Tag Archives: georgia road trip

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.

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!