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Pics from The Dragon's Tail

or.....

How We spent our Monday



 

It was a dark and stormy night...........(wait a minute, wrong story)
O.K., It was a beautiiiiiiful sunny Monday morning, so arboC, Matt and dave58 decided to celebrate with a trip to Awful Wafull. Not just any Awful Wafull......oh no way, not us.......we went to the one in Jasper !!!!!.


Here, arboC reviews covert map with "secret route" to North Carolina

The fried filet of racoon had some kinda effect on arboC, and over breakfast, he drifted off into a trance-like state....In almost indecipherable muttering he told us a tale of a mysterious road he had once encountered in Tennessee (or was it North Carolina, or was it in his dreams?) On it, you could see smashed guard rails from those foolish enough to attempt driving it in mere "mortal" cars. Stories of renegade semi-trucks that had illegally attempted to sneak thru, only to disappear off the sides down into the firey pits of Hell, never seen nor heard from again.  Normally used only by biker-types for its' adrenaline-rush producing twists and turns, arboC suggested that it would be one helluva good way to kill an otherwise useless day. He suggested that we go exploring in search of the mysterious road, just because we're that kinda guys.........



 

Matt's Contour SVT.......posin' for the camera
(tail of arboC mobile lurks in backround)
 

So, since he already had us in Jasper, Matt and I decided WTF, it would maybe be worth the trip. Partially to see if arboC could actually find his way, and partially to see if this road was all arboC was building it up to be........lmao



 

arboC consoles Matt........ after Matt suffers another dizzy spell from "Cobra envy"
 

So, we proceeded up thru the foothills of the Smokies ( actually, the Nantahala National Forest) in what was a pretty cool ride in and of itself. No crashes, no tickets and a brief tour of Greater metro Murphy, NC.
Then we headed up into the real hills............................Before we realized it, we had arrived.



 
 


 

Mouth of the Dragon...................note to squeamish.......be afraid- be VERY afraid !!!
(note the phone booth for one final call to your next-of-kin)
 
 

There's a shop at the base of the Tail that caters to the "putt-putt zoom-zoom" types, but they allowed us in and welcomed us all the same. Pretty cool little store, with all sorts of "Tail of the Dragon" T-shirts, videos from bike-mounted cameras, etc. We sat in the parking lot for a few minutes and watched a couple of bikes ride "wheelies" up the first hundred yards or so of the Tail. arboC went over and spoke with a few of them, asking advice on things like the Park Ranger we watched cruise up into the Tail........"Don't worry about 'em, they just keep going "
Apparently, cars are somewhat of a novelty on this stretch of road, and several of the bikes waited around in anticipation of our departure.......


we prepare to head out................

After watching a Suzuki 1100 GSX-R take off up the hill, we waited around a few minutes, and decided to go ahead and "take the plunge" ourselves.......... you gotta time departures if you plan on driving a little close to the limit, and although he was taking it pretty easy when he left, we figured he'd stay well ahead of us anyway.......



 
 

Photo taken immediately after our trip northbound on the Tail..........
(wouldn't recommend touching those rotors just yet)
 

With arboC as the designated "Leader of the Pack", we took off up the hill known as "Wheelie Hell" in the same order as the pic above. First few turns at the top would begin to give us some idea of just what would we would face ahead.......
Left, right, left, right, up hill, down hill.................best thing I can compare it to is a 20 minute roller-coaster ride.....where YOU control the speed- and IF you stay on the track !! Gravity Cavity (aka 'The Hump") @ mile marker 8.4................................Waaaaaaaaaaaaay Cooooooool.
Second gear got a helluva workout (several 5K stretches), with an occasional blip to third (usually just to set up for the next second gear upshift in the turn ahead)..........Lemme tell 'ya it's almost like deja vu, or Groundhog Day - each series of turns looks just like the last few- all sharp switchbacks with the occasional grade transition thru the turn. Talk about your gut-rush. We eventually CAUGHT the 1100 GSX-R, who thankfully for us, pulled over and let us BLOW BY at the Carousel Corner !!!! Very Cool Guy, Indeed
The road was in EXCELLENT condition, nice and dry, so we were able to turn the freakin' Trac-Lok's OFF on the Cobras and jump on it coming out of several of the twisties........Guys, it don't get much better than this and stay legal !! You could cheat the lines with confidence on a lot of the turns, because you can see for two or three turns ahead. Good thing too, because we DID encounter two or three "putt-putt zoom-zooms" coming southbound, and trust me, they were not putt-puttin' lol .We eventually ended up at Tabcat Bridge, where we stopped a sec to take the pics you see above and below.



 


 
 
 
 


 

Special note:
To those of you who might  think an SVT Contour should maybe have stayed to the rear, lemme assure you- NOT the case...... I was behind Matt on the first run (northbound), and I can tell you first-hand.......thru the turns, Matt keeps up just fine =-)
 


                                                Tabcat Bridge looking out on Chilhowee Lake at the Tail's End                                   token shot of "zoom-zooms" southbound
                                                           (or beginning, depending on where you're from)
 
 

and where they're heading........
back into the tail !!!
Beginner's End @ top of the hill (mile marker 0.5)



We messed around and went to the turnaround about a mile below the bridge............then we heard it.......the death-babble of a diesel engine as a SAIA Freight Lines truck (yes, WITH trailer) came puttin' up around the bend.

From what I understand, they're not even supposed to be on this road, and the bike-types are always asking that you report them, so.........there you go. Matt had seen a spot where he wanted to get a pic, so we jumped on the road and scooted back up to the bridge, where Matt snapped a quick pic. Then, we were back out...........well ahead of the semi, and heading on the stretch you see above......southbound on the Tail BACK into North Carolina !!! We had seen a "scenic overlook" pull over area on the southbound side on our first trip, and agreed to make a quick stop there as our next rendevous point. So with the Contour at point, arboC in the middle, and yours truly bringin' up the rear, we took off...............


nice overlook area for some pics on the southbound side,
Calderwood Dam below (mile marker 2)
 
 
 
 

Matt's Contour was amazing in the twisties !!!!!!!!!!



 

We heard the now familiar bellowing of the truck again, so it was back in the cars to get ahead for a bit. A few miles up the road, we made what would be our last stop for pics. Matt found a spot where we were able to get a small representative sample of what the layout of the road was like. This was one of the MILD sections..........

notice who stayed in his car for this one from the "Picnic Table" (mile marker 4.1)............<gr>


all of a sudden, the damned SAIA truck came around a corner, maybe 100 yards behind us !!!!

* NOT FUNNY *
 
 
 

Here, catlike reflexes of arboC react to oncoming SAJA truck.......springing into action, he begins mad dash for car door. Yells something inaudible to Matt (who's head, you'll note, was in the Contour's window, anyway) lmao
I was in first gear right about now, so you can GUESS who got to lead us the rest of the way back !! (neener,,,,,,,neener)
arboC pulled out behind me, with Matt now somewhat aware of what was going on....................lmao
arboC provided unconfirmed report of three-digit run down Cooper Straight (hey, I got to use 3rd), but all in all, just a major E-ticket thrill ride..........either bringin' up the rear or jumpin' on the front. Highly recommended.
 




 

Things we'll know next time................

a) it's O.K. to run three at a time through here.....everybody keeps a nice pace

b) buy gas before you get to North Carolina

c) stop and get something to eat at Murphy on the way up.......... the guy at the Tail of the Dragon lodge/store will be   glad to make you a sammich, but he sometimes runs out of bread. Then, he has to send somebody down to the grocery store in Murphy, anyway. Save him a trip.

d) It would have been great to have a passenger in at least one of the cars to shoot some video/ pics.........somewhat "challenging" for driver to attempt at speed.

e) I wouldn't even THINK of trying this in winter, nor on a wet (or even DAMP) road........... trust me, it's plenty challenging under IDEAL conditions !!


The verdict:

I think we had a blast.............I'd do it again..............and yes, you'd have had fun, too =-)