Well day 3 has proved to be a spectacular ride, no surprise there. The team left the hotel in Murphy NC at about 8am and headed straight to the Wal Mart for gas and air prior to the somewhat technical ride, the funny thing is we did not know which part would really be the “technical Part”.
Out of town on US-19/US-129 for about 27 miles then north on US-129 to Deal’s Gap. The ride to Deal’s Gap is a bit of a warm up for the northern part of the Dragon. You start out from Murphy on straight hill strewn roads, when you take the turn north onto US-129 the roads climb and begin to start an ever increasing twist. By the time you arrive at Deal’s Gap your clutch hand is well awake and you are ready to go….. OK, after stopping at Deals Gap for the required ride shirts, photos of the dragons and a bit of car and bike gawking.
Onto the Dragon, this is a fun ride. As with most things the legend is a bit bigger than the actual ride but without a doubt due to the extreme curves and crowds the ride requires your attention and respect. To add to the twisty roads (about 7 miles of real curves) there are plenty of police to keep everyone riding with respect 😉 Everyone made it through the Dragon with no problem, no surprise for an experienced group of riders. After the Dragon we grabbed the Foothills Parkway east to 441 south into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Quick lunch, gas and rest after the Dragon and onto Cades Cove. Cades Cove is in the National Park and is an 11 mile driving loop where you can see wild life, historic cabins and churches (link included for the details http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm). Two suggestions, I would recommend that you visit this part of the park, I would strongly recommend you do it early in the day. It appears that that as the day progresses traffic increases and as the wildlife starts showing up the cars have this tendency, one I have noticed in parks across the country, to park on the one lane road and take pictures (so basically take day 2 Chattanooga traffic move it to the country and that is what you have). Stop and Go (mainly stop) for most of the 11 miles – don’t let that dissuade you from the loop – just plan to do the 11 miles at about 5 -10 miles an hour.
Well after getting out of the park, did I mention the traffic and to avoid late day visit – just making sure… Also did you read last year’s trip blog when one of the group left a camera in a cafe and we had to ride back 60 minutes round trip to retrieve it? Well this year I am proud (not) to say I continued the tradition. I, upon exiting the park and the Branson like traffic, discovered I left my phone at the visitor center on the other side of the park. Since cell phones really are not that important now days we just left it and went onto Cherokee, I wish… Nope, with much dread mostly for my lost phone but partially the prospect of doing the loop again, Julie and I headed back in. Long story short we found two park rangers, they phoned the shop, they had my phone, we did the loop (much less stress knowing my phone was safe), and headed back out on the ride to Cherokee to find a hotel room – the real challenge.
While Julie and I were playing loop-the-loop the rest of the group went to Clingman’s Dome. Both groups ended up arriving in Cherokee within five minutes of each other. We began the search for a hotel and after two towns we found three of the required four rooms in Bryson City. 9pm at night and very few prospects for another room we decided to share three rooms, felt like old camp days.
The day was great, the ride was great and we are well positioned to hit Wheels Through Time in the morning… Talk to you later.