Taming the Tail of the Dragon
11 miles, 318 turns, 2 states, and the ride is priceless. That is US 129 by the numbers. One of America’s most popular drives is the Tail of the Dragon and it’s one wild ride.
The Tail snakes through Deals Gap connecting Tennessee on one side with North Carolina on the other. It rips through the stunning vistas of the Appalachian Mountains, but don’t think this is a road for site seeing. This road is made to be driven and it will take all of your concentration.
42 people have died on this stretch of road since 1995. That’s 2 people a year and remember it’s only an 11 mile stretch of road. Adrenaline pumping yet?
Made for Adventure
This paved roller coaster ride is known by the North Carolina locals as “that damn road to Tennessee”.
There are no intersecting roads on The Tail. There are no houses, no driveways, and no businesses. It’s just asphalt. And the asphalt is waiting for you.
Each and every curve is different. Many of them are banked, giving you the feel of a turn on a race track. And man oh man are there turns; 318 of them! And on-coming traffic. You don’t get that on the track for sure!
Bikers frequently hit a peg and wipe out. While you won’t have that problem in a car, your nemesis will be speed and braking.
Tips for Taming the Tail
The one tip every experienced Dragon tamer will give you is “take it easy on the first ride”. Yeah you probably want to take it easy on the second one as well.
Definitely stick to the posted speed on the first few runs. If the driver behind you gets frustrated with your initial speed don’t let them get under your skin; just use one of the pullouts and let ’em pass. There are loads of pullouts just for this purpose. Chances are it’s a local that learned to drive on this road. Heck they may think this is what every road looks like! Trust me, it’s not worth getting into a pissing contest here.
Stay away from the double yellow center line and hope that the oncoming traffic does as well. It’s there for a reason. Part of the thrill of this ride is the blind curves, but that’s also part of the danger.
This is no ride for lookie-loos, but it will be beautiful in almost any season. Just never take your eyes off the road. If riding in the early Spring or late Fall, give your tires some time to warm up. You’ll have much better traction and control once the rubber is warm. If you’re riding in the Winter, think carefully. Unlike the Clingman’s Dome road or 441 through the Smokey Mountain National Park, the Tail is rarely closed for snow and ice. They do keep it salted in case someone is fool enough to drive it. If you plan on being that fool look out for black ice, it’s a real threat. This mountain road has few guardrails and if you go off the road you are going all the way off the road.
Make sure fluids are topped off, brakes are in good condition, and tires are properly inflated. Then strap in and get ready to roll.
Tires for the Tail
Thrilling roads need wheels and tires up to the challenge. Wide steel belts are crucial to cornering and riding the Tail of the Dragon is an exercise in continual turning and cornering.
Check out the Klutch SL1s wrapped with Achilles ATR Sports on this Acura. This Integra is ready to tame the Dragon even in damp conditions. The ATR Sport resists hydroplaning if you are riding in damp conditions. The motor sports inspired tread design gives you the maximum performance you need for handling, braking and acceleration on the Tail.
Got an amazing ride you want to share or pics from your shot at taming the Dragon? Drop us a line at email@example.com and your ride may be featured.