Editors Note: This is a reader submitted article and was edited for readability by Diana Olmstead.
Written By Tom Neal II, Photos by Tom II & Tom III
We had started the day off by checking out of our hotel room in Dillard Georgia. I was looking forward to this final leg of our trip and experiencing the Tail of the Dragon! After a quick breakfast we hit the road and headed north again, making our way up to Moonshiner 28, or properly known as NC28, and then on to the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. On the way, we rode along one of the most beautiful roads I have traveled – a twisty, winding road, with great scenery and plenty of bees. I had a full face helmet on at this point, I did not grab my beanie helmet for this trip as I figured I would be without when I could and deal with the full face when required; Big mistake. While riding along with the visor opened for ventilation, I got stung by a bee, not once, not twice, but 3 times. Then we stopped at a scenic overview to check out the beautiful area for a few minutes, and as I threw my helmet back on I got stung 2 more times! We continued on with the ride even though I was in pain, but thankfully I’m not allergic. I had calmed down a bit when another bee came through the small crack in the visor and stung me just below the eye! I couldn’t believe it! We made it to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, where we had breakfast, bought some t-shirts, but damn they didn’t have any beanie helmets. As we were about to depart and cruise the Tail of the Dragon the shop across the street opened up so we checked it out. I found a couple stickers for my kid and as I went to pay I saw that they had one small beanie helmet, and it was my size! I would’ve paid $300 or more for that $100 helmet, I didn’t care, I just didn’t want any more bees trapped in my helmet. When she told me the price was $120, I couldn’t get the cash out fast enough!
Next up, we were off to ride the Dragon, I had heard about this road for many years. Was it a bunch of hype, was it over rated – Yes. Was it worth the trip? Hell yes! Would I do it again? Planning on it! There were 318 curves in 11 miles with no driveways, roads or other means of cross traffic. The curves were tight and fun; the only things to watch out for were drivers crossing into your lane, cops, photographers and more cops. I saw a cop on a marked Harley, I saw cops driving a marked patrol car, a C6 Corvette and an SRT 8 Jeep Grand Cherokee. There have been many injuries and deaths on this stretch of road, so you must watch out. About a ½ mile after leaving the resort, we entered Tennessee, twisting and turning through the countryside. As we rolled out of the Dragon, it opened up to a great view of the water and dam; from there we continued though the green landscape and headed northwest. I fell in love with that area too. The people and the scenery were wonderful all the way to Nashville.
We continued on towards Kentucky and found some rain, but it only lasted about 10 minutes. The ride through Kentucky was pretty short as we were shooting for Missouri for the night. By that point it was pretty warm and humid and I was dying to ditch the brain bucket! Not too far from Illinois, a no helmet state, I could see the river so I unstrapped the skid lid. As we got on the bridge, I took off my helmet and ran my hand over my head, as I looked over to my right, there was my son flipping me the bird… while wearing his full face helmet. Sorry dude, my choice, my right, and you’re only 16. (Put Bridge pic in this area)
As we rolled on through southern Illinois towards Missouri I was watching these dark, mysterious, and downright mean looking clouds. Not liking this, I looked at the GPS, and how the road followed, then looked back at the clouds again. I watched the GPS and the clouds for what seemed like an eternity until I saw we were 2 miles from the hotel. We’re going to make it I thought, we just need to go up a couple blocks, catch the interstate for a mile, and the hotel would be right there. As we got to the stop light close to the interstate, we started to get hit with a few drops of rain. I had on a sweatshirt and I’d put my beanie back on, my kid had a full face helmet and a waterproof riding coat on. We looked ahead and all we could see was rain literally bouncing off the pavement. My son looked over at me, pointed and laughed! I’m thinking “Oh, hell no, we’re almost there” so we made a right turn, followed the road that parallels the highway while staying dry, made a left turn at the next big intersection and shot over the freeway to the hotel, evading the rain again! We parked the bikes under the covered drop off area and as we got off the bikes the downpour hit.
The next couple days were spent in the heartland as we rolled through Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. We had to hold up an extra night due to tornado warnings, but again, no danger was met face to face. (Put Smoke pic in this area)
While in Nebraska, we were noticing a haze on the horizon, when we dipped into Colorado it was still there, as well as in Wyoming. It wasn’t until we stopped for food and fuel in Wyoming and I asked the waitress what the haze was from. She said “It’s the smoke from the fires in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California.” Damn, we could see that haze mid-way through Nebraska. We stayed the night in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a small town, with a great hotel and nice scenery. We watched the news in the morning and saw there was no way around the fires, so we planned to just jump on the interstate. We ran I-80 through Utah to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and of course being racers, we had to run the scoots down the salt, which by the way, we are still cleaning off the bikes. It was a great time on the salt, I really want to get back down there and run my Dyna in the time trials, unfortunately the last couple years Speed Week was canceled due to the water on the salt. All of the mining is having a major effect on the salt beds.
We made it to Twin Falls, Idaho for the night, and breathing was difficult from the smoke. The next day as we rode through Oregon, I didn’t recognize it, the air was smoky, the ground was black, and it wasn’t the Oregon I knew. When we arrived back in Washington, my wife met up with us in Tri-cities. We opted to stay the night just for the heck of it, even though we could have pushed on and made it home sooner. But it sure was nice to have a hotel room alone with my lady for the night too. The next day we cruised over White Pass and made our way back up to Olympia to my mom’s house. My son and I dropped her off, I got my Dyna back, and we headed for Shelton. The Ultra Classic made for a cushy ride, but it sure felt good to be back on my Dyna feeling the road beneath me and the power and noise that my bike makes. My son and I ended the trip riding side by side the rest of the way home.
All in all it was a great trip, no major problems, no accidents and little rain! I’m looking forward to doing another trip with my son and this time, my wife. I would like to give a very special thank you to my mom for making this dream a reality for all of us! Love you Ma!