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I'm curious about "The Dragon" - motorcycle ride in TN

Discussion in 'Reader's Rides' started by chuckwood, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. chuckwood

    chuckwood Addicted to ArboristSite

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    How well known is "The Dragon" in TN in the nationwide motorcycling community? How many of y'all have rode it? Reason I ask is I live maybe 15 miles away from where this section of highway starts. I used to ride it continually back in the 70's when nobody knew about it.
     
  2. Sleepy

    Sleepy Grumpy Old Man

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    It's a fun road but highly dangerous, not because of the road but because of the idiots who travel from everywhere to see how fast they can run it.
    A couple of sports cars passed me on the Cherohala Skyway while I was going 80 mph. I stopped at a pull off a little farther up the road, and a couple of other bikers said those cars had just run them off the road. Later at another pull off on the way to the Dragon, those same two cars were stopped together and both had New York tags.
    In Robbinsville that day, I saw a group of several AC Cobras (hopefully replicas) at a gas station, and I suspect they were up to no good.
    On my trip up the Dragon, I came upon a wrecked Corvette being loaded on a rollback. Just up the road, another similar Corvette was also being loaded on a rollback. The front end was torn off one and the left rear quarter panel was off the other. I guess they were racing, and anyone on a bike meeting them during the wreck wouldn't have had much of a chance.
    I ran the Cherohala several times while there, the Dragon twice and never once saw a cop, except at the accident I mentioned. These roads bring a lot of money to the area and I based on what I saw, they don't want it to stop.
    This is a beautiful area and I plan to return but my advice to you if you must run the Dragon is, take it easy, watch as far ahead as possible and stay completely away on the weekend. I was there on a Thursday and it was plenty dangerous then.
    There are bikes racing too, but cars worry me the most.
     
  3. 1Alpha1

    1Alpha1 100% USDA certified abnormality-free.

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    Depends on who's looking for me.....and why.
    I've heard of it, but have never ridden it. And yes, it's infamous for it's accidents.
     
  4. chuckwood

    chuckwood Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I've only been back to the place a couple of times, and each time I left feeling very badly. I'll never drive that road again unless I have to. My first dragon experience happened in the early 70's. I was riding around the Caves Cove Loop road in the Great Smokies in January It's nice there in winter at this famous place, not much traffic. I decided to exit the Cove on a one way dirt road called Parson's Branch Road and see where it went. It ended at the middle of the Dragon, and I road up and down the Dragon for the rest of the day until it got dark. It was a very poorly designed and hastily constructed road, and it provided access to more of the big power dams built along the Little Tennessee River to power the Aluminum Company of America's big plant in Aloca TN. Some turns were banked well, some too much, and other turns were almost flat. The real fun was with a few of the turns that were actually banked the wrong way. Come into them too hot and you might have some excitement. For me, the most incredible part of the ride was the wilderness experience aspect. The land around the Dragon was owned either by the National Park or by ALCOA aluminum. The place was very remote and pretty spooky actually. There was Calderwood Lake down at the bottom of the steep river valley gorge, and the water there was so ice cold that few fish live in it. At certain times the cold water would create so much fog over the lake that you couldn't see the water down there. In winter you could ride for 15 to 20 minutes straight without seeing a single vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. The feeling of solitude and the grandeur of the place was awesome. After a year of riding the Dragon I got really fast on it, and I had to tell a few of the people trying to follow me that I was fast and safe only because I'd spent so much time riding there - it wasn't because I was a better rider than they were. I worked my way up to that gradually. I had one spill on the road, but it was only the kind where you dust yourself off, pick up the bike, keep riding, and deal with the scratches and bent stuff later. I was real careful there because I had no cell phone, and if I wrecked it might be a long time before somebody found me. There was lots more scenic and remote twisty mountain highways after the Dragon. It was hard for me to find other riders to go with me, not everybody can take an entire day off to just ride and nothing else.

    Today it's a hideous, noisy, and stupid mess that seems to attract morons from everywhere. The wilderness experience that used to be possible there is long gone. Nobody has a clue as to what the place used to be like. All I can do is be glad I got to experience it before it got turned into a circus. And TVA did a great job of destroying the most scenic trout river in the nation by building another dam below Chilhowee Dam. Driving along the approach road to the Dragon, the picture postcard perfect river is gone as well, replaced by many ugly acres of bare mud lake bottom after they lower the lake. TVA ruined part of it, and then us idiot bikers showed up to ruin the rest. Oh well, that's progress ain't it?
     
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  5. Sleepy

    Sleepy Grumpy Old Man

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    You speak of "The feeling of solitude and the grandeur of the place" and "The wilderness experience."
    Well, that's exactly the reason I love that area.
    Neither can be found on the The Dragon but there a are plenty of other places these can be found, and that's why I'm returning.
    I'm certainly NOT returning for the cellular service:)
     
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  6. chuckwood

    chuckwood Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I hear ya. For me, the absolute very best motorcycle ride in the general area is the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that starts at Cherokee NC. The road climbs quickly up to the high country - maybe around 5000 ft elevations. It looks almost alpine up there, you get to ride through a bunch of tunnels and the weather changes. The road is engineered perfectly for good and predictable cornering, scenery is awesome.

    Here are a couple of pics of the Dragon that my dad took on a Sunday drive in the early 40's. The guys in the pic are aluminum company engineers. One pic is taken from a spot on the Dragon, and below you see Calderwood Dam and Lake. The river ends at this dam because the aluminum company pipe lined the river over to a powerhouse some miles away. The other photo with the lady in the white dress shows a mountain on the right half of the photo. There is a road scar visible on the side of that mountain for quite a ways, and I'm pretty sure that's the newly built Dragon over there.

    calderwood dam.jpg river valley 1.jpg
     
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  7. muddstopper

    muddstopper Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I have driven it many times. Used to not be so many 4 lane highways leading out of this country and the Dragon was one short cut to Knoxville. The bikers and hotrodder have ruint it. Its not a race track but there is always, not just one but, many idiots that just have to try to run it wide open. They endanger their own lives and the lifes of others that have to travel the road. I wish they would park a line of State Patrol cars all along the road and ticket every idiot that thinks the road is their race track. I dont care how good a driver anybody thinks they are, the dragon is not the place to to show you Ass. Many have died there because of their own stupidity.
     
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  8. Sleepy

    Sleepy Grumpy Old Man

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    While viewing a thread on ADV Rider about the Dragon, I ran across some photos of the two Corvettes involved in the wreck I mentioned earlier. Someone there said both these cars had Canadian tags. 0823181338.jpg 0823181341a.jpg
     
  9. cantoo

    cantoo Addicted to ArboristSite

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    My wife's nephew and a bunch of his buddies went there a couple of years ago riding crotch rockets. He had been riding 4 wheelers with us on the Sunday and had a bad spill but said he was okay. Turns out that he wasn't okay. They all entered a curve way too hot, he leaned into the curve and his arm gave out. He woke up 2 days later in the hospital. Many broken bones and internal damage. They figured that he had broke his collar bone in the 4 wheeler accident. Over $100,00 in medical bills and an eventual helicopter ride back home. 9 months or so of therapy. Unknow to him his Mother had done some research on the ride they were going on and she had taken out Travel Insurance on him before they left. They had to fight but eventually the Insurance company paid the US medical bills.
     
  10. RandyMac

    RandyMac Stiff Member

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    If you want some good riding, the West has some very entertaining roads, without the plague of knot-heads.
     
  11. peakbagger

    peakbagger ArboristSite Member

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  12. chuckwood

    chuckwood Addicted to ArboristSite

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    It's always good when stupid people die - it improves the gene pool and makes things just a bit better for the rest of us. In a few ways, I'll be quite happy when the final economic catastrophe kills the dollar, making fuel mostly unavailable or rationed for the average person. Idiots then will have to find something else to do, and the Dragon will once again be a very quiet and remote place - as it should be. Maybe then I might go ride it again on my rationed fuel........
     
  13. chuckwood

    chuckwood Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I've ridden all over the eastern half of the country on long touring trips, but I never managed to get enough time off from work to head out west. I've just bought another bike and haven't been riding in something like 40 years. We'll see how it goes. If things go well, I'd like a western tour - I've got the time to do it now. If I can't get my skills back I'll just have to enjoy rebuilding and tinkering with a Yamaha virago xv750. It's only got around 7000 miles on it, sat for years as a garage queen. Naturally, it's got issues - previous owner bought it as a project bike and installed brand new carbs and tires on it before giving up - he had too many non working bikes as it was. I've got the rest of the year to tinker with it. People's ideas about what a beginner's bike is has changed a lot from the 70's. Back then, a 750 was a fearsome beast only for advanced riders - especially when the Honda CB750 four arrived. Nowadays they'd call this 750 Yamaha a "girls bike". Really?

    bike.jpg
     
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  14. Sleepy

    Sleepy Grumpy Old Man

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    I found another photo of the two wrecked Corvettes that was mentioned earlier with yours truly following.
    Sure am glad I got there when I did and not a little earlier. Could have been a very bad day. '10548008-129Slayer.jpg
     
  15. EchoRomeoCharlie

    EchoRomeoCharlie ArboristSite Lurker

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    I've heard of it, never been on it though. Closest I have been with my bike was about an hour form there.

    There's so many good roads in that area, really no need to go to that particular road. Plenty of fun to be had elsewhere without the crowds.
     

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