When I first bought my Miata it became painfully clear that most other bigger cars on the road are on the mission to kill me. Multiple times I found myself taking defensive action to avoid a pick up truck or an SUV veering into my lane, completely oblivious that I was there. My solution was to buy a dash cam so at least I would have evidence when someone runs me off the road. My buddy Bill instead opted to get a louder horn.
Today we went ahead and installed his Thompson Engineering sourced horn. The Tornado/Marco labelled model (Made in Italy) it says… looks a lot more bulkier than the puny stock horn. It was a quick and easy bolt on once we go to it by unbolting a whole bunch of plastic that packages the bumper area of the Miata nicely. At one point I was excited and a little bit worried we will have to take the whole front bumper off. But apparently there are 80+ fastening points one must remove, and I’m glad we didn’t have to resort to that. Nevertheless there were quite a few 8mm screws, 10mm screws and a bunch of plastic fasteners that had to be loosened to get to the horn.
Here’s some pix:
Bill bought the louder horn from Thompson Engineering. The kit came complete with the horn, several fuses, and all the mounting brackets, which was very easy to assemble. We made a trip to Lowe’s to pick up about 5 feet of quarter inch hose in order to route the air intake for the horn under the hood. Lots of zip ties were used to package everything nicely and it looked very factory in the end.
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…
…been contemplating registering MiataFiata.com since last year when Chris, Sakshik and I launched the Miata Fiata Talk podcast. Today I finally pulled the trigger so to speak. MiataFiata.com is the new home of the Miata Fiata Radio podcast… I’m using the Radio and the Talk and the Podcast labels interchangeably but eventually we’ll pick something that sticks. Either way with my NC1 GT PRHT, Sakshik’s NB and Chris’s NC1 GT PRHT with appearance package and the oldie Fiat 124 Spider we have all the boxes covered… (even though yes, I realize the 1970’s Fiat has nothing to do with the current Fiata made by Mazda).
This domain will be a great way to separate my marshaling, my foodie road trips and my general BS from my Miata stuff, although everything is still hosted and lives on MyRoadTrip.net
I am excited with this project!
Got a good deal too taking advantage of 99 cent first year registration and $9.99 each subsequent year. I chose the 5 year option plus some generous % discount from Ebates. Now I have the domain until March 30, 2022
It’s been a loooooong time since Chris and I did a Miata Fiata podcast episode… at least since January. So now that we’re both back in New Jersey it was time to catch up and talk about our recent road trips down to Florida. Chris had a family emergency requiring him to drive the rental van down to Miami for a few months, while I drove my Miata down to Central Florida to volunteer St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour.
We met up in Union City, NJ which is a really cool area overlooking the New York City skyline where Chris’s family has a property. Chris keeps his awesome 1970’s Fiat in a garage there. I got a chance to snap a crappy photo of my Miata with it.
Funny story about that… my car refused to start before heading out to Chris’s house. Why? I don’t know but it would crank and not fire. I immediately assumed that my used ignition relay from eBay I had just installed the day before was faulty. So in the pouring rain I popped the hood and swapped it out for the old one. In the process I cracked the plastic cover on the eBay purchase which was the main reason for getting it in the first place, the plastic cover on my original fuse was broken off. That whole procedure did absolutely nothing, so I broke it for no good reason.
Asked my father for advice and he suggested that water was a factor, possibly creating a poor connection on the battery. So I kept on turning the key until it started and the problem hasn’t replicated since… shame I handled the situation the way I did. Now I’m going to shop around for a new replacement Ignition relay.
Anyway… have a listen to the new Miata Fiata Radio episode. We’ll be moving all our older episodes from Shout Cloud to Shout Engine to avoid storage limits. And in the process I’ll be amending the name from Miata Fiata Talk to “Radio”
Comments and opinions are welcome. We’d also love to have guests on future podcasts so reach out to get yourself on!
The #1 attraction of the Rolex 24 at Daytona for me this year was the prospect of watching the new Mazda DPi platform MRT24-P race for the very first time. Neither car finished, so that was a bit disappointing. But I got a chance to check out Mazda / SpeedSource operation up close and personal, be inches away from the cars and getting some Mazda swag in the process and for that I’m really grateful. Here are some pix from the event:
I almost missed my opportunity to do the grid walk because it was so busy running around in the paddock where I was stationed. But thanks to an open minded boss, I managed to snap these shots just in time (thanks to the Mazda/SpeedSource mechanic that helped me).
They started playing the national anthem just after this shot was taken so I had to run off into the cold side of the pits to watch the start of the race.
In the paddock the Mazda setup was impressive touting their history
and the fact that more Mazda’s are raced on any given day in the US than any other brand
In the infield the Mazda Owner’s Lounge didn’t disappoint either, I got my new Mazda hat for recording a short infomercial for the brand
and got to check out the Long Roar Racing cutaway half-street half-race Mazda MX-5 Miata Roadster
I made a post a while back wishing prototypes looked more like production cars (e.g. Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, Porsche 911 GT1, McLaren F1 GTR). I think this year’s Mazda DPi platform came fairly close at resembling a production Mazda… though you have to squint just right to see that resemblance.
I think, and I could be wrong, but to me the current SpeedSource Mazda RT24-P looks a lot like the 1st Generation Mazda RX-8 especially the very early models of 2003-2008 vintage.
Just look at it:
And compare it to this picachu yellow RX-8:
To me, the narrow grille, the almond shaped headlights, the big wheel arches and even the fog light openings all resemble one another on the new prototype and the old street car.
Granted there are plenty of differences, like the fact the RX-8 was Rotary powered being the most obvious. And the fact that few things about the MRT24-P (besides the sponsorship money of course) actually come from Mazda Motors, the car was built by Multimatic in Canada, the same company that builds both the race and the street versions of the Ford GT for Ford Motor Company, engines are AER, etc. Still I would say they did a great job creating a vehicle that at first look does resemble a real Mazda! This is obviously not the case with the Cadillac DPi’s for example, or even the Tequila Patron Nissans (although they did a great job modifying a nose of the Ligier to look very Nissan-like).
The goal was to talk about the logistics of the road trip. The route I took was the longer of two options, instead of the more direct i95 along the Eastern Seaboard I took i81 instead. It added about 40 miles more to the trip, but I saved $40 or so in tolls (and a lot of frustration of sitting in traffic along all the major cities on that route, like Philly, Washington DC, Richmond, etc.)
Discounted gas cards are discussed. I purchased Sunoco, BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil cards to save on fuel and used the GasBuddy app’s map feature to see the cheaper stations ahead on my route. I played a game to calculate how far I could go and arrive at the station with the Low Fuel light lit up.
Foodie tour was mentioned. I said this trip was fueled by BBQ. I tried an amazing place in Rock Hill, SC called Dixie Pig and fell in love with their Pig Wings. And Due South BBQ in Christianburg, VA who had an amazing selection of BBQ sauces and some freebie bone bags for my fake beagle back home.
Things to watch out for. Checking tire pressure to avoid getting a flat or a blowout. Being careful with window chips, which I got… caught a rock to the windshield. Getting plenty of rest along the way so you don’t crash.
I completely forgot to talk about my Miata meet up in Jacksonville where a few First Coast Miata club folks came out to have dinner with me. Sorry about that.
Public Service Announcement: grease your sway bar bushings Miata owners… I remember Miata.net forums light up when most of the US was experiencing freezing temps including Southern states like Georgia, the Carolina’s and Texas where owners started complaining about loud squeaking and creaking noises coming from their suspension even on basically brand new / late model NC MX-5’s of the 2015 vintage. I had experienced those noises every winter time including when I first bought my car. I was convinced that was the result of the bump stops being worn out like I saw on the forums. But boy was I wrong. I discovered I was wrong when we replaced my stock suspension with a set of Bilsteins from a newer Miata GT PRHT. I figured it was not possible for the bump stops to get work out on such a low mileage car. But it turns out the bump stops have nothing to do with this squeak.
The problem was much simpler and much easier to fix. The front and back bushings on the sway bars get squeaky with wear and age. And it only takes a little bit of synthetic grease to lubricate them to make the car sound like new again. If you don’t think my claim is reasonable, consider the fact that the PRHT top squeaks and creaks when the two pins that go into the area above the windshield isn’t lubricated. When you experience the squeaks even a brand new car feels like a worn out horse buggy. And with just a little lubrication it feels like a different car, a brand new car!
Special thanks to my buddy Chris for doing the work for me in his garage. It is greatly appreciated! Some pix:
Thanks to Stephen from Ohio for sending me his used RX-8 sway bar end link to help me diagnose a possible issue with clicking which appeared after we did the Bilstein install. Unfortunately this wasn’t the problem, but I’m glad we eliminated that possibility.
There are only four bolts, two on each side, front and rear to loosen the sway bar. It helps to remove one of the bolts on the sway bar end links to release the tension on the bar. I also took the opportunity to swap out one of the end links for a used unit one of the fellow owners from Miata.net sent me from Ohio to help me diagnose a clicking problem that appeared after the Bilsteins install. His was an RX-8 sway bar end link that is identical (part number the same) to the MX-5 model. Unfortunately the end link didn’t seem to be the problem to my clicking noise. But I’m happy with this replacement.
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!