As Yogi Berra famously said, if you get to a fork in the road, take it.

My fork in the road came when a riding buddy hatched a weekend plot to fly into Atlanta, Georgia, rent a few bikes from Eaglerider, and tackle the Tail of the Dragon. So I took it.

Geographically speaking, the Tail of the Dragon is the name given by motor heads of all types and wheel configurations for Deals Gap, North Carolina and Tennessee. Route US 129 is a mountain pass that runs along the North Carolina-Tennessee state line and bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Allegedly, there are 318 curves in 11 miles. While connected with our two-way Scala headsets, I started counting them up while riding in front of Darth Nater: 1…2…3…4…before I got to double digits, Darth protested that this could become exceedingly annoying, which of course made me even more committed to get all the way to 318, but the attention required to navigate the corners soon broke my resolve. It wasn’t long after that point when the one-armed rider we saw at the Dragon sculpture went ripping around me on his super motard bike. I imagined that guy must have been some sort of local legend.

It would be a mistake to call this Mecca for motorcyclists. There was nothing spiritual, religious, or holy about it. In fact once it was done it was done, and we were not in the least bit compelled to go ride it again. The reason being, there were so many other great back roads to ride. Take the Cherohala Skyway, for example. A 43 mile National Scenic Byway that seemed almost engineered specifically for cruising on two-wheels. We took this from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to an opportune stop to check our maps in the shade of the long driveway to the Snowbird Mountain Lodge, in Robbinsville, North Carolina. We had originally planned to make it to Bryson City where we already had a motel reservation, but the sun was setting, our tummies were grumbling, and there seemed to be a magnetism pulling us up the driveway of the Snowbird Mountain Lodge.

We climbed the steep driveway through the canopy of trees and well-kept grounds, and ended up in front of a classic mountain lodge built in the early 1940s. The voices in my head were saying stay, and before Glen came out to say they had a few rooms available, it seemed like Darth and I were already pulling changes of clothes from our panniers. Once those bikes go up on the center stands,the decision is more or less final.

Although I regret not making it to Bryson City, which by all measures of inter web searching, seemed like a funky cool little Durango-type town, no tears of regret fell into our deliciously prepared local trout dinners, nor our tumblers of local Defiant whiskey that were suckled and nursed in the confines of the dimly lit rustic bar. I imagined this would have been the way the railroad barons primed themselves for a deep night’s slumber. The Snowbird Mountain Lodge is the type of place you could disappear to for awhile. We enjoyed early morning coffee on the deck literally perched over the mountains, filled up on a hearty country breakfast of eggs, country ham, and blueberry pancakes. They even prepared sack lunches for us, our names on the bags, to be grabbed on our way out the door of this lovely country inn.

The rest of this story is best told through a collection of pictures we took along the way, which I will be uploading soon. Yes, we all three slayed the dragon in our own way, and left us plotting the next fork in the road.


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