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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tail of the Dragon, 2011

One of the best part of my Southern Comfort 2011 vacation was getting the chance to run Rt 129, better known as Tail of the Dragon. The road is famous, and bikers from all over come to run this route, which is not without some serious challenges. The week before I got there, the road claimed another life. It's not to be taken lightly, and as I told a friend a while back, don't ride it beyond your limits.

I picked up 129 coming out of the Asheville, NC area. I rode Rt 19 out of Maggie Valley, NC, making a right on 28 a little west of Bryson City, NC. You can also access it from points north and west. North, from the Knoxville area, or west from the Bristol area. However you get there, it's 318 curves in 11 miles and you almost never get a chance to catch your breath if you're running hard.

One of the cool things about the Dragon is that 3 professional motorsports photography companies set up at strategic curves along the route, snapping awesome hi-resolution photos of riders (and yes, drivers if you're in a car). A few days after your run, you can access their websites and purchase the photos if you like 'em. I think they run about 5 bucks each for a hi-res download, which is how I purchased mine.

Here are the websites:
And here's some of the pix of me and the Joker. I thought these were cool, and I'm thankful these guys caught me running the Dragon. Eagle-eyed people will note that my jacket is zipped in some photos, and not in others. On the way up, running into Tennessee, it was unzipped, but I bought a t-shirt at 129 Harley Davidson and had no where to put it, so I stashed it in my zipped jacket on the way back.

I made no contributions to the Tree of Shame! Amen.


Southern Comfort 2011 - That's all, Folks!

I rolled out of New Orleans on Monday, August 22, heading towards home. Of all things, there had been a earthquake here and I was concerned about damage to the condo or the garage. And if that wasn't enough to think about, there was a hurricane threatening the East Coast later in the week. (In fact, Hurricane Irene is now dumping rain all over my windows as this is being written!) So I just decided it was time to get my ass home.

The trip home had one additional element that made it interesting. I had picked up a case of food poisoning in New Orleans (those oysters?) that made the entire trip back anything but a fun ride. Suffice it to say that during parts of the trip, I did it one rest stop (or Harley dealer) at a time....


It wasn't ALL drudgery. I did a slight detour at Birmingham, over to Leeds, Alabama, to re-visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which is simply not to be missed if you are anywhere nearby. Heck, it's worth a trip for the visit alone. It seems they have almost one of every motorcycle ever built worldwide, and it's an amazing collection. There's also a great collection of Lotus race cars to see too, but the museum is decidedly focused on motorcycles.

But all good things must come to an end. I stayed the night in Sweetwater, Tennessee, where the Comfort Inn staff offered rock-star parking so my bike would be safe that evening. Totally cool. And the next morning, they were shooing people away that were checking the bike out. I'll say this again. I don't know exactly what it is about the  Joker that makes it so interesting to people, but there's no question that whatever it is, the Joker has "it". Heck, I wish I had a little of "it"!

From Sweetwater, I began encountering the density and hustle of the US East Coast, and by the time I hit I-81, the fun was over. 80 million trucks, competing with 80 million cars for space on that long-ass road. Bummed me out, but I quickly got over that. Or I hope so. And like last year, I took very few pix on the ride back.

So during Southern Comfort 2011, I got to:
  • Visit Maggie Valley, NC
  • Run Tail of the Dragon and Hell Bender....twice.
  • Visit Memphis, including Beale Street, Sun Studios, and Graceland
  • Do some substantial repairs on my aunt's house in Azle, Texas
  • Sightsee a bit in Shreveport, LA, and Vicksburg, MS
  • Hit New Orleans/Bourbon Street for a couple days of R&R
  • and visit the Barber Museum.
Now that ain't bad for a couple weeks, is it?

I also checked on the mileage. Between here and Azle, Google Maps tells me it's 1,375 miles each way, so a round trip with a little running around might add up to about 3,000 miles. Doing it my way resulted in 3,640 miles on the Hummer, PLUS another 374 on the Joker! So yep, it wasn't exactly a straight path, and the bike didn't collect any dust during stops.

I'm not sure I'll try this kind of deal again though, or at least not in the same area. My next long road trip will be out west someplace, and won't have any serious time constraints. Next year, it's Daytona Bike Week for my season opener, and then all my remaining 2012 vacation plans will revolve around a trip to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the annual biker event in August, and I'm thinking about riding.