Tail of the Dragon

(Org. published by Olivia Carmen on November 17, 2015 on NinerTimes)

If you’re a car enthusiast on a quest to find a place with a road has an abundance of thrilling twists and curves, look no further than Deals Gap, North Carolina. Paved along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, there is a mountain pass aptly dubbed “Tail of the Dragon” that stretches eleven miles and contains a staggering three hundred and eighteen curves. Enthusiasts from all over the United States travel hundreds and even thousands of miles just to put their cars’ adhesive abilities to the test. As a result, the car culture on this road is eclectic, consisting of muscle cars, European makes, trucks, and supercars; not to mention motorcyclists. You might think you’ve stumbled into one of the Fast and Furious movies one minute and The Dukes of Hazard the next. If you take a look at these cars I captured before they endeavored to “slay the Dragon,” it’s evident that diversity among the drivers on this road is prevalent.

Group Shot.jpg

Before making the trip to the Tail, it’s important to understand a few fundamentals about this road and how you should drive on it. First, you must dispel any desire for pushing your car to its top speed at the Tail. Your speedometer’s needle won’t be sliding all the way to the right on this road, unless you have a death wish…or an F1 car. The straightaways are scarce, and the few that are present are too short to reach a car’s top speed.

But the Tail isn’t intended for testing the limits of speed; it’s intended for testing the limits of adhesion. Traction control is your biggest ally on this road. Second, it’s imperative that you are aware of your car’s exertion. Mute the stereo and listen to the sounds of the engine and the tires. Listening to their noises will help you assess their condition and whether you need to take it easier. Sliding all over the road is also an obvious indicator that you should ease off the throttle.

Once you’ve reached the end where the Killboy souvenir shop is located, go ahead and park there and open up your hood to let your whip catch its breath before going back out. You need to let your engine and brakes cool down. Third, absolutely under no circumstances do you ever cross the double yellow line to overtake someone. Despite the fact that this act is illegal, this kind of driving can prove to be fatal for you and the driver coming down on the other side of the road who isn’t visible until it’s too late. More often than not, drivers who just want to cruise and take it easy will take the first opportunity to pull off at the next available stop to let you by, so be patient and don’t be reckless. Keep in mind that this route isn’t just some fun road created for enthusiasts. For many, this road is just part of their daily commute to and from work.

During a weekend excursion that I took to the Tail, I saw many kinds of cars, but the ones I’m about to mention stood out to me the most for their style, performance, and straight up awesomeness. Among those were these beautiful E30 BMWs that I got to admire several times.

E30 BMWs
E30 BMWs
Some of my other favorites included these Corvette Stingrays taking a breather after doing a return trip down the Tail and this BMW M3 dressed in the rare and mesmerizing Laguna seca blue.

Corvette Stingrays
Corvette Stingrays
Laguna Seca Blue M3
Laguna sea blue M3
But being an avid fan of Bavarian Motor Works, I’d equip myself with any one of these tempting Bimmers to take on the Tail: the M3, 330ci, or the Z3 M.

BMW group photo
BMW brethren
Curve after curve, this eleven-mile stretch of road that seems as though it was paved by the Devil himself will sling you, your car, and any passengers who trust you enough with their lives left and right around each curve. And let me tell you: eleven miles just doesn’t feel long enough, but the beauty of this road is that you can just turn around and do it all again. The screams of the tires, the roars of the engine and the scent of burning rubber that tickles your nostrils will feed into your adrenaline, satiating your desire to really drive. There’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the pure exhilaration that will come from “slaying the Dragon” because there’s nothing quite like it. So gather your fellow car enthusiasts and make a weekend trip out of it. You’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, fellowship of car aficionados, coolness of the air, and echoes of cars having just as much fun as their drivers all at the same time.

 

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