Day Six Sunday, July 22.
We left the hotel at 7:30 AM for a 51-mile ride to Deals Gap. We rode NC 28 from Cherokee to Deals Gap, a distance of 51 miles. This route followed the river basin and is very curvy but a pleasure to ride. Deals Gap is where NC 28 joins with US 129. Deals Gap has a store and is a small town with a population of six people. This is the beginning of the tail of the Dragon, which is 11 miles straight up the mountain having 318 curves. Each of the curves has a name as you can see on map. (Figure # 2)
Our group stopped in at the store, which is at the bottom of the hill or mountain where I bought a T-shirt. I will wear it tomorrow and for a group photo. Behind the store is a tree that the owners of the store, through the years, have welded together all the parts of motorcycles that have fallen off or had an accident while riding the tail of the dragon.
Our group was divided into two sections. The first was made up of those who wanted to take the gap fast. I led with Steve Rees and Howard Rice also in this group. The second group was led by Dennis Reese and included Tom and Nancy Sislow and Don Strayzer. The named curves on the tail of the Dragon are set up in groups. As we began there was a very hard left turn followed by a banked hard right turn and then in succession three quick curves first to the left, second to the right, third to the left and then the sequence began again. Our lead group took the tail of the Dragon as fast as we could to get through the first hard left turn. Steve looked down at his speedometer and lost control and went wide on the right turn and into the ditch. He managed to not drop his bike and kept it going straight ahead because the road curved back in front of him. He was able to get back up on the road safely. Howard was directly behind Steve and said watching it was very scary as it unfolded before his eyes. We stopped half way at the dam overview for rest and also to let the second group to join us. Dennis led the second group and told us said that Nancy was almost hit when three Buhl motorcycles came down the mountain around the bend and came into her lane they just barely miss each other. The group slowed down after that and was much more observant of the other side of the road. (Figure # 4)
Once the group was together again we talked about what happened. Howard related to the group the situation Steve found himself in and everybody had a good laugh. Steve handled the teasing very well. The rest of the dragon was easy riding and all enjoyed the experience.
We then took the foothill Parkway to 321 into Pigeon Forge, the town that Dolly Parton owns. We spent some time looking around the town and had lunch at Mel’s diner. After lunch we left on 421 into Gatlinburg so Rich could get a picture of where he and his wife met and later worked in Gatlinburg. Rich wanted a picture to see how it looks now.
The traffic was ten times worse than the Wisconsin Dells in summer. We finally moved onto the parkway near 2:50 PM. We found that Ashville was 87 miles away via the parkway and only 30 miles away by using freeway. The group decided to go the freeway. We were gassing up when Chief called at 4:30 PM. It was so good to hear her voice and it sounded like she was right next door.
Our hotel was 20 miles on the other side of Ashville. We checked and had dinner at a local restaurant. We were served outside since the weather was clear and warm. Once back at the motel the group was by the pool as I’m writing these words to Chief.
“ Hey boss, I’m feeling rather lost since everybody except me changed plans and are leaving for home on Monday. I was told tonight at the party at the pool that Don Frazier was feeling a little ill and wanted to head back and then Howard Rice decided to join him. Then the others decided that they needed to head home as well but were going over to visit Biltmore Estates before they left for home. I do not know what to do it as feels like my lifeline has been snapped. I will go ahead and ride the Blue Ridge Parkway for the next five days alone but this is not what I had planned. All the “what if’s” crossed my mind and it left me confused. I left the religious lessons at home so I do not have a lesson to study. I hope the Boss will provide the support that I need.” I couldn’t call Chief at this time and our sons were not at home so I had no one to talk on the phone. I canceled all the reservations except mine. I had prayed last night but did not get an answer, so decided to ride the Parkway and Skyline Drive.
copyright © 2014 James M. Curtis