Tag Archives: GA

Mazda MX-5: 2,000+ Mile Miata Road Trip and Foodie Tour from NJ to Florida in the Winter

2,355 miles to be exact.

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!

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

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

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

Interested in volunteering?

I say do it!

What is it; Petit Le Mans

When is it: September 27 – October 1, 2016

Where is it: Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia

Who’s recruiting: Atlanta Region SCCA

Who will be there: Five Race Groups!

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

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

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

I would highly recommend this event!

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

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

Good Luck!

Have Fun!

Postcard from 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Presented by Mazda and Interrupted by Joaquin

All ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened. Well, maybe you will, but here’s my little preview of the “season finale” at Road Atlanta during the 2015 Petit Le Mans presented by Mazda (the presented by Mazda bit is obviously a joke, while accurate, it was repetitively used by the flag chief in a NASCAR-style shout-out to the sponsors). I like Mazda even though their booth babe tricked me into taking a survey without actually giving me the hat I was promised for my participation. So screw Mazda! or at least the people they outsourced the marketing duties to during the event.

2015 petit le mans mazda owner's lounge

On a positive note, when Corvette Racing advertises a FREE t-shirt for completing their survey, they actually give you a t-shirt… get it Mazda?

2015 petit le mans mazda owner's lounge 1

I will make a few posts about each of the topics I wanted to share from Petit Le Mans, but this entry will act like a snapshot of things to come accompanied by some teaser pictures.

This year’s Petit Le Mans was wet… so wet it was cut short, thanks to Hurricane Joaquin stirring shit up in the Atlantic. But I was well prepared. I had a great station assignment that I actually requested, and as luck would have it, I stayed pretty dry throughout this soaker of a week(end).

hurricane joaquin
credit: borrowed from Facebook

The saddest part of the trip was catching a glimpse of the MX-5 Cup graveyard near the Skip Barber facility at Road Atlanta. I took some pix, they aren’t pretty:

skip barber mx-5 cup miata graveyard road atlanta

skip barber mx-5 cup miata graveyard road atlanta 1

The action on track cheered me up a bit. I was close to the action and close to the pits, which means I was super close to cars. I love being this close to cars! Like this close:

2015 petit le mans continental tire sports car challenge

This is the view from station, with flags in the foreground.

2015 petit le mans pit lane lamborghini super trofeo blancpain

mazda mx-5 cup during petit le mans 2015 miatas galore

I got a chance to meet up with some great people that fed me well. I love southern BBQ. I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m also glad to see some European friends that I last met in Belgium during Spa 24h.

2015 petit le mans marshal dinner with teddy racing

I had some fun in my rental vehicle which I probably overpaid for, just like the flight, and like the cost of the way to get to the flight… I flew out of Philly International the day after Pope Francis left town. But the rental was worth every penny in the flood that literally took over the camp site. I was dry. I was comfortable. And I was happy! I even got a chance to sit in the truck during the red flag period of the race, with the heat on full blast pointed at my sox… shoes off, getting some much needed rest and warmth from the heater and IMSA radio called by John Hindy from Radio Le Mans thru the car’s stereo!

2015 petit le mans red flag

Yep… I got to park on the pit lane for the main event!

petit le mans 2015 rental car and camping vehicle

All in all an excellent weekend. There were some people that went out of their way to sort of shut me down and rain on my parade, and I wasn’t really in a position to ignore them, but shit like that happens. I was just happy that the good moments outnumbered the bad.

2015 petit le mans grid walk 7

I don’t hate Teddy!

PS. I got to win another “Mazda” hat during the marshal party! So thanks but no thanks Mazda booth! But I’m happy I got to take some pix with an ND Miata, both the safety cars and the display models.

2015 petit le mans presented by mazda marshal swag

2015 petit le mans grid walk 2

I also got a chance to sign the nose on the #60 Ligier P2 prototype, they didn’t win and crashed often… but a GTLM car won. A Porsche… which I suspect was done for publicity, both for IMSA and for Porsche in their North American headquarters home of Georgia. Hmm…