Tag Archives: Atlanta

Mazda MX-5: 2,500 mile Road Trip Down South For Some Racing, Foodie Sampling and Exploring

So the last two weeks were spend exploring the Southeast again… I used the opportunity to volunteer two fantastic events in Alabama and Virginia to be a little bit of a tourist, a foodie, Miata Fiata fan, and of course a road tripper.

pre-trip inspection bright and early at WAWA… well actually I forgot to check my tire pressure, so I stopped by to get it all leveled out. For whatever reason the tire pressures were all over the place in each tire.

The trip included stopovers in Knoxville, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Danville, Virginia (Milton, North Carolina really).

I volunteered two massive events: working as a flagger for the Alabama Grand Prix at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park and as fire rescue crew for PWC Grand Prix of VIR at the awesome VIRginia International Raceway.

Along the way I did a bunch of Miata Fiata stuff about which I wrote some previous posts, read about it here:

My Motorsport posts included:

But in this post I’d like to wrap up and talk about the actual road trip part… after all I put nearly 2,500 miles on my Miata. Burned more than 60 gallons of fuel and spent over $160 bux doing it. I was lucky to average in the high 36mpg’s at one point hitting over 38mpg’s which is fantastic! And it was all trouble free… which is the best part!

I sampled a lot of good food along the way. Some fairly average food, and some I tried to skimp out on… like Chick-fil-a for breakfast many times… or the Steak ‘n Shake visits thanks to a discounted gift card I bought… $50 card for like $20 bux!

In many ways this Road Trip was a continuation of my drive to Texas in Wes’s Crown Vic… in fact I used that drive as a dry run to see what I should expect taking my own car to Alabama. I knew I would have a great time in Knoxville, TN because I stopped for lunch there before. This time I had booked a hotel in the Knox to stay overnight after a 700+ mile journey there from New Jersey. I googled some BBQ places to eat, went to pick up my order at Archer’s which came highly rated… and wasn’t all that impressed with the ambiance of the facility when I got my box to go. On the way to the gas station to fill up before returning to the hotel, I noticed a much more happening BBQ joint just a block away called Full Service BBQ… and there I was faced with a dilemma… do I stop by there and buy another dish? I had already picked up a fairly large box that was more than enough for me to have for dinner… or do I keep going and regret not visiting this busy place? I decided to come and visit… and to my surprise not only did they have everything I wanted (a mix plate of their ribs, pulled pork, sausage and brisket) but it was also smelling and tasting really good. So as usual I got way too much food. But boy was it fantastic! I left the box of Archers to bring with me the next day to Alabama, and had it for dinner there the next day instead.

Nice Drive-Thru

Excellent food… Archer’s was great too in it’s own right, but Full Service had them beat with the ambiance of the place, and the big crowd of people eating there when I stopped by.

After a nice rest, I was off again for another 400 miles or so to my final destination. And I don’t know why but Alabama sure feels like “Sweet Home” even though I don’t consider myself Southern at all.

So of course the first order of business upon arrival in Birmingham was to go register at the track and take some pix of all those IndyCar sanctioned Global MX-5 Cup car Miata’s.

And straight after I went into town to meet up with my wonderful CouchSurfing hosts that welcomed me with great Southern hospitality going above and beyond what hosts typically do.

Perhaps my favorite activity with my generous hosts was sharing some amazing food with them. They fed me every night I stayed there, but one night I treated everyone to some Soul Food from Niki’s West… including two types of Catfish with all the fixins’

After a truly wonderful time in ‘Bama it was time to work my way back North to the next weekend’s events in Virginia. But since I had a few days to kill I visited Sakshik (my fellow Miata Fiata buddy) who now lives in Decatur, Georgia where he’s off to Law School.

The few days we spend there could be accurately characterized as a foodie tour! We had a somewhat disappointing experience getting Fried Chicken and Waffles on my first day there… unfortunately the place I went to last year closed (without telling Google, we arrived to find windows boarded up)… plan B turned out to be very snooty with a long wait time… and place C butchered the Waffle by making dough out of some cheddar mix that tasted awful. But our luck changed the next day when we went for BBQ and the following day when we did Indian food.

Probably the highlight of my visit… besides hanging out with Sakshik, checking out Mazmart parts store, visiting both Mazda and Fiat dealerships and recording an episode with Daniel on our podcast; was visiting World of Coca Cola which I had been planning to do for the longest time but never had a chance (until now!)

My favorite part of the whole visit to the World of Coke was the “Tasting” room featuring soda pop from around the world… divided by continents and featuring some drinks I’ve tried in their home countries like Fanta, Crush, Inca Cola, etc.

Funny part is, I actually own some Coca Cola clothing, my favorites though were t-shirts from around the world with Coke in cyrillic for the Russian market or in Mandarin for the Chinese market.

After spending several hours in downtown Atlanta and almost getting sick on all the drinks I sampled at the Coke museum, we hit up a cool Indian place to sample something different. Sakshik lives in a part of town where lots of Emory University students live so it by definition is very diverse. And the Indian restaurant we went to was a good representation of this diversity. The food was excellent!

And of course Sakshik coming from India meant he knew what to order and how to eat the food properly. I enjoyed that experience!

And finally the time flew by super quick, and the rest of the road trip to Virginia came bright and early on Thursday morning.

The food I had in Danville, VA just outside of the track I tried before. Unfortunately most of the time I ordered late and got way too much, so I didn’t enjoy it as I really should have. I went to Mayflower for some seafood on the first night. And Checkered Pig BBQ on my last night at VIR. Of the two the BBQ was best… though having worked with a fella from Roxboro, NC he recommended a much better option on the North Carolina side of the border for my next trip.

VIRginia International Raceway is extremely impressive, I think one of the best race tracks there are in the United States!

And so the trip came to a close way too fast. But to slow it down a little I took a rather scenic drive back to the Interstate through Virgnia… at one point going parallel to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway… US 501 was excellent zig zagging along a mountain on a rainy morning… reminded me a lot of Skyline Drive or what I remember of it from my last visit to Shenandoah.

It’s always kind of cool exploring rural areas of various states along with suburbia to see what’s it like… spotted plenty of Miata’s along my way!

Can’t wait for my next Road Trip… and if I’m lucky it will be another Grand Prix Road Trip like this two week trip I just did. Stay tuned…

Miata Fiata Shopping in Atlanta, Georgia

My goal was to be a tourist today while staying in Atlanta. I’ve been wanting to visit the World of Coca Cola ever since the first time I came to the capital of Georgia but never had enough time to do it… logged onto their web site to buy a ticket and was promptly informed that World of Coke was closed due to a private event today, boo hoo…. so plan B was to go shopping for a Miata/Fiata instead… My buddy Sakshik who’s hosting me for this layover lives nearby to two dealerships almost next to each other: Landmark Fiat of Atlanta and Jim Ellis Mazda of Atlanta, so I swung up there to take some pix.

I’ve heard of Jim Ellis before because they have a very reasonably priced Mazda OEM parts store online… the only issue is I never bought from them because the shipping typically kills any deals. But I was eager to check them out.

First stop was Landmark Fiat…. which isn’t branded as such. It’s just a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep dealership that is surrounded by Fiats… much like that last dealership I visited in Winchester, Virginia that had two white Abarth Fiata’s upfront.

Here’s some pix:

The white Abarth 124 Spider must be the most popular option. All three Fiat 124 Spiders on the lot however were Automatics also.

This gray seems to be a very popular Fiata color.

This being a Chrysler/Dodge dealership there was some serious performance on display, like this row of SRT Chargers and Hellcats:

Kind of weird seeing customers bring their Fiat 500 Abarth’s for service at a Dodge dealer…

But they’re obviously selling them here too.

And there’s a 124 spider I got to sit in to try for size, It fits!

Next stop, Jim Ellis Mazda of Atlanta:

As soon as I pulled up I was swarmed by salesmen greeting me. Very different situation from the Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat dealer where nobody came up to me during my whole stay there taking pix.

The RF’s were the only 2017 model Miata’s on the lot it seems, all of the soft top ND’s were 2016’s apparently. One of the salesmen that came up to me inside the dealership said they were selling really well

A customer Copper Red Mica NC in for service…

I really want to get one of these Copper Red Mica CX-7 SUV’s for my mom to replace her aging Ford Exploder:

Funny how FCA isn’t selling their Alfa-Romeo’s through the Dodge dealer, opting instead to sell Giulia’s via their Maserati franchise.

Voila!

So if you’re in the Hotlanta area, of which I’m already jealous because you have the perfect Miata weather year round here, and you’re shopping for a Miata or Fiata, check out the dealerships on the Northeast side of town. There’s quite a selection to choose from!

Miata Fiata Radio: Catching up with Sakshik Episode on a Road Trip from Birmingham, AL to Atlanta, GA

Great news, Sakshik is back on the Miata Fiata Podcast!

He was kind enough to let me crash at his new place in Atlanta on my Southern Road Trip, travelling from Birmingham, Alabama today to Atlanta Georgia and continuing onto Virginia International Raceway later on this week.

While in Atlanta, Sakshik and I hit up some Mazda related places like his favorite parts place: MAZMART. And then off we went to sample true southern food at a fried chicken and waffles restaurant. I highly recommended a place I went to last year on my Alabama Grand Prix road trip, we got there and the windows on the restaurant were shuttered… apparently it closed. We went to the next place Google recommended a mile away and instead of soul food it was very snooty looking… so we went to recommendation #3 which turned out to be pretty crappy. But oh well…

Check out the episode where Sakshik and I catch up on our Miata hobby and be sure to tune in later in the week as we interview another Miata fan/enthusiast/racer in the Atlanta area.

 


Miata Fiata Radio – Catching up with Sakshik Episode, Southern Road Trip from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia; Mazmart and Local Cars & Coffee

Feedback welcome!

It was great to check out Sakshik’s other car, a Mazda3… it really inspires me to keep searching for that Mazda SUV I want to get for my mom. Soon I hope!

Petit Le Mans Marshal Invitation, Road Atlanta September 27 – October 1, 2016

Just got two invites for the most important races of the year (I think) on the American Racing Calendar. I’ll make two posts to share the invites with anyone who could be interested. My advice, do both!

Petit Le Mans is one of the coolest events there is on US soil. It is season finale of the IMSA  WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the final round of the North American Endurance Cup and the circuit couldn’t be better: Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.

Interested in volunteering?

I say do it!

What is it; Petit Le Mans

When is it: September 27 – October 1, 2016

Where is it: Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia

Who’s recruiting: Atlanta Region SCCA

Who will be there: Five Race Groups!

  • IMSA WeatherTech Series (DP & LMP2, GTLM, GTD)
  • IMSA Continental Tire Series (GS & ST)
  • IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites
  • SCCA-PRO Global MX-5 Cup

How to get there? Fly into Atlanta which may be pricey. Other airports within a reasonable drive distance are Savannah, Georgia which is what I’ve done a few years ago. Charlotte, NC may be cheaper or even Nashville, TN but then the drive is loooong.

Where to stay?  The cheapest place: Road Atlanta campground. You will drive in and out every morning as the Mustering Marshal tent is outside of the main gate. But that process is fairly painless.

I would highly recommend this event!

I’ve worked every Petit since 2012, this year may be the first time I do miss it, but I would go again in the heartbeat if I still can’t find a job by late September… my fingers are crossed that I’ll be working for a living, but if not I’ll find a way to come to this event!

To sign up go to the Atlanta Region SCCA web site and follow a link to  MotorsportReg looking for the Petit Le Mans volunteer opportunities. Though officially the event starts Thursday, September 28, it is common practice to volunteer the promoter test day taking place Wednesday, September 27. So plan on spending a week in Georgia!

Good Luck!

Have Fun!

Grand Prix of Alabama… or Bust!

I just did something incredibly foolish.

Seeing a friend post about flagging the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park I researched and booked my travel there without having any clue as to who is organizing the marshals for the race or if there’s even a chance of me volunteering the event at all.

But, I am now on a mission of getting myself accepted as a marshal for this event which I haven’t done before, at a track I haven’t been to yet. Because, why not?

Apparently the event is staffed by Flagging by Faynesha, the same lady I’ve been in contact with about marshaling MotoGP at COTA a year ago, an event I got accepted but couldn’t attend because of the short notice. But this time my flights are booked, just need to get my acceptance in order. So if anyone knows Faynesha please put in a good word for me.

I think I’m more addicted to shopping for a good travel deal than I am to Motorsports. The way I went about booking this trip will raise some eyebrows and probably kill me from exhaustion, but it’s worth sharing the story here. This kind of dedication to volunteering is not something you are likely to see in the business world, even if it is the business of Motorsports hiring paid flagges for an event.

First, I checked out the flights. New York City to Birmingham, Alabama. To no one’s surprice they were pricey, something in the $300-$400 range for the IndyCar weekend.

That wasn’t an option, but I kept on checking alternatives. Flying to Atlanta dropped the price by half. I started getting excited. But at $175 it was still expensive. Looking further east, Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC were in the $140’s – $150’s, but I knew I cold do better. So I expanded my search to include Philadelphia and eureka! Leaving out of PHL to ATL it was $36 each way…. SOLD!

$72 round trip to fly Southwest from Philly to Atlanta. But the savings didn’t end there. To pay for the flights I used some creative shopping for gift cards on eBay.

For a long time now I’ve been buying $100 eBay gift cards every time they go on sale for $95 bux. You pay $95 and get $100 card which you can later use to purchase other discounted gift cards. I used mine to buy a $100 Target gift card for $95 bux. So basically $100 Target card only cost me $90. As soon as the Target card arrived via snail mail, I used it to buy $100 eBay gift card on Target.com so that I could use it for future purchases on eBay.

And so along came a Southwest gift card deal, only $90 for $100 card. I jumped on it, using my eBay gift card I ended up paying $80 for the $100 value, or instead I got $100 Southwest card with $20 left over on my eBay card to use in the future. So depending on how you look at the situation, my $72 flight really cost $52!

Next, I had to get to Philly early enough for a 7am flight, the day after I arrive home from California after doing the Long Beach GP. Typically Megabus is a good solution for this problem, and while no $1 fares were available, the $5 deal I booked was significantly cheaper than spending twice the time to take NJTransit train down to Trenton and changing to SEPTA for another 2 hour journey to the airport. The bus will leave NYC at 1:30am and get me to the 30th St. station before 4am. I will be able to book a round trip train ticket to the airport, arriving hopefully in sufficient time for the flight.

The better Megabus deal was to be had in Atlanta. I found a $1 bus ticket from Atlanta to Birmingham departing the night of my arrival at ATL. The trip takes a few hours and gets me in town quite late but hopefully I find some accommodation to spend the night.

Barber Motorsports Park is a short drive out of Birmingham but not close enough to rely on public transport. So I booked a rental car. Found an $8.15/day rental with Alamo at the BHM airport which is a short public bus ride away from the city for like a $1. The four day rental will run me about $64 and earn a nice bonus with Southwest which should get me enough points for a freebie short flight on the airline for the future. In fact the $64 rental will get me more than 10x the points that I’ll earn from flying the airline on a $72 ticket.

I will return the car on Monday morning after the race and take an afternoon bus back to Atlanta for $5. With all my trips to Road Atlanta I have yet to actually visit downtown. So this trip will give me the opportunity to explore a little. Get some delicious southern food and spend the night before flying back to Philly 8am Tuesday morning. I booked a 2pm Megabus for $5 back to NYC and should be home around 6pm later that day.

So total spent so far: $72 + $64 + $18 = $154 – 20 = $134 on a trip that could have easily pushed half a grand going the direct route.

Next step is finding accommodation for the event, and most importantly finding a way of getting myself accepted as a marshal. It would be a huge waste if I end up being a spectator.

For anyone familiar with the event, please contact me with the appropriate parties I should contact to get on the worker list. Cheers!

Post Card from Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans 10h TUSC 2014 Season Finale

Only one word can describe this entire trip: Perfect!

Absolutely, positively perfect trip to Road Atlanta to volunteer at Petit Le Mans, the 10h TUSC season finale. Let me tell you why, and if you get a sense that I’m just tripping over myself with joy after a fucking miserable start to the year with Daytona and Sebring, you’d be correct in getting that sense, I’m as happy about this trip as I could ever be. Loved it, absolutely loved every minute of it!

So lets start at the beginning. The flight was cheap. The destination was unique. I picked Savannah flying JetBlue because it was really cheap, like few hundred dollars cheaper than flying direct into Atlanta. Why did that make me happy? Because a day after I booked my trip, JetBlue offered 20% discount, and I was able to call back and re-book at the even cheaper rate with no questions asked. And that made me really happy. The car rental too was cheap. I typically monitor the prices and rebook constantly to get the best deal. Well I got a steal of a deal, because the price dropped by half from the first time I booked to the one I actually kept. And I got a ridiculous amount of miles for my rental with Southwest, which means I’m within range of getting a free flight next time I fly a short hop. How can I not be super excited about that? FlyerTalk would be proud of me. And when I arrived at Savannah to pick up my car, I got a brand spanking new Nissan Note with 500 miles on the clock. I was the first to roll that car over 1,000 miles and got 37.2 mpg doing it on my little Road Trip, which just made me super happy.

Arriving at Road Atlanta I was welcomed by my fellow volunteer Robert who hosted me in a very comfortable pop-up camper. Much better experience than camping on the ground in a tent, that’s for sure. Especially with the rain and cold weather that inevitably rolled in. But no rain could piss on my parade, I was constantly surprised with positive experiences and was just glowing with excitement.

turn 5 road atlanta petit le mans 2014

My first day marshaling I got to work with the legendary Willy Perez as my captain at Turn 5. What a blast that was. Fantastic blue flag opportunities all day, three unique views by rotating from 5 Flags downhill and 5A uphill. And I got to interview Willy for #MarshalCam , incredible!

For the remainder of the weekend I was bumped to Turn 1 again with Nancy. I was besides myself. I got an opportunity to work Turn 1 last year for race day only and had nearly 10 hours of blue flag there, how lucky for me to end up there the whole weekend? Very lucky! I loved it so much because Turn 1 is amazing at Road  Atlanta. You’re right at the exit of the pit lane, with perfect view of everything going on there. Walking distance to the paddock, so I got great photos roaming around during my off time. I must remember to request Turn 1 at other tracks because it had such a positive effect on my overall well-being and happiness volunteering this weekend. As luck would have it though, for race day I saw an even better opportunity to flag at Alpha which precedes Turn 1, is on the main straight just after the Starter stand, but an even better post for blue flag. I agreed to work 10 hours there without relief, so I would not compete with anyone else from Turn 1 for blue flag (there were 8 on station), but Starter sent people every hour to partner with me, so we shared the blue flag duties. It was incredible. I want to do Start in the future so to watch them work was a great learning experience. Although at the end of the event Nancy criticized me for blue flagging on restarts which I thought I was well within my rights to do. Nancy was super cool giving me a #MarshalCam interview also, so I’m forever grateful to her and others on station that participated also.  You can see my station (Alpha) right over my shoulder from these grid walk photos:

petit le mans grid 2014

Love the new aero package on the DeltaWing:

deltawing petit le mans 2014The fun didn’t stop at the track, during the worker dinner and party on Friday night I got super lucky with the prize drawing winning some much desired Mazda and Mazdaspeed swag:

mazda mazdaspeed swag petit le mansNow I have some hats to wear when I finally buy my Miata MX-5 and a t-shirt sized for my future girlfriend (size S) wink wink…

If you think I’m going to stop ranting and raving about Petit Le Mans and Road Atlanta here you’d be wrong… The event was fun, but post event touristy stuff was even more fun! I got a perfect opportunity to have a very nice breakfast with Tim & Heather, Robert and Brendan at an Atlanta suburb Waffle House. Laughter never stopped, and we got more Waffle House edition #MashalCam interviews done there. Freaking awesome!

But that was not the end. Five hour drive later back to Savannah I was hosted by a really friendly and welcoming lady who besides CouchSurfing also had some paying AirBnB guests. The fun continued there exchanging stories, and even sharing some sightseeing and foodie experiences with a young lady from Portland that we spend the next two days together roaming around Tybee Island, Hilton Head, SC and downtown Savannah being tourists. I won’t bore you with details of all the fun we had, but just drop some of my favorite photos below:

seafood feast at crab shack tybee island

Seafood sampler at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, GA

chicken and waffle savannah

Chicken and Waffles at Loc’s in Savannah, GA

bbq savannah

BBQ sampler: ribs, chicken and pulled pork. Savannah, GA

You can hate me later after you stop salivating. I tried so many good and delicious dishes from various BBQ meats, to Seafood samplers, Crab Cakes and Conch Fritters, Chicken and Waffles, Grits and Hashbrowns, Biscuits and Gravy…

Oh man… I just want to go back already!