10 May 2010

Ride Report: Taking the Skyway to Hunt the Dragon

8 May 2010:
I met TopWop at his house a little after 7:30 a.m.  The plan, as far as I knew, was to finally ride the Dragon.  I'd been thinking about it since I aborted joining the gang after the races in mid April.  Since then, I hadn't really been riding.  Just a few quick outings to test the camera or the exhaust.  Nothing was going to stop me from riding this day.

TopWop and I decided we'd meet as early as possible so I set my alarm for 5:45 a.m.  This would give me plenty of time to get ready and dawdle a little before leaving the house.  The only problem was I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and had a little trouble falling back to sleep.  Then later, around 5:20 a.m., I was woke again.  Screw it, might as well get up.

We left around 10 minutes to 8 after deciding not only would we ride the Dragon, but we'd do the Cherohala Skyway as well.  Good idea to me because my last memory was of the Skyway was achy knees and sore shoulders.  I wanted to replace it with something a lot better.  We found ourselves in Cleveland at our usual stopping point about the same time as we normally would be leaving Starbucks to start a ride.  I realized we probably could have left a little earlier and been in Cleveland to meet the rising sun but that might have been a little ambitious on my part.

Here's the best part of the route since we took US 129 to US 64:

 After picking up a few snacks and setting my gps to go to Tellico Plains because TopWop wasn't sure if the route he wanted to take transferred correctly, we were heading down US 129.  Without the eFns there, we had to rely on my clearance deal Cobra ESD 7400 radar detector to look out for LEOs looking to improve the county's reserves.  Just as we got to the twisty part, the Cobra sounded showing a ka band alert.  A curve later or so, the LEO was pulling away from the side of the road heading back toward town.  We had no squidly plans for the day, but it was nice to know we'd have a modicum of warning if we did. 

I am getting more familiar with US 129 and I think my riding reflected it.  Or at least it felt like it.  With the sound of the Yosh singing in my ears, I had very little problems staying smooth on the throttle.  I managed to stay with TopWop the whole way through.  Later in the day, I realized for some reason it was easier for me to concentrate on the road ahead than usual.  I've decided that I really like the stretch after US 19 joins US 129 all the way to Wolf Pen Gap Rd (GA 180).

Once we reached US 64, I realized we'd ridden that way during the Twisty Butt.  I was so focused on riding during that day, I didn't pay attention to where we were riding.  We took 64 all the way to Ducktown then picked up TN 68 into Tellico Plains.  TN 68 is a nicely paved road with gentle curves and little rises in the road.  The only problem was the amount of car traffic, little cars stuffed with junk that should be in trucks and uppity women in Honda CRVs who think they are too good to pull over and glare at you in their rear view mirrors daring you to pass.  As you wish!

We arrived in Tellico Plains at the same gas station that I was so glad to see during the Twisty Butt around 11 a.m.  We hung around for a little while, eating our snacks and talking to the other bikers who were about to ride or had finished riding the Skyway.  Once couple complained about how cold it was and I went inside seeking a long sleeved shirt since I left my liner at home.  But after seeing how much they wanted for a silly shirt, I decided I'd take my chances.

Riding the Skyway fresh was amazing.  I scraped my boot twice, once on each side!!  TopWop says it is indicative of my good riding form.  Like some of the people mentioned, there were a lot of bikes out on the perfect Saturday morning for a ride.  I expected as much, since it wasn't too cold or hot and the weather forecast did not include any rain showers.  It also wasn't that cold on the highest elevations, at least no colder than it had been riding US 129 earlier that morning.

I tried to video the ride but my in ability to check to be sure the card was empty before I left home means I got no video.  That's not true, I got 39 seconds of us leaving the station.  Yep, nothing.  Instead of riding from Robbinsville, like we had during the Twisty Butt, this time we started on the Tennessee side and ended up in North Carolina.

We paused to take pictures after catching up to a couple of people on cruisers flying little Texas flags (I think).  It was a short stop before we were back at it again.  It didn't take long for us to encounter a little traffic.  Oddly enough, most of the car drivers pulled over to let us by when it was convenient.  Some of the other motorcyclists, on the other hand, fought hard not to get passed.  I could only smile as the Yosh sang a little louder when we easily passed them anyway.  I wonder how did it sound, TopWop's Leo Vince's song followed by the Yosh's?

Toward the Robbinsville end, there is a little store that advertises free maps and since we got such an early start to the day, I thought we had enough time to check it out.  Once stopped, TopWop suggested I needed a sticker to put on my top case that said, "You've just been passed by a girl!"  He thought it would probably make a few riders more than a little embarrassed.  He's probably right, most men don't want to believe a woman can ride as well as (or better than) they can.  It wasn't much, just a small store filled with overpriced souvenirs.  It was such a disappointment, I didn't bother about asking for the free map.

The highlight was probably the old dude on the Chinese mini chopper (Yumba?) with a sackful of crap.  When he tried to put the sack on the handlebars, the throttle grip fell of revealing that only a quarter of the handlebar supported it.  The funniest thing was watching the springs compress after he sat down once he kicked it started.

After a good chuckle, we continued on to the Dragon.  On the way up US 129 going towards Deals Gap, Latigo Canyon RD in Malibu popped into my mind.  It was on a similar day that I rode it the first time, right after the rains had come to Southern California.  I'd heard so much about it that I couldn't wait to ride it, just like the Dragon.  In fact, I was so excited, I braved the 405 and the 10 rather than taking Pacific Coast Highway up from my apartment in Long Beach.

The road is carved right out of the canyon and is extremely tight and twisty with a few driveways thrown in for good measure.  When I attempted to look through the curves, most of the time all I saw was rock and weeds.  Once I reached the top, though I was rewarded with an excellent view.  Somewhere underneath the haze lay Catalina Island.  I was passed on that road a couple of times, I think by the same guy!

I wondered how I could ride that road now with so much more experience under my belt.  It was that experience that tempered my anticipation of the Dragon.  I knew with the rock slide still blocking the road, I wouldn't be able to ride the whole thing since it was partially open.  I didn't even think about the tree of shame until I saw it as we were getting ready to go home.

As soon as we passed Hwy 28, TopWop came on the radio and said, "Welcome to the Dragon".  I was finally there.  I turned off the mp3 player so I could concentrate on this famous road, expecting curves so tight that I couldn't see through them.  I should have took a closer look at the map before I left.  The curves were tight, but Appalachian tight not California canyon tight.  The road is lined by trees and rarely do you ride underneath just the sky.

Seeing through corners was not an issue, watching out for the oncoming traffic was another story!  At first we were stuck behind a couple of cruisers, but soon they were behind us with a ribbon of curving road ahead.  There wasn't as much traffic as I expected but it was still a lot for around 1 p.m.  Again, no video on the way up.

Toward where the road ended, we caught up to a couple of guys on sport bikes.  We didn't pass them, I don't think it was because we couldn't but more that TopWop knew the end was near.  When we got to the turn around, I decided to change micro sd cards and nearly lost the 4gb card when I dropped it.  Next time I'll take both gloves off when handling those boogers.

Unfortunately, I forgot to put scotch tape on the camera mic so the wind noise mostly drowned any bike sounds.  I put the pictures I took with the video.  So, here we are, popping my cherry on the Dragon:

I had the camera a little lower than I would have liked but it still is a good video.  Probably the best I've taken so far, with the exception of the sound.  Soon, I'll get it all together.

From there, we pretty much took 129 all the way home.  My total mileage for the day was around 443 miles.  It was a great day and I can't wait until the next one.

The Dragon sticker is a must for one who has completed the ride.  I bought 2 pink ones @ $1.60 each and put them on bike in the spot Yamaha must have made for them.  I wanted to put one on the tail case, but it wouldn't stick!

Thanks for reading,


  1. Looks like a really fun day. I am itching to ride, and have no idea when I will get to go again. (May 22nd I guess) :) Video looks good too.

  2. It was a great day. I can't wait for the rally so I can do it again and again and again!!

    I gotta tighten that screw so the camera won't dip down like that.

    Looks like the 22nd, I haven't order the jets nor have I heard from va_rider. If I don't by then, we'll just go somewhere.


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