Florida to Vermont – Summer 2007

DAY 2 – Friday, July 6th

I left T.W.O. campground via 180 north to 129, then 129 North through Blairsville, then 129 into North Carolina and the Nantahala National Forest . Stayed on 129 through Robbinsville (yes, I stopped and bought a Dragon coffee mug!), then a left onto 143, the Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway
Cherohala Skyway, eastern end in NC

The road was pretty deserted – I doubt that I saw more than about 2 dozen vehicles over the entire 36 mile length. I stopped and ate lunch at Santeetlah, the highest overlook along the skyway, elevation 5377’.

Santeetlah Rest Area
Highest Elevation on the Cherahala

The views are breathtaking and I took it slow and enjoyed the ride. Once down the other side into Tellerico TN , it was HOT. I had already been spoiled by the cooler mountain air. I stopped for gas and a drink before heading north on 360 to Vonore, a short jog east on 411, then finally the turn onto 72 that was going to take me to the famous Rt. 129 and Deals Gap.

On the TN side of the Dragon

The excitement was building and a hint of nervousness. Riding the Dragon for the first time with a fully loaded heavy cruiser… But this was what I had planned for and I was determined.

Appropriate warning

This is the view from the Tail of The Dragon Overlook at mile 8.8. On the far right is the Calderwood Dam.

Calderwoood dam

That’s me.

That's me

WHAT A RUSH!!! Now I understood why riders come here every weekend to ride this stretch of magnificent road over and over and over… I was hooked! I stopped at Deals Gap Resort to buy a couple of t-shirts, got another drink, took some photos, and then turned around and did it again going back the other way. The Dragon is 11 miles long, but going the opposite direction it felt like a totally different road. So it seemed as though I had just ridden 22 miles of unique twisties.

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt (and pin and patch and mug...)
Lots of riders even on a weekday
Coming back the other way

Completed that, turned around and came through the Dragon a third time, back into NC. I was sorry to go. I pressed onward through Cherokee NC, where I picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of my life goals has been to ride the BRP end-to-end and I was excited. It was spectacularly breathtaking! Words don’t do it justice. A motorcyclists’ dream come true. Always another curve to round, another vista to see, another drop off with no guard rail… Pay attention to the road I told myself.

The sign says it all!

There is not a lot of room for error here. There were plenty of places to pull over to enjoy the view, but if I stopped at them all, I’d average about 15 mph. Dusk was upon me and I wanted to get to the Mt. Pisgah campground at mile marker 408.

Bunches Bald overlook- elev. 4925' at milepost 460
Highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost 431
Typical Smoky Mountains view

I rolled in about 8:30pm. The campground was pretty full, so I cruised all around looking for an empty site. Finally found one near some families with small kids. I could see some of the parents making faces that said, “Oh great, a biker”. And as I watched the kids running around and yelling, I said to myself , “Oh great, kids”. I have a large family and I love kids, but I just wanted to eat my dinner, pitch my tent and crash. As it turned out the kids were all asleep and quiet by 9:30 and I was asleep by 9:35.

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A Goldwing rider from Jacksonville, FL.

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