The last week of April, 2015, I took my K1200RS BMW on a road trip. I left Memphis and headed towards Knoxville with a side trip through Fall Creek Falls, Deal’s Gap aka The Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, Moonshiners 28 and ended up in Sapphire North Carolina. It was unseasonably cool, with riding temps in the 40’s and 50’s. One week later we were back to the upper 80’s.
Below are videos from my first pass on the Dragon. 600 miles into a 1500 mile journey.
Here is a rear view of the Dragon, not one you see everyday.
My first stop was Fall Creek Falls state park. It is a beautiful area with wonderful mountain roads. This was a side trip on my way to Knoxville to meet friends. My first days ride was an impressive 540 miles.
Day two started with me heading out of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Hwy 129. 40 miles later is the beginning of the famous “Tail of the Dragon – Deals Gap.” The Dragon is a mere 318 turns in eleven gloriously focused miles of wicked asphalt. Being the last week in April, the crazy season had not yet started so I got 4 nice runs in with no traffic or hold ups. By the last run, I was beat and still had 3 more hours to get to the condo.
Just about every road in the Smoky Mountains is enjoyable, so by no means is the Dragon the end all. Go try Hwy 32 at Cosby, 20 miles from Gatlinburg. Hwy 32 makes the Dragon feel straight. It is the tightest road I have ever ridden; it does not have traffic and rarely do you see a single car in the final 5 miles. It is a 1st and 2nd gear road with brief touches to 3rd. It turns to dirt at one end and soon their after you arrive at Big Creek Park and campground. This is an amazing hidden Smoky Mt gem if you are into Nature and Hiking.
What a blast, the Tail of the Dragon is pure joy. I have ridden roads I would rate higher, but Deal’s Gap is a spectacular road if you have the stomach to dare it. The Dragon is a peg scraping road with so many sharp turns it will make you dizzy. It is also a road that has teeth so be sure to ride within your limits, stay focused, and make sure you equipment is up to the task.
After a couple of hours of enjoying 129, I moved on towards Sapphire, NC my final destination.
Day 3 I came all the way back towards the Dragon, but instead rode the Cherohala Skyway – a national scenic byway. To get here, I had to do 64 back to Highlands and Moonshiners 28 towards Bryson City. Getting to my ride was a most amazing ride in itself.
Cherohala Skyway is absolutely spectacular and is missed by the majority of the riders that come for the Dragon. It is only minutes away and in many regards is a far superior ride. It is 45 miles long between Robbinsville, NC and Tellico Plains Tennessee. Make sure you have gas and water as their are no stops along the way. I personally enjoyed the NC pavement more than the Tennessee pavement. Both were fine, but the NC side was more confidence inspiring. Cherohala has spectacular views and vistas. It features lots of fast flowing turns, non-stop elevation changes, and of course the occasional 20mph mountain turn. It starts at about 2600 ft and quickly climbs to above a mile high. This road just flows. I only saw just a handful of cars and bikes and faced zero traffic on my ride.
The road to and from Cherohala out of Sapphire, NC felt pretty much like being on the dragon for 5 hours. From Hwy 74 near Bryson City to Franklin is 28 miles of 2nd and 3rd gear turns. It is just non stop… at one point I think I went close to 1o miles with out shifting out of 3rd. Hwy 64 between Franklin and Highlands NC is just spectacular. Perfect pavement, incredibly twisty and vistas that are breathtaking. One word of caution, this road is very very tight in the upper elevations. It has a no large truck warnings like the dragon. The best part was the side cut outs. Each time I approached traffic ahead, they quickly took to a side pull off to let me by and pulled right back in behind me. This was a really appreciated and made the ride ever so much more enjoyable.
We had one rainy day where the bike sat under its cover before I had to head back home. For my 520 mile ride home, I took 64 all the way to interstate 75 near Chattanooga, Tennessee. This took about 3 hours to go 150 miles, but was a very enjoyable with great views. It had lots of nice twisty bits, lots of elevation and a very scenic ride along the Ocoee River and lake in Tennessee. From that point on, it was interstate… not the greatest, but it does mow the miles down a far sight quicker than the mountain roads.
If this was not enough, after one day home, I rode another 230 miles with 3 friends to Oxford, Ms. After lunch on the square, we rode through the campus of Ole Miss and through Sardis Lake before heading home on another fun ride through the countryside.
The BMW K1200RS is one great bike. It is very comfortable for all day journeys. The heated grips and cruise control come in handy. The power is spectacular and the sound out of the Two Brothers exhaust will give you goose bumps when you let her talk. 11 years old and it still runs like a scalded dog. It has hard bags, but for this trip I left them at home. I threw my excess gear into my buddies car to keep my riding gear down to the essentials for any long distance ride.Bosco