U.S. Highway 129 is called “the Tail of the Dragon” for a good reason. With 318 curves within 11 miles, as well as some of the most breathtaking views in the Smoky Mountain Range, Deal’s gap provides both adventure and peril, beauty and beast, all rolled into one. A police presence is generally unseen most likely because at speeds of just 15-20 miles per hour, the average rider will find their driving and motorcycling skills fully tested. In addition, the sheer drop off the side of the mountain is also another deterrent to going over the speed limit.
The area surrounding Deal’s gap is a vacationer’s paradise. The nearby Cherokee resort hotel offers gambling, food and entertainment within just half an hour’s drive of the gap. If you book early, you might be able to reserve space at the Deal’s gap resort itself, a hotel and restaurant, situated at the beginning of the road. Once the riding season officially kicks off, space at the resort is extremely limited, so if you intend to stay, it pays to reserve a space several months in advance. The Deal’s gap resort is also the location of the “Tree of Shame.”
Proper safety equipment such as long pants, boots, a helmet, and a leather jacket should be worn if you are riding the gap. Additionally, any enthusiasts with sports cars should observe particular care. There are numerous forums online that can help you determine how to proceed, but in many cases, those forums will not quite measure up to the experience, itself. Hwy 129 abhors the reckless and rewards the methodical. Remembering that will help prevent you from damaging your car or even injuring someone else.Cautious motorists seldom have problems navigating the road. Fellow riders are generally courteous, but it is expected, if you ride slow, give faster riders plenty of room to pass. This contributes to the friendly environment of the resort and helps keep riders safe. However, problems still occur on very rare occasions. If you should have a problem on the gap, it is tradition for you to remove the damaged part from your bike before you leave and hang it from the tree located outside the resort.
Hwy 129 is open to traffic on both sides. Although in recent years, a bypass was created to divert heavy traffic away from the route. Inexperienced truck drivers following GPS directions may be misguided into the mouth of the dragon. When this happens, it is best to pull off to the side at one of the beautiful scenic overviews and enjoy a rest. There is no way for the trucks to back up or turn around anywhere on the route, and they will likely have traffic backed up for several miles as they snake their way through usually with a very necessary police escort.
Deal’s gap is one of America’s great drives, but it must be approached with caution. Riders who let down their guard for even a moment will almost certainly be injured and even killed. Those who survive the dragon’s wrath will find themselves unable to resist turning around and going back through again.