A couple weeks ago I was bored silly from just sitting around watching cobwebs form on my Infiniti. My computer had gotten infected and had become useless, and I was re-reading books I read in college. The only thing on TV was the markets crashing, and I was REALLY bored with that. I needed a change.
Months had passed where the price of a full tank for the car had been at sixty bucks or more, so the Pavlovian desire to take a road trip had been immersed and forgotten, drowned in a sea of Beck’s and sweat on my own back porch as the summer lazily turned to fall. I hadn’t been on a long road trip or been outside of Florida in six damn months, not since gas got so expensive, and the G was begging for release, begging for a fast run down a quick road and some fresh exercise– so I shook off ennui and pulled out the Atlas.
I began thinking of places to go to, fuel costs be damned.Most of my trips used to be along the Gulf Coast, but most of what I know about in Biloxi and Long Beach is gone due to hurricanes, and so is the allure of New Orleans. I go to Atlanta a lot, and Savannah too, so they were eliminated and that left the mountains of Georgia and N Carolina. Hmm, the mountains in October…
I was driving around, probably to get some more Beck’s. There was a station where the price of gas had dropped to $3.53.9, so I pulled in and as the G was digesting nearly a full tank, my phone rang and some friends in Nashville invited me up for a visit. I went home, locked the doors and left for Music City. I was there that evening.
I like Nashville. Been there four times. It’s also about 5 or 6 hours up I-75 from Ocala, close enough to be far away and interesting enough to want to visit again. EZ on–EZ off.
Nashville has an interesting history, a bunch of great buildings and a music vibe that rivals New Orleans or Austin. The entertainment section downtown –Broadway and/or Second St– is as busy as Greenwich Village or sections of DC, and the sheer CHOICES of musical genre –from stone country to head bang rock to serious symphony– are all there in the very walk able Downtown. It’s dozens of bars and clubs and BBQ palaces and on weekends they’re all filled with partyin’ people–it even has a Hooter’s with a country band. I have a bunch of good friends there to show me around and like to make the trip, but I hadn’t been there in almost a year and I was glad when I got back.
We did a couple nights along Broadway and the G stayed parked the whole time, waiting…
After I left Nashville–where I ran into an irritating GAS SHORTAGE–I headed east along I-40 and got to the Appalachian Mountains. I meandered through East Tennessee, seeing some of the great TVA dams scattered through the countryside and by late afternoon I was on US 129 at the TN/NC Border, entering upon the infamous “Tail of he Dragon”.
I had done the Dragon a couple times in my Z, so I sort of knew the road. While doing a run on the Dragon in early ’07 I lost the Z on a curve in the rain and narrowly–I mean by one foot!!!–avoided going over the edge and tumbling down 400 feet of mountainside as I spun. “Great fun” I thought, although that was much later. MONTHS later.
The Tail of The Dragon winds through Tenn. and N Carolina’s mountains. It’s about 30 miles of snaky twisting mountain roads, the kind that double back on you in a car’s length, roads that get increasingly difficult and actually scary. There are an average of 14 tight curves per mile. The scenery is breathtaking. Bikers LOVE it. They travel in packs of 4 or 6 and they tackle the road with gusto, defying the 400-foot drops and sheer stone walls as they throw out their knees, buzz around curves and are gone. It’s also a great sports car road, at least to those who like to drive on the edge. There are a few videos on You Tube where drivers have filmed the entire length.
Now I was there in the G, and for the first time in the year I have owned it my car was going into mountains. We tackled most of the early curves at speed. Sometimes that meant 10 MPH as you drift into and through the apexes, often it meant getting the Michelins to squeal as we zipped around hairpin turns with no protection barriers, one foot from disaster. I missed shifting gears, although I did learn some of the fine points of using the manu-matic.
Then, partway into the drive it began to rain. As a piece of information, the exact section of the Southeast that I was driving through was in the worst drought they’d seen since the FIFTIES!! Lakes were dried up, streams no longer ran. Hell, it hadn’t rained a drop there for 6 months– and all of a sudden Nature was making up for it. I LOVE irony. Conditions went from dry to deluge in 5 miles.
Suddenly, I was on a death-defying mountain road; I couldn’t see the yellow line, oncoming cars were a starburst suicide trip, I was in a gray-out and was passing miserable clumps of bikers parked in the turn-outs, clustered under tarps and waiting for the rain to pass. I was glad that the G is as competent as it is–it almost feels like the Z under some conditions and handled the curves in nasty weather well. Despite having to forego the challenge of a balls-out run on one of the best roads anywhere for a soggy trip at come-crawl-with-me speeds, I enjoyed the drive.
There was no view anymore, and to traverse these same switchbacks that I once so enjoyed hitting in third or second, well, the storm turned every mile into a longer trip through Hell and every curve into a nail-biter. I had to crawl up and down hair raising miles of mountains at 15-20-25 MPH while being lashed with rain. Streams, dry as bones an hour ago were little rushing tsunamis as they grew engorged from the runoff above. Any faster than 20 would be DOOM. In a smoke’s time I got to see the road change from a challenge to a liability– which is where it stayed for an hour.
Twice on The Dragon, both times in the rain that never falls. Chit!!!
The G got a fillup in Blairsville, GA, where people were a-whoopin’ in the streets as the rain fell. A dozen poured out of a tavern as the rain began and danced around the town square in praise of water. Yee-Haw!!!
The rain lasted all through the good parts of the Georgia section of the road as well. Nothing but miles of greasy-wet curves, becoming more boring as the ride continues. I looked for opportunities to wring some sporty driving out of the G. Found a few, but they were rare moments and they were miles apart.
Almost a soon as I passed from the damp Georgia mountains, still along 129 and just as non-thrilling to drive as was the Dragon ( if only the drought would have lasted another damn day !!! ) I was in the outer reaches of the Great Atlanta Traffic Jam, where it was dry as hell and they hadn’t seen any rain in 6 months…
I was really glad that I had filled up in Blairsville. I passed dozens of gas stations in Metro Atlanta that were closed from lack of gas and dozens more where lines had formed because they HAD gas. Haven’t seen an actual gas shortage in the USA in 35 years, but I bet I’ll start seeing them in more frequency.
About 150 miles down the road, fuel was no problem. I filled up in Valdosta and was home by 3 AM. The G performed beautifully, despite the periodic lousy conditions.
Four tanks @ sixty per, let’s say, then a couple nights in N’Ville and a day on the mountains watching a year-old drought break…$275 in gas, and well worth it.(Gas in Ocala is currently $2.99.9…).
Bored no more.
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