Friday, 4/16/04, Lisa and I got up at 5:30a.m for our long drive to The Dragon. First stop was Ocala to meet up with Chiung, Fastrack, moparacker, and acuraintergraman. Gassed up and had breakfast at McD's. Then back on the road. Just across the Georgia state line, we meet up with Mr. Tasty at the welcome center. Some group photos and a few squirts in the restrooms and we were off again. Next stop Cordele. We meet up with Sftechguy there. By now our Florida caravan was complete, next stop, Atlanta.

Well, we were suppose to meet up north of Atlanta around noon or 12:30, but due to all the stops and losing some people, we ended up meeting the Atlanta group (jeffxyan, dful4d, and dewain) about an hour and a half later than planned. So, we quickly ate at Chic-fil-a and were back in the cars in search of some twisties.

About an hour after leaving Chic-fil-a, we hit some nice hilly/twisty roads. We drove this way up in the fall and I have almost as much fun on these roads as I do the dragon. Nice 4 lane curvy roads! Passing was abound and we quickly lost the slower peeps in our caravan. Chiung was nice enough to slow down and gather everyone back up. I was greedy and was all about the speed and taking those corners. The only way to have made me slow down was to have a cop pull me over and give me a ticket. Hey, I needed to practice for The Dragon!

We quickly came up on Rt. 129. The faster drivers took the lead, more timid drivers took up the rear. It was slow going at first with a Harley rider going very slowly around the turns. After about 5-10 minutes, the biker pulled over and let us by. Time to stick it in 2nd and hit 9k for the next 8 minutes or so. We had a good clean run and only got hung up behind slower cars at the end of the run. We stopped at the staging point where the gravel pull of is and got our group together after the first run though the Dragon. Everyone got out of their cars smiling. We examined Mr. Tasty's smoking brakes and heard everyone's thoughts about the drive. All positive of course.

By now it was close to 6pm and our hotel in Knoxville was still almost an hour away, so, back in the cars we get for the final drive of the day. We got to the hotel close to 7pm and Raul was happily passing out our Dragon packets. The packets were very nice this year. The shirt was cool, name tags had a S2K on it with in the color of your car, magnets were very nice as well. We checked into the hotel, unloaded our cars, then it was time to have dinner and unwind with some cold ones. We wondered over to Famous Dave BBQ just down the street for some good grub.

Friday night was pretty tame, smoked cigars, had a few beers, people washed their cars, we meet up with the other Florida guys that didn't come with our caravan, DaytonaDon, Willie Gee, KeithD, JerseyGirl, and Deiger. After hanging out for awhile it was time for some shut eye for a good night's sleep to dream about The Dragon.

Saturday, 4/16/04, we all got up early to clean off the cars and just hang out, eat breakfast and wait to start lining the cars up for the 45 minute drive to The Dragon. A couple cop cars pulled into the parking lot, ready to escort our group to the main highway. So, we all loaded up into the cars and began our 80+ car caravan. The police blocked off every intersection between the hotel to the highway, so we had no problems staying together as a group. You should have seen the looks we got. We actually took over part of Knoxville for a while!

Once we got to the highway, the police escort was gone and it was everyone for themselves!  If you've never been part of or seen 80+ S2Ks going 100+ mph down the highway, you haven't lived!  Lisa and I were in the middle of the caravan and as far as you could see in front and behind our car, it was all S2Ks.  Due to the spacing between us, we must have stretched out close to a mile down the highway. Very cool.

Close to The Dragon, we were on a road that went around a big lake. You could see cars all the way around this long road, S2Ks lining the whole way. When we got onto that part of the road and looked ahead, there were cars going around the lake in front of us as far as you could see, and just as many behind us. This led us to the staging area at the gravel parking lot. We pulled over, crammed all the cars in there, took photos, and let Raul give his speech. After the moment of silence, the stillness in the air was broken as the 80+ S2000s fired up their engines and woke the dragon. Group after group went up the hill and onto the Dragon.

We got our little Florida group together and had video running in most of the cars. I let Willie Gee use my Chase Cam while I used J's DV camcorder mounted on my windscreen. We got in a nice first run, then stopped at Deal's Gap to let the cars cool a bit and to do some shopping for shirts, magnets, stickers, etc. After the shopping, it was time to get back in the serpent. 

Just as our little Florida group was about to get back on the main road, four 'Vettes came up the hill and got in front of us. I figured we were in for an interesting run. KeithD pulled in behind them, and I was behind Keith. At first, the Vette's weren't going very fast and I was hoping they'd pull over and let us by, but they didn't. I think Keith got frustrated, so we ended up king of pushing them, faster and faster. We started to really haul, then we see a red C5 go off the road and up the embankment! I swear I saw his tires lift off the ground! So, the Vette goes up this embankment, we could hear the car scrape the side, dirt shot up, rocks fell down onto the road. We thought for sure this guys messed up his car and was going to pull over to check out the damage. Not so.  He came back onto the road somehow and just kept going, now at a faster pace!  WTF?!  His buddies didn't even slow down.

Okay, maybe it's just me, but if I wrecked, I'd pull over or at least slow down! If a fellow S2K driver in my group had that same mishap, we'd pull our group over to collect ourselves and check out the damage. Not so with the 'Vettes, which was very surprising to me. So, here we are, the four Vettes and our two S2Ks, pushing it seems even harder now!  About what seemed like five minutes later, this same red Vette takes a right turn too wide and went into the oncoming lane, over to the pull off overlook, then back into our line of cars. He lost a couple spots in the line up, but pulled back in behind and kept going again!  If there was a car or motorcycle coming during that time, it would have been some big time carnage, head on collision!

So, here we are all still running.  By this time I've let off a bit and am giving the 'Vettes more room. I'm seen a bit too much by now and things could have gone very wrong by this time. Now with more more surprise up his sleeve, a few minutes after the last off road jaunt, the guy in red Vette just comes to a stop, right in the middle of a blind curve!  I'm not sure what that was about, unless he just couldn't take it anymore and had to stop. That was not the best place to collect your thoughts.  Several in our group in the S2Ks that were a little slower said they came around this curve and the Vette was just sitting there, in the middle of the road!?

That was just crazy, by that time, the Vettes had all pulled off to the side of the road and we went by, never to see them again. Damage done to the red 'Vette, two new right side wheels, replace right side rocker panel, replace the front air dam (they call it a valance) and some paint on the bottom of the door. Cost to insurance company:$2500.

We hit the end of that run, stopped, took photos, and let the brakes cool again. So, here we are at the staging area again and this TN highway patrol car passes us and goes up into The Dragon, a minute later a cop on a motorcycle goes by, then another in a patrol car, than another!  We know there'd be a higher police presence on the Dragon this weekend, since the previous weekend a biker got killed, but we didn't expect this many cops.

We loaded up into our cars to try for another run, we got passed by another cop coming in the opposite direction. Then the radios were picking up talk of a cop pulled off to the side of the road ahead, and another further up, then still another further up pulled off the road also. Then we heard a sound, looked up and say a TN highway patrol chopper in the sky. It was unbelievable. Needless to say, that run was worthless and we found ourselves going at the speed limit or less the rest of the way though. The whole time the chopper was in the air, watching over all of The Dragon.

Since The Dragon was not an option for the rest of the day, we went and ate lunch with the group and then had group photos of the people, then the cars.

After lunch and photos, we did the below, written by JWH2 (J).  It's just a copy/paste job taken from one of his posts, but why should I write the same stuff that has already been written!?

"On Saturday after driving the Dragon we took the long way back to the hotel via the Cherahola (sp) parkway also a great road much more open than the Dragon and more 3rd, 4th, 5th gear action. Just as Keithd was running on his last bit of gas fumes we found a gas station and a group of about 15 other S2000's who had traveled the same route. We scouted out the best route back to the hotel and took off through the countryside at an enthusiastic pace. You can imagine what the locals were thinking as they saw 20 of us tearing up those roads on the way back to the hotel. We made a wrong turn on the way and ended up racing down a 1-1 1/2 lane driveway/access road past a couple of folks standing by a truck on the side of the road. When we realized our error and had to turn the caravan around a woman standing in her driveway looking at all the cars at first concerned, then helpful offered directions so we could get back on track. After turning 20 cars around on the skinny stretch of blacktop we headed back to our intended route, but were soon stopped by a couple of locals standing by a pickup on the side of the road. Chiung was leading at the time and alls we could thing of was a certain scene from Deliverance and dueling banjos playing. Skip jumped out of the second car in our caravan and smoothed it over with the locals after assuring them that we could stay on our side of the yellow lines and that we knew that driving down a driveway/access road at an enthusiastic pace might not be a good idea, they shook hands and we were on our way. (whew) Three miles later we were back on track and grabbing some gears on the way back to the hotel. We arrived in time for the raffles thanks in part to a slick presentation by Lubrication Engineers. (Pun intended) I won a quart of rear diff fluid and will be putting it in ASAP."

Just to note, J didn't mention the other big winner at the raffle drawing. While the Florida group didn't win everything like we did during the 2003 DragonBall Run, we still had lots of Florida winners this time around. I also won again, got a free night's stay at The Signature Inn!

After the raffle, it was time for dinner. We ended up going to Sonny's BBQ. It was the only place with no wait at this time of the night on a weekend. We DID have plans to go to Mellow Mushroom with 30 others, but I didn't know the itinerary and the time I had the Mushroom booked conflicted with the raffle and we couldn't adjust our dinner time. So 20 or so of us had BBQ at 10pm.  What we didn't know was that Sonny's closed at 10pm!  Right when we sat down.  So, we pretty much just sat, ate, and got kicked out. 

Later after dinner, about 20 of us crammed into the Virginia/W. Virginia group's hotel room to watch some videos that Willie Gee and I took with the Chase Cam I got from www.chasecam.com. What great video that was! It was fun reliving the drives again on the video.

Now back to J's ranting for our Sunday activities....

"Sunday we were on our own after checking out of the hotel. Most of the Fl folks that were left took off for the Blue Ridge Parkway and some other secondary roads on our way to Ashville where the groups would split. We ended up with 6 cars and two motorcycles. Keithd, Jereygirl, Lbsypher, Chiung, Brad and his Son, Tidaldwave, Dave's wife Lisa, my passenger Brian, and one other on a motorcycle that I can't remember his name.


After a slow cruise through a traffic jam at Pigeon Forge, a hostile woman in a CRV who besides suffering from road rage might also have benefited from some meds that could keep her from scratching her arm like a flea bitten dog. We pulled off to get some gas and another road rage incident unfolded right in front of the gas station. A minivan and a car pulled over and a women got out and berated the other driver for making a wrong turn and delaying their arrival at the outlet mall.


Well back to the roads, after taking a slight detour through a national park on some beautiful scenic roads, although clogged with heavy weekend traffic, the views and scenery made the drive very enjoyable. After our lunch stop we jumped on the Blue Ridge Parkway headed to Asheville. The road had been closed due to a fire and some smoke in the area earlier in the day so traffic was much lighter than the other road we were on. We soon had an open stretch of twisty blacktop in front of us surrounded by stunning mountain views. Kiethd and I broke away from the front of the pack and had some fun on the roads, but after pushing pretty hard for 10-15 minutes my passenger and my brakes were both looking for some relief so we backed off and resumed an enthusiastic, but less punishing pace. At one point we stopped at the highest point in the Smokey's and actually saw some unmelted snow on the side of the road. The road was a blast to drive, scenery was terrific, and those exhausts sounded great going through the tunnels."

After our Sunday drive though the Blueridge Parkway, Lisa and I went back to the hotel.  By this time, only Chiung, his buddy, Mike, and Mr. Tasty were all that was left of our group. Lisa and I made a run to Mellow Mushroom and brought back some pizza and beer for another video watching event.

Monday morning Mr. Tasty left for Florida. Chiung, Lisa, Mike, and I got in the S2Ks for a run on The Foothills Parkway, another run on The Dragon, and then the Cherohola Skyway again. Monday was a great day for the drives, sunny and NO traffic.  We pretty much had the area to ourselves. We did the whole Cherohola run in just under 40 minutes!  Not too bad.

We decided to stay one more day, until Tuesday, so that Lisa could drive The Dragon. We'll we got up, had breakfast, then Lisa and I got in the S, and Chiung and Mike loaded up their bikes onto the trailer for our drive over the The Dragon. We finally all got to the staging area/gravel lot, pulled over, got ready, mounted the bullet cam, then all of the sudden, what's this? RAIN!  What's up with that?  It wasn't in the forecast!?  So, we did the run anyway with the top up and going slowly as the road was getting slick. This is why we stayed another day?  So Lisa could drive in this?!

After the "run", we pulled over a Deals Gap to reevaluate the rest of our day, and also the check out The Tree of Shame. After checking out all the trashed bike/car parts on the tree, we decided to take the Joyce Kilmer route to Cherohola. This is a great short cut to the Skyway instead of going though Robbinsville.  It was a great discovery and a decent road. We finished off the day with a run up the Cherohola half way, then came back down. By now, the roads were dry and Lisa got a good run on The Dragon. She can't wait to do it again!  Looks like we may need to take TWO cars up there next time!

So ends our trip to Wake the Dragon 04.  Lisa and I parted was with Chiung and Mike, who were staying another day or two. It was about 3pm when we finally were on our way back to Florida. We ended up getting home at 1am.  Could have been home sooner, but we were about 15 minutes from our house, when the police shut down the highway were were on. There was a big accident ahead and they needed to close the highway so a life flight helicopter could land on the road and pick up a person from the wreck. That delayed us about 20 minutes.  Other than that, the drive home was uneventful and the traffic was actually pretty light all the way home! 

We had a great time and it was nice meeting new people and seeing old friends again.  See you all in the fall!

Here are a couple articles from the week we were up at the dragon.

http://tailofthedragon.com/news_articles2004.html:

Safe Saturday on Dragon
2004-04-18
by Anna C. Irwin
of The Daily Times Staff

Those on motorcycles, in sports cars and other vehicles traveling the Dragon on Saturday couldn't miss the law enforcement presence on the winding mountain road.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers and deputies from the Blount County Sheriff's Traffic Safety Unit were stationed at several points along the 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 (Calderwood Highway) known as the Dragon.

The highway is a favorite ride for bikers and sports car owners with 318 curves between the Tennessee/North Carolina line and Tab Cat Creek at the upper end of Chilhowee Lake.

North Carolina Highway Patrol and Graham County, N.C., Sheriff's deputies were also highly visible along U.S. 129 in western Carolina.

THP Sgt. Danny Thomas said intensive enforcement efforts were used to assure motorist safety during ``Wake the Dragon'' weekend. Thomas said a THP helicopter was in the air for two or three hours and spotted four motorcycles ``flying'' across the state line from North Carolina into Tennessee around noon.

THP units on the ground were notified; the four riders were intercepted and cited with reckless driving.

Others traveling the Dragon apparently got the message that recklessness would not be tolerated. Several bikers were signaling on-coming traffic to slow down.

Thomas said Tennessee troopers saw more than 500 motorcycles and at least 60 vehicles with a sports car group pass their locations along the curving roadway. He said there was one accident just over the state line in North Carolina that left a motorcyclist with broken bones but no life-threatening injuries.

There was also a report of a man in a pickup truck tailgating a group of motorcyclists and, at one point, brandishing a shotgun.

``We're here to deal with things like that as well as speeding and reckless driving,'' Thomas said.

``We're up here to help everybody enjoy themselves safely, so you'll see us regularly all summer long.''

S.C. man dies in cycle crash on `Dragon'
April 10, 2004
by Anna C. Irwin
of The Daily Times Staff

A 25-year-old South Carolina man was killed Friday when his motorcycle crashed near the Tennessee/North Carolina line.

Freddie J. Hughes Jr. of Williamston was pronounced dead at the scene about one mile from the state line, according to Trooper Matt Fagiana of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The trooper said Hughes was traveling down the mountain on the section of Calderwood Highway (U.S. 129) known as the ``Dragon'' on his 2001 Yamaha.

As Hughes rounded a curve, he apparently lost control. The motorcycle slid on its side into the on-coming traffic lane and underneath a 1995 Ford Ranger truck traveling up the mountain.

The truck was driven by Kevin Mulkey, 27, of Chattanooga who was not injured.

Other motorists stopped to try to help Hughes and began CPR minutes after the crash about 2 p.m. Those efforts continued for 45 minutes as emergency responders arrived on the scene, but the victim remained unresponsive.

Resuscitation efforts were discontinued at the direction of a doctor at Blount Memorial Hospital's emergency medical control.

The body was taken to Blount Memorial by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service. Blount County Sheriff's deputies and the Blount County Volunteer Rescue Squad assisted at the scene.

Hughes' wife was notified in Williamston by a member of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

The ``Dragon,'' with 318 curves on an 11-mile stretch of road between the state line and Tab Cat Creek, is a favorite area for motorcyclists and draws riders from a wide area.

Friday's fatality is the first on the ``Dragon'' since Aug. 4, 2002, due in part to intensive traffic enforcement efforts by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Blount County Sheriff's Office.

http://dragaknee.com/

Sunday, April 18, 10:12 A.M.

Wow, a lot happened at Deal's Gap yesterday. It was REALLY crowded when I got there around 11:30, with 80+ S2000s, MR2s, Corvettes, Jaguars, NSXs, and other various cars. On top of that, there were a ton of cruisers and sportbikes. Then at 12:30 or so, the cops rolled in. I don't mean a couple of squad cars, I am talking 2 biker cops, 7 squad cars, and a helicopter. They were NOT messing around. They lined the road pretty much the entire length of Deal's Gap, from the Overlook all the way to the state line. Several were running radar and the helicopter was calling in double yellow violations. I know that many riders received tickets yesterday, so be careful people! Everyone was going through there very slowly, keeping right around 30 mph. The riders and the drivers were not pleased. I know of at least 2 bites, both Florida riders. One guys bike went over the side and down into a ravine. He was ok though. Another guy went into a ditch and broke his collarbone on a rock. His bike was scuffed but not in too bad of shape.