Rules of the Road: The Dragon

5:44 PM, Jun 1, 2011   |    comments
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One of the most popular stretches of road in East Tennessee, The Dragon has its own set of unwritten rules drivers follow as they brave several hundred hairpin turns on the North Carolina state-line.

"Some people come here just to say 'I've done it, I've slayed the dragon'.  Some guys come down here to see how fast they can go and prove something."

When Don Brooks first came to Blount County's "dragon" years ago, he figured it'd be the first and only time he'd get a chance to ride the curves.

But he fell in love with the area, found himself coming back again and again, and even found himself a nickname.

"When I'm at work I'm Don," Brooks said.  "When I'm in the mountains, I'm Tank."

Even on a Wednesday morning, The Dragon's 318 curves over 11 miles of pavement produce a steady stream of two-wheeled riders.

"Oh I love the ride, the hills, the mountains, the curves, the water," Joe Foy, a rider from Louisiana making a return trip said.

"Curve geometry is the draw.  You presume you're going to live forever so just miserable," Brooks said.

That means a lot of drivers ditched their leather jackets, which can mean more danger.

"If you think you're going to crash.  But we don't push our bikes," Foy said.

The Dragon's reputation for lots of wrecks has led to lots of police presence.  But in a lot of ways, the riders themselves police each other too, enforcing an unwritten set of rules upon one another.  It includes respectful riding and using shoulders to allow faster riders go through.

"I don't care how fast you are.  If you're putting people in danger, nobody likes you and you'll probably get a talking to," Brooks said.

It's all in place to ensure they'll get a chance to come back for another trip that will test their confidence...

"There's nothing that can hurt me, that's somebody else that gets airlifted out of here," Blanton said with a smile.

And test each other.

"The best advice you can give somebody on a motorcycle is ride your own ride.  If you're feeling uncomfortable, slow down. You know?" Brooks said.

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