'The Dragon' Reopens This Week - From One Side

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One of the nation’s most scenic roads was set to reopen to traffic this week, after a March rocksilde blocked “The Dragon” and forced its closure.

The 50-mile segment of U.S. Route 129 that normally connects Tennessee and North Carolina is famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles. The road was closed after the slide, forcing tourists onto the Cherohala Skyway.

"There would be thousands of motorcycles out there if it was open," Dave Ramsey, owner of the 129 Motorcycle Pit Stop, told Businessweek.

Ramsey estimates business is down 90 percent because of the rock slide, and wonders why the state is opening the section of road ahead of a $2 million stabilization and cleanup. He fears it will push tourists to North Carolina between now and July, when it’s scheduled to be completed. "They're going to squeeze us out of business," he told the magazine. "We're paying for it, and we get nothing out of it."

That’s because the road will only be open from the North Carolina side. Visitors will have to turn around about two miles from the slide and head back. That’s before they would have reached turnoffs to Tennessee destinations.

Posted by Holly Wagner