on the thursday before the official ride a group of riders gathers in bridgeport to ride to cherokee, nc. this ride is not official and riders join this ride as a casual ride for the opportunity to take in some of the most beautiful country for riding in northern alabama, Tennessee's lake district, and the smoky mountains of north carolina. if you want to find out more information about this ride use the contact form at the bottom of this page. this part of the ride usually has several different groups of riders taking different routes to cherokee. usually there is a group that takes advantage of this thursday ride to take the long way to cherokee and take in the famous 'tail of the dragon' but no matter which route is taken, this is some of the most exquisite country to ride through in the entire United states.
The Thursday ride out of bridgeport typically leaves between 8 and 9 in the morning. The route takes the riders north toward the alabama / Tennessee State line and then up over the historic bridge over the tennessee river. the riders then travel up rural roads and through the twisties that skirt the river all the way to Chattanooga. from there the route varies somewhat from year to year. The members of ATTotcai typically ride up I-24 to i-75 and they take the interstate up to cleveland where they get on the scenic us 74 that travels up into the smokies. the entire area is a beautiful scenic wonderland of mountains and rivers and nice windy roads. And the group that takes the main roads all the way to cherokee do a leisure ride that is very fun and relaxing.
whether you take the casual route through the mountains and along rivers, or you get with a more adventurous group off to take in the tail of the dragon, the ride is exquisite! there are few places in america that present such good motorcycling roads with breathtaking vistas and runs along mountain rivers and streams with the sun glinting off the surface. (makes you want to stop and do some fishing!) At this time of year the weather is just starting to turn cooler (so be sure to bring cool weather gear.) and the roads are generally free of much traffic. so the ride is always a pleasure.
the tail of the dragon at deal's gap is a stretch of road with an international reputation. Riders and sports car enthusiasts travel from all parts of the globe to ride or drive these 11 miles. this bit of rural north carolina is not for the faint hearted. but every year tens of thousands of motorcyclists come to challenge the dragon! and no matter what kind of rider you are the dragon challenges you back.
The highway before the dragon is beautiful and the highway after the dragon is just as beautiful. it's just that this run never lets you relax. if you're not accelerating out of the last curve you're setting up for the next curve. and a word to the wise, make sure you're bike is in top condition with good brakes and tires and ready to be put through the paces. this dragon breathes fire... and we don't want you to get burned!
Cherokee, NC is one of the most popular tourist areas east of the mississippi. This quaint and scenic area is filled with all sorts of crafts and gift shops selling Native American jewelry and clothing and everything else. The cherokee people are extraordinary artists and their wares are always in high demand.
of course the other thing that is true about Cherokee is that it is on a Native American Reservation. That means gambling is allowed and Harrah's has a big casino there. So if you have a mind to do some gambling at night there's plenty of time to enjoy the tables.
On Friday morning riders gather at the museum of the Cherokee to meet up with riders from the Eastern Cherokee Tribe for the ride back to bridgeport. a ceremony is held in the parking lot of the museum to discuss the ride and to call for the Great Spirit to bless and protect the riders. local and state police escort the riders out of the city of cherokee and back out to hwy 74 for the ride back through the smokies to ross's landing, near chattanooga, where the native Americans were loaded onto barges for the river trip to waterloo. at this point the riders number several hundred with many joining the procession from around chattanooga. The stop at Ross's landing provides enough time for riders to have lunch at the nearby concessions.
After the stop at Ross's Landing the ride proceeds back to Bridgeport and takes about an hour to 90 minutes to get back there. This happens in early afternoon and takes riders back through the tennessee river lake district and through the rural towns around nickajack dam and northern alabama. it's a casual ride through pretty country and country towns.
friday night the city of bridgeport hosts a kickoff party for the ride with a lot of good food, musical entertainment and ceremonies to pay tribute to all those that have contributed to making the ride a success. a number of vendors and motorcycle minstries have booths and the entire city of bridgeport comes out to enjoy the festivities and show their appreciation for the riders and event coordinators. it is a family friendly atmosphere and everyone always has a really good time with the good folk of bridgeport and northern alabama.
the city of bridgeport also marks the official ride kickoff with a great fireworks show. what biker doesn't like fireworks? answer: those that can't see!
Just kidding :D
if at all possible riders should show up for the ceremony and kickoff party. get to know people and see old friends and make new ones. because it's a pretty sure thing you're going to want to do it again next year. this is an event you're going to want to be a part of every year!
if you're interested in joining this unofficial part of the Trail of Tears ride please fill out the form below and we'll put you on a mailing list that will provide information about the plans for this part of the ride as they develop.