Bluefield Daily Telegraph
While the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in southern West Virginia and the new Spearhead Trail system in Southwest Virginia have captured most of the attention in recent months, another regional tourism attraction is being credited with bringing thousands of visitors to the region.
The Back of the Dragon, a unique 32-mile motorcycle ride between Tazewell and Marion on Route 16, attracted between 6,000 to 8,000 visitors to Tazewell County last year. And at one point, there were more than 2,500 motorcycles parked in the former Ramey Ford lot near the Four-Way, according to Tazewell Town Manager Todd Day.
The unique regional ride has several sharp turns along the way with three mountain climbs that represent the so-called humps on the dragon’s back — hence the name the Back of the Dragon. Larry Davidson, of Drag-a-Knee Inc., came up with the idea for the Back of the Dragon in late 2011. He then presented the idea to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, who, in return, agreed to adopt the regional Back of the Drag designation.
Since that time the popularity of the event has exceeded initial expectations.
“It’s not just us around here who are noticing the potential for this event,” Day said last week. “The August edition of Southern Biker magazine devoted two or three pages to covering the Back of the Dragon event that took place on June 1. We get hits on our web page every day from people looking for information on the Back of the Dragon. It has been unreal.”
Out-of-town visitors are riding the Back of the Dragon throughout the year — and not just the primary festival day. Day adds it is not unusual to see as many as 15 motorcycles traveling through the town on their way to the Back of the Dragon on any given day. Those out-of-town visitors also are supporting businesses and restaurants in the Tazewell area, which helps the regional economy.
The most recent thing that the town has done to help visitors find the ride has been to erect signs in town that point the way to the popular riding course. Day says the town also uses paint that washes off the road to mark the way to the Back of the Dragon during special events.
“The event is absolutely important to the town of Tazewell, but it is also important to the towns of Bluefield, Va., and even Mercer County where visitors stay at the motels and eat at the restaurants,” Day correctly notes. “It’s good for the whole region.”
We agree. And we are thrilled to see the explosion of tourism growth associated with the Back of the Dragon. It’s a great addition to the region’s still growing tourism industry and should well compliment the existing Spearhead and Hatfield-McCoy trail systems.