Destinations: Deals Gap, North Carolina

Deals Gap is home to 318 curves in 11 miles and is a playground for motorcycles
By Ron Johnson
May/June 2006
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Nothing like a custom Norton for running the curves of Deals Gap, North Carolina.
Photo by Killboy.com


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Only one piece of asphalt has a reputation as the best motorcycling road in the United States – the 11-mile stretch at Deals Gap known as the Tail of the Dragon. Why? How about 318 curves with no two alike, no intersecting roads, clean pavement, no development and very little traffic (other than the two-wheeled kind).

Summer weekends bring thousands of riders to the Dragon as it becomes a cycling enthusiast’s museum-in-motion, with a variety of machines ranging from one-of-a-kind classics to the latest creations of custom builders like Jamie James.

Identified on maps as Deals (no apostrophe) Gap, this mountain passage, originally a buffalo trail, was paved and designated as U.S. 129 in 1934. Known only to local hunters and bootleggers for decades, it was home to scenes from the 1958 movie Thunder Road and the 1972 cult classic Two Lane Blacktop, but nationwide attention didn’t begin until 1992 when a major bike magazine article brought its greatness to light.

Recent popularity of the Tail of the Dragon has raised the term “cycle friendly” to new heights on both sides of the mountain. Many motorcycle resorts have been born and more are planned, and existing businesses now cater to this new breed of tourist. You can even order a photo of yourself in action on the Dragon from www.Killboy.com.

When it comes to great roads in the area, the Dragon is only the beginning. The Cherohala Skyway, with its mile-high mountain vistas, offers 50 miles of challenging, sweeping curves, and state Route 28 near Fontana Dam has been designated the Hellbender. Unbeatable dual-sport riding on forest service roads is available everywhere. Vintage cycle lovers can’t miss the Wheels Through Time Museum in nearby Maggie Valley, N.C., home to more than 250 rare antique American Motorcycles. And there’s so much more …

Sound too good to be true? It’s actually better than words can describe. Come ride it and see for yourself.

Smoky Mountain Breakdown:From Knoxville, Tenn. – 42 miles south on U.S. 129
From Asheville, N.C. – 97 miles west

The SkinnyWhere: The Tail of the Dragon is located at the North Carolina/Tennessee state line on U.S. 129 along the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
When: U.S. 129 is open year-round, but winter weather can make it impassable for a day or two at a time. The best riding is April through October.
Why: Best motorcycle road in America, always a parade to watch and plenty of motorcycle-friendly businesses.
Best Kept Secrets: First six miles of state Route 28 heading south from U.S. 19/74. Almost as good as the Dragon, but watch for pavement heaves.
Scenic Routes: Anywhere you ride in any direction for hundreds of miles.
Avoid: Weekends if you don’t like crowds, but avoid weekdays if you want to see the show.

More Information:
 www.TailoftheDragon.com provides maps, weather, accommodation information, road information, photos and more.
Other Websites of Interest: www.SmokyMountains.org, www.GrahamCountyTravel.com, www.Killboy.com, www.wheelsthroughtime.com 








Post a comment below.

 

John Owen
6/10/2010 10:59:48 AM
Fortunately, the Wheels Through Time owner Dale has sorted out his differences with the Maggie Valley folks, and the museum is open for business. Currently part of the 11-mile Deals Gap road is closed due to a rock slide, near the Fontana Dam site. The Gap can still be ridden, but it's necessary to turn around at the Dam. And pretty much all of the roads around there are great riding.

Marty Hallberg
4/30/2009 8:47:32 AM
Unfortunately the Wheels Through Time Museum has closed its doors in Maggie Valley but is still active on the web. When visiting Deals Gap, come prepared to obey the law. Tennessee authorities have taken control of the road. They won't give you any slack. Apparently, there have been too many folks using the road as a racetrack and too many accidents and injuries to be tolerated by the general public. Peak times will find at least three state patrol vehicles on the 11 mile stretch and often several Blount County patrol cars as well.








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