"The Valley of the Snake" - Shady Valley, Tennessee (Bruce McCrary photo)
There is a section of US Hwy 421 in Tennessee that is known by the motorcycling community as “The Snake”. The area most commonly associated with this name is a 14 mile section between Mountain City and the small mountain community of Shady Valley. There is another section west of Shady Valley that is also a great ride, a little lesser known and as a result usually has less traffic as well. The roads, and the area, are often compared to a road a little south located in the Smokey Mountains known as “The Dragon” but lacks the sheer number of turns, over all road quality and notoriety of that 11 mile section of US 129. Still, it’s a favorite among riders and growing in popularity each year.
On a sunny week-end day hundreds of bikes can be found at "The Country Store" (Bruce McCrary photo)
Shady Valley is located at the intersection of US 421, Virginia Routes 91 and 133 and is home to the Shady Valley Country Store, a rest stop and hang out of riders and is place of some notoriety. It’s known for great hospitality, “Snake Venom” fuel, its burgers and hot dogs. Many a lunch at the Country Store has been planned as part of a great days riding. The folks at the store have been promoting the whole area as “The Valley of the Snake, 3 mountains, 489 curves, one valley” and there sure is a lot of good riding in the area.
Backbone Rock known as "The Worlds Shortest Tunnel" on Va Rt 133 south of Damascus, Virginia (Bruce McCrary photo)
One of my family’s favorite day trips is what we call the “Shady Valley loop”. We leave our home near Lexington, North Carolina and head toward Boone using various combinations of wonderful North Carolina back roads where we catch US 421 and head west toward Mountain City and Bristol, Tennessee. Once to Shady Valley we turn onto Route 133 and heard toward Damascus, Virginia, passing through Backbone Rock, AKA “The Worlds Shortest Tunnel” along the way. We leave Damascus on US 58 east winding through Virginia farmland and back country until we get to Route 93 and head for Sparta, North Carolina. From there we once again make use of the many great North Carolina back roads to take us back home. It’s a little over 300 miles for us and a great way to spend the day.
Plan a trip for that area and allow yourself some time to explore and of course, have lunch. Live to ride, ride to eat!