It reminds me of the t-shirts they sell at the store there. Sport bike riders buy shirts that say "Put your bones on the line", while cruiser riders buy the ones that say "I survived".

True. I was on an Ultra Classic. And we plan routes to avoid traffic.  But hauling butt on a crotch rocket with that many people in front of you throughout the entire route just seems frustrating. Every corner you hit there's another vehicle in your way. 

 

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