Tale of the Tail of the Dragon

One of the great joys for Tennessee residents and visitors alike is driving the backroads through this beautiful state. With your favorite road music blasting, going through the gears–be they on car, a motorcycle, or a bicycle–as the scenery whips past is about as good as it gets.

The best Tennessee roads roll through the eastern part of the state, and last week I came across a website that celebrates these two-laned paths to pleasure. The Tail of the Dragon website gets its name from the section of Highway 129 that skirts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and crosses into North Carolina at Deals Gap. This stretch of road, according to the site, has 318 curves in 11 miles–not for those who need Dramamine.


Ron and Nancy Johnson, proprietors of Tail of the Dragon

Owned and operated by Ron and Nancy Johnson. the site delivers news about this road and others such as the Cherohala Skyway. Although geared, so to speak, for motorcycle riders, the eclectic information is useful for cars and bicyclists as well. One of my favorite sections of this site is the maps page, which includes a cheerful map offering to show the “locations of deaths since 2000.”

While Tennessee tourism officials have long promoted scenery all over the state, they have not by and large focused much attention on the sheer pleasure of navigating the state’s two-lane roads. A considerable number of bicycle and motorcycle riders and even people in minivans come to Tennessee just to drive these roads, and for that reason I wish the state government could put the brakes on the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s relentless effort to four-lane so many state highways.

Straightening out twisty roads takes the life out of them. Four-laning roads often means tearing down historic and scenic houses and other structures along the way. This is particularly true in the state’s older towns.

One Response to Tale of the Tail of the Dragon

  1. Tish says:

    A friend of mine is a photographer and does the majority of his work at “The Dragon”. If you’re into riding and would like to locate photos of yourself riding all the twists and turns of the dragon, you can check out his site at http://www.us129photos.com. I don’t ride, but I think the photos are cool to look at!

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