Crossing Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, the Dragon is considered by many as one of the world's best motorcycling and sports car roads. Anyone looking for an exciting highway will enjoy this stretch of US129. The road is desolate and can be a real adventure in the winter months. We've had to deal with bears, turkeys, deer, and wild boars in the road, trees down, ice/snow, and tractor-trailers taking-up both lanes in the curves. It is not a road for the squeamish, but if you're looking for a little excitement don't miss this one. We've been driving the Tail of the Dragon since 1975. At first it was in the family car, then in our 1976 Corvette for many years. Now we have graduated to motorcycles. We have always loved the road, finding it a thrill in whatever we happen to be driving. One of the most exciting runs was on icy roads in the Expedition with 4-wheel drive engaged. In the summers we ride the Dragon at least two days a week and each day includes about 6 runs. It's better than any roller coaster we've ever been on. Our favorite sections are the Hump and the esses just before Cattail Straight. Be ready to scrape your footpegs in some of these wild curves. And we warn you not to sightsee. To some the Dragon begins on the North Carolina side at Fugitive Bridge with a view of the Cheoah Dam where Harrison Ford jumped in the movie The Fugitive. It ends 14 miles across the mountain at the Tabcat Creek Bridge in Tennessee. US129 climbs through The Slide, a steep series of "S" curves where one would not want to meet a tractor-trailer. The road then levels and straightens until a series of curves approaching the Crossroads of Time, one of the main hangouts for cyclists. Next comes Deals Gap and the Tennessee State Line. We'll leave the rest for you to describe after you ride it. Many just remember curve after curve after curve and surviving the run of their lives. After riding many other twisties, we always come home to the Dragon and rate it the best of them all.
FACTS ABOUT THE DRAGON
Tabcat Bridge to Deals Gap - 11.1 miles
Tabcat Bridge to Hwy 28 - 11.8 miles
Tabcat Bridge to Fugitive Bridge - 14.0 miles
As the Crow Flies:
Tabcat Bridge to Fugitive Bridge - 6.0 miles
AVERAGE DAILY TRAFFIC (ADT):
400 vehicles in 2002.
Deals Gap - 1962 feet
Tabcat Bridge - 877 feet
Tabcat Bridge to Deals Gap - plus 1085 feet
Tabcat Bridge to Fugitive Bridge - plus 321 feet
CLICK HERE FOR ENLARGED ELEVATION MAP
Prior to 1992 the speed limit in both Tennessee and North Carolina was 55 mph. In 1993 the speed limit on the Tennessee side was lowered to 40 mph. In 2002 the speed limit was lowered to 30 mph, which is still in effect today. The North Carolina portion of the Dragon was lowered to 30 mph in early 2005..
2005 - Three deaths: All three deaths involved failing to negociate corners - two went off the mountain and one slid into an oncoming vehicle.
2004 - Two deaths: Both deaths apparently caused by speed and then overbraking.
2003 - No deaths: There were several deaths in the surrounding area of the Dragon, but none that we know of on the 11 miles of the Dragon itself.
2002 - Two deaths: On June 16 a 29 year-old Dale Bently a Valkyrie rider from Michigan died on the Dragon. The rider was passing a car near the Horns of the Dragon when he wrecked and suffered fatal head injuries. The second death occurred on Sunday August 4 when Lendry R. Obanna Jr., 24, of Jacksonville, Florida, lost control of his 2000 Yamaha R6.
2001 - Two deaths: The entire Blount County (home of the Dragon) saw a total of four motorycle fatalities in 2001. The total includes the deaths of a 27-year-old Knoxville man who died March 10 in a collision on Old Knoxville Highway in Rockford, the May 5th death on the Dragon, the July 5th death of a 43-year-old Maryville man in an accident on Happy Valley Road, and the October 27th death on the Dragon.
2000 - One death: Blount County had four motorcycle deaths in 2000 including one fatality on the Dragon.
1999 - One death: Only one motorcycle death in 1999
1998 - No deaths: No fatal motorcycle crashes in 1998.
1997 - One death: A single motorcycle fatality is listed in 1997.
1996 - One death: A single motorcycle fatality in 1996.
1995 - Two deaths: In 1995, two men died in separate July 3 motorcycle crashes on the Dragon during the July 4 holiday weekend.
You will hear a lot about the fastest times on the Dragon. The original timing involved a run from the Overlook to the Crossroads of Time and then back, an 18.6-mile distance. The round trip time was then divided by two. The Deals Gap Riding Society record for an amateur rider was a 22 minute round trip run, which averaged out to 11 minutes (50.7 mph average). The overall record was 18 minutes, or 9 minutes one-way (62 mph average). In order to compete for a new record one had to make the run along with the current record holder.
These records were set back in the early 1990s when there was little traffic on the Dragon. Today, with the road patrolled by sheriff and highway patrol, you will risk severe penalties if you try to beat the records.
MOVIES FILMED ON THE DRAGON:
The first feature film made on US 129 was Thunder Road. This 1958 Robert Mitchum film about backwoods moonshining actually had scenes filmed on the Dragon. One location that we can identify is at the power line easement at about mile 4.5 on the Dragon map and you can see the old wooden "safety" posts on the open corner. A couple of the posts still remain. Darrin Roberts told us that part of the 1971 classic movie Two-Lane Blacktop was filmed on the Dragon. There are scenes of the state line sign, some of the curves, and the original single lane bridge at Tapoco Dam. There are also scenes along 129 on the Little Tennessee River. We were amazed to see the original Deal's Gap diner and Esso gas station in the film too. These scenes are at the end of the movie.
Part of The Fugitive (1993) with Harrison Ford was filmed at Tapoco Dam.
Part of In Dreams (1998) with Annette Bening was filmed at Tapoco Dam and Calderwood Dam.
Several commercials have been filmed here.
North Carolina: The NC state's 2006 TIP shows no major plans to improve US 129 or NC 28, but we have been told that there is a good chance that repaving will occur in 2006 on NC 28 from Fontana to US 129, and on US 129 from Fugitive Bridge to the State Line. Tennessee: No Major projects planned on the Tennessee side according to TN DOT. TN repaved the Dragon in June of 2002.
Z Tail Of Z Dragon Website