Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 2, 2013

Hundreds come out for third ‘Back of the Dragon’

TAZEWELL, Va. — In three short years, the Back of the Dragon “The Awakening” has grown from humble origins when the motorcycle rally was held at Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park in 2011 to drawing more than 1,000 people on Saturday now that the venue has moved to the former Ramey Ford lot at the Four-Ways in Tazewell.

When Larry Davidson of Drag-a-Knee Inc., presented the concept for the motorcycle ride from Tazewell to Marion, Va., to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors in March 2011, the supervisors recognized that the ride could have a significant impact on tourism in Southwest Virginia. The inaugural ride received widespread coverage in the motorcycling media, and the event continues to grow.

“I feel like a teenager again,” Meredith Miller of Thompson Valley, Va., said as she stood in line to get autographs from the three daredevil stunt riders of the Monster Energy MX Stunt Team.

The riders — John Distler, Brian McGnarty and Garrett Aulf — had just finished exciting the crowd at the event by jumping their dirt bikes 75 feet from takeoff to touchdown, leaping 30 feet into the air while performing stunts like “the Superman,” “Sea Crab,” “the Whip” and more.

Miller and her friend, Jennifer Asbury, came to the event to see the hundreds of motorcycles as well as to enjoy the stunt team’s performance. “My brother got me into Motocross racing years ago, and I’ve been to Florida, South Carolina and all over to see races,” Miller said.

Asbury said that she and Miller came to the event together. “We wanted to bring our families with us, but everyone’s working today,” Asbury said.

The two ladies said they have both owned motorcycles at various times in the past, but not presently. “My daughter has a bike,” Miller said. “A Kawasaki.”

Clinton Collins and the Creek Boys kept the music flowing as the motorcycle enthusiasts visited scores of vendors and took in the sights of all the motorcycles that appeared from everywhere. Several show bikes were in line for trophies, but all of the motorcycles drew scores of admirers.

“We’ve expanded it this year to include support for the Fisher House project at Fort Bragg, N.C.,” John Davidson said. “This is what ‘Papa Larry’ thought it could become. We looked at other events and thought: ‘Why not Tazewell County? Why not this area?’ Jimmy Ramey has just been great to work with us, by letting us use this area, and through his support of the Monster Energy Stunt Team.”

Davidson said that he has been amazed by how the event has grown into a regional draw. “Some people from Boston came up and talked to me about how much they enjoyed the Back of the Dragon,” Davidson said of the ride on Route 16 between Tazewell and Marion that includes three mountain climbs that make up the humps on the dragon’s back. “We had a group in here from North Carolina that seemed to like the ride.”

Chester Huffman, 63, of Roanoke, Va., said he has been riding motorcycles for 45 years. He said his first motorcycle was a 1943 Harley-Davidson Flathead, and his current bike is a 1997 Harley-Davidson Sportster with 63,000 miles on it.

“I liked the ride,” Huffman said of the Back of the Dragon. “I was down in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from May 9-21, and put 698 miles on my bike just riding back and forth between Myrtle Beach and Murrell’s Inlet.

“I liked this ride from Marion up to Tazewell,” Huffman said. “It’s a good ride.”

Major Harold Heatley, chief field deputy of the Tazewell County, Va., Sheriff’s Office said that the deputies are ready for a full day. “We have a presence here in Tazewell and a presence out on Route 16,” Heatley said. “The last band doesn’t even start until 7 p.m., so it’s going to be a long day.”

Kes Blackwell who was handling the master of ceremonies chores for the day was quick to point out that Parmalee, the last band of the day, currently has the number 28 hit in the country air play charts. “And all of this is free!” Blackwell said.

Jennings Lester of Fredericksburg, Va., was working at the Eat with Otis Lemonade Stand. “I’m in Fredericksburg now, but I’m returning to Grundy today,” he said with a smile. “I worked 12 years at Jewell Smokeless.”

The band, Tuesday’s Gone, followed the presentation of the trophies and the bike show and the MX Stunt Team held its final show at 5 p.m., before the performance by Parmalee.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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