April 25, 2016
Starting mileage 3128.6
When we first pulled into the campground, two of the sites had been occupied. When I poked my head out of the tent in the morning, we were the only ones left. I can be accused of many things but being an early riser is definitely not one of them. I thought about making breakfast but still couldn’t bear the thought of eating anything so we went for a short walk before breaking camp.
When we had passed through Tellico Plains the evening before, I had noticed a bakery and figured a nice cup of coffee was in order. Just because I wasn’t hungry didn’t mean I couldn’t get caffeinated. So we went back into town. And the bakery was closed. I had forgotten that it was Monday after all. Somewhat dejected, I started to drive out of town when I happened to look to my left and saw a small brick shed with a sign that read “Tellico Jail”. I don’t know if it was actually a jail but I had to stop for a quick picture.
Then I saw the local visitor centre and the sign out front said that they had the best T-shirts for the “Tail of the Dragon”. Now I had heard of this road which is supposed to be a big draw for motorcycles. I decided to pop in and find out more. In the parking lot I saw what looked like a shrub pruned in the shape of a dragon.
The Tail of the Dragon is a section of Highway 129 that is 11 miles long but has 318 curves. When I told the woman working there that I was in the area and thinking about driving it, she hesitated then said that today would be a good day since it wouldn’t be as busy. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about it. For some reason I had this image in my head of broken pavement, sheer cliffs, narrow roads. But I figured that since I was here I had to at least check it out. She pulled out a map to give me directions and told me I would have to go along the Cherohala Skyway and that there was some great scenery along there. I made a crack about having been through there yesterday and it was just like home, only with bigger hills. She gave me kind of a puzzled look before going back to the map. I could either take a big loop and drive the Tail from north to south which is how most people do it or take a more direct route to go from south to north. Since I had to go north anyway, it was an easy decision to make. Of course now that I had a map in hand, I noticed that I had crisscrossed the park I don’t know how many times in the past 24 hours. Part of the fun of freestyle road tripping I guess.
With a stack of maps and brochures tucked under my arm, I went back to the car and out to the road. It did not take me long to realize that the day before, I had actually taken a wrong turn and was never on the Skyway. Those nice hills that I had seen were actually foothills. Well didn’t I feel the ass when I sorted that out. The Skyway was exactly how I had thought it would be and on par with the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
There is a restaurant and motel at the bottom of the Tail and we stopped there before tackling the drive. I certainly did not fit in with the crowd: a lone woman and three dogs in a Corolla with Ontario plates do stand out. My nerves were not settled when I saw the high-end sports cars or the pack of motorcycles that pulled in talking about how their brakes were smoking. What had I gotten us into?!?! They even have signs for having your photo taken as you drive.
After strapping the dogs in, I sat in the drivers seat and steeled myself for the drive. Music on and at a good level? Check. Everyone peed? Check. Hungry? Still no. Weird but I’ll think about that later. We have a dragon tail to drive. And here. We. Go.
It was not what I thought it would be. The road was the same road the I had been driving. There weren’t sheer cliffs. And the road was not only standard width but there were even places to pull off. I just drove nice and slow and waved at the photo stands on some of the corners. Now had I been on a motorcycle and driving quickly for bragging rights, then it would be terrifying. Fortunately there wasn’t much for scenery that I could see so I wasn’t tempted to look anywhere and didn’t feel cheated out of the sights. The odd thing was that there wasn’t a restaurant at the north end of the Tail. I guess I did it backwards.
Fortunately there were plenty of other spots to stop and enjoy and we made frequent stops as we drove. With the clock ticking away before I had to be back home, the drive was not as leisurely as it could have been even with our little walk breaks. As we were approaching Cincinnati, Ohio I noticed there were a lot of signs for campgrounds. Wanting to make the most of a mostly open road, I decided to wait until we passed through before putting in for the night. I thought that with campgrounds to the south, there would be campgrounds to the north. Well that backfired because I did not see a single sign north of the city. You would think by now that I would have learned my lesson and done some research ahead of time.
Finally as we approached Dayton, Ohio, I saw there was a Red Roof Inn. Perfect. The room wasn’t as nice as the one we had stayed at in Greensboro but it was clean and I was tired. And finally hungry. I tried to order a pizza from a restaurant that was 7 kms away. They told me I was outside of their delivery area. By this point I was so tired, I didn’t care and crawled into bed. Apparently I found the really comfy spot on the pillow because Leo decided to use me instead.