Tag Archives: Foodie tour

Mazda MX-5 Miata: Pennsylvania Road Trip Yuengling Brewery Visit + PA Dutch Foodie Tour

Every time I’ve taken a trip down i78 through Pennsylvania whether my last road trip to Florida or the trips to Alabama and Virginia before it, I thought: “Wouldn’t it be cool to organize a Yuengling Brewery Tour Miata Cruise?” Yes! Yes, it would… Today we made it happen.  My buddy Bill and I headed out first thing in the morning, on this freezing cold day where my whole car was covered in frost. But the weather warmed up, and we had a blast.

I wanted to invite as many Miata people as would come, but realizing that this is potentially a “Drinking & Driving” event, I didn’t want to open the door for any irresponsible behavior. So neither Bill nor I really drink alcohol, it was reasonable to have a small sampling of beer paired with fine Pennsylvania Dutch food before and after the brewery visit.

First stop was Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, PA off of I81 for some Gingerbread Hotcakes… Mmmm yummm!

It was soooo delicious! Now we were ready for the tour. I’ve done the Yuengling Brewery visit before a couple of years ago, and since then there’s been some changes. For one, the building across the street has been turned into the Gift Shop and the starting point of the tour. It’s the old Yuengling Ice Cream building, which looks really neat. But the actual brewery place rocks. Very educational experience and I enjoyed it very much. Could really appreciate how such a small operation can have such a big reach along the Eastern Seaboard.

Of course the sampling of beer on tap was outstanding.

I asked for the medicinal option since I am once again fighting the flu. Not sure if it worked, but it was delicious.

My favorite experience was the photo op with the Miatas.

After this sobering photo shoot in the freezing cold, it was time to warm up driving some twisty roads to Hawk Mountain and checking out the bird sanctuary there…

From there we were hungry enough for the final stop of the day: lunch at Deitsch Eck – Dutch Corner in Lenhartsville, PA

Not sure what part of the day was my favorite… everything we did had it’s awesome highlights! We actually planned on doing much more but unfortunately ran out of day light. Next time perhaps we’ll incorporate a visit to the Pocono’s on this trip, checking out Jim Thorpe Twp called the Switzerland of the US, or maybe checking out Amish country and sampling some of their delicious hoke-cooked food. Not sure but I definitely want to do this trip again! Summer time would be ideal, but Fall Foliage season would be even better.

Stay tuned…

Thanks to Bill for this awesome Pennsylvania Road Trip…

Post Card from Deitsch Eck in Lenhartsville, PA Winter MX-5 Miata Cruise

The final stop on our day trip to Pennsylvania for the Yuengling Brewery Tour in Pottsville was a late lunch at Deitsch Eck in Lenhartsville, PA

We took the scenic route to get there via Hawk Mountain. Miata people may remember Hawk Mountain especially from the Lehigh Valley Miata Club January 1st tradition called the “Polar Bear Run” where they spend about two hours zig zagging and zoom zooming along to Hawk Mountain… taking the more direct route we arrived there in minutes. And I have to say even the main roads were plenty twisty and scenic!

I loved seeing all the Christmas Tree fields… especially now in December just before Christmas it’s big business. There were evergreen fields all over, and I really wanted to check them out because of my little Colorado Blue Spruce project where I’ve planted about 100 trees from seed (they’re  not trees yet, but I’m hoping in 10 years they will be nice and tall).

This place must look amazing in the summer time or during fall foliage season… but I bet it gets super crowded too being such a close driving distance to Philadelphia.

Next stop: LUNCH!

The burgundy car corner…

Scrapple with Dutch Fries

Apple Butter

Our plan was to continue the tour northward to Jim Thorpe, PA for a scenic tour of the gateway to the Poconos… Wikipedia calls it the Switzerland of the US… and then follow the Pocono route to i80 to go into New Jersey through the Delaware Water Gap… but with only 1 hour of daylight left, we decided to call it a day and head home.

Welcome to New Jersey!

Love the side profile of a moving Miata…

What a great day!

Yuengling Brewery Tour Pottsville, PA Post Card 2 Winter MX-5 Miata Cruise

For purely selfish reasons I wanted to go back to the Yuengling Brewery and Gift Shop in Pottsville, PA with my Miata to take some cool photos against the background of their historic building. Today: Mission Accomplished! And I didn’t just get my Miata into the pix I got my buddy Bill to participate with his ’07 GT soft top as well.

The Red Roadsters pix:

Next stop… Hawk Mountain before lunch at Deitsch Eck…

Post Card from Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, PA Winter MX-5 Miata Cruise

First stop on our winter Mazda MX-5 Miata cruise today was at Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, PA

Some pix:

Bright and early in the morning, checking out the brand spanking new “Welcome!” sign on i78 across the Delaware River from NJ.

Plenty of ways to get to Dutch Kitchen, we chose to take the simple way… Pennsylvania Route 61 from i78 all the way up through Pottsville (our final destination for the day) across i81 and right into Frackville, PA

Looks like a normal building form the outside, but within it’s your typical Diner train cart with counter seating… perfect!

wasn’t feeling so well so first order of business Crab Bisque!

however, breakfast proper was my favorite: Gingerbread Hotcakes!

Onwards… back down the mountain to Pottsvilel fro the Yuengling Brewery Tour… “America’s Oldest Brewery!”

Very scenic route even on the main highway without having to deviate onto country roads (which we later did)

Next stop: Yuengling Brewery Tour in Pottsville, PA

Foodie Tour: Delicious Montreal Quebec Canada

Bonjour Delicious Montreal!

While it was not my first visit to this part of Canada, I’ve been to Montreal a bunch of times before… for F1 as well as “just because the flight was cheap” visiting for the very first time in the freezing cold of Quebec’s winter in January. This trip however gave me an amazing opportunity to check out some of the best the city has to offer in terms of delicious food. I got to try the poutine. I got to try the bagels, the smoked meat sandwiches and much more.

Some may laugh but for one of my Formula 1 trips I decided to bring a dozen bagels for my gracious host on CouchSurfing. I figured bagels is something New York has that’s unique… and not really replicated elsewhere. Well, little did I know, Montreal is famous for it’s own style of bagels. And on this trip I committed to try them out. Visiting both of the places that claim to be “the best!” (for scientific research purposes only, of course…)

Since I had three days of sightseeing before Formula E activities kicked in, the first order of business on Day 1 was to check out St. Viatur and Fairmont Bagels in the Jewish neighborhood of Montreal. I had bought an unlimited metro-card pass for three days, so it was easy to get around. I made a list of places I must visit, and checked them off one by one.

First stop: St. Viatur Bagels:

The atmosphere was no different than many deli’s in New York… however these guys sold bagels and all the add-on’s separately. If you want to schmear your bagel with some cream cheese you gotta do it yourself. Want locks, smoked salmon… buy your own separately. It’s all good. I ordered a sesame and a poppy bagel and ate them on my way to my second stop:

Second Stop: Fairmont Bagles

Yesterday’s bagels anyone?

Same scheme in this place. Small counter. Big line outside. Some benches to sit down and relax in the shade. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two sessame bagels. But they are certainly different from the New York style bagel…. not least the size… I think the Montreal bagel is significantly smaller and far more sweet than what we find here in New York/New Jersey. They’re like a snack more than a meal.

My favorite was a blueberry bagel which was bursting with flavor!

For lunch I went for poutine at Frits Alors! But it was not particularly good, so I’ll skip this step…

For dinner I joined my buddy Denis who gave me a tour of Old Montreal near to where he works. We ended up at the Old Port and luckily there were some food trucks bringing delicious restaurant food (restaurants that are spread around the city) to the masses at the very touristy part of town.

Here we sat down for a delicious sampler of poutine which was much better than Frits Alors! but still, in my opinion, not as great as the little food truck I go to in Ontario near Mosport… (that is sure to piss off some Quebecoise foodies).

Desert was a delicious few scoops of strawberry ice cream:

That I got all over my shirt lol

Walking back through Old Montreal you could see many restaurants of various caliber clearly targeting many tastes of tourists. One thing that popped out at me was a Thai Poutine place… WTF?

Next day I decided to do a Jewish deli for breakfast.

I took the Metro to Berri-UQAM central stop and walked the rest of the way passing many restaurants along… as well as a filming for a Formula E car on the streets of Downtown:

My destination was Schwartz’s Deli with their delicious serving of smoked meat for under $10 bux ($12 with tax in CAD)

This sandwich was super tasty… and once again I’m going to compare it to NYC food because just a few days earlier I visited Katz’s deli in Lower Manhattan with friends and ordered a similar pastrami sandwich… this was much cheaper though.

Walking to/from Schwartz’s you could see many eastern European storefronts selling different meats/foods. There was a Slovakian joint, a Polish place, a Hungarian one, and many others.

For lunch I decided to expand my tour of the island of Montreal and put my public transport pass to good use. So I took the train to the very northern tip of the island, and then another ten minutes on a bus to arrive at Dic Ann’s Hamburgers. I saw their food truck in Old Port / Old Montreal but wanted to check out the original:

The tiny hanburgers were very good… I ordered one, and then one more to sample this unique delicacy. And then visited Petro-Canada gas station on my way back to the bus stop for some Coke to help with digestion lol

Once I crossed the traditional dishes off my list, I ended up going to random places my friends from the Formula E event were in a mood for (typically during dinner). We spend a lot of time near the circuit, hanging out on Saint Catherine Street in Gay Village and going to places in that area.

The street is closed to vehicular traffic in the summer time and an excellent place to go for food and entertainment, though some of it was a bit out there. Go with an open mind!

One stop was Thai:

I had Massaman Curry which seemed to be way off, not spicy at all, but cheap and very filling at Bangkok Cuisine Restaurant.

Sticking with Asian theme we ended up at a Viatnamese place:

Here finally we found the clear spring rolls and a tasty bowl of Pho, which was just spicy enough and had a ton of sliced beef in it which was a great value for the money. The location was near to the Berri-UQAM stop on Boulevard de Maisonueve.

The food at the track was outstanding. The marshal organizers did an excellent job feeding the volunteers. I’ll write more about it in the Motorsport post, but will mention one little snack I enjoyed a lot, Bear Paws… soooo good!

Oh and I of course guzzled down many cups of Tim Horton’s french vanilla cappuccino’s along the way. Love that stuff!

Thanks for treating me so well Montreal… I will be back for more!

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…

1,500+ Mile Road Trip from Pennsylvania to Texas in a Ford Crown Victoria

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!

What an amazing trip!

through ten states:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Texas

Barbecue & Cajun Cuisine Road Trip and Foodie Tour of the South: Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana & Texas

It’s not often someone asks me for help.

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.

Foodie Tour of Florida: Trying Watermelon Rind Pickles (and Loving it!)

Every Road Trip presents an opportunity to try something new and delicious. My Motorsport Foodie Tours are a highlight of my volunteering career and this Spring Break trip to Florida was no exception… I discovered a new food I love: Watermelon Rind Pickles!

Ironically I was so busy stuffing my face with delicious seafood and the endless salad bar, I didn’t really take any close up shots of this tasty goodness…

The whole atmosphere of the dinner where this new food was sampled might have contributed to the pleasant experience. While staying in Daytona Beach my host John Gamble and I met up with our CFR flagging friend Captain Morgan who I had the privilege of working with the previous year both at St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour. He’s an amazing person and someone I really admire and truly respect. Even when our political views differ 😉

The restaurant, Aunt Catfish’s on the River is a really happening spot even on a weekly night for dinner. There was wait time to get a table. But we used the opportunity to get a mason jar or beer and shoot the breeze on the dock. It was pretty awesome and very relaxing.

Once inside, the main attraction is the unlimited salad bar. Both cold and hot versions, where you can help yourself to a serving of the Watermelon Rind Pickles… the first time I missed this altogether trying not to overload my plate with other delicious food. But at recommendation of Captain Morgan I went back and stocked up.

I didn’t take any close-up pix of the watermelon rind, but you can see the little green cubes in the picture above, all the way to the right of the plate… they are amazing!

I felt like licking the plate when dinner was done, it was so good!

But then Captain Morgan recommended desert:

I literally had to wobble out of the place… I was so full. But happy!

Thanks to Captain Morgan for introducing me to Watermelon Rind Pickles, so now I could promote the food to others. Do add it to your Foodie Tour experiences next time you visit Florida or South in general. You’ll probably love it too!

Mazda MX-5: 3,500 Mile Spring Break Road Trip South in a Miata, from New Jersey to Florida

Second New Jersey to Florida Road Trip is now in the books. This trip in March over Spring Break was my second year in a row volunteering for St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour. It was also my second drive down to Florida this year (first one being for the Roar before the 24). All in all I put 3,440 miles on the car. Burned 102 gallons of 93/Premium fuel. Spent $268 dollars on gas using BP, ExxonMobil and Sunoco gas cards (which with the 7% discount that I paid for them, I actually only spent $250 on fuel). Averaged 34mpg which was an improvement of 1mpg over last year, and got my best fuel economy yet with 38mpg’s over two consecutive fuel ups on the drive down… Yay! I noticed gas prices were almost a dollar per gallon more than last year… And in all I did about 500 miles more since I based myself in Daytona Beach during this trip and took multiple drives out of the Daytona area for various events, from a Miata meet in Jacksonville, to St. Pete GP in the Tampa Bay area, to Sebring in Lake Placid area, and to Orlando Miata meet much like last year. It was a fantastic trip!

Interesting option of No-Ethanol fuel in South Carolina…

Hit a 60k milestone on this Road Trip

When leaving for the trip I couldn’t sleep the night before so instead of tossing and turning I jumped in the car at 1am and headed down. The night drive was great because there was hardly anyone else on the road, which meant I could take it nice and slow. Driving in the 60’s rather than 70’s the gas mileage improved tremendously… so averaging 36mpg vs. 31mpg meant that on the 3 tanks that it took to get to Florida from New Jersey I extended my range by 150 miles! Or basically had to refuel less often.

Much like last year I used the Gas Buddy App to check fuel prices to strategise my drive. Virginia and South Carolina had the lowest gas prices for premium fuel. While Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and even Florida were the priciest. The most I paid for gas was $2.86 in Florida and the least was $2.39 both in South Carolina and Virginia. There’s a Sunoco I really like in St. George, South Carolina that always has low prices and a few BP’s in the stretch of i81/i66 where for some reason the prices for premium gas are 50 cents less per gallon than anywhere else in Virginia. (Greenville area)

I want to live in a place that has Palm Trees!

My first order of business when arriving in Daytona was mounting my eBay lip spoiler… which turned out really great. Not sure if this thing contributed to my great gas mileage, but I’m glad that it certainly didn’t hurt!

I decided to get to Florida a day early because of some severe weather moving into the Northeast, which worked out really well because it allowed me an opportunity to “discover” Daytona more than I’ve done in the past while volunteering there. So I visited a race team based in Holly Hill, a few miles from the Speedway: BSI Racing.

Next day I was off to St. Pete… I left early enough so I can volunteer for the half day in the afternoon right after registration.

This year’s PWC racing was outstanding! IndyCar wasn’t so bad either and I especially enjoyed it from my new position in pit lane.

I CouchSurfed while in St. Pete and my host was awesome. Just a few blocks north of the track which getting there early in the morning was a breeze. Literally took me less than 10 minutes to drive down, and that’s because I had to stop at a few traffic lights.

Got some real IndyCar goodies for my Miata in pit lane… the official Firestone tire caps… No idea what team they came from but I picked up a bunch to give out as souvenirs when I travel. They sure are a lot lighter than the bag of NASCAR lug nuts I took to Australia and NZ.

Mailed my Miata buddies in Southeast Asia some #MRTI goodies from St. Pete GP.

I headed back to Daytona Beach right after the race, and the next morning left on a scenic drive along A1A towards Jax Beaches, on my Minorcan Clam Chowder foodie tour. I’m in love with my newly discovered attraction of St. Augustine (America’s oldest city!) the scenery was great and the food was delicious.

Lots of Spanish influence in this area, including the Minorcan Clam Chowder… Minorca of course is the smallest of the three Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean with the larger ones being the much better known Majorca as in Palma de Majorca and Ibiza.

I ran into a Lancia – Martini Racing photoshoot while on the trip where a Brit photographer basically booted me from taking pix:

From there I rushed to join the First Coast Miata club at their monthly meeting at yet another seafood place.

Was so good to see my friend Arved there who inspired me to buy the eBay lip spoiler to begin with. It’s nice to go to Miata events like this because they inspire you to do mods to your car.

Next day I was off to Sebring!

Lots of Mazda’s there. Absolutely awesome event. I had a blast working in pit lane there. One of my best experiences of Sebring yet!

Right after the race I headed back to Daytona Beach… but much like last year returned to the Orlando area for an Orlando Roadsters monthly meet at Tijuana Flats in Winter Park (near University of Central Florida). For a Monday night meet it was a big one, about 30 cars showed up over the course of the event… it was super enjoyable!

And so my time in Florida came to a close… the two weeks flew quick, I would really want to come back and stay for good. Staying in Daytona Beach area was very cool because I got to hang out with a few marshaling buddies I really respect, including visiting some fine dining establishments with them…

Florida is really the best place to go for fresh seafood…

On the drive home I stopped at my favorite South Carolina BBQ place in Rock Hill called Dixie Pig to pick up a couple of orders of their famous Pig Wings in parm & garlic sauce. Brought it all the way home to share with my parents and nephew… they loved it too!

I’ll be doing another one of these Southern trips next month hopefully with another two week volunteering tour of Barber Motorsports Park for IndyCar and VIR for PWC. Stay tuned…