The World’s Best Rides: The Tail of the Dragon
Photos courtesy of WikipediaRunning between Tennessee and Florida, U.S. Route 129 is home to a famous motorcycle driving area called the Tail of the Dragon. This U.S. Route is an offshoot of the longer Route 29 and it runs for nearly 600 miles. The specific area that is known as the Tail of the Dragon is located on 11 miles of the U.S. Route 129 around the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Read on for a brief overview of this special motorcycle area and its history.
Officially, the Tail of the Dragon is known as Deals Gap. This area is located in Blount County, Tennessee, which is along the border with North Carolina’s Swain County. The area came to be known as the Tail of the Dragon because of its resemblance to the back and tail of a mythical dragon; it contains approximately 318 curves over an 11 mile stretch, making it both a challenging and an exciting drive to make in any vehicle.
Tail of the Dragon
The Tail of the Dragon has long been a popular destination for both motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts. These drivers like to drive through the 11 mile section of road that is the most full of curves. Many of the curves along this stretch of the road have specific names, with some of the most famous including Hog Pen Bend, Killboy Corner, Gravity Cavity, Copperhead Corner and Break or Bust Bend.
Because people tend to take the road at high speeds, it’s important to note that there is virtually no chance of vehicles pulling out of driveways or other offshoots of this portion of U.S. Route 129. This is because this section of the road abuts against the southwestern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Because of this, there is no development along the 11 mile section that is known as the Tail of the Dragon, and drivers can go through this area without risk of encountering slower moving vehicles.
Speed and Danger
Although this section of U.S. Route 129 was previously marked at a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, it has recently been lowered, first to 40 miles per hour and then to 30 miles per hour, where it remains at this point. Though many people still take this portion of the road at higher speeds, law enforcement presence has increased substantially in recent years as well, so the number of motorcyclists and sports car drivers being cited for speeding has increased too.
Owing to the nature of the section of the road and the tendency for many drivers to move through it at dangerous speeds, this section of U.S. Route 129 is also particularly dangerous. In most years there are several independent fatalities recorded, though
the reduction of the speed limit and the increase in law enforcement
presence has helped to reduce the number of fatalities in recent years. However, the Deal’s Gap “Tree of Shame”, which is decorated with the parts of fallen vehicles, still stands as a testament to the dangers of “The Dragon”.