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Kawikazi 07-01-2010 08:38 PM

Grumpy Old Men Do the Tail of the Dragon
My neighbor Mike H and I ride sport bikes together. At our age pushing 60 most people think we should be on Harley's, but we say it's never too late to have a happy childhood. Anyway, we had been talking about riding the full length of the Blue Ridge for some time and finally last weekend we did it.

We left early Saturday morning from Cross Keys, Virginia. Fueled up in Waynesboro and hit mile marker 0 around 9:00 am. After a quick stop for fuel in Vinton, we stopped at Tuggles Gap for lunch which is mile marker 165.

Another stop for fuel after crossing the NC border, than off the parkway at mile marker 331 to look for a place to stay for the night. A quick left onto route 226A and we stumbled upon the Skyline Village Inn run by Mike and Lynn Thrift. This place has some history as it was built in the 30's as a Moonshine Factory. Mike the owner was nice enough to give us a tour of the cave below the building where the still was kept.

Here is the cave leading to the still.

This is the chimney for the still down below.

Mike the owner also prides himself on a fine selection of beers at this place. He had no less than a half dozen IPA's including a triple called Loose Cannon. We had a few beers and a great dinner before packing it in for the day.

Next day up early and on the way to Robbinsville, but first a quick stop at Mt. Mitchell, highest point east of the Mississippi.

After fighting the Sunday tourist traffic in Cherokee, we finally arrived in Robbinsville, found a nice clean room at the Microtel, grabbed a Mexican lunch-dinner late afternoon, than on to the Deals Gap. Of course, we had to stop at the Tree of Shame before heading up the Tail for the first run.

Know things get interesting. You meet the nicest people on a Honda, so meet Mark.

You hear a lot about police patrols on the tail, but since 129 was closed going over the mountain into Tennessee, Mark advised us that there are only two cops on patrol today; one at the top and one at the bottom. He followed us up the tail on the preliminary run to prove it. The view at the top at mile marker 11 was something to behold.

Mark told me I rode pretty good for my age??? I thanked him for the, ah compliment? Than we headed on down the tail having checked out the fact that there was essentially no law enforcement and we really tore it up. Now at this point, I don't know exactly what happened, but Mark's new nickname became the "Aviator" when he launched his new CBR600 off a cliff on the last turn just before the Deal Gap Motorcycle Resort.

Young gun Mark was OK, but a little shook up. I told him he rode the street and the air pretty good, but he really needs to work on his off road skills. After all, even I know that the Tail is not a duel sport adventure.

Anyway, we packed it up the next day and headed north hoping to make it home in one day. We back tracked to route 441, on up through the Smokey Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, Greenville and finally a lunch stop in Bristol Tennessee. The weather looked ominous with thick black clouds, so we found a Greek restaurant with a nice roof overhang to keep things dry.

After a long lunch waiting out the rain, we hit I-81 and blasted on up to Roanoke in record time for our last fuel stop. Hit Rt.220 north, than picked up Rt. 42, old familiar roads to both of us and we ended the day with some of the nicest riding of the trip, right in our own back yard. Speaking of back yard, it was nice after a 450 mile day to soak in the hot tub with a cold one.

One thing you might want to do before running the Blue Ridge the whole way at 10 or 15 over is make sure the tires will last. Mine were trashed by the time we got home and they were in reasonably good shape when we left.

BusyWeb 07-01-2010 08:43 PM


HBN 07-02-2010 04:28 AM

You go boss! :clap Glad to see you made it back despite NOT taking the V-Strom :evil

(posted this to the Cat Herders for some other locals to enjoy)

bobw 07-02-2010 07:20 AM

Great ride and report!


themobb 07-02-2010 08:42 AM

Nice report... :clap

Now, where's the killboy links?


GB 07-02-2010 10:00 AM

Looks good, but you gotta work on looking grumpy :lol3 Mark needs to work on not target fixating... :lol2

Colemanfu 07-02-2010 10:47 AM

Not a duel sport adv but and adv on a duel sport. Was up there a few weeks ago and tore it up - even with the knobie tires hehe. I too helped pull a bike out of the bush.

Thanks for the pix and story. Skyline Inn looks like a nice stop - added it to my favorites.

JohnnieWalker 07-02-2010 01:25 PM

You are not to old for sport bikes. I am over 60 and I love my Hayabusa and my gsxr 1000 and BMW K1200rs. Spent a couple of days on the dragon a while back. good time. I met some pretty talented (younger guys) there. You are not to old for sport bikes. You are to young for Harley's.

AKDuc 07-02-2010 08:38 PM

Nice write-up. Glad Mark wasn't hurt.

When I went to Deal's Gap years ago I met up with a band of locals led by a guy also named Mark who liked to talk a lot of "smack."

After much cajoling but with much trepidation I joined them for my first run of the Dragon with Mark in the lead and me behind him. I was on my Ducati 996 and he on an Aprilia RSV Mille. Mark and his gang had already been there strafing the surrounding roads for a few days previous. After warming up our tires for a couple miles we kicked it up a notch when shortly thereafter Mark lowsided. It was in an ideal spot tho so all he suffered was a punctured sump. Oh, and maybe a bruised ego of course. :wink:

I ran the Gap a couple times on my own and had what, even to this day, I refer to as one of my best rides ever! Good times! :ricky

After having read so much about The Dragon's Tail it was a lot of fun for this boy from the frozen north to finally ride it.

Thank you for sharing and here's to continuing fun rides, Mellow Mark H.

mica 07-05-2010 05:20 PM


we ended the day with some of the nicest riding of the trip, right in our own back yard.
Ain't that the truth...

Good see you had fun and didn't do any unplanned stunting.:lol3

ONandOFF 04-28-2013 07:39 PM

I know it's been a while but this report's great! Those three were serious days to get all that in. The Skyline Village looks unique. I hope Mark is grounded. These trips are great, but I'm with you, it's great to live in a place where the riding in our own back yard is awesome!

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