318 Turns, 11 Miles, No Wimps

Yes it’s that time of year again. Time for a few hundred MINI enthusiasts to tackle that little stretch of road simply known as the Dragon.

Once again North American Motoring (along with countless volunteers) is helping to put on one of the biggest US based MINI events of the year centered around the road. Like last year MINIUSA will be making an appearance (with a JCW S Convertible no less) along with around 400 participants and over 300 MINIs! For those that are interested but haven’t signed up yet.. the clock is ticking.

There’s only a couple of days left until registration is closed. Here’s a quick overview of the event for those interested to know more (from North American Motoring):

So what is the MINIs on the Dragon?

MINIs on the Dragon is the largest gathering of MINIs and their owners in the US. This year we’re expecting around 400 people and more than 200 MINIs. The weekend is centered around the mutual interest and enjoyment of what can be argued as the most fun car on the road.

Where is the event held?

Deal’s Gap, North Carolina. The home of the Tail of the Dragon. The Tail of the Dragon (Hwy-129) is perhaps the finest road in the United States for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who enjoy driving on an 11+ mile stretch of twisty road with a fantastic road surface and not a single intersection or cross road for the entire length of the Dragon. 318 curves in 11+ miles! The MINI was made to TURN and the Dragon is the perfect asphalt compliment to our fantastic little cars.

What do you do?

Hang out with our MINI friends from all over the country, drive the Dragon and other great roads through the Smoky Mountains, and generally just have a great time surrounded my beautiful scenery and more MINI’s than you have ever seen in your life. There are group drives, meals, fun contests, vendors coming from far and wide to meet YOU, and even a few (ok, more than a few) giveaways. This year many of the social events and hub of activity will be Fontana Village Resort. Located on Fontana Lake and surrounding by beautiful scenary it’s a great chance to both get away from the daily grind and obsess about your MINI at the same time.

How do I get started?

To get started be sure to log into North American Motoring (or register if you haven’t already done so). Once you’ve logged in start out with the Events link. This page will be your personal event planner. At a glance you can see your status on the basics and each event that requires some form of RSVP or registration. If the event is clickable just click on it to find out more information on it as well as who has currently RSVPd to attend.

The other area to read is the Registration area. This attempts to explain the updates to this year’s event in regards to event insurance and what options are available for registration.

Here are a few more details on registration for the Dragon (again from North American Motoring):



Registration options are new for this year. As with organized clubs whose officer’s and members plan activities there are potential risks that arise relative to liability. With an event that involves driving there are additional risks that can place the organizers and coordinators of that event at a significant financial liability if something (accident, injury, claim by third-party non-event participant, etc.) were to happen during that event. To alleviate this concern and allow everyone to put forth a best effort for coordination and planning without worry about risk DC Metro MINIs has worked to support the 2005 MINIs on the Dragon with event insurance.

To participate in any of the events at the 2005 MINIs on the Dragon an event registration is required. This provides a form of documentation that you are indeed a member of this group of attendees for the weekend of the event and thereby covered by the DC Metro MINI policy. There are two options available, both of which include this coverage.

[ Dragon Registration ] North American Motoring

If you would like to know more about the Dragon itself, check out the official website (yes, a website for a road): TailofTheDragon.com

For those curious, there’s an outside chance that I’ll be making the trip this year.

  • Mike

    Anyone have any idea how this compares to California roads like Skyline? The road sounds great, but not all that much different than lots of things we have around here. So is this really amazing by west coast standards or is it just the only road this good on the east coast? I’d be looking for comments from someone who’s driven both.

  • Hey Mike, consider this more of a “MINI SOCIAL” as opposed to a driving event.

    If you’re looking for thrilling drives, sign up for some track days. They are safer, regulated and I’ve been told often, nothing beats them!

    The dragon, over the past several years, preMINI, has been the East coast’s answer to a socially adequate location for a swift drive through a curvy road. If California had more socially adequate “Inn’s” and “Cabana’s” through a twisty, you’d see the same thing happening on the Left Coast.

    Hope this point of view helps somewhat.

  • Greg

    Hmmm…the Dragon sounds very much like Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods, on the Appalachian Trail? Hang on a minute lads…I’ve got a good idea!


  • The Dragon itself is an exotic little stretch of mountain road on the South end of the world’s oldest mountains. It is, in fact, curvy enough to easily turn riders tummies. The stretch of road regularly draws bikers for events and has sprouted its own website ( http://www.tailofthedragon.com/ ). Having grown up in the area, I can tell you that the area is FULL of fun roads, actually. I happened to have done the Dragon in a Mini in the 1960s, and can tell you it is lots of fun, especially if you are in the front seat…


  • gmini

    You’re absolutely right about track days, Mike. And a lot of folks I know are less than eager to visit upon the Tail of the Dragon in the midst of a giant MINI meet. Alternative plans are made. I’m personally satisfied with my routes too work. (albeit without MINIUSA’s JCW S C ).

    Everyone I know who has attended this event has absolutely loved it and has chanted “you gotta do the dragon”. There’s no doubt in my mind that MINIs on the Dragon is a thoroughly enjoyable event.

  • Mike – here’s more info on the Dragon: tailofthedragon.com

  • And if anyone is curious just how impressive the Dragon is… consider this BMW Motorcycle ad

  • Michael Burchill

    What’s the driving experience actually like though, when you’re trying to drive down a twisty road with 200+ other MINIs? I mean, different people have different driving skill limits and tastes, so do they break the group up into smaller subgroups?

    Seems like it could potentially turn into a serious ‘traffic-jam-on-the-Dragon’?

      • m
  • RB


    I used to work in Palo Alto and I lived in Pacifica, circa 1969. I drove the old Skyline daily and it was a blast. I entered Skyline somewhere west of Burlingame or was it Hillsborough? I recently drove the new road and found it rather dull, if I’m not mistaken it is mostly freeway now. The 1 south form Pacifica was still fun and the 17, either way is a must in a MINI, if you can find it with no traffic.

    I must admit that we in CA have a lot of fun drives but do you really think we have a lock on fun drives, I don’t think so. I’m a California native and found your comment a bit antagonistic, but hopefully no one else did. Maybe I just miss read your intent.


  • Well, we out East are used to having all things east of the Rockies minimized by those out west, so we just bear up. 😉


  • dgszweda

    The road is great. One of the best in the country. I drive it on a regular basis, since I live quite close to it. The event is not really a driving event, and is turning into more of a social event, which I think will have a self defeating purpose. It is starting to peak now, since I don’t think it can either hold much more, or even be a lot of fun. At some point it becomes a traffic jam on a twisty road or a crowded town, which isn’t a lot of fun at least for me. At this point, the Minis stretch out covering over 5% of the road as it is.

  • I’m aware of just what the Dragon is, and think it would be great fun to attend. I’m also aware that it’s very much a social thing. Maybe my original post wasn’t clear. There was no antagonism intended, I was just thinking for myself that one year when I have some free time around this time it would be fun to make the trek out to North Carolina from here in CA to do the run. But I was also curious whether I would find the road any more exciting than the roads we have out here, because it’s talked about like it’s just short of the Autobahn.

    I apologize if it sounded like I was bashing the Dragon, I think it’s awesome and would love to participate some day. I certainly don’t think that Californians have a “lock on fun drives”. We do have a lot of good ones, though, and I was curious how they compare to other areas of the country. Is that so horrible? 🙂

  • Erik

    My wife and I are headed to the Dragon this year. This will be our last “hoo-rah” before our boy is born….yup, packing plenty of barf bags for her ;).

    Hope you make it, Gabe.

    -Erik ’05 MCS

  • To address the concerns about having the Dragon stacked (and crawling along) with MINIs there has been only one event scheduled where every MINI would be present on the Dragon. That is the Dragon Parade which has become something of a tradition in kicking off the event. At the end of this Parade there are several drives that break up and go to different parts of NC/TN.

    There will certainly be a lot of MINIs present this year and the weekend will hopefully have something for everyone…organized drives, meals, non-driving activities, vendors, etc. If you want to drive the Dragon (or other do-it-yourself drives people have contributed) by yourself or with a few friends you can do it anytime during the weekend. It is a social event with MINIs front and center surrounded by some great driving opportunities. More than anything its a great time to see all kinds of MINIs…even some new stuff from MINI USA 😉

  • KevinR

    One thing to keep in mind: there are a lot of other great driving roads in the same area. Although the Dragon gets all of the “press”, there are plenty of others to keep one entertained.

    A few years ago my wife and I went up to the region for a Fall weekend. We spent 2 complete days driving and exploring the roads throughout the area in her Z3. It was a blast and I highly recommend it.

  • Jen

    Although the actual “parade” on the Dragon is really just that – a parade of 300 plus cars this year – there are plenty of other chances to drive the road during the long weekend. The road doesn’t go anywhere! =) – and for most people it will be the road you drive into your hotel on.

  • minimotorin

    Having driven the Dragon with hundreds of Miatas and now looking forward to driving it my third year in a row in a MINI I can say you can always find a time to drive without a crowd. I usually arrive early in the first day of the event and get several runs in before most people even show, plus the surrounding roads offer great driving as well. Add all this driving in with all the great things going on at the event (lunchs, dinners, contests, paintball, horse rides, etc. etc.)it makes for a Great MINI time!!

  • Mike,

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. Like I said, it’s purely social. A few little jaunts here and there, but it’s crammed with a lot of social activity. It’s also quite a liability to be in a pack of 300 minis with drivers of all experience/inexperience. The track is a great place to release that driving bug.
    SoCal has a LOT of comparative roads, If you are interested, we can show you a few that are comperable and some even avoid oncoming traffic alltogether. Albeit, there is no Cigar porch, Chili Boiloff, dinner, squaredances, bible studies, or even places to rent a cot… but they are just as fun and scenic.

    If you’re interested in joining some of the guys while the dragoneer’s are away… or anytime you have time, click my name up there and we’ll get your need for twisties satisfied.

    That offer goes out to anyone who’s up for it.

    The only thing I see the Dragon, having over anything else, is it’s social history.

  • Mike,

    ” There was no antagonism intended,”?…… “Albeit, there is no Cigar porch, Chili Boiloff, dinner, squaredances, bible studies, or even places to rent a cot”…

    I would hate to see you when you want to get under someone’s skin.:)

    We all accept that you don’t understand the whole Dragon thing. Nuff said.

    Cheers, Jack

  • Hey Doug, thanks for that. 🙂 I’m in the SF Bay Area and don’t make it down to SoCal too often, but if/when I do, I’ll give you guys a shout. 🙂

    And Jack, I’m not quite sure what your point was. I don’t think you realize that the second quote you listed wasn’t from me. Hope you’re enjoying, uh, SUNY Buffalo.

  • Mike,

    Sorry for that I am guilty of posting incorectly.

    I guess that all of the Dragon bashing is getting to me.

    Please forgive my foolishness.

    Cheers, Jack

  • I really didn’t mean to start any sort of Dragon-bashing. As I said I think it’s a very cool event and would love to attend some time; hell, my whole motivation for asking about all this was because I was thinking about driving all the way across the country some year as a fun road trip event. So like I said before, I apologize if I caused any sort of antagonism or fighting – not my intention, was just curious about roads in other parts of the country, to which I don’t have any exposure (except Chicago). 🙂

  • doug

    Jack was quoting me.

    It was not a bash, consider it a parody. I think it’s great that a social event as large as the Dragon is available. It’s too bad the commercialism is infecting it tho.

    The pure enthusiast gathering concept is great.

  • RB

    Now I’m getting that warm & fuzzy MotoringFile feeling.

    Itz a warm day, the birds are croaking, the ground hawgs are buzzing and there is no wood on the Goby Dessert…….Huh, oh itz medication time…B right there…………Peace

  • dgszweda

    To agree with a few other previous posters, there are a ton of great roads up in that area. Some I think are better than the Dragon. In fact, Transylvania county is nearby and it has more waterfalls than any place in America. That waterfalls are all along the roads. It is absolutely beautiful. My wife and I spend a week every year at Lake Toxiway a breathtaking location and extremely relaxing.

  • Dai Uy Ted Stacy

    I’m looking forward to my first Dragon meet, although as a loyal adoptive Floridian that area is nothing new to me – we visit the Smokies and Blue Ridge every summer to escape the heat and tedium of Florida. We eagerly anticipate the chance to meet and cruise with at least 200 other MINIacs. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to motor solo on the Dragon as well as the many similar roads in the area. And we plan to remain there for several days after the hoopla is over. Incidentally, I’m a native Californian, who cruised uncounted delightful miles, especially on the roads north of San Farancisco, in my P1800 in the mid-sixties. These roads around the Smokies are the equal of those around the Russian River, and remain less spoiled.

  • Tsukiji

    I’m looking forward to the Dragon and other area roads with great anticipation – too bad my GPS doesn’t have a ‘Twistiest Route’ option!

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