Last year I weaseled my way into the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event by offering to “volunteer” with the organizers. I really wanted to be a part of this event at the home of Mazda on the west coast of the US. They said “YES” and I had a blast… luckily for me they invited me back and I could hardly wait to participate. The Friday night BBQ leading up to the event has become quite an experience in it’s own right and in my opinion has grown bigger this year compared to last. I made sure to show up early and lend a hand with shopping for supplies and setting up the dining area out in the parking lot… boy am I glad I did because in the process I got an opportunity to pilot the brand new Mazda CX-9 SUV probably/most likely supplied by Mazda North American Operations for the event on a couple of supermarket runs.
It was a pretty early start to the day… arriving at the Embassy Suites where the BBQ was to be held around 7:30am
The CX-9 fits 36 cases of Shasta and 12 cases of spring water along with three occupants comfortably.
Several trips to the supermarket later we were ready to start prepping all the ingredients for a delicious BBQ
This part of the event was presented by Moss Miata and their crew did a fantastic job doing much of the prep work
and slowly but surely cars started filling in the empty spots in a busy hotel parking lot (which ironically had a conference going on in the morning so the parking lot was especially full when we started)
This fellow volunteer’s NC1 was especially meaningful to me because of the custom license plate… Sea to shining Sea!
Hey it’s a Suzuki Capuccino… err Brapuccino crashing the event!
During the course of the day being in Seaside, California some ten miles or so from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which is located between the cities of Monterey and Salinoas, we found an excuse to head to the track to pick up some supplies there… to my surprise there was a track day already in progress there! Open to the Miata’s that showed up for our event but also some other cool machinery…
Love the paint job on this 911… and the ND Miata too:
Mazda had a display for the event, and the CX-9 we had at our disposal was clearly showroom condition like the display cars
I did enjoy driving it around very much!
Always wanted to see the off-road Miata in flesh… and voila!
Volunteers working hard cutting Tri Tip as the food line started forming with hungry Miata folk
…so hungry I had to run out and buy some more meat at the local supermarket clearing out their entire shelf of Tri Tip.
Such a great variety of cars some travelling as far as Vancouver, Canada… New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and my buddy from Atlanta, Georgia of course!
Huge thanks to the Moss Miata folks for sponsoring the feed!
Flying’ Miata a huge hit with all of their engine power adder options
One of the many Exocet’s in attendance… this one just arrived from a long trip out of Washington State probably didn’t enjoy the cold windy weather on the drive down… but glad he made it!
That’s a wrap for Day 1
Huge thanks to Rick Weldon first and foremost for organizing this event for so many years… and especially big thanks to my buddy Peter who thought it was worthwhile inviting me to help out with a few things here and there during the event as a volunteer. I loved it!
For the second year in a row now the New England Region SCCA drivers have put on quite a feast for the volunteers and fellow drivers on Friday night after track activities came to a close.
It’s a nice touch… this gives the drivers an opportunity to show their appreciation for the workers and I wanted to do my part to show my appreciation for a job well done. Thank you very much! It’s certainly appreciated.
I only spent a little time pigging out before driving home to Jersey for the night, but I must say the BBQ ribs one fella had were outstanding. Last years’ favorites: margarita slushie people with a side of tacos and the Dinosaur RX-7 folks with their assortment of sausages and meatballs also did a fantastic job. And there was someone with a tasty strawberry and whip cream desert. Full, tasty, meal… hit the spot after a long day at a wet track.
Thanks again to all the NER Drivers!
22 lbs of ribs gone in a matter or minutes… finger lickin’ good!
Una Frozen Margarita por favor… Gracias!
Oh look I spy Stevie!
Gotta say it looks way different with those massive Mustang wheels!
One of the more social socials I’ve been to at a track lately.
And the rain held off long enough for me to enjoy a delicious BBQ with a bunch of cool car people. They weren’t necessarily Mazda enthusiasts, many of course were. But there were also plenty of Subi fans. Evo fans. Toyobaru fans. Dodge Viper fans… Jaguar F-type fans. You get the idea.
The BBQ was delicious also because of the diversity of the people. Lots of Asian folks making delicious Pinoy food. Korean burgers. Ribs, hot dogs, etc. I was planning on bringing some hot dogs but since I wasn’t sure if I end up really going after the visit to the Meadowlands I didn’t want them sitting in my car. Glad I didn’t because there was food left over at the end. But my six pack of soda went to a good use. Enough about the food. The cars were so awesome and I am especially looking forward to the drone footage that one fella recorded (after almost crashing the thing into a tree).
Thanks to everyone that helped make this day awesome for me!
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.
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:
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.
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…
I was getting ready to leave for a short 500 mile road trip to Watkins Glen for their Motorsport Safety Seminar training when a friend messaged me for a favor. He’s currently working/living in China as an expat but every time he comes home to Texas he tends to buy a cheap eBay find to tinker with during his time off. This time it was a Ford Crown Victoria from Pennsylvania which he arranged to get delivered via uShip for like a ton of money, but they were dicking him around and he asked if I can drive it down for him instead.
I said SURE!
I had driven cars for Wes before, last time more than ten years ago. First was a Mustang GT from Miami to Houston, then a Crown Vic from Salem, Oregon to Houston. It was a fantastic way to see the country and he generously paid my way including flights, fuel, food, etc. So this time I jumped on the opportunity to organize an impromptu foodie tour of the south paying special attention to the BBQ offerings in Tennessee and Alabama as well as Cajun cooking in Louisiana and Texas. Boy was that a fantastic experience! I wrote a separate blog post just about food.
But what about the car? Buying something on eBay is tough. You never know what you’re going to get. Sure it may look good in pictures but there’s no way of knowing if there’s a major mechanical problem that the seller fails to mention.
Luckily with this 2011 Ford Crown Victoria LX model, there was no issues. The only thing that didn’t work was the A/C but since there was a cold front in the south, the drive was totally manageable. And being it was an LX model, the ride was very soft thanks to it’s suspension and leather seats inside. Very different from my Miata Road Trips that I’ve grown used to.
Naturally same principles applied to driving someone else’s car as I do with my own. So I only used brand name fuel along the way, and I tried to work out the best gas mileage I could get planning my fuel stops based on the Gas Buddy app. Though I owned ten Crown Vics of my own in the past, I couldn’t really remember what to expect. The first low fuel light came on shortly after I picked up the car, so I figured after the first fill up I’ll have a baseline. It only took 14.5 gallons which surprised me, I knew it had a nearly 20 gallon tank which is double of the Miata’s. But compared to the Mazda 2.0L inline 4, the Crown Vic had double the engine size: 4.6L V8. And despite early readings of 30mpg’s which is really respectable, the mileage just kept on leveling off into a lower figure rather than climbing. It went down to 29mpg after the second fill up, then 28mpg the next day, down to 27mpg before climbing back up to 28mpg on Texas flat roads.
Driving into Alabama was a bit of a worry too. There were severe storms on the forecast with Tornado warnings in affect when I drove in. Crap! I didn’t want to sustain any damage to the car especially since it’s not mine. Luckily I managed to escape unscathed. I didn’t even hit any rain along the way. But after checking into a hotel in Tuscaloosa and turning on the News, they reported baseball size hail that hit the same Interstate highway I had just driven through an hour before. Holly Shit!
Besides the threat of weather I had no other surprises along the way. Generally I lucked out with traffic too. Missing most of the rush hour hold ups, spending only a few minutes bumper to bumper in Baton Rouge because of an accident that just happened at the junction of Interstate 12 and Interstate 10. That was it.
Overall it was a super relaxing trip and I’m very grateful for the opportunity it happened.
The seller replaced the Crown Vic with a Police Package Taurus.
Popped the hood, checked to make sure it had an engine and I was off on my two day, 1,500+ mile adventure.
I was sticking to brand name gas stations along the way. Shell seemed to be the cheapest most of the time. But I also used BP and Exxon Mobil where Shell wasn’t the most economical option.
The Travelodge in Winchester, VA where I spent the night really surprised me. The quality of the hotel room you get for the price was way better than I expected. And just a few dollars more than Motel 6 where I stayed on other occasions the rooms were night and day difference. So props to them!
Though I’ve flown through Nashville a few times this was my first time driving through Tennessee.
On the highway to HELL… 666…
When the fuel consumption gauge started leveling off.
Rolling into threatening weather. Luckily the clouds is all I saw, no rain, no tornadoes and best of all no hail that I hit.
Didn’t even realize I’d slice through the edge of Georgia.
Home Sweet Home… Alabama!
The Gas Buddy app fooled me a few times. The price of fuel would be shown at $1.99 a gallon but $2.09 by the time I showed up. Either they changed the price for the higher or someone reported BS price.
Hello Missy Pissy!
That’s another state I didn’t realize I’d hit on this trip. But sure enough the Interstate sliced right through it.
And finally Lone Star State!
Watching the sun set over Texas.
Next day once one road trip ended another one started. My buddy invited me to a club event he was going to with another one of his vehicles. A Ford Power Stroke Diesel retreat north of Dallas. So we switched cars and hit the road again.
The car wash before the trip was a bit unnecessary because… bugs!
Shortly after arrival a few trucks, a convoy of F250’s and Excursions rolled out for their traditional dinner at Sonic.
It was cool as hell to be a part of yet another car community, a group of enthusiasts that had a ton of passion for their wheels. People brought family… their pets:
And just like that it was over way too quickly… next day flight home!
So naturally when an expat buddy working in China reached out for a favor back home, I didn’t hesitate to say YES! I’ll write more about the actual Road Trip in another post, but a major deciding factor for me was all the foodie opportunities I’ll get to experience along the way driving a car from Pennsylvania to Texas. And let me tell you that out of the 1,500+ miles driven, I basically planned my pit stops based on foodie options along the way.
The first truly notable foodie stop was in Tennessee:
The place: Dead End B.B.Q. in Knoxville. I had searched ahead for good places to chow down while passing through town and this joint came up highly recommended. Boy am I glad I stopped in. The bartender recommended Burnt Ends, and I got a box to-go to eat while I drive further South…
It was a great choice for a meal. The burnt ends were not burnt at all, and very tender and juicy to go along with well seasoned fries and sweet corn bread. I later pulled over to chow down the beans and sausage soupy thing. It was a nice chaser.
BBQ was to be the theme of the first full day of the road trip, because the next stop for my overnight layover in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was Dreamland BBQ.
This place was amazing. And being that I was a bit hungry I ordered way too much food for me to possibly finish in one evening, so it became my breakfast and lunch for the next day.
I ordered a half a rack of ribs and a link of sausage along with their delicious BBQ beans that are especially tasty because of caramelized onions in the mix. Finger lickin’ good!
The size of the ribs was scary big… it wasn’t from a pig but rather from a dinosaur… way more than I had expected. But oh so tasty!
In the end all that was left was a bunch of big bones…
Rolling into Louisiana I was greeted with some “Community” Coffee at the Welcome Center. That coffee was delicious. Interestingly enough the name sounded familiar, and on my flight home I found out exactly why… Community coffee is served on Southwest flights.
Going through the Bayou’s I started seeing signs for Bugs… Not the ones splashed all over the windshield but the seafood variety instead. Crawfish is a staple in Southern Louisiana and I was tempted to try it but knew how messy that food would be so I sort of ordered it disguised in other food…
But first I stopped for an appetizer… bite size fried catfish from Crawfish Town USA
Went through their Drive Thru to order it and it was ridiculously good. But next stop was even better:
Billy’s Boudin and Cracklins were highly recommended in all the Internet searches, and when I went in I found out exactly why. The line was huge to order food. I basically got one of each on the menu.
You know it’s a good place when fellow customers shout out recommendations as you’re placing your order!
Luckily they labelled everything so I knew exactly what each thing I was eating is called:
As tempted as I was to eat the food laid out on the trunk of the car, I was on a schedule so decision was made to multitast, eat and drive at the same time…
The balls were a familiar concept. I had pigged out on boulin’s on a visit to Liege, Belgium last year. But these were not just meat, they were filled with cajun rice and other fixin’s that were delicious! The crawfish filled ones were especially my favorite.
I saved the best for last, the boudin sausage filled with a mix of rice and meat was excellent and very tasty!
I thought I missed out on having Crawfish but after arriving in Houston, Texas it was obvious that the Louisiana delicacy is well established there. So my buddy Wes and I hit a local spot to get all messy eating these delicious cajun bugs.
I only ordered 1lb to sample, the bare minimum they sell. But it was enough to get completely covered in that seasoning to the point I felt I needed a shower after this lunch.
All that was left in the end was a big messy pile of heads and tails.
From Houston we drove up to Dallas area for a car event… and while there tried something different… a few taco’s at Taco Bueno. But I gotta say that it didn’t even compare to the BBQ and Cajun Seafood theme I was following on this trip.
Luckily back at the event, some fellow enthusiasts had a smoker going, with home-cooked and extremely fresh Ribs and Sausage smokin’ hot!
Sid, the master chef, didn’t disappoint… his ribs, hot venison sausage and dry venison sausage were the highlight of this foodie trip for me:
So there you have it folks. If you get an opportunity to go on a road trip, I would encourage you to jump on it. Think of all the foodie opportunities that will present themselves along the way. And if you can find a good redneck cookout at a car event in Texas, be sure to check it out because chances are it will be the best food you’ve ever tasted! I sure know that was the case for me…
On the drive back to the airport in Dallas we stopped by for one final Cajun meal where I had some fried shimp and catfish. Boy that hit the spot too… I can’t wait to go back to the South for more.
Seems like everyone went down the Jersey Shore today!
Hard to believe the weather was so nice I actually put the top down while cruising to a familiar spot on the Garden State Parkway to join a bunch of Millenials Miata owners for one of their mid-winter get-togethers and a cruise to the beach for some barbecue. I may be exaggerating a little. Not everyone was a young millenial, and we didn’t quite make it to the sandy beach, more like a town that has “beach” in it’s name… or close enough anyway, but you get the picture. It was a whole bunch of young Miata owners hanging out and having fun. Many of them I’ve met before at the New Jersey Miata’s events held at the same Chesapeake Cheesequake rest area on the GSP (I previously posted Chesapeake which is actually in Virginia, I meant Cheesequake which is in New Jersey). But this impromptu event felt different. I felt like an old fart and it was kind of cool to hang out with the kids. Trying to see if we still have something in common… cringing at the sight of some of the car mods. Hoping the cops don’t show up when some started doing burn outs and donuts. But obviously connected through the common denominator of our car choice: the Miata. And agreeable foodie tastes: a BBQ joint for lunch! It was refreshing especially since it’s still February and many car events are months away.
Naturally I took a ton of pix:
The turnout was impressive… I was hoping a few cars would show up, but they just kept on coming and coming. I think I counted 28 Miata’s in total and about half a dozen other cars that came along. For the longest while mine was the only NC that wasn’t like all the other NA’s & NB’s, but after a while a beautiful ND showed up, so we had at least one of each models represented (though no RF yet and no 124 Spider or Abarth… yet).
A very appropriately labelled loud piece.
Not quite sure what Miatagang is but they came out in numbers!
This was one of those non-Miata guest vehicles… a beautiful Ford-powered Jag replica/kit car. Looked, sounded and drove great!
Don’t remember if I’ve commented about this before, but truck-nutz type toys hanging off lowered cars is definitely a “thing” nowadays… like this pink colored “poop” emoji plush toy.
Oh yeah… and no rear bumper is definitely a “thing” too now… this was one of three or four without the rear bumper.
If this is a true drift car, it is by far one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen (no dings, dents or scrapes to be found!)
And away we go…
Do all Millenials skateboard? I think so…
After lunch the majority of the kids headed to another car show a few towns over while I convinced a few North Jersey owners to detour our way home via Ocean Avenue… somehow I was elected leader and I fucked up several times trying to reach the correct Ocean Avenue, getting lost in places I got lost as a leader at previous events last year. You’d think I would have learned, but no! I know exactly why I made the same mistakes now I did last time. I convinced myself I knew where I was going, and instead of firing up the GPS and not looking like a fool, I totally embarrassed myself.
Oh well… ironically we didn’t really get to see much of the beaches driving up to Sandy Hook as the main road was a few blocks off the Boardwalk and heavy with traffic. So that was kind of a fail. My apologies to the folks that followed me. I should really improve on this considering how much I’d like to make this sort of thing a business one day with my International Motorsports and Miataland-like tourism ideas…
It’s been a mild winter so far, and I had this genius idea to drive my Miata from New Jersey to Florida to volunteer the Roar before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway this January. The plan was to drive during the day so I minimize the possibility of hitting black ice in the Northern States and arrive Daytona Beach in time to have dinner with some friends there. It almost worked.
I got to meet with some folks from the First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville along the way which I already wrote about. That was awesome, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the drive part of the road trip and the foodie tour I got to do in different states along the way.
This trip was completely and totally BBQ based when it comes to food. I divided my driving in two stints. Home to Rock Hill, SC on the first day which covered about 680 miles and the rest on second day for the first trip. And Daytona Beach to Christiansburg, Virginia on the first day which again was about 640 miles and the rest on the second day which was around 500 miles. The Rock Hill stop was convenient because there was quite a few restaurants in town, I tried Cook Out chain for the first time since I was starving when I arrived. But since it was still early in the day I researched something more substantive to try. The Dixie Pig came highly recommended online and through the front desk at my hotel, so I went to give them a try and boy am I glad I did. The food was absolutely delicious. Their ribs kept on repeating on me for several days after I had them, but my favorite menu item was their “Pig Wings” which was on the appetizer list just below Chicken Wings. What are Pig Wings? Apparently they are baby pig (under 250 lbs) upper legs, succulent and juicy and served smothered in a variety of sauces. I tried the garlic sauce option first time. But liked them so much I made sure to stop by Dixie Pig on the drive home too and tried BBQ sauce option. Mmmmm mmm! I highly recommend both this restaurant and especially the “pig wings” menu item. Well worth the $10 bux price!
On the drive home the stopover in Virginia was near to another barbecue joint called Due South BBQ. I had googled it in advance and wanted to go there after I check in at my hotel, but since I missed my exit I ended up going directly to the restaurant. It too was amazing, especially all their sauce varieties! I got a pulled pork sandwich and another brisket sandwich which seemed like a good idea at the moment when I arrived hungry… but turned out to be way too much meat for the night. The sign outside the restaurant did say “Come Pig Out With Us” and I certainly did. My favorite feature of the restaurant was a display stand near the counter full of bones that were neatly sealed in individual bags with a sign: “Take One, FREE” for your dog. Which I made sure to do… and my fake beagle Maxi Max really enjoyed chewing on them for a few days now.
With the Jacksonville Miata club we hit up Metro Diner which is apparently known for their Chicken and Waffles… a typical southern dish. Several of the Miata guys ordered the fried chicken option, while I went with a New Orleans Shrimp and Grits dish where the grits were prepared differently (they were in solid block not running like they typically are). Great stuff!
While in Daytona I was limited to the track food which the Central Florida Region SCCA didn’t skimp out on. We were offered delicious sandwiches every day and had a tasty pizza party one of the nights. They had so much pizza we were asked to take a bunch of it home, which I did… so we had pizza for a few days that weekend.
The race weekend (without any actual real racing, it was all practice sessions) went by super quickly. And I departed Daytona Beach bright and early Monday morning. No sooner did I settle onto the highway at a comfortable cruising speed when all of a sudden I heard and felt a massive rock smashing into my windshield. It was weird because there were absolutely no cars in front of me other than a pick up truck in the right lane some distance away putzing along, and another car that had passed me like half a minute earlier in the left lane at a high rate of speed. That rock put a tiny chip in my windshield, right in line of sight on the driver’s side of the glass. Boo!
I was a bit concerned driving through the Carolinas because on my way down the Charlotte news was in panic mode… they were predicting 2 to 6 inches of snow over the weekend (& actually got 8). I knew it wouldn’t be snowing on my drive home but I also knew that ice was a possibility… a little side note: while in the hotel room listening to the news freak out about winter weather (which apparently the Carolinas don’t normally get) I quickly researched and booked a flight for my second trip to Florida at the end of the month to volunteer the actual race – Daytona 24 hours. But back to the drive, there was a lot of snow on the ground as soon as I crossed into North Carolina. The roads were nicely salted and fairly clear. The snow however started melting which meant my car got absolutely sprayed with that salty slush. But I made it through OK. The scary part was actually about an hour closer to home in Pennsylvania. All the road sings were lit up with “Warning, Winter Weather” and there was very fine but dense snow making visibility limited. But what worried me was the fact that about half an inch of that slush had formed on the travel lanes of the highway. It wasn’t enough to plough. And no snow trucks were out yet. So I backed off the accelerator and started following one of the many semi-trucks on the road who cleared a path for me. As soon as I arrived my home area in New Jersey I went right to the car wash to hose off all that salt off the car.
It was an excellent trip, even when my car sustained some minor damage with the chip in the windshield. I ordered a repair kit on eBay for about $10 bux and will seal the chip so that it doesn’t spread and form a bigger crack.
Some photos from the drive:
The cheapest gas I found was in South Carolina shortly after I got on i95 from i26. The prices did swing wildly for 93 octane premium gas with $2.43/gal price at this location and $3.25/gal at another Sunoco just a few miles down the highway (same state and probably same county, just different town). It was interesting to say the least and I used the GasBuddy app to check prices ahead of time when I was running low on fuel.
And some foodie tour pix:
The sandwiches from Due South BBQ in Virginia.
Pig Wings from Dixie Pig in Rock Hill, South Carolina with an old Mazda pick up parked outside.
Chicken and Waffles and Chicken and Mashed Potatoes from Metro.
I think I will repeat this road trip again come March to volunteer the St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour… it’s a lot of fun!
You know the feeling…. see something cool and you gotta try it! Well, I get that feeling a lot. It feels like a major accomplishment when you finally do have an opportunity to “have it!”
Czech Stop and Slovacek’s, two Czech enclaves in the middle of Central Texas, conveniently located at exit 353 between Dallas and Austin were the place I wanted to visit since the first time I spotted the unique restaurants/bakeries out of the window of my speeding bus. You see this year, I traveled to COTA three times via Dallas. But what was different about the last trip is the fact that I managed to find the opportunity to finally stop and see what the fuzz was all about… and so glad I did!
My COTA buddy Joaquin offered to drive me to the airport which was hugely appreciated… I hate taking the bus even when it saves me a fortune. One of the perks of being in a car and able to stop along the way was me being able to talk him into visiting Slovacek’s. Turns out he grew up in the town of West, Texas which is home to a nice size Czech community that has been there since the fifties (1950’s that is). You see car dealerships waving the Czech flag along with a number of other businesses, but the one that caught my attention was a restaurant/deli/bakery with two cuddling pigs on the logo… Slovacek’s. So our plan was to stop there for lunch and sample some of their meat products before going across the highway to the Little Czech Bakery for some deserts in the form of fresh kolachek’s.
The place is very clean and modern with a big souvenir store up front, a deli to one side, and a hot food section to the other with lots of places to sit down and have your delicious meal. I went for the two meat sandwich with brisket and kielbasa while Joaquin had a kielbasa and turkey sandwich. Both were finger licking good and were especially tasty washed down by a big cup of root beer.
Then off for desert on the other side of the highway… while Slovacek’s has a huge Exxon fuel station in their lot, Czech Stop features a Shell gas station… so it’s really a full service stop for you and your vehicle.
I love the decor of the place, lots of traditional dress photos which brings back some memories. Both Czech’s and Ukrainians are Slavic people and share similar culture especially in their folklore, music, food and dress. I remember dancing traditional dances growing up wearing a similar style “costume” myself.
I love that Texas fully embraces this culture, the overpass on the highway featured the traditional dancers on both sides. Cool!
For anyone driving i35 between Dallas and Austin or other points in Texas in beyond on this road, do go ahead and plan a pit stop here. You’ll absolutely love it… at the very least it’s “something a little different” for you to enjoy.
NER SCCA does a fantastic job taking care of the volunteers. I’ve been fortunate enough to sample some of their fine cooking at Thompson Speedway, Palmer Motorsports Park and Lime Rock. But this time around the presentation was a little different. Instead of cooking at the Cafe each team invited the volunteers to sample the food the teams eat throughout the paddock. All the cooking stations (mainly grilles) were identified by an orange cone and a flag in the paddock where some cooked sausages, burgers, meatballs, ziti, etc. My favorite was team Dinosaur RX-7 guys with their excellent selection of sausages… not too far from them another team had a blender set up to make margaritas… you got a Hawaiian lay before picking up a glass of margarita slushie or margarita on a rocks. Damn were they good!
Thank you very much NER SCCA Drivers for the warm hospitality. It is much appreciated. Looking forward to my next event with them!