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  • Post-GONE: Day 12

    Posted on September 23rd, 2011 tcorzett No comments

    Today I was able to drive some of the most well known roads in the Country… The Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. I’ve been looking forward to conquering these roads for the longest time… as people online always claim they are the best driving roads in the Nation. While the roads were wet, the air was foggy, and my car has been throwing codes… nothing was going to keep me from driving these roads!


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    When I woke-up I looked out the window to find a soaked parking lot and very dark skies. I would have loved to gone back to bed, but with over 7 hours of driving planned… I needed to get started early. Also, I was trying to avoid the rain that was forecasted to increase in the afternoon.

    After a short drive on the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway (US-74) I pulled off the main drag onto NC-28 (aka. the Moonshiner 28). I would have loved to drive the entire Moonshiner, but my goal was to drive the Tail of the Dragon… maybe I can do it next time! The Moonshiner followed a river, and the morning fog was quite dense.

    After taking some photos, I got back onto the road to tackle the fog. I was a little concerned that I would need to drive the rest of the morning in the fog, but fortunately it was mostly concentrated around the river. It didn’t take long for me to reach the Tail of the Dragon, and there was nearly no fog!

    The Tail of the Dragon is in Deals Gap, NC and is famous for having 318 turns in an 11 mile stretch of road.

    Before driving The Tail, I needed to stop at the various shops to get some swag. I purchased a few T-shirts, some “I Survived…” stickers, and a few other odds-and-ends. I know it was poor taste to buy “I Survived” items before driving the road, but my planned route didn’t take me back through this area. I guess I better make it through!

    I programming my GPS with the route… I wasn’t going to get lost, but the GPS makes things almost like a video game with a “Track Map”. I turned on my headlights and started out to conquer the Tail of the Dragon. I was pumped, and just as I rounded the first corner… my car went into “limp mode”! ARGH… seriously, why now!?!

    I quickly pulled-off the road and re-started my car. The new tune that I have loaded doesn’t produce the P2135 DTCs, but the car still goes into limp mode when the DTC would have been generated. The benefit is that I don’t have a code to clear… and I think I could actually restart the car without stopping. I wasn’t delayed long, but it was enough to kill my buzz.

    So after being knocked-down a peg or two from the car troubles… I felt like I just wanted to take a relaxing drive. The Tail has a posted 30 mph speed limit (seriously!?!), so I took things easy for a while… being stuck behind some slow motorcycles didn’t help either. Fortunately I was able to get past the slower traffic and into some clean air. The farther I drove… the more my confidence came back… and it wasn’t long until I was pushing the G8 through the curves!

    The corners on The Tail are fairly tight, but I’ve driven tighter. Most of them had banking and were well marked (people have even painted “SLO” onto the ground before a few of the corners). The roads started out fairly wet, but farther down The Tail things started to dry out a bit. As I’ve done previously, I kept mostly in 3rd gear… but many of the corners wanted me in 2nd gear. Not to leave The Tail of the Dragon wanting more, I had to oblige and drop down into 2nd a couple times… but the faster pace wasn’t something I wanted to do so far from home.

    Along The Tail there were a few photographers taking pictures of the cars and bikes as they went by. I’ve normally not one to want photos of myself, but I hope that one of them got a couple cool photos. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a few days to see…

    Update: Two of the photographers (Killboy.com and US129 Photos) were able to get some good shots of me while I was driving the Tail of the Dragon!

    I’ve heard mixed reviews from people who have driven The Tail of the Dragon… and I think I’m one of those who doesn’t think it is the best driving roads in the Country. I did my run down The Tail on a Friday morning, and while traffic was low… there were still quite a few people on the road. I can only imagine how much of a traffic jam that place could be on a weekend when the weather is good! Fortunately there were no LEO’s (Sheriff/Troopers) out this morning, but I’ve heard that the 30 mph speed limit and many cops combine for lots of tickets. In the end, I’m really glad that I drove The Tail… and I still think it ranks in my Top 10 favorite roads.

    After driving The Tail of the Dragon, I drove North on a loop to return to where I started the morning. Part of this loop took me into the Smoky Mountains National Park.

    While the drive was very scenic, the roads were extremely slow and crowded with people. I spent over an hour crawling through the woods staring at the bumper of a Subaru Outback. To make things even worse, the XM Radio coverage in the area was crap… so I couldn’t even sing along to songs from the 80’s and 90’s!

    The reason for making the loop was so that I could drive the Cherohala Skyway.

    Unlike the Tail of the Dragon, the Cherohala Skyway is long (~60 miles), has a 45 mph speed limit, and was nearly deserted. Sure, there are fewer corners per mile… but I found it quite enjoyable. Another thing that the Cherohala Skyway has going for it, is changes in elevation. I kinda like to think of it as the Blue Ridge Parkway on steroids. Unfortunately by the time I was half-way through the drive the forecasted rain arrived. It didn’t lessen the drive at all, just made it wet.

    Well, my trip through the Appalachian Mountains is officially over. Tomorrow I drive West… towards Las Vegas and GoatRun!

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