Event expected to draw thousands of motorcyclists, sports car enthusiasts to Smyth
I live just 5 miles from Marion and Hwy 16. I hope it don't turn into another road like at Deals Gap.By Stephanie Porter-Nichols
Published: July 21, 2011
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BY DAN KEGLEY
Harry Potter fans steeped in wizardry and fresh from seeing his last movie over the weekend might hear Claw of the Dragon and Horn of the Cow as perhaps the opening line of an incantation or maybe as potion ingredients.
In fact, tourism officials do hope the words work magic in making motorcycles and sports cars appear in Smyth County and the region.
Notably spellbinding about Claw of the Dragon, Horn of the Cow, Possum Run, The Woolly Mammoth and Turkey Strut is the scenery along the winding roads making up the imaginatively named routes of which the Claw is the larger.
Grown this winter and spring from the original concept for Back of the Dragon that reflects both its path over the mountains between Marion and Tazewell and inspiration drawn from Tail of the Dragon on Highway 129 in the Smoky Mountains, Claw of the Dragon is a 224-mile loop with shorter trip options.
On the big Claw loop are Saltville to the west, Bastian, Bland and Mechanicsburg to the north, Dublin, Fort Chiswell and Hillsville to the east, and Galax, Volney and Chilhowie completing the circuit.
The other trails are shorter routes often incorporating parts of the Claw but running into the interior of that loop to places like Sugar Grove, Troutdale, Speedwell and Wytheville. Back of the Dragon remains a trail connecting Marion and Tazewell as part of The Woolly Mammoth loop.
“The Claw is the big one,” said Smyth County Tourism Director Ron Thomason who on Monday gave Marion Town Council members copies of a new brochure “hot off the press” and detailing the motorcycle routes.
The brochure is the local outcome of an initiative that began in Tazewell County when Larry Davidson of Thompson Valley presented the idea to Tazewell’s tourism committee last December.
In March, Smyth County’s board of supervisors adopted a resolution backing the tourism initiative.
In May, Thomason showed the supervisors and council members in the county’s three towns T-shirts printed with a trademarked logo proclaiming the 32-mile Back of the Dragon as superior to the well-known Tail of the Dragon’s 11 miles and more than 300 curves east of Maryville, Tenn.
“We worked a long time on this,” Thomason said Tuesday in a reference to cooperation by Smyth County’s tourism association and counterparts in Wytheville and Bland County in expanding routes beyond the Back of the Dragon.
As a test of Claw of the Dragon and Horn of the Cow magic, between 2,000 and 3,000 motorcycles are expected to appear in Marion Aug. 20 in what Thomason called “a big extravaganza” and “a big event for Smyth County.”
Focal point for Back of the Dragon Motorcycle and Sports Car Enthusiast and Community Event will be the Marion Senior High School parking lot, Thomason said Tuesday. The day will include rides by the enthusiasts across Highway 16, a car and motorcycle show, live music, food vendors and exhibits.