The Tail of the Dragon tempts motorcyclists and auto enthusiasts alike with its sharp turns and rustic beauty.
Accidents come with the scenery, according to Blount County Rescue Squad Public Information Officer Laura Osgood.
“Our goal is to always have a truck posted on the Dragon every Saturday and Sunday, from May to October,” Osgood said. “There is an average of 100 accidents up there during the season, and about three to five fatalities.”
Few groups appreciate their hard, too-often-unsung, volunteer work more than the hundreds of Mazda enthusiasts who gather every year in Blount County for Miatas at the Gap.
Event organizers Josh and Melissa Hankins, of North Knoxville, and Chad and Andrea Myers, of Halls, Tennessee, paid the squad a visit Tuesday to show their gratitude with a $6,000 donation.
“This is the least we can do. You guys take care of us and you are there for us if we need you,” Josh Hankins said. “Thank you so very much for being up there to take care of us during the event.”
The funds couldn’t come at a better time, BCRS Chief Brian Osgood said, since the organization has a major purchase planned for the first quarter of 2020.
“We are in the process of bidding out a new front-line vehicle and we’re hoping these funds can go toward it,” Brian Osgood said.
The department expects the purchase price to reach about $65,000 by the time it is equipped for service, he added.
Brian Osgood said the squad received about $11,000 in donations in July from the organizers of the annual Gary Lindsay Firecracker Fishing Tournament.
The squad also will soon receive an unspecified amount from Sunday’s annual East Tennessee 9/11 Remembrance Ride, which will benefit several organizations. This year’s gathering was the largest ever, Josh Hankins said.
“We were flabbergasted,” he said. “This year we broke all records. We had over 730 cars show up, and more than 1,100 people.”
The crowd drew Miata enthusiasts from across the U.S., as well as Canada and England. About a third were first-timers.
More than 20 vendors also took part, helping to raise funds that are given on alternate years to BCRS and the Graham County Rescue Squad in North Carolina.
“Their vendor’s fee, so to speak, is they have to give us an item for our raffle,” Josh Hankins said.
A custom-engraved shift knob raised several hundred dollars at auction, he said. A private donor also made a large private contribution.
The event is one of several driving-themed events that draws visitors to the region, making safety instruction a vital part of their volunteer service, too.
Chad Myers said they spend a lot of time stressing to drivers to keep within their limits and to drive safely, including posting videos that show correct ways to handle the road.
Crashes are common and many go unreported, Laura Osgood said. Others refuse medical treatment at the scene.
“Some people are enticed to push it a little more than they would normally,” Josh Hankins agreed. “We tell them to remember to keep it well under your limit, so if something does come up, you can handle it.”
Wildlife also present challenges, Melissa Hankins explained.
“Last year, we came around a corner and there was a bear beside the road,” Melissa Hankins said.
“I happens,” Josh Hankins said. “It’s just like they say: There are two kinds of motorcycle riders, ones who have wrecked and ones who will. If you are up there for any amount of time and you are getting close to any type of limits of a car, a tire, breaks, driver ability or even the road surface, it’s going to happen.”