Or is it slain? Its important to get ones English correct when you are the only Brit in a group of Americans.
And so it was, I had boarded my Virgin Atlantic flight to Atlanta and was once again in the US of A. Those of you who have read my previous words will know all about the US129 ‘Dragon’ and its tail so hopefully I can find something new to tell you.
Things were a lot less stressful this time since I was retracing my steps from 2015. There was the horrendous immigration queue at Atlanta but I managed to fast track myself with my British charm. Actually, it was more like standing in the right place at the right time. I said I was on the same passport as last time with the same ETSA. This wasn’t entirely true as my ETSA had expired and this was a new one, but I managed to win over the immigration official with tales of my last visit and my local knowledge. I think he appreciated that my travel intentions weren’t that of the usual tourist.
Four wheel transport
Ok, so I’ve done the Camaro thing and I didn’t want to do the obvious Mustang tourist thing again so I opted for a inconspicuous Mercedes. I had briefly flirted with the idea of a truck but came to my senses. I think my choice of car had confused the local Sixt agent when collecting the keys as he had assumed I was German and was a little surprised when he realised I wasn’t. Maybe I should have been renting a Jaguar? (Don’t say Tata!!). Did I mention it was Friday around 5pm? Really not the best time to be heading through downtown Atlanta at rush hour! My first destination was visiting my friend Zachary in Knoxville and this traffic was seriously eating into our drinking time.
I arrived at Knoxville with enough time to hit a bar. I’d been up and travelling for well over 20 hours at this stage and the beers were very welcome. The following day we get breakfast and headed out to a brewery. Hey, you ask. I thought this was a bike blog, about bikes and adventure. Well, yes it is but equally beer is important. We will be back with the motorcycles very soon, the next day in fact. On Sunday morning I said goodbye to my weekend hosts and headed to the Tennessee/North Carolina border and to my cabin in the woods just outside of Robbinsville on the Cherohala Skyway.
Onto the mountains
The group was a large one. We had over 20 people from Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Iowa, North Carolina and Indiana. And one bloke from England, yours truly. Thankfully the cabins are set up for just a group with all the trucks, trailers and motorcycles that go with the ensemble. For those that aren’t constrained by the costs of Atlantic flights this is an annual pilgrimage, and while other accommodation has been suggested I don’t think you could better the Tail of the Dragon Vacation Rentals. There are large communal areas in both the cabins we rented, large garages, plenty of beds, and most importantly… hot tubs!
Renting a car in the US can be inexpensive. The same cannot be said where motorcycles are involved. The R1200GS I rented on my last trip cost nearly as much for the three days as the cost of the car I had for the entire two weeks I was out there. Luckily I was to be loaned a ride. Not just any ride, but I was about to be reunited with a BMW S1000RR. This was home turf for me and I was glad to be getting on the bike that I always felt I sold too soon. My only concern was how my aching bones would handle wrestling a super bike around the tight switchbacks on the TotD but I needn’t of worried. I soon remembered the RR is a precision instrument.
There has been much talk and focus on the Tail of the Dragon itself, and while Deals Gap is a focal point there are so many great roads and routes. I was determined to see much more on this trip. Once again we rode the Tail of the Dragon, The Foothills Parkway and the Cherohala Skyway but I added to that list the Moonshiner 28. “Stretching from US 129 at the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, Moonshiner 28 winds its way southeastward 103 miles through Franklin and Highlands North Carolina before turning southward into Georgia and South Carolina ending at the sleepy town of Walhalla.”, or so the website states. We incorporated a section of the Moonshiner 28 in a number of our rides, either riding out to Gatlinburg or Bryson City, including a notable ride in the extreme wet. Luckily the weather was mostly dry.
What to wear
As with any travel dressing for the weather is key. My tour of the Alps was a no brainer. It was adventure suit all the way. In this case it was a little more difficult. My one piece race suit was out of the question. I did have a leather two piece RST. While others were wearing full leather I thought this may just be a bit much for my suitcase. In the end I opted for my Motorrad armoured jeans and my Spyke ‘cafe racer’ jacket. The jacket is good enough to be worn down the pub so it was a good choice to wear while travelling.
To complete the look I had my Alpinestars baseball style boots. Even with my choice of protective clothing I’m glad I don’t have that heat to deal with all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fly of to places in the sun as much as the next man but its usually shorts on the beach and a cocktail in hand.
Drawing to a close
And so we bring the trip to a close. Great rides, great company, great friends. While I spent much of my time on the RR, I did jump on the other bikes occasionally so my final words will be to list the other rides. Kawasaki Z1000, Suzuki GSXS750, Kawasaki Z900, and Kawasaki ZX6R (no, I don’t like GP shift).
One more thing…
Did I mention the ticket? 🙂