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129, A Quest for Authenticity and the Road
Jane Davis December 12, 2009 HIST 7105 Middle Tennessee State University
ILLUSTRATIONS Figures 1. “Poster of the Tail of the Dragon,” TailoftheDragon.com 2. “Tree of Shame,” https://carolinaridersonline.com/images/tree_of_shame.jpg 20 22
Despite their start as practical vehicles for errands and deliveries; motorcycles became midtwentieth century symbols of something much more. By the 1950s the image of the biker was firmly defined in popular culture and media as outlaws and rebels in leather jackets. This outlaw biker culture, exemplified by the Hell’s Angels, promoted an image of a men who were tough, lawless, and rebels against anything they could find. This image of toughness permeated all facets of biker culture, even though not all bikers were Hell’s Angels. By the 1980s and 1990s, the actual biker was far removed from the outlaw stereotype and was more likely to be suburb-dwelling middle-class businessman than a Hell’s Angel. Unable to assert their authenticity as a biker through membership in biker gangs, illegal activities, or barroom violence, these new biker sought to prove themselves in other ways. From long-duration riding to seeking out the most difficult and challenging roads to ride, the new bikers proved their toughness and their status as real bikers. One of the most sought after rides among these new bikers was U.S. 129, or as it was lovingly referred to, the Tail of the Dragon. On the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Dragon is reported to feature over 318 curves in 11 miles.1 The road has been marketed to bikers by both word of mouth and motorcycle magazines as one of the most technically challenging and rewarding pieces of asphalt in the nation and to some it is a “religious experience.”2 Every year, bikers from all over the nation journey to the Dragon to ride up and down the road as many times as possible until they can claim to have conquered the Dragon. To understand this type of modern motorcycle tourism, one must first develop an understanding of how motorcycle tourism is different from automobile tourism, how the stereotype of the outlaw biker developed and influenced how motorcyclist saw themselves, and how the demographic shift to the new biker affected motorcycle tourism.3 The influence of the outlaw biker stereotype and the emphasis on toughness as a path to
Grant Parsons, “Chasing the Dragon: Carving up Appalachia's Awesome Roads,” American Motorcyclist, September 1997, 25. 2 Dale Coyner, Motorcycle Journeys Through the Appalachians (North Conway, N.H.: Whitehorse Press, 2004), 234. 3 In order to gain this understanding, I relied on heavily on articles and letters to the editor
authenticity led to a form of motorcycle tourism that was focused on the road itself as a destination or the journey itself as the goal. Unlike the stereotypical outlaw biker, the average biker of the last three decades did not seek to prove himself or herself in bar fights or illegal activities associated with a biker gang. Instead, they choose to defeat the road, tame the Dragon, and prove their toughness through skill and determination. Unlike automobile tourism, motorcycle tourism in the late twentieth century focused on the road or the journey as the primary goal. Much has been written about the cultural impact of cars and roads, about how Americans seem shaped by the machines they use to move about the country. With each technological advance in travel, Americans have found their horizons expanded. The shift from wagons to trains, from trains to cars, and from cars to airplanes all mark specific changes in how American saw travel and tourism related to travel. While each shift is important, the rise of the car and the roads that followed seems to have had the largest impact. The car represented a level of individual freedom that was unavailable in train or airplane travel. Automobile travel offered the freedom to determine one’s destination and provided a level of privacy and safety other method of travel did not afford. Motorcycle travel, on the other hand, offered similar promises of freedom and autonomy, but without a level of privacy and enclosed safety. In many situations, motorcyclists were seen by motorists as dangerous risk-takers who were outside the norm. According to historian Jeremy Packer, motorcyclists stand at the awkward intersection between being too American and un-American. Motorcyclists’ disregard for the apparent risks of riding and their pursuit of freedom and independence is taken to a level that goes beyond socially accepted
in American Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Cruiser. Due to time constraints and the difficulty finding primary sources, I was limited to those two magazines because they are available online via Google Books. Further examination of other magazines of the era would be necessary to gain a full understanding of the complex subject of why bikers ride. I also used motorcycle tourism guidebooks published in the 1970s all the way up to the present to help understand how motorcycle tourism has changed over the decades. Finally, websites devoted to the Dragon were helpful in understanding how riders currently talk about the Dragon and its importance to them.
level.4 Furthering this difference is the ways in motorcyclists engage in tourism. While the modern motorist takes to the road to get to a specific destination, the modern motorcycle tourist takes to the road not to get to a destination or locale, but to actually ride the road. As seen by motorcyclists, the road is more than a piece of asphalt; it is the path to freedom, to independence, to spiritual enlightenment, and to identity. The road and the act of traveling upon it were more attractive to the motorcycle tourist than going someplace specific.5 Seeking a greater connection to the road and the freedom promised by the road, motorcyclists pursued a different form of tourism from motorists. They did not seek, as a general rule, a destination. Instead, the road itself became the destination, and the journey became the end goal. The road was to be conquered and the biker became a part of something greater in doing so. Unable to achieve such conquest in a car, these individuals have taken to motorcycles and other alternative means of travel to satisfy the urge to conquer the road and enjoy the promise of freedom and autonomy.6 They seek the ephemeral connection between the biker, the bike, and the road and all the freedom and autonomy that it signifies. Early motorists sought to find freedom on the road as well as adventure. Early cars were difficult to maintain mechanically and a labor to drive; roads were difficult at best and at their worst impassable. During the early twentieth century, those motorists who took to the road did so to find a balance between challenging new experiences and the comfort of familiar experiences. As roads and automobiles improved, automobile tourism and auto camping were marketed as challenging but not too challenging, those that auto camped were respectable solid middle-class citizens, and the road experience was a mix of difficult and rewarding. The shift to motels and motor lodges took some of the outdoor elements away from automobile tourism and by the late Jeremy Packer, Mobility without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 111-112. 5 Clement Salvadori, Motorcycle Journeys Through California and Baja (Center Conway, N.H.: Whitehorse Press, 2007), 23. 6 Richard Hutch, “Speed Masters Throttle Up: Space, Time and the Sacred Journeys of Recreational Motorcyclists,” International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 3, no. 2 (July 2007), http://ijms.nova.edu/July2007/IJMS_Artcl.Hutch.html.
twentieth century, the hardships of the road were limited to dealing with your fellow travelers.7 Over the decades of the twentieth century the automobile and the road changed from a challenge to be tamed by the sheer will and skill of the driver, to a charming adventure that, while somewhat challenging, allowed the driver to return home with some sense of “cathartic conviction” that all was right with the world.8 During the New Deal period, vast marketing campaigns were launched by the Roosevelt administration to promote American tourism via the automobile. These journeys were not only promoted to encourage Americans to spend their dollars at home, but to “reaffirm a sense of shared national history, culture, and identity.”9 Scholars who study this automobility and the resulting automobile tourism point out that travelling via car has a number of unique features that have become quite symbolic in American culture. Cotten Seiler sees the road and the automobile as prime representations of the American ideals of autonomy and freedom and automobile tourism during the Cold War, specifically, as a way to reassert the importance of the individual and the American definition of freedom.10 Rudi Volti, in his essay on American automobility, notes that in addition to freedom, automobiles provided a sense of privacy and power due to the closed in nature of the vehicle and the massive amount of engine power in American automobiles.11 This privacy and power, combined with autonomy and freedom, created a unique place for automobiles and automobile tourism in the American culture and history. In contrast, most scholarly study of the history of motorcycling and its place in American
John A Jakle and Keith A Sculle, Motoring : The Highway Experience in America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008), 105-106; David Gartman, “Three Ages of the Automobile: The Cultural Logics of The Car,” Theory, Culture & Society 21, no. 4-5 (October 1, 2004): 171-174. 8 Jakle and Sculle, Motoring : The Highway Experience in America, 106. 9 Marguerite S. Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity : 1880-1940 (Washington [u.a.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), 170. 10 Cotten. Seiler, “Statist Means to Individualist Ends: Subjectivity, Automobility, and the Cold-War State,” American Studies 44, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 8. 11 Rudi Volti, “A Century of Automobility,” Technology and Culture 37, no. 4 (October 1996): 667.
culture have focused more on the people who rode motorcycles and the way in which a strong stereotypical biker image evolved. Much has been written about the quintessential biker gang, the Hell’s Angels, and how the bad boy, outlaw biker image was created by media and society.12 This focus on the Hell’s Angels has led to a proliferation of work about biker gangs and criminal activity, but less on why motorcyclists chose to ride and what motivated them to become bikers. Since motorcycling is more fraught with danger, the motorcyclists themselves often find it very difficult to articulate how the very real hazards of riding outweigh some ethereal and intangible results.13 Early motorcyclists were somewhat exempt from the question because riding a motorcycle in the pre-World War II era was seen as a practical and understandable decision. They were cheaper to purchase, more maneuverable, and cheaper to maintain than a car. After the war, the uses of motorcycles became more specialized but could still be seen as vaguely practical.14 While still cheaper to operate than cars, the perceived practicality of motorcycles began to decline after World War II. Cars were perceived as much safer, much cheaper, and the advantages of motorcycles seemed to be on the decline, yet more and more young people chose to ride. Many GIs were exposed to motorcycles during the war and upon their return home they sought out motorcycles and those who rode them. Some scholars see this trend of young men bonding over alcohol and the tangible risks involved in riding motorcycles as a way for the veterans to adapt back into civilian life. Others see the trend as a way to rebel against the increasing push towards conformity in Post-
Much has been written about the Hell’s Angels and the cultural impact of the outlaw biker. For more information on this see, Ralph Barger, Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club (New York, NY: Morrow, 2000); Yves Lavigne, Hell's Angels: "Three Can Keep a Secret If Two Are Dead" (New York, NY: Carol Pub. Group, 1993); Hunter S. Thompson, Hell's Angels (New York: Modern Library, 1999); Peter Tamony, “The Hell's Angels: Their Naming,” Western Folklore 29, no. 3 (July 1970): 199-203; John Wood, “Hell's Angels and the Illusion of the Counterculture,” Journal of Popular Culture 37, no. 2 (2003): 336-351. 13 Hutch, “Speed Masters Throttle Up: Space, Time and the Sacred Journeys of Recreational Motorcyclists.” 14 Packer, Mobility Without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship, 115-118.
War America.15 Regardless of why young men began to join motorcycle clubs and go to rallies to race their bikes on dirt tracks and perform tricks, the perception of the motorcycle as a solely utilitarian vehicle began to change. Riding a motorcycle began to be an outward display of something different within the individual rider. Motorcyclists, both club members and the unaffiliated alike, would often gather at rallies throughout the country to show off their racing skills and motorcycle tricks, these gatherings were a reflection of the change in how motorcyclists were beginning to see themselves. The whys of riding were becoming more about bonding with a specific culture group and brotherhood rather than a merely practical way of getting from one place to another. The expression of this shift in culture came to a head on July 4th, 1947 in Hollister, California. Over four thousand motorcyclists rolled into the small town for a rally and convention and the town was vastly unprepared for their numbers. During the three day weekend, the group grew rowdy and 50 people were arrested for offenses ranging from public drunkenness to disturbing the peace. Life magazine picked up the story and presented the incident at Hollister as a riot, therefore kicking off the outlaw biker image. Police departments across the country commented on the rise of the “outlaw” biker and the trouble he and his gangs brought to town. Hollywood seized upon the idea of the rebel biker and permanently seared the image of the leather biker tough in the minds of the nation with Marlon Brando and The Wild Ones. In response to this flurry of disapproval and bad press, The American Motorcycle Association (AMA), already an organization representing a divided constituency, tried to assert that bikers were not outlaws and thugs. The AMA’s now legendary response that only “1%” of bikers were outlaws and troublemakers like those found at Hollister
15 William Dulaney, “A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs,” International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 1, no. 3 (November 2005), http://ijms.nova.edu/November2005/IJMS_Artcl.Dulaney.html; Packer, Mobility Without Mayhem : Safety, Cars, and Citizenship, 117.
only added fuel to the rebellious fire.16 Soon motorcycle clubs that saw themselves as outsiders and rebels began to wear patches declaring themselves One Percenters. The Hell’s Angels, The Outlaws and other biker gangs quickly adopted this moniker as a badge of honor, and popular culture fed into the notion that men on motorcycles with leather jackets were criminals and rebels. It is only after the Hollister incident and the rise of the outlaw biker image do motorcycles seem vastly more dangerous and impractical and those who choose to ride them appear to be rebelling against something greater than four wheels. Motorcycle rallies continued throughout the country despite the difficulties they faced after Hollister. One of the longest running motorcycle rallies in the United States is the rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Sturgis was started in 1937 for riders to get together and demonstrate their riding skills, and focused on stunts, trick riding, and dirt track races. 17 Over the decades, Sturgis has changed and grown into a massive display of biker culture and community. In previous decades, the only way for a rider to get to Sturgis would be to ride to the event. The remote nature of the site and the distance involved in travelling there from much of the country prevented a number of bikers from making the trip, although Sturgis did give awards every year for the furthest distance travelled. However, in the late 1990s, companies began to offer bikers the option to have their bikes shipped to the rally and arrive fresh and rested for the event via plane.18 While Sturgis is still considered a destination for motorcycle tourism, it has also become a locus of biker culture and the quintessential biker vacation. Despite the influx of casual bikers who ship their bikes, there are bikers who refuse to consider shipping their bikes. However, they are still much more concerned with the destination, rather than the journey. Much like automobile tourism the destination is the
Maz Harris, Bikers: Birth of a Modern-day Outlaw (London; Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985), 15-20. 17 Carl Edeburn, Sturgis: The Story of the Rally (Brookings, S.D.: Dimensions Press, 2003), chapter 1. 18 Jay Barbieri, Biker's Handbook: Becoming Part of the Motorcycle Culture (St. Paul, MN: MBI Pub. Company LLC, 2007), 83-85.
end goal, not the journey. As rallies and races became the focus of organized motorcycle gatherings in the latter part of the twentieth century, rumblings from other kinds of bikers emerged. In the late 1970s, the AMA began to hear complaints from its members regarding the focus of the organization. Founded in the 1920s, the AMA initially began to support motorcyclists and promote motorcycling as a safe hobby. The AMA did so by hosting rides and rallies throughout the country, like the one at Sturgis that demonstrated riders’ abilities and allowed for competition. The strong focus of the AMA and their publication American Motorcyclist on dirt bike racing and racing in general began to be problematic for many of their members in the late 1970s. The AMA had already faced problems within their membership in the 1940s and 1950s with the outlaw biker issue, and desperately needed to maintain their membership and funds raised by that membership. In response to reader complaints, the AMA hired a road riding development manager, Ken Reid to act as the voice of this different type of rider. The road riders, or touring motorcyclists, viewed motorcycle gatherings in a completely different way than racers. According to Reid, the road rider was a completely different type of rider than the dirt bike rider or the rider who is affiliated with a motorcycle club. Reid states in an interview in 1977, “This type of rider isn’t in it to associate with a group, his motorcycle is a psychological release and is bought to help him remain free.”19 Reid and his road riding motorcyclists were the beginning of a new wave of riders, a new wave of riders who had a different answer to the never-ending question of why they ride. The AMA was responding to a voiced difference in how motorcycle riders began to view themselves. Prior to the late 1970s and 1980s, motorcyclists either saw themselves as racers and dirt bike riders or members of motorcycle clubs that epitomized the biker culture. Despite a number of efforts to change the image of bikers, the common stereotype of a motorcyclist in the
“Ken Reid: An Interview with the AMA's Road Riding Development Manager,” American Motorcyclist Association News, 1977, 11.
1960s through the mid 1980s was that of the Hell’s Angel gang member in leathers and extremely dangerous. Honda motorcycles tried advertising campaigns that reminded people “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”20 While it was a successful campaign for Honda, it just meant that people assumed that bikers on Hondas were okay, all the other bikers and types of bikes were trouble. The AMA continually tried to re-interpret the image of the biker as a nice person who just enjoyed the freedom of the road and travelled on a motorcycle for that freedom. However, the outlaw bikers and the stereotypical image of the outlaw biker remained an enduring fixture in popular culture and the mind of the masses. During the 1960s, the image of the biker as a rebel caused a number of difficulties and not just for bikers who wanted to ride in peace without fear of harassment by authorities. The Sixties Counterculture movement initially embraced the Hell’s Angels and other biker gangs as likeminded individuals who sought to live in ways that were outside the traditional norms of society. The stereotype of the biker as a rugged individualist who sought to overthrow the social norms caused a number of problems when the counterculture movement tried to embrace the Hell’s Angels. Instead of supporting the anti-war movement, bikers instead thought that the war was justified; instead of being interested in calmly expanding their minds via drug usage, Hell’s Angels pursued the hardest, most extreme trips and often got into fights with their fellow travelers for perceived disrespect.21 Most notably is the incident at Altamont, where Hell’s Angels were hired to provide security for the Rolling Stones. Instead of keeping the peace, the bikers attacked a concert goer and stabbed him to death. No longer seen by the hippies as fellow travelers on the great journey to enlightenment, the Hell’s Angels and their fellow outlaw gangs were now seen as violent thugs. Even Hunter S. Thompson, who sought to document the Hell’s Angels lifestyle in 1966 in his
Honda Motorcycles, “You Meet The Nicest People On a Honda,” advertisement, Life Magazine, December 6, 1963, 105. 21John Wood, “Hell's Angels and the Illusion of the Counterculture,” Journal of Popular Culture 37, no. 2 (2003): 338-339.
book Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, ran into violence and difficulties at the hands of the Angels. Despite being considered a friend and a companion, he was beaten for a perceived slight at the end of his journey with the Angels.22 These incidents only served to cement the image of the biker as an outlaw and an unpredictable violent force. Movies, television and books all portrayed bikers as not only rebels, but violent outlaws, sometimes romanticized, but more often two dimensional bad guys that were primal and unrelenting in their violence. In the face of this stereotype, many bikers tried to present a different image. Those motorcyclists who were more interested in touring tried to encourage a different view of bikers. In his 1974 book on motorcycle touring, Vince Streano made a pointed effort to address the stereotype of the biker as “greasy bum, outlaws, sex perverts, terrorists, and killers.”23 He asserted that the large part of the stereotype is a result of the movies and that the image of the biker was rapidly changing away from such types. He pointed out that the touring motorcyclist, the one who used his or her machine to explore the country was more likely to be “a student, a mechanic, a stockbroker, a doctor, a woman” than a greasy bum.24 Other touring guides of the era just ignored the problem altogether, assuming that those that wanted to tour the country on the back of a motorcycle would do so regardless of the perceptions or assuming that those who have negative views of bikers would not consider a motorcycle tour an option for leisure. Letters to the editor in American Motorcyclist displayed a variety of different opinions on the stereotype of bikers as outlaws and thugs. From thanking friendly bikers for a helping mechanical hand to asking others to be a little more open minded about the biker and ignore the outward appearance, the letters to the editor paint a picture of an organization struggling to define itself.25 This changing picture of bikers reflects a changing demographic. Not only did the numbers Thompson, Hell's Angels, 264-265. Vince Streano, Touching America with Two Wheels. (New York: Random House, 1974), 5. 24 Ibid. 25 Kent Bradley, letter to the editor, American Motorcyclist, October 1977, Harry Vernon, letter to the editor, American Motorcyclist, September 1976.
of registered motorcycles rise exponentially in the 1980s but the typical biker became a man in his forties who made more than $75,000 in annual income.26 Middle-class business men, who wore suits during the week, then donned their biker leathers on weekends to become the new biker. The new bikers presented not only a new way of looking at motorcycle riders, but a new why for riding. While the members and editors of the AMA and those who had been biker for some time saw the new biker with a somewhat questioning eye, the press they garnered went quite a way towards changing the perception of bikers. Articles on Malcolm Forbes and his motorcycling ways, executive biker clubs, and how the Wild Ones have been tamed may have irritated long time bikers like American Motorcyclist editor Greg Harrison, but the popular face of the biker was changing.27 In his 1984 editorial about the press, Harrison expressed his frustration about the continuing perception of bikers as outlaws and thugs and saw popular media’s obsession with publishing stories about the shocking new type of biker as playing into that stereotype. Harrison complained that the cute lead-ins on stories about bikers that emphasize the shocking normalcy of most bikers only played up the stereotypes. “Yet with a cutesy lead, the reporter has once again underscored that ridiculous stereotype of the ravaging outlaw biker to thousands of gullible readers.”28 Other bikers expressed similar frustration as Harrison, in an interview at the Daytona Bike Week, old school bikers voiced a disapproval of the new bikers but also an appreciation. “Now people don’t automatically assume that every brother on a Harley is a criminal; for all they know he could own a Fortune 500 corporation.”29 While they saw the benefit of the new bikers and the shift in the public image of bikers, the older bikers were less likely to think of these new bikers as “real” bikers.
Bradley A. Kisicki, “Understanding Motorcycle Culture and the Evolution of the Reasons We Ride,” 2005, 42; William Thompson, “Pseudo-Deviance and The "New Biker" Subculture: Hogs, Blogs, Leathers, and Lattes,” Deviant Behavior 30, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 90-91. 27 Jon Krakauer, “A Hog is Still a Hog but the 'Wild' Ones are Tamer,” Smithsonian 24, no. 8 (1993): 88-99; Mary-Lou Weisman, “The Not-So-Wild Ones,” New York Times (1857-Current file), September 14, 1977; Nadine Joseph, “A Motorcycle Club for the Executive,” New York Times (1857Current file), April 15, 1981, http://www.proquest.com/. 28 Greg Harrison, “The News Slant,” American Motorcyclist, November 1984, 6. 29 Krakauer, “A Hog is Still a Hog but the 'Wild' Ones are Tamer.”
By the 1980s, the new bikers were working to change the view of bikers while at the same time displaying the old social stigmas with pride. Wearing leathers was often explained as a practical, safety related decision; however it was not just practicality that drove the new biker to buy a complete set of Harley Davidson leathers. Partnering the pursuit of freedom promised by motorcycles and the lifestyles with an urge to seek outsider status, new bikers began looking for new and different to prove their status as “real” bikers. While most people seek to avoid social stigma and the stamp of otherness, these new bikers seemingly seek it out. They wore the outfit of the outlaw biker, they rode the bikes associated with the image, and they even joined motorcycle clubs, albeit clubs that do not have the same illegal pursuits that were often associated with the Hell’s Angels and other outlaw clubs. This pursuit of social stigma was, according to sociologist William Thompson, actually a redefinition of former stigmas into social status symbols. The Harley, the leathers, the attitude, all became signifiers of rebellion against the traditional social norms, all while the individuals rebelling were continuing to participate in capitalist pursuits. But despite these surface differences, the new bikers were still taking the same risks as the old school biker. The very act of riding a motorcycle was one of balancing risk and reward and the risk remained the same regardless of the rider’s annual income.30 The why of riding was still as elusive as ever, but it remained somewhat focused on the promise of freedom combined with a level of risk and danger that was exclusive to motorcycle riding. As the rider changed, so did the types of motorcycle tourism. While in the early 1970s and 1980s, riders often took to the road to tour the country and ride the road, it was less common than other uses of motorcycles. Early guidebooks and rider accounts spoke of the freedom of the road, the punishment faced by weather, and the joy of conquering a difficult journey. In his 1981 guidebook to motorcycle touring, Dick Blom, the editor of Riders Magazine, told two tales of two
William Thompson, “Pseudo-Deviance and the "New Biker" Subculture: Hogs, Blogs, Leathers, and Lattes,” 107.
very different rides. In the first, he was vastly unprepared for the physical strain of extended riding, had little money, and was poorly dressed for the weather he encountered. The second trip was twice the distance, but he was much better prepared and had been riding long distances for quite some time. As he describes the two trips he admits he had a hard time determining which trip was more enjoyable. He said, “Without doubt, the first was the greater adventure, introducing me to something totally unknown. The second was as much fun – not quite as exciting – but far more satisfying in that I had been amply equipped for every occasion.”31 Blom voiced a common feeling among motorcyclists during the era, riding long distances was punishing and difficult, but well worth it. The writers of these early guide books to touring struggled to define why one would want to ride a motorcycle long distances. They ranged from outright admitting that the idea seems insane, to trying to justify it in every which way. They speak of the punishment of the road, how weather would sneak up on you and terrorize you, complaints about unreliable bikes, and the importance of keeping a close eye on your maintenance, but throughout all the talk of how hard it was to ride long distances the thread that tied all these authors together was the idea that the road was the destination. Although others like Blom and Streano discussed the important difference between getting there and the journey, Ken Craven stated it the clearest in his 1977 guidebook, Ride It!: The Complete Book of Motorcycle Touring: “When planning a trip, the author thinks that one of the largest mistakes you can make is the question ‘Where do we go?’ The goal is not to solely get to a destination and be controlled by the end goal, but instead the goal is to just go.”32 According to Craven the physical challenge of riding was not the sole reason motorcycling touring was better than automobile touring, but it was very, very important. Also important to Craven was Dick Blom, Rider's Complete Guide to Motorcycle Touring (Agoura, Calif.: TL Enterprises, 1981), 206. 32 Ken Craven, Ride It!: The Complete Book of Motorcycle Touring (Yeovil: Haynes, 1977), 17.
the “real sense of movement” afforded to the motorcyclist. Unlike being in a car, you could see and feel the road and the surroundings. “You are not observing it through a glass window – you belong.”33 Craven, Streano, and Blom voiced a powerful why for riding and for motorcycle tourism, albeit to a small audience. The ideas they promoted in their guidebooks would, in later years, become the accepted norm for motorcycle tourism. By the 1990s, the idea of openness and a connection to the road was more and more common. Motorcyclists commonly refer to motorists as “cagers” and the cars themselves as “cages” or “coffins”34 The motorcyclist saw himself or herself as not only closer to the road physically, but closer to the road spiritually. The closed off nature of the car, what historian Volti saw as the privacy advantage, separated the driver from the road physically and spiritually. To motorcyclists, cagers were “cut off from their environment, trapped by their fear, and unable to fully experience their mobility.”35 This closed off nature of cars, this separation from the road, was reflected in the reality of daily life. In the modern era, most people are enclosed in walls, offices, homes, and other boundaries all day long, only to get into another closed-in space to travel. For the biker, the idea, the suggestion of freedom was so powerful that it outweighed any perceived risk of bodily harm. Motorcyclists were not free of the fear that confines the cager, but they had faced the idea in some way or another and were aware of the risk and accepted it at some level. In 2001, Evans Brasfield, a freelance writer and motorcyclist, asserted that this “awareness and acceptance of risk should not be perceived as pursuing or flirting with it. No rider actively seeks injury or death, but injury and death will always be a part of motorcycling, as they are of any human endeavor.”36 But the rider still sought the road despite the possible harm that may come to him or her. In some way, riders felt
Craven, Ride It!: The Complete Book of Motorcycle Touring, 9. John W. Schouten and James H. McAlexander, “Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers,” The Journal of Consumer Research 22, no. 1 (June 1995): 51. 35 Packer, Mobility Without Mayhem : Safety, Cars, and Citizenship, 133. 36 Evans Brasfield, “Motorcycles and Risk: What Do We Tell Our Mothers?,” Motorcycle Cruiser, February 2001, http://www.evansbrasfield.com/risk.html.
that the risk and the facing of the risk was what entitled them to the journey and the closeness of the road. They have faced their fears and have earned the right of the connection, where motorists or cagers, have hidden from their fears and remain separate from the road. Motorcycle tourism therefore evolved out of this pursuit of the connection to the road and the journey. Initially presented as a way to see the country and meet people without the confines of the car, touring the country on a motorcycle involved two factors that were taken to extremes by later bikers, distance and the type of road. A tour on a motorcycle could be limited to a one or two day ride, but those who really wanted to get the feel of a real tour needed to dedicated at least a few consecutive days to riding. Additionally, touring could be done on interstate highways, but the guidebooks overwhelmingly agreed that the "two-lane roads - the kind that follow the contours of the land"37 were more ideal for motorcycle touring. By the mid-1980s motorcyclists were striving to prove their toughness by endurance rides. The Iron Butt Association hosted their first rally and ride in 1984 and covered nearly 11,000 miles in 11 days. This endurance riding and the loosely connected group that rose out of it remains dedicated to the pursuit of safe long-distance motorcycle rides all over the world. The membership requirements were simple, complete a “Bun Burner” (1,500 miles in 36 hours) or a “Saddle Sore” (1,000 miles in 24 hours) and submit the required documentation.38 Iron Butts were focused on covering a vast amount of mileage in a short time, safely. Therefore the rides were often done on interstate highways and left very little time for enjoying the road. However despite this, Iron Butts proudly proclaimed that they were connected to the road by suffering physical discomfort and even pain as well as dangerous weather conditions. The long distances tested the body in ways that long distances in a car did not. The rider faced issues of dehydration and the weather and overall exhaustion; however long distance riders found some inner peace on their journeys. Riders spoke Blom, Rider's Complete Guide to Motorcycle Touring, 158. “IBA - World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders,” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/membership.cfm.
of the long journeys as therapeutic and relaxing mentally despite the difficulties they face, and in all their accounts, riders attempted to explain the connection to the bike and the road in a way that combined freedom and autonomy with some level of connectedness to the land and road.39 Focusing on the types of roads ridden and the technical skill needed to ride these roads, other motorcyclists were less concerned with distance and the length of the ride and more concerned with the road itself. Motorcyclists have often commented on certain roads and their technical difficulty. Curvy roads, roads with inclines and turns, all speak to the rider in different ways. According to Richard Hutch, historian and rider, the straight and narrow road was not the road that appealed to most riders. Instead they sought out mountain roads with twists and turns that could be ridden repeatedly throughout the day and this “repeated ascent and descent back to where a ride started” were essential to understanding the “spirituality that was inherent in recreational motorcycling.”40 Riders talked to each other about these roads and spread the word of good rides through magazines and, more recently, websites dedicated to finding the perfect ride. While there are other roads in the country that attract riders in force, one of the more well known roads is U.S. 129 on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Commonly known as “The Tail of the Dragon,” U.S. 129 has risen to almost an epic status as a motorcycle road in the last 15 years (see figure 1). While the highway has been in existence since the 1930s and motorcyclists and motorists have been riding the road for just as long, it was in the early 1990s that the Dragon began to be hyped throughout the motorcycling world. In 1992, a rider named Doug Snavely had heard enough locals talk about the road that after riding it himself, he made an effort to not only get the road mention in national magazines like Rider Magazine but he published his own newsletter on the Bryan Bierod, “Ride Reports - First 1,000 Mile Day!,” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/getdocument.cfm?DocID=256; John Forry, “Ride Reports - Jewell of a Bun Burner,” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/getdocument.cfm?DocID=251; Douglas Morgan, “Two Wheeling: I Finally Got the Iron Butt!,” http://douglasmorgan.typepad.com/two_wheeling/2009/08/i-finally-got-the-iron-butt-.html. 40 Hutch, “Speed Masters Throttle Up: Space, Time and the Sacred Journeys of Recreational Motorcyclists.”
road and the area.
Figure 1. “Poster of the Tail of the Dragon,” TailoftheDragon.com http://www.tailofthedragon.com/shop/shop_poster_poster.html (accessed December 12, 2009). The Deals Gap Hot Lap featured short reports about who had attempted to ride the Dragon and how they fared. The two issues available online at the Tail of the Dragon website were roughly presented but show the burgeoning devotion that the road would soon get nationwide. Amongst the discussions of crashes and safety precautions, the reader was reminded of the end goal of the whole ride to “feel the breathe [sic] of the DRAGON on the back of their neck again next week.”41 These early riders of the Dragon did a great deal to encourage other riders to come enjoy the road; they also worked with local retailers and hoteliers to convince them of the validity of the motorcycle tourism that was to come. Eventually, by 1997 there were not only restaurants and hotels that focused on the biker trade, but a campground exclusive for bikers in the Deals Gap area near the Dragon. The surrounding area of Deals Gap and Robbinsville, NC welcome the riders that seek to tame the Dragon, while the Tennessee side of the area has been somewhat notorious for enforcing the speed limits on the Dragon with an iron hand.42 Motorcycle magazines began picking up the story of the Dragon in the 1990s, and in doing so, they provided an outlet for those riders who sought a way to prove their technical skills and toughness in an identifiable way. Grant Parsons wrote in 1997 in American Motorcyclist that the Dragon had a reputation as the “best asphalt thrill ride in the East.” With the claim of over 300 curves in the 11 miles of road called the Dragon, there was a good bit of hype to live up to. Parsons was at first hesitant of the claims but after riding the road for a few days, Parsons was happy to call himself “Dragon Trash” and was delighted to be a part of the road and those who had tamed it.43 One thing that Parsons mentioned was the notion that road seemed to be designed for motorcycles. Ronald E. Johnson, “Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap and Cherohala Skyway, Graham Co, NC,” http://www.tailofthedragon.com/dragon_history_story.html; Doug Snavely, “Deal's Gap Hot Lap, Volume 1, Issue 1,” pdf of Newsletter, September 1, 1992, http://www.tailofthedragon.com/history/1_1.gif. 42 Parsons, “Chasing the Dragon: Carving up Appalachia's Awesome Roads,” 26. 43 Ibid., 25, 29.
Other cyclists have said this about the road and others, going so far as to wonder if the engineers who designed the road were motorcyclists themselves.44 This idea that road itself was specifically ideal for motorcyclists and their pursuit of the perfect curve was repeated in reviews of the Dragon and other technically challenging roads like Big Sur’s Highway 1. Both roads claimed precision curves and ascents and descents that challenge the riders’ skills; however the advantage held by the Dragon was its overall lack of traffic and traps. While Parsons reminded the reader that a public highway was not the place to try out your skills for the first time and there was some risk from cars and motorhomes, the road was still an ideal challenge because it was moderately free of traps and pitfalls like driveways and random stops. Following Parsons, a number of motorcycle magazines and touring guidebooks began to discuss the Dragon in length. Advice for how to survive, and excel at the curves were abundant on the internet and in motorcycling magazines, but the overall advice was simple: ride within your limits; ignore the scenery; and, above all, respect the road.45 Tales of those that fail are so legendary that they were commemorated on the “Tree of Shame” at the parking lot of a local hotel (see figure 2). Those that wreck place the damaged remains of their motorcycles on and around the tree near a sign that reads “No Gain, but a lot of pain!!!” Many motorcyclists tell of accidents that occurred on the Dragon as a direct result of the rider underestimating the road. Bill Andrews detailed his first encounter with the Dragon for a collection of crash stories in American Motorcyclist in 2001. Years before the Dragon became a big name road, Andrews was taking a trip with a friend in the 1980s
Coyner, Motorcycle Journeys Through the Appalachians, 235-236; Dennis Pernu, “Roads of Dreams: Motorcycling North Carolina,” Motorcycle Cruiser, December 2004, http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/rideanddest/motorcycle_tour_north_carolina/index.html; Rick Kocks, “'Three Up' Touring,” American Motorcyclist, August 1978, 26. 45 Coyner, Motorcycle Journeys Through the Appalachians; Johnson, “Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap and Cherohala Skyway, Graham Co, NC”; “How To Survive the "Tail of the Dragon" at Deals Gap from your friends at Pirates' Lair,” http://pirateslair.net/Dragon.htm; J. Brad Hardin, “The Essence of Cruising,” Handlebars, July 1, 2009; Bill Andrews, “Best of the Smokies,” American Motorcyclist, February 2006; Grant Parsons, “The Killer Ride: Twisty Nirvana, from the Dragon to the Sky,” American Motorcyclist, February 2006.
and came upon the Dragon. His wreck, while small and causing little damage, served to remind
Figure 2. “Tree of Shame,” https://carolinaridersonline.com/images/tree_of_shame.jpg (accessed December 12, 2009).
Andrews of two very important things when touring roads. First, he should never push himself or his bike to keep up with another biker and second, you should never underestimate the road. Returning to the Dragon twenty years later, Andrews had a successful and accident free ride and remarked that “there’s a certain catharsis that comes with facing your personal demons, and this trip along the Dragon did it.”46 Not only had his failure on the road haunted him, but he felt compelled to return to the road as it gained accolades and became the destination road on the east coast. Not content to have been a young man who faced the Dragon before it was a well known challenge and failed, he needed to go back to the road and defeat it, not just for bragging rights but for personal satisfaction. Adding to the mystery of the road is a number of local legends and rumors that riders tell and retell over the decades. Among them is the statistic of one fatality a week during the summer months on the Dragon, lost riders that fall off the edge of the road and down the cliff only to be found as skeletons years later, and the ever present rumors of how the Dragon will soon be demolished, rebuilt, straightened or in some other way made unrideable for motorcycles. These rumors and myths are rarely founded on fact; since 1995 only 12 riders have died on the Dragon, there is no documented case of rider being found off the road, and although there has been some discussion of a new highway to span from Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee, very little actual progress has been made on the road.47 The Dragon’s curves and legends are not all that makes it unique among the destination roads. Big Sur in California has massive issues with bumper to bumper traffic, and while the Dragon has huge numbers of visitors in both cars and on motorcycles, the traffic problem was less noticeable. In his 2006 return to the Dragon, Grant Parsons remarked that the road etiquette feels almost European rather than American. Riders and drivers consistently used the available pullouts Andrews, “Best of the Smokies,” 42. Ronald E. Johnson, “Dragon Legends, Rumors, Myths, and Lies,” Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, http://www.tailofthedragon.com/legends.html.
to leave the road and let faster bikers and drivers pass by with a wave and smile. Parsons felt that it was as “though everyone feels privileged to ride one of America’s great motorcycle roads” and did not want to ruin the experience for any other rider or driver.48 While both motorcycle riders and cars travel the Dragon in nearly equal numbers, the impression was overwhelmingly one of a road dedicated to bikers. At the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, the guests are overwhelmingly riders and the resort offers hotel rooms and campgrounds for motorcyclists. While cars are welcome, the automobile driver can feel quite the minority during the height of motorcycle season. The area surrounding the Dragon on both the Tennessee and North Carolina side has benefited greatly from the increased tourism resulting from the unending quest to conquer the Dragon. Not only do motels, campgrounds and restaurants benefit, but business providing motorcycle repair, t-shirts, memorabilia and businesses that will take the riders picture while on the Dragon for proof that the rider did, indeed, survive the Dragon. The urge to prove their authenticity as bikers, many of the new bikers of the 1980s and 1990s sought out new ways to show their toughness. Rides like the Dragon, with its twists and turns that can rob a motorcyclist of his or her control and even life, became a huge tourist draw for the region and the epitome of the destination road. Modern motorcycle tourists focused almost exclusively on the ride and the journey rather than the destination. The abundance of motorcycle touring guides offering advice on the perfect roads, that are not only technical in nature but beautiful or historic in some way all begin with one major idea, that the destination is the road. Modern motorcycle tourists and their quest for the perfect challenge and road have found a unique experience in the Dragon. The resulting tourism has created a community, much like that found at the early motorcycle rallies, which equated the destination with the community of riders that feel a bond to each other because of what they have achieved. Throughout bike stores and gatherings, individuals wearing t-shirts proclaiming that they have “Fought the Dragon” greet each other with a
Parsons, “The Killer Ride: Twisty Nirvana, from the Dragon to the Sky,” 31.
common understanding of the work and difficulty involved in the road. Riders return to the road year after year to tame the beast again and again and defeat not only their personal fears but the road itself. This personal connection to a road seems to be unique among motorcyclists. Only within the realms of auto racing do drivers speak of roads in a similar way and those roads are more often tracks specially designed to challenge the driver. In a world where roads are increasingly designed for safety and speed, a road that follows the contours of the land and curves in such sweeping and precise arcs is rare. If constructed today, the Dragon would be far less challenging and less of a draw for motorcyclists and it is a unique experience that most bikers seek out in some point of their career. During the summer of 2009, I was riding with my companion on the back of a motorcycle in East Tennessee when we met two groups of bikers that had journeyed from Texas to ride the Dragon. Hiding from the rain under a gas station canopy, we chatted briefly about the road and the draw and they admitted that they had heard so much about the road that they felt compelled to make the journey to ride it. They had ridden roads that were difficult and challenging out west, but the draw of the Dragon was irresistible and compelling. As my companion detailed his experience on the road, they nodded in agreement and understanding. It was implied by their conversation that by riding the Dragon they would prove something not only about themselves as bikers but as people as well. These motorcyclists were seeking an adventure promised by the road, an adventure that would challenge their abilities and in the end grant them some measure of freedom and proof that they, too, could tame the Dragon.
AFTERWORD The Dragon was initially a road of novelty to me, it seemed like an interesting topic to research and I was drawn to it because of a personal connection. In 2003, my boyfriend’s father fought and defeated a particularly brutal form of cancer. During his recovery, he expressed a wish to begin riding motorcycles and his son gladly agreed to join him. After his father had fully
recovered, the two men set out to tame the Dragon and prove that the small things like cancer and daily life could not keep them down. It was this story that turned me towards the Dragon and the quest to ride a road for the pure joy of defeating it. I was deeply intrigued by their story and as I researched the road and its history as a motorcycle road, I discovered a number of similar stories. Long after I finished my research and wrote this article, the Dragon remained in my thoughts and I talked often with my boyfriend about my desire to ride the Dragon as well. In May of 2010, my boyfriend concocted an elaborate plan to ride from St. Louis to Nashville to pick me up and then on to the Dragon. We planned and planned and as the day grew closer, so did my excitement. I was going to ride the Dragon, and even as a passenger riding pillion, the draw was still strong. By the time we reached US highway 129, the full force of Tennessee’s charming summer storms were upon us. But despite the rain and being almost completely soaked through our rain gear, we soldiered on to the Dragon and after a night of rest woke to a light drizzle and our challenge. I still have never commanded a motorcycle on the Dragon, I merely rode pillion in the rain and smiled so very much my face hurt for days. Because of the weather, the road was nearly empty of traffic and we were unable to take the turns at the speed we desired, but the ride itself is one I will never forget. The curves really do feel amazing on the bike, and a number of times I laughed out loud in delight in just being on the road. Later that day, my boyfriend asked me to marry him by comparing our future life together to the ride we had just been on. Long, full of twists and turns, and at times stormy, but full of joy in life and laughter at every turn, our quest to tame the Dragon brought more than I ever could have imagined. The other riders at Deal’s Gap with us, the other bikers we passed on the road, the couples and individuals scurrying to put on rain gear and continue on to get to the Dragon, they all seemed to have a similar joy in life. The road and the quest to ride it proved that they, too, were a part of something greater. And trust me, I will return to the Dragon and ride it in the sunshine.
Andrews, Bill. “Best of the Smokies.” American Motorcyclist, February 2006. Bill Andrews described the Dragon in a feature for the American Motorcycle Association’s magazine, American Motorcyclist. This issue focused on the motorcycle rides in and near the Great Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee and North Carolina. Every six months American Motorcyclist has a feature issue that focused on a specific region and specific roads. The Dragon has been featured a number of times since its debut in the magazine in 1997. Barbieri, Jay. Biker's Handbook: Becoming Part of the Motorcycle Culture. St. Paul, MN: MBI Pub. Company LLC, 2007. Barbieri wrote an almost tongue in cheek guide to fitting into the biker culture. He offered such dubious advice as shipping your motorcycle to Sturgis and provided a number of stories about his drunken adventures while motorcycling. He did clearly and repeatedly state that he no longer rides drunk and no one ever should. Barger, Ralph. Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. New York, NY: Morrow, 2000. This is the autobiography of the notorious Sonny Barger and is considered required reading for any examination of the Hell’s Angels. Barger was the founding member and president of the Oakland Hell’s Angels chapter and in his book he details the rise of the organization and the organization’s influence on American culture. Bierod, Bryan. “Ride Reports - First 1,000 Mile Day!.” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/getdocument.cfm?DocID=256 (accessed December 12, 2009) This is one of many Ride Reports featured on the Iron Butt Association website. Members often write about their rides to not only gain acceptance as members but to encourage other members to do the same. In this article, the author describes his journey from Wichita, Kansas to Phoenix, Arizona. Blom, Dick. Rider's Complete Guide to Motorcycle Touring. Agoura, Calif.: TL Enterprises, 1981. As editor of the Rider Magazine, Dick Blom did a great deal to promote motorcycle touring and the idea of riding for the sake of riding. Produced in conjunction with his magazine, this guidebook is one of the earlier looks at the burgeoning motorcycle tourism movement. Blom detailed his process for choosing a route and what the motorcyclist
should prepare for on the road. The book combined very practical advice from an experienced rider and a discussion of why the reader would want to try motorcycle touring. Brasfield, Evans. “Motorcycles and Risk: What Do We Tell Our Mothers?.” Motorcycle Cruiser, February 2001. http://www.evansbrasfield.com/risk.html. (accessed December 12, 2009). Brasfield is a motorcycle rider and an freelance writer and in this article he detailed the difficult discussion of how motorcyclist explain why they take the risks they do. According to Brasfield, it can be very difficult to articulate why an intelligent thinking person would willingly get on a motorcycle when the risk of death is quite clear and higher than it is when driving a car. Coyner, Dale. Motorcycle Journeys Through the Appalachians. North Conway, N.H.: Whitehorse Press, 2004. Coyner has written a number of motorcycle guides to good roads in the United States as well as a guidebook on motorcycle touring in general. He, like his predecessors, presented the material as one rider to another and explained everything from bike maintenance and route choice to clothing and money management while on the road. Craven, Ken. Ride It! : The Complete Book of Motorcycle Touring. Yeovil: Haynes, 1977. This early work on motorcycle touring focused a great deal on the benefits gained from touring the country on a motorcycle. Among the reasons given, the idea that you could meet more people on the back of a bike than in a car was the primary focus. While Craven and the other early guidebook writers do not focus on specific roads, they all do mention that the highway is less desirable than small back roads that cling to the land. While not focused on technical roads, Craven did point out the endurance and physical toughness necessary to ride motorcycles long distances. He even suggested a training schedule of jogging or some other physical activity to prepare the body the work involved in motorcycling long distances. Dulaney, William. “A Brief History of ‘Outlaw’ Motorcycle Clubs.” International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 1, no. 3 (November 2005). http://ijms.nova.edu/November2005/IJMS_Artcl.Dulaney.html (accessed December 12, 2009). This article is a quick introduction to the history and development of outlaw biker clubs and like many other articles, cited the Hollister incident as the beginning of the image and its portrayal in the media. Edeburn, Carl. Sturgis : The Story of the Rally. Brookings, S.D.: Dimensions Press, 2003. Rider and historian documented the history of the Sturgis rally and how it came into
being. The book focuses a good deal on the dirt races and the annual winners of races, but does discuss the biker image and how the outlaw stereotype impacted the rally. Forry, John. “Ride Reports - Jewell of a Bun Burner.” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/getdocument.cfm?DocID=251 (accessed December 12, 2009). Yet another report of a long distance Iron Butt ride. Gartman, David. “Three Ages of the Automobile: The Cultural Logics of The Car.” Theory, Culture & Society 21, no. 4-5 (October 1, 2004): 169-195. In examining motorcycle tourism, it was necessary to build a framework to understand how it differed from automobile tourism. Hardin, J. Brad. “The Essence of Cruising.” Handlebars, July 1, 2009. Hardin detailed his view of why it is important to tour the country on a motorcycle rather than other forms of motorcycle riding. Harris, Maz. Bikers: Birth of a Modern-day Outlaw. London; Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985. Harris was both a Hell’s Angel and a sociologist who applied an ethnographic methodology to explain the development and history of the “outlaw” biker and the Hell’s Angels. Harris’ work was one of the first of its kind and created a strong foundation for later works that examined the Hell’s Angels and other outlaw biker clubs. Harrison, Greg. “The News Slant.” American Motorcyclist, November 1984. In this editorial, Greg Harrison detailed his point of view on current media on motorcyclists. He was very annoyed by the continued reporting of novelty articles about how bikers really were not all outlaws and Hell’s Angels. “How to Survive the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ at Deals Gap from your friends at Pirates' Lair.” http://pirateslair.net/Dragon.htm (accessed December 12, 2009). One of many websites dedicated to the Dragon and how to survive it. One of the key pieces of advice on this website was, “If you are not feeling 100%.. both physically and mentally... sit this one out...The Dragon senses your weaknesses and will strike if you are vulnerable,” and “Do NOT sightsee!. The Dragon is to ride, not to watch the sights.” Hutch, Richard. “Speed Masters Throttle Up: Space, Time and the Sacred Journeys of Recreational Motorcyclists.” International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 3, no. 2 (July 2007).
http://ijms.nova.edu/July2007/IJMS_Artcl.Hutch.html (accessed December 12, 2009). Richard Hutch is a historian and a biker who evaluates the connection that riders have with the road. “IBA - World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders.” http://www.ironbutt.com/about/membership.cfm (accessed December 12, 2009). The Iron Butt Association is a group that is dedicated to long distance safe motorcycle riding. While it does not collect dues, it does have a dedicated following that are required to prove their worthiness by specific lengths of rides in a specific time frame. There has been very little scholarly material written about the IBA and it would be a very interesting investigation of this travel phenomenon and how it parallels the destination road tourism. Jakle, John A, and Keith A Sculle. Motoring : The Highway Experience in America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008. Jakle and Sculle are some of the more prominent historians who focus on automobility and its impact on American culture. Their understanding of automobile tourism strongly shaped how my understanding of motorcycle tourism developed. Johnson, Ronald E. “Dragon Legends, Rumors, Myths and Lies.” Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. http://www.tailofthedragon.com/legends.html (accessed December 12, 2009). ———. “Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap and Cherohala Skyway, Graham Co, NC.” http://www.tailofthedragon.com/dragon_history_story.html (accessed December 12, 2009). Ronald E. Johnson is closely tied to the Dragon and has worked closely with resort owners in the area and retailers to promote the Dragon to motorcyclists and the media. Johnson worked with other motorcyclists to coordinate early rides on the Dragon and his website is one of the main sources of information on the Dragon, the ride, its history, and the region. While websites can be an unreliable resource, Johnson’s work is a very dedicated and very prolific primary source for how motorcyclists currently talk about and promote the road. Joseph, Nadine. “A Motorcycle Club for the Executive.” New York Times (1857-Current file), April 15, 1981. http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed December 12, 2009). I gathered a number of articles from historical newspapers to see how the mass media was discussing bikers and the rise of the New Biker. This article focused on the novelty of wealthy businessmen who also rode motorcycles.
“Ken Reid: An Interview with the AMA's Road Riding Development Manager.” American Motorcyclist Association News, 1977. This interview with Ken Reid not only demonstrated the mindset of the American Motorcycle Association in the 1970s but also demonstrated the differences Reid saw between the dirt bike racer and the touring biker. Rider versus racer discussions were frequent in the letters to the editor in the AMA publication during the 1970s and 1980s, and Reid was hired to prove that the organization was meant to represent all bikers, not just those who raced dirt bikes. Kisicki, Bradley A. “Understanding Motorcycle Culture and the Evolution of the Reasons We Ride,” 2005. In his 2005 thesis, Kisicki examined a number of elements in the development of why bikers ride. Kocks, Rick. “'Three Up' Touring.” American Motorcyclist, August 1978. Yet another brief discussion of the joy of touring the country on a motorcycle, this article focused more on the Big Sur Highway, but pointed out the problems of the road as well as the glories. Krakauer, Jon. “A Hog is Still a Hog but the 'Wild' Ones are Tamer.” Smithsonian 24, no. 8 (1993): 8899. Krakauer traveled to the Daytona Beach Bike Rally to see how the locals responded to bikers, how bikers were changing, and how the old school bikers responded to the new ones. Lavigne, Yves. Hell's Angels: "Three Can Keep a Secret If Two Are Dead". New York, NY: Carol Pub. Group, 1993. Journalist Yves Lavigne detailed the history of Hell’s Angels and their criminal activities. Morgan, Douglas. “Two Wheeling: I Finally Got the Iron Butt!.” http://douglasmorgan.typepad.com/two_wheeling/2009/08/i-finally-got-the-iron-butt.html. Another IBA member discussed how he achieved his membership. While Morgan is an avid bicyclist he also wanted to pursue the Iron Butt to prove he could.
Packer, Jeremy. Mobility Without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. Cultural historian Jeremy Packer examines the link between safety, legislation, and travel in the United States. In his chapter on motorcycles and madness, Packer makes a very clear case that much of the problems Americans have had with motorcycles and motorcyclists has been because the risk taking element of riding is beyond what is acceptable to the average American. Parsons, Grant. “Chasing the Dragon: Carving up Appalachia's Awesome Roads.” American Motorcyclist, September 1997. One of the first articles on the Dragon, Parson’s article discussed the Dragon as if it were already common knowledge. This was not a discovery article, meant to share an unknown road with the masses; instead it was review of a well-known road to encourage more riders to attempt the road. ———. “The Killer Ride: Twisty Nirvana, from the Dragon to the Sky.” American Motorcyclist, February 2006. Parsons returns to the Dragon almost ten years later and discussed how the road continued to be a challenge and a delight. Pernu, Dennis. “Roads of Dreams: Motorcycling North Carolina.” Motorcycle Cruiser, December 2004. http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/rideanddest/motorcycle_tour_north_carolina/index.ht ml (accessed December 12, 2009). Another first person account of a motorcyclist’s experience with the Dragon. Salvadori, Clement. Motorcycle Journeys through California and Baja. Center Conway, N.H.: Whitehorse Press, 2007. Salvadori focused on roads on the west coast and does point out some of the differences between the west coast roads and the Dragon. Schouten, John W., and James H. McAlexander. “Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers.” The Journal of Consumer Research 22, no. 1 (June 1995): 43-61. This article discussed the relationships between the new biker movement and the rise of consumerism.
Seiler, Cotten. “Statist Means to Individualist Ends: Subjectivity, Automobility, and the Cold-War State.” American Studies 44, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 5-36. Cotton Seiler’s understanding of automobility is tied deeply to citizenship and conformity. This is very different from the understanding of motorcycle tourism and its relationship to American culture. Shaffer, Marguerite S. See America First: Tourism and National Identity: 1880-1940. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001. Classic investigation of how tourism in America was promoted. Snavely, Doug. “Deal's Gap Hot Lap, Volume 1, Issue 1.” Pdf of Newsletter, September 1, 1992. http://www.tailofthedragon.com/history/1_1.gif (accessed December 12, 2009). This is a unique and unusual artifact, while the actual printout was examined it is currently only available online via the Tail of the Dragon website. This short lived newsletter detailed the local attempts to tame the Dragon and set the beginning of motorcyclists obsession with the road in the early 1990s. Streano, Vince. Touching America with Two Wheels. New York: Random House, 1974. Streano presented an early guidebook to encourage others to take to the road on their motorcycles. Streano is delighted by the journey but also saw the opportunity to meet new people in a way that was not available on auto journeys as wonderful side effect. It is possible that during this timeframe, motorcyclists were so uncommon that the rider was enough of a novelty to attract attention and act as way to make connections to those around him. I am unsure if this is still the case, but it would be an interesting investigation. Tamony, Peter. “The Hell's Angels: Their Naming.” Western Folklore 29, no. 3 (July 1970): 199-203. This brief article discussed the legends of how the Hell’s Angels got their name. Thompson, Hunter S. Hell's Angels: a Strange and Terrible Journey. New York: Modern Library, 1999. Counter culture icon and gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson traveled with and befriended the Hell’s Angels in 1965 and wrote this book about his experience. Thompson’s book served as one of the first examinations of the Hell’s Angels and acted as introduction of many authors to the outlaw biker culture. Thompson, William “Pseudo-Deviance and the "New Biker" Subculture: Hogs, Blogs, Leathers, and Lattes.” Deviant Behavior 30, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 89-114.
Psychologist William Thompson examines the reasons why the New Biker would choose to embrace the social stigmas associated with the Outlaw Biker subculture. Volti, Rudi. “A Century of Automobility.” Technology and Culture 37, no. 4 (October 1996): 663-685. Volti’s primary argument in this article is that the automobile offered an uncommon and unusual pairing that was desperately needed by individuals in the twentieth century. By pairing privacy and power, two things that many common Americans did not have a great deal of in their daily lives. Weisman, Mary-Lou. “The Not-So-Wild Ones.” New York Times (1857-Current file), September 14, 1977. Yet another newspaper report on the changing demographic of the American biker.
Wood, John. “Hell's Angels and the Illusion of the Counterculture.” Journal of Popular Culture 37, no. 2 (2003): 336-351. The Counterculture movement of the 1960s were at first delighted to embrace the Hell’s Angels as fellow travelers on the path to rebellion. Much to their dismay, Hell’s Angels were more representative of the mainstream ideals of loyalty to the Vietnam War and traditional social structures than expected.