~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stepping On The Dragon's Tail

I love to ride and drive fast but I'm selective about when and where but I freely admit to taking liberties with the speed limit now and again even at this later stage of life. In my twenties there were people who doubted I would make it to thirty but I did and someplace along the way since then I learned to slow down and yet enjoy the ride. Still, the throttle hand can get itchy on a nice road and I give into the need for speed. I've gotten more than one "performance award" over the years one two wheels and four and pretty much deserved them when I was stopped. You play, you eventually pay.

Out east in Tennessee (and also out west and in California) the guys have taken specific twisty roads, turned them into public race tracks, documented their fun with websites and blogs (www.killboy.com) and now are moaning and groaning when the police crack down. Gentlemen, what did you think was going to happen when you have numerous people flaunting the speed laws every single weekend on the same stretch of road for years? There's no shortage of evidence. Go to Google Video and you will find over 1,000 videos if you search on the term "Deal's Gap."

 photo: Killboy.com

I'm really not knocking killboy.com (I read it most every week and enjoy the pictures and captions) or the people who have figured out how to boost tourism around an obscure rural Tennessee road so they can make a living, I'm just saying that when the police finally get enough calls from John Q. Public and also have to work enough traffic accidents on one stretch of road, there are going to be consequences. The government is not going to wink and look the other way when people are being injured and killed just because breaking the law brings in tourist dollars. We all know that fact as surely as politicians love to grandstand on any issue that they can, whether they grasp all the facts or not. Don't whine. You knew in your heart of high RPM hearts that this was bound to happen.

Same goes for the loud pipes chopper guys who are feeling the heat now via city noise laws in places like Denver, CO and Cave Creek, AZ. You Jesse James wannabes knew those straight pipes were not legal, did you think they would be ignored forever because of the silly slogan "Loud pipes save lives"? If you did then you're wearing your official Harley do-rag too tight.

Riders (including me) and drivers have been flaunting the speed laws on popular roads for years because they can, so it's no surprise that when the police do crack down that they get heavy handed about it simply because they can. Cops are human and having riders or drivers blitzing "their road," which is in fact their workplace that they are hired by the public to control, is likely to draw a strong reaction. As Jim Croce sang: "You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger..."

I've read recently that Mullholland Drive in SoCal is getting much the same treatment as Deals Gap and the road up Palomar Mountain (my old stomping grounds) has been under the police microscope more than once and even suffered vigilante backlash from residents in the area. You challenge the cop's authority on the road you're going to lose. Get real, folks, and move on. There are other great roads in TN and other great roads in California. Are you riding to enjoy the ride or riding to be seen and show off? Spread out and have your fun but don't make yourself a nuisance. And when you get popped, take your medicine like man.

A little TN police hypocrisy in action. photo via www.killboy.com

I'll say too that some of the stories of tickets written by the TN cops and the pictures of patrol cars themselves violating the law are convincing enough to say that the police are misguided in their heavy handedness and ultimately making enemies instead of changing attitudes or making friends. Was it really necessary to have fourteen patrol cars on eleven miles of road? Necessary to write tickets to tourists for 35 mph in a 30 mph zone? That's just stupid. One patrol car at each end and one in the middle of the Gap would have been enough to spoil the fun and make the point with the most egregious violators.

Thumbs down to the knee draggers and crazies who thought they could flaunt the speed laws forever and get away with it and thumbs down to the Tennessee highway patrol guys and country police for acting more like Sheriff Buford T. Justice than professional law enforcement officers.


Donna McNicol said...

Well written....I'm glad I got to do a lot of riding out West and don't feel the need to experience the testosterone zone of Deal's Gap.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding article, well put. I frequent some of the California roads you mention, and I couldn't agree more. Sometimes I think this sport has gotten far too popular. I've been riding Palomar Mountain road for 15 years, and the past year or 2 its just gotten insane. There are other roads to travel for sure. I got popped by local police a month ago, but I certainly deserved it, and I won't complain (too much!)

Crusty said...

I agree 100% Doug. We (the motorcycling public) let our selves be led down the road to excess and it ALWAYS comes back to bite us in the ass. -Crusty

Anonymous said...

Hang on there Doug... not all of "the guys" in Tennessee make a habit of turning twisty roads into public race tracks as you imply. I am a Tennessee rider and with three trips to Deals Gap in the past 4 years I have never raced or traveled at excessive speed on the Tail of the Dragon, I don’t know anybody who has and have never seen anyone doing so.

Let's not be too judgmental from the other side of the country. Yes, I know there are some that act stupid on the Dragon but 14 State Troopers on an 11 mile stretch of highway, randomly pulling motorcycles over to do spot inspections and check registration is in my opinion extreme overkill and borderline harassment.

Like you say, what would make sense is to have one or two cars assigned to patrol the stretch, to keep the crazies under control and everyone safe but in typical government fashion, the ready, fire, aim approach has been taken. I encourage you to resist doing the same with your opinions that are based on what you see on-line. Come out and ride the Tail of the Dragon for yourself before you stereotype Tennessee riders negatively.

Doug Klassen said...

Swag, thanks for your comments. I've "read" killboy.com regularly for quite sometime, maybe two years or so, so I think I have a pretty good view of what's going on out East on the Dragon. Darryl Cannon does a nice job of documenting the fun for the riders but also in producing evidence for those who would oppose going 35mph in a 30 mph zone (see Motorcyclist Magazine sometime back for the crash pix).

Also, I have ridden and hung out around "famous" riding roads for decades (The Rock Store on Mullholland, Ortega Highway, Palomar Mountain, Highway 33, etc etc.). I know what the "ride culture" is like at popular spots.

No, not every TN or Southeast rider on a sport bike is a squid but there's no denying that the sport bike guys go to the Dragon to push the limits and in so doing, break the law.

The cruiser guys, over their heads on twisty road with limited handling bikes, are likely as big problem as any of the squids.

The over all problem is that plenty of people (car guys too) routinely flaunted the law on a limit section of road and finally the police had to crack down.

My point is that by flocking to and glamorizing one road the police attention was/is inevitable. Old story, will be repeated again and again, I'm sure. No one should be surprised at this. Eventually the police will leave, the fun will start up again, the police will come back, and the cycle will repeat itself. It's been going on at Mullholland Highway in CA since about 1970.

As for me riding the Dragon, I'd love to one day if they don't wind up putting speed bumps every 100 yards. In the mean time, I'll head over to AZ 191 which has about 90 miles of twisties to play on and is remote enough that it will never be crowded. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Doug and spot on!

As you know, I enjoy a spirited ride just as much as the next rider, but personally I can't exactly fault the Police for cracking down in high traffic areas like Mulholland and Palomar and Deal's Gap (though I've never ridden it) - I know that's not a popular position, but lets face it, some folks pull some really bonehead maneuvers and in the process not only endanger themselves, but a whole heck of a lot of other folks including other riders. Nothing offends me more as a rider then seeing someone grandstand for a crowd or drift over a double yellow line in a blind corner. In today's world there are plenty of places to either learn how to ride safer or go fast. At the end of the day the issue at hand is really about public safety - and I would define that as not only including residents of an area but also other riders who are sharing the road. I wish more folks rode at 80% rather then 100%. It would make for better riding for everyone.

goldwingman61 said...

Well written. I have a video of a Goldwing at Deals Gap on my webpage. They are absolutely flying down the hill. Also there is a store there at deals gap with a tree full of motorcycle and car parts, thats enough to slow me down in itself along with other car parts littering the roads through North and South Carolina where someone has tried to take a curve a little too fast. Near Ceasars head South Carolina lies the remains of the front end of a car. Anyway the Goldwing at deals gap can be viewed at:http://goldwingman61-goldwings.blogspot.com/2007/08/cool-goldwing-videos_5609.html

Doug Klassen said...


That's famous video of "Yellow Wolf" and his buddy blitzing The Gap. The guy is an amazing rider and his 'Wing was very well set up with Traxxion Suspension and other goodies. If everyone could ride as smoothly as YW does there would rarely be an incident at The Gap.

YW sold his bike early this year to spend more time dirt biking with his kids.


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