We woke up feeling refreshed in Tazewell, Virginia, the northern entrance to Back of the Dragon. Commonly known as route 16, this 32 mile run of switchbacks goes up and down two mountains as it travels south to Marion ,Virginia.
A group of 5 Gold Wings, couples and singles, had already arrived before we did last night, and we chatted with him briefly as we all got ready to depart. You meet the nicest people on a Honda.
The three of us left first, and rode the two miles across town to route 16. This really is a terrific road, and if you are on your way to the Dragon or any of these other places you really should make a point to visit. This scenery was beautiful, including a side-by-side pair of brick silos, easily 8 stories, and looking in very good condition. Lots of switchbacks and elevation, & I was leading at first and taking my time. Since I had the camera running, I waved Laurie and then Rob past me and eventually they left me behind. A few miles later the Gold Wings appeared on my tail, and I waved them past just as I caught up with Laurie and Rob, who had pulled over to wait for me. It took about an hour, and then we were back on route 81 headed south. This timing didn’t lend itself to the original plan so I called an audible on the road and we went directly to the Cherohala Skyway’s west entrance, and began riding it east towards the Tail of the Dragon.
My prior to visits to the Cherohala Skyway resulted in a very successful morning round trip ride with Andrew in 2012, and a very damp and misty ride with poor visibility when I went with Frenchy, Andre, and Antonio in 2013.
This time the weather was perfect. Lori led us, and we had a terrific ride but took no time for stops until the annual be flying down my shirt and stinging my chest incident, which this year occurred closer to the end of the Cherohala Skyway. This is a terrific 55 mile ride, at about 40 to 50 miles an hour in some spots, with great views in the afternoons after the valleys have warmed up. The cloud cover was merely a hundred feet above us, and the swirling effect of the undersides of the clouds, similar to dry ice vapor, was also projected by the Sun on to the road surface. This gave the effect of black sand shifting and snaking across the roadway as if we were in some alien desert.
Finishing the Skyway, we took a left and rode the 17 lovely miles up route 129 to Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort, the southern entrance to Tail of the Dragon. We walked around and snapped some pictures, bought our souvenirs, and then I sent Laurie and Rob to do one round trip without me; I’ve done the dragon quite a few times at this point, even after dark. As I sat in the parking lot talking about bikes with some other riders, the sky grew dark, the house began to twitch, and you know what happens when the house begins to twitch. It was quite a downpour for about 25 or 30 minutes and then it became a steady drizzle. A round trip ride on the Dragon in perfect weather takes about an hour. A little more than an hour later Rob and Laurie returned , Rob having really earned his first Dragon slay the hard way. The report that had started filtering in as riders preceded Rob and Laurie’s arrival was the Dragon was littered with sticks and branches as well as many leaves . The wind at the peak elevation had been insane apparently, and Rob and Laurie verified this all. Now the rain had become a light mist and we all remounted our bikes to head north 22 miles, 11 miles of Dragon and 11 miles of not-so Dragon, to go to the motel. Total day’s mileage: 360.