DEALS GAP — The Tail of the Dragon, colloquially known as "The Dragon," is a curvy stretch of Highway 129, running through Blount County and into North Carolina.
With no intersecting roads or driveways to interrupt a cruise, it has become idyllic for many driversand especially motorcyclists, thousands of whom "ride the Dragon" each year.
It's also dangerous. In the last week, two motorcyclists died on The Dragon.
Here are five things to know about the famous — and sometimes infamous — Tail of The Dragon.
It has 318 curves in11 miles
Although it is bordered by the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, driving on The Dragon is no time for sightseeing.
With hundreds of cambered, blind curves and crests, a moment spent looking the wrong way could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Luckily, there are a few areas to pull off the road and absorb the scenery, if that's what you're looking for.
Don't expect to stop for gas in the middle of it
The only gas station on the stretch of U.S. 129 is at the end of the tail in North Carolina. It's part of the "Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort," which also includes a motel and sundry shop.
Travel tips:How to ride the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee
A tree covered in wrecked motorcycle parts is a warning to riders
Some time in the 1980s, a group of Harley Riders started the "Tree of Shame," now a fixture at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. The tree is covered in parts from motorcycles that have crashed, or been "bitten by The Dragon," at some point in time.
It bears a sign that reads "No gain & a lot of PAIN!"
Deals Gap Resort now asksriders to turn in their motorcycle parts to management with a date and signature, rather than affixing them to the tree themselves.
Blount County Sheriff's Officeupped its presence to mitigate fatal crashes
According to Blount County Sheriff's Office, there were 178 crashes on The Dragon between November 2015 and April 2017. Of those, 90 resulted in injuries and three were fatal.
BCSO said in a 10-year period, the 11-mile stretch saw 27 fatal motorcycle wrecks — four more than on the rest of Blount County's 1,100 miles of road in the same time period.
To prevent further crashes, the deputies monitor the road often. From November 2015 to April 2017, BCSO deputies wrote motorists nearly 2,300 citations on The Dragon.
If you do crash, expect to wait an hour or more for help to arrive
All parts of The Dragon are rural, and the nearest ambulance service is a minimum of 45 minutes away. BCSO said transport to a hospital from The Dragon can take at least another 45 minutes, or more than an hour, if an injured person needs to be taken to a trauma center hospital.