Banner City Bikers Summer Travels: The Tail of the Dragon

Article and Photos by Blake Scharine

Previous installments: The Journey Begins | Part II

The week continues with more incredible rides!

As I told all of our bikers this year “its about the roads”. This area of north Georgia and the Carolinas, simply hands down, has the best roads and routes in the USA.

Whats on tap for next few days? “The Gauntlet” & the infamous “Tail of the Dragon.”

The first couple hours of the gauntlet brought us through Suches, GA. A wild curvy route that kept us alert the whole time all the way to our lunch destination, Big Daddy’s Smokehouse, in Helen, GA. Helen is big touristy town; waterparks, tubing, ATVs and tons of shopping and restaurants. Also a thigh burner, as traffic was backed up coming into town for a mile or better, one road in and one road out. I guess this can be expected. Big Daddy’s did not disappoint with great burgers, ribs, chicken and more. I highly recommend it. 

We saw rain rolling in on the radar, losing a lot of time in Helen. We decided to cut the Gauntlet short and head back to the lodge directly. Oh that wont take long! Mountain driving is always an education. My running response to “how far to our next stop?” is “oh about 15 mi but about 2 1/2 hrs” WHAT! Is the typical response.. but I’m not always that far off, just kidding. Anywho, we got into Blairsville (10 min from the lodge) and some of us wanted to fuel up and/or grab some groceries. Well, 3 couples got under a gas station roof before the market visit, and the rest got drenched on the way back. Hard rain, couldn’t see, and pulled over to get even wetter. Good thing is the entire week, what rain we got nearly always came at the very end of the ride home. God has blessed us with his perfect timing.

The next day “the Tail of the Dragon” on Highway 129 was our destination. The roads going up to 129 were almost as good as the dragon. We stopped for some pics & souvies at Deal’s Gap, the self proclaimed entrance to the dragon. After our t-shirts got packed away, we set our sights on the pavement of the tail. This ride is best known for its 318 curves in 11 miles. This is 100% designed for honing your biking skills. The curves have aggressive banked angles and nearly all are 10 -15 mph twisties. Great pavement too! Another cool situation was once you’ve been thru the dragon, there are not a multitude of options to head back, so about half of us decided to ride it back down again and the other half took a slightly longer route back south/west. This worked out great as they discovered hwy 68 and hwy 60 which we all got to enjoy later in the week. We all got back safe and sound that night. 

The Cherahala Skyway would be our next days adventure and WOW! Beautiful scenery and lots of paved pull offs. This road had just the right sweeping angles and banked turns. We got a little rain just before lunch but had a chance to dry off over some good food.  The Smokies come by their name honestly. The fog rolled in on a daily basis, beautiful and enduring, making it difficult to predict the weather. But we’ll push on! God most certainly created a gem in the Cherehala. Stopping at a Harley dealer at the entrance of the skyway and hitting lunch at Lynn’s made this a memorable ride.

Till my next installment!

Update on Banner City Biker – Sturgis contingent

Bruce Parker & Dick Jones arrived in Sturgis at Katmandu campground Friday and not far behind was Gary Kiger & Cliff Floerke.

Campground was set up, tents and all! Cliff Storlie left Georgia thursday am with Russ/Mary as they had a Nebraska appointment to get to Sturgis & join the others. He gets in at midnight and throws his sleeping bag on top a picnic table and is out like a lite. Black Hills activities will wait til morning! Have fun guys!!

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