It’s been a few years since I discovered I have no future as a race car driver… that feeling came about behind a wheel of an SRT Charger as I was screeching tires making a turn into one of the high speed corners of Road America in Wisconsin. Since that time though I did three more SRT Track Experiences around the country… but instead of pursuing that sort of “racing” hobby I figured it would be much cheaper to volunteer as a marshal (even though that is expensive as hell in itself). BUT… boy was it fun!
The SRT Track Experiences were run by Richard Petty Racing School. It was one of few subcontractors SRT and other performance brands like AMG relied on to help teach their customers how to drive their cars without actually using their cars… Chrysler for example provided more than a dozen cars, everything from a Crossfire to the Viper… and I as a guest of the Track Experience got to drive every single one of them, multiple times. And at the end of the day I simply walked away… no need to buy new tires, or fix any issues that the car could have developed after being flogged by amateurs around the track. Arrive and drive events in someone else’s vehicles are awesome, certainly better than messing with your own car.
And that’s where the Bondurant Racing School comes in. I remember Bondurant when they ran orange SVT Mustang Cobra’s… I remember that because someone at the company sent me a list of cars for sale when they decided to ditch the blue oval and move on to GM (remember those yellow Corvette’s and black Cadillac’s?) and now they do Chryslers… in particular the Dodge SRT line that I got to experience several times with Richard Petty… luckily FCA, the parent of Dodge also has non-HEMI powered machinery for which Bondurant has a whole separate web site, calling it Fiat Trackside https://fiattrackside.com/ which seems like a perfect way to experience the Abarth line-up and in particular the Abarth Fiata: Fiat 124 Spiders… and I intend to one day take advantage of their offerings to experience this Italian (Japanese) creation…
If anyone has a hook-up, my birthday is coming up in September feel free to get me some time behind the wheel of the Bondurant Fiata… I’ll take care of the flight to Arizona but the rest I’m too broke to afford.
Bondurant Racing School also offers a Teen driving program, which is probably more up my alley than an actual high performance Abarth experience, but I wouldn’t turn either of them down if presented with an opportunity.
I’m not sure how these track experiences operate, and if they carry any similarity to the SRT track experiences which I’ve done several of in Wisconsin, Colorado, California and Florida… I’m sure there are some good folks on the Fiata forums that would spare their VIN# for me to experience these cars on track at the Bondurant facility.
Sunday Fun Day! A heatwave is hitting Northern New Jersey, and a ton of people came out for this month’s Cars & Coffee event at Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, NJ
I overslept… didn’t wash my car but wanted to hang out with a few people at the event. So I rushed over… and as soon as I pulled in around 10am everyone else started leaving… all the McLaren P1’s, the Porsche 911’s, the Lamborghinis and Ferrari’s of very recent vintage, but the few cars that remained still caught my eye. So I wanted to share some pix of them…. I realize a lot of the cars are classic and vintage, which you’re likely to see at your neighborhood’s weekly cruise night. But I don’t care. It was a great mix of new and old and for me these oldies stood out….
especially the Figaro:
It’s also important to remember that this area of Jersey is still very European… there’s BMW North American headquarters just across the street. There’s lots of Italians still living here. The real Mafialand… you know where Soprano’s are from. So it’s nice to see all these Alfa Romeo’s, Lancia’s and Fiat’s around. The classic type, the ones that you don’t normally see here. That was nice to see!
Oh and I also really loved the Geländewagen:
Haven’t seen these in a while… but I have seen them before… in Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. It was nice to see them again!
How is this car a “Historic”?
It is registered as one… look at the Trianglular inspection sticker.
Seeing the Mercedes-Benz 300SL in both convertible and gullwing was awesome… seen both of them before but they sure stood out.
No better way to spend Memorial Day weekend than at my local Cars & Coffee. This meetup at Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, NJ is always a treat, check out the pix:
I arrived a bit late, after 10am which meant may cool cars were either leaving or had already left… like the Enzo Ferrari and McLaren P1… but the Miata’s were still there, and after parking lot clearing a bit we decided to get them together for a photo op:
At this point it was around noon and everyone was hungry so we headed down to Hackensack to my favorite BBQ joint… Cubby’s!
This place is so awesome… there’s nothing “bad” on the menu, everything is “great!”
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…
Wasn’t planning on visiting another Dodge Chrysler Jeep (Fiat) dealer on my drive home, but two brand spanking new Abarth Fiata’s caught my eye in Winchester, Virginia.
These two beauties were on the same lot I stopped by a few months ago on the drive home from Florida. They had two white Abarth Fiata’s then, which must have sold so well they replaced them with two gray Abarth Fiata’s…. must be something in the water in that part of Virginia on the West Virginia border… with Summit Point racetrack nearby the Abarth versions of the Fiat 124 Spider must be flying off the dealer lots. Still feel a bit weird seeing Fiats on the Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealer property… But if you’re in the market go buy one… they’re available and look gorgeous!
Woo Hoo, we got our first real guest on the Miata Fiata Radio podcast: Daniel Cooper who moderates the NC Miata Group on facebook with over 1.3k members.
Daniel did a lot of work to his personal 2006 True Red Miata. The car looks absolutely amazing and very aggressive… it is primarily a track car at this point with plenty of laps around Road Atlanta and Atlanta Motor Speedway in this area of 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.
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!
I thought the recent Power Steering O-ring or the fucking squirrel were going to be my biggest issue on this amazing 1,000+ mile trip I had planned in my Miata down to Birmingham, Alabama for the Alabama Grand Prix (and most importantly the Mazda MX-5 cup season opener there).
I was wrong. The squirrel or whatever the hell the rat bastard it is has been back visiting my car. No nuts left this time but there’s a small pile of shit on the battery like last time. Ugh! The moth balls didn’t work. Neither did the traps. I’ll have to adjust when I return.
But I had a different nut problem altogether that made me less than optimal for this trip bright and early in the morning… I had some kind of peanut allergy that completely knocked me out for three days straight and I still don’t know what the hell happened to me.
So the day I broke my power steering o-ring mentioned in the last article, I bought some Planters peanuts. They are delicious. I buy them all the time, especially when they go on sale. I had a bunch the same day. I had a bunch the next day. And by the third day when I felt I was developing flu-like symptoms I ordered spicy Indian food to self-medicate, and had some delicious peanuts for desert. By Saturday I was fucking dying! Fever through the roof. Throat hurting like a mutherfucker. Couldn’t swallow. Coughing up dollar coin size chunks of hardened flem. And there I am still eating peanuts… because why not?
Sunday I was completely bed ridden. And Monday… and Tuesday. I started researching what the fuck happened. And it turns out peanuts are a cunt of a thing… they trick your immune system to think they are bad for you. So your body starts fighting a problem that isn’t there. How? I have no fucking clue. But I know what hell I went through over the past few days and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies!
The flem bit was nasty, but something I could get over. I’m taking pills, and the next phase is caughing which will be annoying. But because of all those days of high fever my lips exploded with fever blisters. I didn’t think it was possible to get more than one at a time. But boy did they pop… First one, then second, then third, fourth and finally fifth all on the upper lip. I didn’t think it was physically possible. But now I look like some kind of a diseased mutherfucker.
Holly crap was this a bad experience!
And tomorrow 1,000 mile road trip to Birmingham commences.
I can’t wait! (even if I probably won’t be 100% until I get there).
Really looking forward to this event. And to the opportunity of visiting Barber Motorsports Park, in my opinion, America’s most beautiful race track. Can’t wait to see the Miata’s too! Fingers crossed my car doesn’t shit itself on the way there.
…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!