Chattanooga is just two hours southeast of Nashville, nestled along the winding banks of the Tennessee River. It’s a charming city with a quietly booming industry. The locals are driven by their love of the arts and outdoors. Is it time for you to plan a trip? There’s always a festival happening downtown The…Details
Today is going to be a real motorcycling day. We’re going to ride the Tail of the Dragon .
The Tail of the Dragon is one of the most famous motorcycling roads in the United States, and has become a real destination ride for people from all over the world. The main reason is its layout: 318 curves in 11 miles of smooth blacktop, winding through beautiful tree-lined hills in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Officially known as US 129, the Tail of the Dragon is a lovely, challenging road that emits a siren call to bikers the world over.
A word of warning about the Tail of the Dragon: Any road this famous will attract its share of idiots, morons who forget that they are on a public road with other traffic. A search of YouTube will reveal a myriad of moronic behavior, hooliganism and wrecks that could easily be avoided with a touch of common sense. I wouldn’t ride the road on a busy weekend – it wouldn’t be any fun. The key to enjoying a safe ride on the Tail of the Dragon, as with any ride, is to ride safely, ride within your limits and respect the rules of the road. ‘Nuff said.Details
The skies are threatening as we eat our breakfast in the solarium at the Best Western Villa Inn. Looks like this could be the day that we have to break out the rain gear.
As we saddle up on Melvis, a guy waves us down, running across the parking lot. I flip open my visor.
“Ya’all been in weather before? Because we’re about to get some weather.”
I thank the guy for his concern, and assure him that we’ve been in weather before. Because we have ridden through some real gully washers in our time, and we actually kind of enjoy it.
“Ride safe, now.”
Looking at the sky, I figure that if we head out now, we can avoid the weather and stay dry. The front seems to be moving from north to south, and we’re going east. So we ride off, knowing that our rain gear is easily accessible should we need it.
History is all around as we ride. In place and street names, we see reminders of David Crockett, Tennessee pioneer and statesman, revered throughout the state.
We ride toward living history in Lynchburg, a tiny town in the center of Moore County. Since 1866, the principal industry in Lynchburg has been the making of Tennessee Whiskey at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery . They’ve been doing it there (with a short interruption for Prohibition) the same way Jack Daniel started, with the same water source and the same recipe for nearly a century and a half. Tours of the Distillery are free, and take about an hour. Our tour guide, Billy, is a squat man with a big grey beard spreading over the front of his overalls. He looks a little bit like a troll, and he’s got a sharp sense of humor. He gives a great tour, rife with company history, lore and insight, along with a real passion for the product. There are no samples on this factory tour – good thing, too, because we’ve still got riding to do.Details
Planning the ride is almost as much fun as the actual ride. At least it is for me.
I have never really spent any time in Tennessee. I’ve passed through on my way to somewhere else, but I’ve never lingered. And Tennessee deserves better.
My wife Robin is taking a week off from work to ride as my passenger and share the adventure. Robin is the best passenger in the world. Always cheerful, she never complains and she’s very entertaining when we’re off of the bike. She helps me plan the trip, and studies up on our destinations for fun things to see and do. If I wasn’t already married to her, I’d have to court her all over again.
Weeks before the trip, once we decided on Tennessee as our destination, we hit the books. We found three excellent travel books that provided great inspiration and information: Moon Handbooks Tennessee by Jeff Bradley (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2005); Off the Beaten Path Tennessee by Jackie Sheckler Finch (Morris Book Publishing, 2009); and Scenic Driving Tennessee by Russ Manning (Falcon Guide, 2005).Details