I faced a long ride home from Tennessee so I started out heading south on the freeway, where I stopped and came across some real horsepower in the parking lot of a gas station.
Hmm, I thought, they look cute peering out of their box. I hardly noticed the column of thick black smoke in the background.
Years ago I learned that typically gray smoke is from a natural source but black smoke usually means something human made is disintegrating. When I was a reporter I was attracted to black smoke. In this case a truck wrecked and caught fire and as I aimed my motorcycle at the freeway onramp I was redirected by a local dude on an elderly yellow Goldwing. He pointed me down a delightful tree lined state highway as the best detour. He was right.
My turn off was Federal Highway 129 which theoretically would carry me from Knoxsville across western North Carolina and through north Georgia to Atlanta where I would end the fun and pick up Interstate 75 and so south to Florida's Turnpike 400 miles south of Georgia's capital.
Highway 129 is a marvel of delightful road engineering. It's most famous as a section of road known as The Tail of the Dragon through Deal's Gap, astride the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. "Not suitable for trucks"...oh yes!
I paused by the lake to tighten the Bonneville's final drive chain. All of which took ten minutes out of my life as I pulled out tools and a tarp and lazed in the sun fiddling with greasy nuts and bolts. I wanted the Triumph in perfect shape for the ride over Deal's Gap.
This was my second visit to the Dragon and it remains as elusive as any an experience to relate in words. I know there are many many fun roads in this area but the estimated 318 turns on this eleven mile stretch are the adult equivalent of a motorcycle roller coaster. I stopped and turned back a few times and played like a child.
There is an overlook at the Tennessee end of then road and I joined some other sight seers.
A couple of modern classic Ducatis looked lovely.
This kid and his high maintenance wife talked with me for a while about his bargain Goldwing, bought for $5000 and complete with cupholders radios and with room enough he said winking, for a barbecue grill!
This was the spot to enjoy the scenery as I had no desire to join the distracted who manage to enliven the Dragon all the time with their sudden off road antics. Deal's Gap is delightfully free of guard rails and safety signs and all the paraphernalia of road warnings. You are on your own.
The state line at the top of the hill is less than a half mile from the end of the road...
...at the junction of 129 and state highway 28 which meet at the gas station and motel which is famously motorcycle friendly.
I liked the note which explained how to pump gas for motorcycles as though cars don't exist in these parts.
I have an ambition to spend a couple of nights here and devote myself to riding the Dragon early and late before and after the hordes arrive. One day next year perhaps.
Against all expectations I like this place. It is spoken of so much one arrives never expecting it could live up to it's overblown reputation. But it does and the road is great fun.
Just because Deal's Gap was at my back doesn't mean the twisties were done, oh no. I had a full afternoon of spirited riding ahead.
Highway 129 in Georgia was a revelation. I had no idea the northern part of the Peach State was such a divine motorcycle ride. I was having so much fun winding down through the three lane highway I could not bring myself to stop, hoping Wikipedia would come through. This winter picture gives a small idea of the winding road I was riding, two lanes on the uphill, one lane for the downhill.
It was a great ride all the way to Highway 19 for Dahlonega, the Moto Guzzi pilgrimage site for the southeastern US.
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