Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MINI on the Dragon

Last night we stayed in Athens, TN and as I write this there is nothing really memorable about the town. I do remember when getting our room I asked the person behind the desk what is Athens known for, she grinned and said we do have a Super Walmart. That sums up Athens.

We are headed for the Tail of the Dragon. What you are not on a motorcycle, one might say. Many car enthusiasts go to the Dragon for the same reason us riders do. Matter of fact MINI USA sponsors an event called MOTD, Minis on the Dragon every May.  To get there we headed north on US411 and made a right onto TN72 which placed on US129. I have been to the Dragon 2 or 3 times on the bike. I remembered this particular intersection because my friend Steve stopped here to test a scooter that was outside one of the stores.

So what is the Dragon. For some it is riding Nirvana because it has 311 curves in 11 miles. It is one of those must visit locations if you are a rider. The road, mainly in TN (or all in TN) starts out at the intersection of NC28 and US129. This is Deals Gap where Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort is located. Most riders if they stay within their riding abilities and keep their speeds down will make it thru the 11 miles and be able to tell their friends, Yes I have done the Dragon. For others that ride over their head and for even those that are experienced they will be whipped, bitten, fired on by the Dragon, leaving themselves without a vehicle and may find themselves spending some time in the hospital.

We are driving the Dragon heading west to east and heading for Deal’s Gap. Our first camopp (camera opportunity) stop is about 2 miles into the Dragon at Calderwood Dam Overlook. This a place that almost everyone stops up to discuss how exciting the last 9 miles have been.  Calderwood Dam was completed in 1930 and owned by ALCOA. It was build to provide electricity for aluminum smelting operations. To read more CLICK HERE. Found out in is on the National Register of Historic Places when I got home.

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I have no pictures of the next 9 miles, because the road required me to keep 2 hands on the wheel. It is my inclination I rode the Dragon faster in the MINI versus the FJR, probably because recovery on errors is more forgiving with 4 wheels than 2, especially braking. We found ourselves at Deal’s Gap and parked the MINI to walk around abit. 

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 The Tree Of Shame is for those that were bitten by the Dragon and had the wherewithal to hang a piece of their vehicle (appears to be 100% motorcycle) on the trunk or limb. This is like a shoe tree you find around the country, except it is mirrors, tires, fairing pieces, gas tanks, and even helmets. Having fulfilled what I thought was to complete MeAsWe riding experience on the bike, so she can say she has been to the Dragon, we headed out NC28.

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Grabbed a cup of coffee in the store and restaurant. T-Shirts left by visitors from all over the place.

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A touristy shot by the mascot.

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Just outside Deal’s Gap is Fontana Dam. This is a hydroelectric dam on the Little Tennessee River built in the early 1940’s. It was built to satisfy the demand of electricity in the Tennessee Valley during WWII. When it was completed it was the 4th highest dam in the world.

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 On our way to Athens, TN via the Cherohala Highway, we passed thru Asheville, NC. We passed thru Asheville again today. I really wanted to visit the Biltmore Estate, however the visiting price is $60 for each of us or $120, just to visit the joint. Ouch. I even considered staying here at $300 to $400 per night. The price was steep enough to keep us away, along with the rest of the riff raff.

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Cherokee, NC. Lots of touristy stuff and genuine hand made Indian articles made in China, Malaysia and Thailand. I just had to stop for this neon and mural. Great colors. 

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The BRP south of Asheville is far more twisty than north of the Asheville. It is almost too twisty, making enjoying the scenery while behind the wheel much more difficult. We did encounter some wildlife along our ride and stopped numerous times at the various VC’s. I had a side trip to Chimney Rock planned , however opted to not go there since the weather was not great and figured the views from the Rock would not be great.
The Linn Cove Viaduct was a great disappointment. Here I was expecting a modern day marvel of great engineering landmark. It is only a ¼ mile long. It is right up there with Plymouth Rock. I didn’t even feel it was worthwhile pulling over for to take a picture. At least I can say I was there. 
 At one VC turnouts we ran into 3 FJR’s who were from the northeast and members of the forum. I spoke with them briefly; they had turned in here due to rain, which I did not even really notice. It was a sprinkle and we continued to keep the sunroof back (isn’t that an oxymoron sunroof in the rain). Two of the FJR’s were 2013 model Gen 3 and were very sharp looking. Why I didn’t snap off a couple pics of the 3 riders, I have no excuse. I think I even had my camera in hand as I spoke with them. 
The rest of the trip was simply driving up the BRP to Boone, NC our night destination. Some views along the way.

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Plott Balsam - Blue Ridge Parkway

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Road to Waterrock Knob - Blue Ridge Parkway

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Craggy Garden Turnout on Blue Ridge Parkway


The travel for the day.

Trip Route 2013 09 18

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