San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Friday, July 31, 2009

"RIDE ME IF YOU DARE"... the slogan for travelers on Highway 129 in Tennessee, also known as TAIL OF THE DRAGON. So I did.

I first learned about Highway 129 from reading the back of a stranger's T-shirt in Dry Tortugas, FL! became a road I wanted to explore -- in a car. I understand Mini Coopers from all over the country come here by the hundreds for an annual road rally, but Highway 129 belongs to bikers year round. Driving Tail of the Dragon requires one to negotiate 318 curves in ELEVEN miles! If you drive it forth and then back, you get 22 hair-raising miles and 636 thrilling curves! It starts and ends at an intersection called Deal's Gap in North Carolina; a few tenths of a mile later, it enters SE Tennessee.

This guy is one of a trio who stakes out a curve for the day, shoots away with a long, fast lens then sells his photos on line. Kind of like the guys who perch on riverside rocks and take photos of people in yellow rafts almost drowning in white water!

Pausing at the Kool Aid stand at the top to chat, check out the view, admire the wheels, maybe leave a reminder you passed by - every year you passed by - trade horror stories, polish the chrome AGAIN, then strap up and move on, strangers no more.

And here I thought Lazy Dazers were freaks about keeping their rigs spotless!

Bikers seem to cross cultural, age and gender lines. To me they seem a bit cultish with a special dare-devil gene! There seem to be as many gray-haired grandparents as there are hotshots barely out of their teens. They travel solo, in pairs, in clubby groups on stripped-down racing bikes, touring bikes with saddlebags and some pulling a matching trailer containing camping gear.

Yes, I had permission to photograph her!
Patchwork, the real thing!
The bike of choice still seems to be a "Hog;" they come from all over the world and congregate at "Motorcycle Resorts." Well, why not? Deal's Gap has a campground, motel rooms, cafe, a retail store that sells all things motorcycle, and pint-size parking spaces!

The TREE OF SHAME! It would be funny if it didn't represent such unfortunate occasions. OK, I chuckled; it's funny!

I mounted my intrepid, spunky zoom-zoom Ford Focus........WHHEEEEEEEE! Buckle up, grab the chicken handle and shut up!