16 Basically Blount 2018 READY TO RIDE By Stefan Cooper The “318 curves” in the stretch of road known as The Dragon represent some of the best of mountain storytelling. The actual number is closer to 250. However, no exaggeration whatsoever accompanies de- scription of nearby Flats Road, excepting, perhaps, the nickname mountain road that snakes its way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the North Carolina border. The 318 curves designation came by way of three motor- cyclists who camped on the mountain years ago, says Tail of the Dragon souvenir shop owner Ron Johnson. They didn’t count the curves, but decided to come up with a number. Johnson says they started with the highway’s number, 129, deducing “one plus two equals three” for the 3 part. Since two times nine is 18, the group agreed upon 318 curves as the total. For some reason, the des- ignation stuck! Flats Road, which connects to 129 via Happy Valley Road, runs for only .6 tenths of mile. It’s the steep ascent that bites, particularly when accompanying “ The famed 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 dubbed “The Tail of the Dragon” and the searing, 27-percent gradient of Flats Road represent twin peaks for the worlds of motorcycling and bicycling, respectively. local bicyclists gave it years ago: “Sweetie Pie.” Taken together, the famed 11- mile stretch of U.S. 129 dubbed “The Tail of the Dragon” and the searing, 27-percent gradient of Flats Road represent twin peaks for the worlds of motorcycling and bicycling, respectively. The Dragon welcomes some 250,000 motorcyclists to Blount County each summer. Rally car enthusiasts swarm in comparable numbers to the twisty stretch of READYTOPLAY