Tag Archives: Road Trip

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…

New Jersey Miatas Cruise to Utopia in Hewitt, NJ

A beautiful Saturday to spend the day cruising with fellow Miata owners around Northern New Jersey. Mark from the New Jersey Miatas facebook group organized a meetup in Livingston with a destination in Hewitt in mind, to do lunch at Utopia Grill and Suzie’s Pizzaria. We met at the Livingston Mall in Morris County and zoom zoomed our way up to Passaic County.

A good turnout for a winter event with four NC Miata’s in attendance, three NA’s and one NB along with three miscellaneous cars. The lunch was great too!

Some pix:

Good times!

More cruises to come before it starts snowing…

Historic Sportscar Racing Classic 24 hours of Daytona + Trans Am Season Finale the debrief

I remember coming across a picture of a Tic Tac livery Porsche 962 Group C car advertising an event at Daytona… didn’t take me long to decide I must participate. The event: Historic Sportscar Racing Classic 24 hours of Daytona presented by IMSA. Reading about it I thought there would be a million people there… after all everywhere I go people say that Historic events are the best, at Watkins Glen or Laguna Seca or even international events like Spa-Fracorchamps.

Reality though was a bit more low key. But lucky for me not only did I get to see the aforementioned Tic Tac livery Porsche 962. I got to see four of them altogether. I figured they’d do a few parade laps and take it easy for display purposes. In reality though each car was pushing their limits. Some I clocked at nearly 180mph from my post at Pit Out during the race. Wow!

I was always of the opinion that prototypes resembling production cars made the best race cars. The more recent Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR or CLK LM I got to see a few times now is one of my favorites. Similarly Porsche 911 GT1 and the McLaren F1 GTR are amazing. But the cars that preceded that era of racing were the Porsche 956 and 962 respectively and for me seeing them race was a true highlight of the visit to Daytona.

Even though this Rothmans livery Porsche didn’t actually race, it was neat to watch it during practice keep up with the competition. I was convinced this was the car I got to see sitting at Bruce Canepa museum in California a few weeks back, but it was actually a different chassis altogether.

I knew the Dyson team was a competitive Mazda prototype racers in American Le Mans Series, but it was neat to learn they had a history with Porsche Racing in IMSA GTP

The Hawaiian Tropic Fabcar didn’t roll out until race day and after seeing it I really took a liking to it. Compared to the Tic Tac livery car this was like comparing IndyCar to F1, but still it looked beautiful.

I was happy to see other interesting sports cars I haven’t seen before like the Sunoco livery Camaro and the Oldsmobile Aurora IMSA GT.

Overall it was an incredible week… Five days on track at Daytona and most of the time all by myself in Pit Out. What an amazing experience.

It’s ironic that I’m going to mention Trans Am almost as an afterthought, but that’s what it felt like they were at this event. Even though it was their season finale they definitely played a support role for the HSR. That didn’t stop them from having some aggressive racing on display and I truly enjoyed the experience.

Anyway…  race day especially was a real enduro. We only had three SCCA people on Pit Lane (possibly four but he was on the HSR radio) and those three were basically there for the full 30 hours of the race. Starting 7am Saturday for the morning meeting, and finishing Sunday 1pm’ish after that last race got totally mangled with incidents. I attempted to work the full race through for two of my previous Daytona 24 hours (modern IMSA races) but the closest I came was working 22 hours in 2013… somehow this time around I managed to do all 30! It did help that there were 45 minute races with 15 minutes between sessions that I could sit down, but still.

Getting to the event was a real enduro also. I elected to drive down because flights weren’t all that cheap, and a one-way Hertz rental from one of NYC’s airports was just $4.99 per day. I decided to book a car for two days so I could do a more leisurely drive. And my total came out to just over $13 dollars. As cheap as it seems though the fuel killed the deal. It cost me $71 in fuel for the little Nissan Versa I got. Plus another $49 for a hotel in South Carolina to get some rest. I picked my usual stop on the North/South Carolina border to get some fresh pig wings from Dixie Pig in Rock Hill… my favorite!

Spending the night in Charlotte area was neat because I got to see a ton of Miata’s driving around. There was one sitting by my motel at a gas station when I pulled in. And another must have been dining at a fast food place near the motel when I went to pick up my food. So I quickly posted on facebook to see if anyone would want to meet up. Obviously it was too late to do something that evening, but next day I headed out to a Miata specialist shop in Columbia, South Carolina to check out their NC Miata race cars and the garage. And while there got a message from a Miata owner in Savannah, Georgia to meet up for lunch there. Perfect!

The Savannah Miata mini-meet was kind of funny… I neglected to mention to my new friend that I’m driving a rental car, and he almost showed up in his minivan that is used for car pooling… but I’m glad he stopped home to swap into his gorgeous Miata. Love that color blue!

Great opportunity to meet a fellow Miata owner and to try a new place… never been to Zaxby’s before, and it wasn’t bad.

The rental car though was a solid piece of shit, the only saving grace was the fact I squeezed out over 40mpg out of it on the 1,100 mile road trip.

Wish I could bring a little palm tree home one day… or move to a state with palm trees… like say: Florida?

I think one of these days I’ll just move down there!

Speaking of Florida two of my First Coast Miata buddies came out to watch the races on Friday… but because our schedule was so hectic I didn’t get a chance to say Hello… luckily I did get an opportunity to take a shot of their cars coming back from lunch:

Some great folks from the First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville, FL

And so in closing it was a super incredible weekend. Got a chance to see some awesome machinery going really fast. And some stuff you don’t normally see out and about…. like the Ferrari F40

…which looked almost common parked next to this amazing thing:

So yeah, can’t say enough good things about this trip!

Sunday Fun Day: Ice Cream down the Jersey Shore

Perfect weather today for a little trip down the Jersey Shore for some ice cream! Of course besides my friend Bill and I, everyone else in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York had the same idea… the traffic was atrocious. Everywhere, all the time. But we followed through with it and had a great time hanging out and sampling some delicious ice cream from Charlie’s Creamery in Seaside Park, New Jersey

Originally my plans for this weekend were to volunteer with Team Pocono for the Indycar race at the tricky triangle. Unfortunately for me they did not invite me back. So I had the weekend free to have other fun in the Miata.

We met up at Cheesequake Service Area on the Garden State Parkway. I expected some traffic along the way, and there was some… lots of volume of cars on the road heading south. But when it came time to cross the bridge in Perth Amboy it was just bumper to bumper, it took me half an hour to cover 95% of my trip, and another twenty minutes to go the last two miles to the service area.

Bill was already waiting…

My plan was to continue south on the Parkway until Seaside Heights, visit one creamery and then work our way back up Ocean Avenue to the second creamery in Asbury Park before heading home. But because of traffic that plan was scrapped. So instead of getting back on the GPS, we took the local route, 35 in South Amboy towards Hazlet and Atlantic Highlands.

First stop was at the Navesink Twin Lighthouse park where the skies were so clear you could really see Manhattan and Brooklyn in the distance… no haze or humidity at all.

Part of the big backup on Route 35 before hitting the Ocean was the fact that Sandy Hook had filled up to max capacity. Everyone was waiting in line just to find out the park was closed and then sat around weighing in their other beach options.

The traffic further down the shore wasn’t any better. With pedestrian crossings every few hundred feet, most of the way we were going less than 20mph.

Hey I spotted a Holden Commodore!

The famous Windmill hot dog place…

Lots of cool cars out and about today… the weirdest thing about this Ferrari was a strong smell of burning plastic. We only followed it for a few miles at relatively low speed, but the bad smell coming off this thing was scary!

Gas prices down the shore were all over the board. It varied almost 50 cents between stations for the same grade of fuel. For whatever reason this Mobil was only $2.77 for 93 premium. Surprising!

The further south we went the less the bad the traffic got. As soon as we cleared all the towns with Boardwalks along the way, the pedestrians were less and less of an issue. And the traffic sped up. Obviously! It was a good opportunity to scout beaches to take the family to in the future.

Tons of people at the beach!

And we finally arrived… 2pm ice cream breakfast! Got a parking spot right in front of the joint…. one NJ.com highly recommended as one of the best ice cream parlors down the Jersey Shore!

Luckily the ice cream was very tasty! But since we lost a ton of time driving down here we scrapped the idea of following Ocean Ave back up… instead opting to go directly back to the Parkway and fighting the traffic there. The road was busy but not as much as it would be a few hours later when all the beach goers packed up and headed home.

It was an awesome, nearly 200 mile and $30 in fuel trip, just to get a $5.25 ice cream…

Miata Fiata Radio: Catching up with Sakshik Episode on a Road Trip from Birmingham, AL to Atlanta, GA

Great news, Sakshik is back on the Miata Fiata Podcast!

He was kind enough to let me crash at his new place in Atlanta on my Southern Road Trip, travelling from Birmingham, Alabama today to Atlanta Georgia and continuing onto Virginia International Raceway later on this week.

While in Atlanta, Sakshik and I hit up some Mazda related places like his favorite parts place: MAZMART. And then off we went to sample true southern food at a fried chicken and waffles restaurant. I highly recommended a place I went to last year on my Alabama Grand Prix road trip, we got there and the windows on the restaurant were shuttered… apparently it closed. We went to the next place Google recommended a mile away and instead of soul food it was very snooty looking… so we went to recommendation #3 which turned out to be pretty crappy. But oh well…

Check out the episode where Sakshik and I catch up on our Miata hobby and be sure to tune in later in the week as we interview another Miata fan/enthusiast/racer in the Atlanta area.

 


Miata Fiata Radio – Catching up with Sakshik Episode, Southern Road Trip from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia; Mazmart and Local Cars & Coffee

Feedback welcome!

It was great to check out Sakshik’s other car, a Mazda3… it really inspires me to keep searching for that Mazda SUV I want to get for my mom. Soon I hope!

How a Squirrel Made me Nuts Over the Past Few Days. Power Steering Fix

What a week thanks to a fucking squirrel!

I had such an awesome drive to Texas, in someone else’s car, I guess my Miata felt all neglected back home. It sat unused for about a week… I popped the hood to check the oil level before using it and saw a pile of shit on the battery! Yep… actual pile of shit surrounded by various shells and half eaten nuts. Fucking squirrel! I never had this happen before, in the decade I lived at my current home, this never happened with any of my cars. Even in the three years of my Miata ownership it never happened.

How do I know it was a squirrel and not rats, mice or other rodents? Because the fucker came back to the scene of the crime the next day, and I saw him jumping around next to where the Miata is parked. Oh, the balls on that thing!

I quickly cleaned the battery and the area surrounding it including the overflow tank and the air box. I also inspected the area for any chewed wires or damage to the plumbing, everything looked fine.

But being paranoid as I am sometimes, and having experienced hesitant starts in wet weather a few times. I decided to take the battery out and have it tested at AutoZone to make sure I don’t need a new one. Also started shopping around for a new one and found several deals from Sears that seemed really reasonable so I was ready to buy one.

Took it out of the car. Drove down to AutoZone who tested it. And they determined there’s 89% life left in it. Basically brand new. 12.55 volts, everything checked out. So I plopped it back in and went for a drive.

Didn’t get very far because soon after I left the driveway the steering was a bit harder to turn and it started vibrating, with some vibration noise coming out from under the hood. When I went to check it out the power steering fluid was hissing from under the cap and basically spilled all around the reservoir!

Fucking squirrel!

Of course the squirrel had nothing to do with this issue, I don’t think. Instead I must have leaned on the suction pipe that goes from the reservoir into the side of the power steering pump on the top of the engine. The design is such that one single bolt holds the pipe in place at the bottom. So any pressure applied at the top pushes the pipe down, and considering the O-ring there is 10 years old and plenty worn it starts sucking air in which creates bubbles in the system, making the fluid foam and overflow from the cap of the reservoir. Basically making a fucking mess.

I researched the solution to this problem. Called several places including two of the three Mazda dealers in my area. One was super rude (Mazda of Lodi, I don’t understand why they always have to be such Dick’s??!!) and Ramsey Mazda who were much nicer. And reached out to Mazmart in Atlanta, Georgia area to get a price from them. Despite people on the forums suggesting the new O-ring shouldn’t cost more than $1.50 Mazda quoted me $40’ish plus they don’t stock it so the rebuild seal kit has to be ordered. Mazmart said they could get it in one day and with their discount it would cost me $30’ish. Which seems like a lot. People on the forums suggested checking out local parts stores like NAPA Auto, etc. Which is what I did and picked up Dorman universal o-ring kit for like $3 bux. But alas none of the new o-rings looked identical to the OEM piece. The recommendation was to match one as close as possible and check for leaks… great!

In order to get to the suction pipe and the O-ring, you need to take the Throttle Body off. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to clean mine and see what effect if any the K&N air filter. To my surprise it looked exceptionally clean, the only carbon build up was around the rim which is perfectly normal. I used CRC Throttle Body Cleaner and it did a great job removing the carbon without even using cloth. I spend a while getting it as clean as I could. None of my local stores had CRC MAF cleaner in stock, so I left that part of the project till later.

Bolted everything back up. Jacked the car up to get the air out of the power steering system. And all was good and dry on my test drive.

But fucking squirrel!

I was so confident in my car for this upcoming 2k mile road trip south based on it’s performance on the two Florida trips earlier in the year, now the damn power steering O-ring is making me nervous. Hate to see the car spew fluid out with something that I potentially caused by being careless.

Used paper towels to try to stop the messy fluid from spreading.

This is the culprit of the air getting into the system.

No way to get to it except by taking the throttle body off.

I didn’t realize how dusty my engine has gotten from these road trips

Pretty straight forward removal of the Throttle Body, 4 bolts out.

Not as dirty as I expected it to be, frankly.

Although the grime on the gasket looked pretty awful.

The reason it’s so easy to mess up the O-ring is because of this single bolt holding the suction pipe in place. Lean on top and it bends.

As the O-ring started seeping air in, the fluid level rose in the reservoir going an inch above MAX and staying there!

Throttle body cleaner aspect, probably the easiest part of the job.

Again, not nearly as bad as I expected it to be based on all the horror stories people say about the oiled K&N air filter use.

Sucked the old fluid out of the reservoir.

Took out the old O-ring and brought it with me to NAPA to match.

$2.91 for a whole box of them, thought none were exact match.

This is the closest I got. The one on the left didn’t fit into the power steering pump. The one on the right took some effort but fit.

And voila!

While at Ramsey Mazda I was greeted with a whole assortment of new ND Miata’s on the lot including a beautiful RF model.

Only time will tell if this solution holds up. Fingers crossed for the Road Trip next week.

…Fucking Squirrel!

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!

Foodie Tour: Sampling Minorca Clam Chowder Along the A1A in St. Augustine and Florida’s Atlantic Coast

Today was an interesting day that turned out fantastic.

The First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville was having their monthly meeting which I wanted to attend. I also wanted to use the opportunity to visit Tom at The Parts Group which is on the way driving North from Daytona Beach… but that did not materialize. So instead I decided to take a really enjoyable ride up the A1A, Florida’s scenic route along the Atlantic Coast towards St. Augustine to sample some of their delicious Minorca Clam Chowder.

What is Minorca Clam Chowder?

It’s a red soup similar to Manhattan Clam Chowder but with added taste of Datil Pepper. According to legend the datil pepper only grows in St. Augustine, Florida and on the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain where the initial settlers to the area came from. (btw. Minorca’s neighbors are Majorca and Ibiza if you were wondering). St. Augustine was on my to-do list after the first time I visited it last December. I drove the VW Bettle rental in the opposite direction, from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and really enjoyed that experience although it was a bit sight to see with all the damage to the buildings from hurricane Matthew.

Some readers may also remember my Connecticut lobster roll foodie tour where I complained that this was an expensive endeavor and that I should do a clam chowder foodie tour… Voila!

So multiple birds, single stone. Ticked all the boxes on this trip!

The drive along A1A was really beautiful. It’s amazing how quickly the area rebounded post the hurricane and in today’s sunshine everything looked absolutely beautiful. There are still some damaged beach access steps in Flagler Beach, but overall everything looked in tip top shape. Really makes me want to move to Florida!

I loved the “Welcome to…” signs so I stopped a few times to take a shot with each of the scenic A1A signs.

Lots of beautiful palm trees, and tons of bikes since it is Bike Week in Daytona Beach currently.

Besides the ocean the views of the Matanzas River were stunning.

First Stop: O’Steen’s in St. Augustine

Got there at about 2pm and the place was packed. I overheard there was a 30 minute wait for tables, but I was able to place an order for a bowl of Minorcan Clam Chowder at the window. It was ready quickly. I went for a short drive towards the river and ate it in the car

The soup was obviously tomato based, but unlike Manhattan clam chowder that taste wasn’t overwhelming… at least at this place. The chunks of clam were quite large, and the potato was very tasty. The pepper spice wasn’t too strong and on a cool day like today was quite refreshing actually.

I cruised around St. Augustine taking in the sights, enjoying the view like the countless tourists walking around. Much like St. Pete the old city had cobble stone streets, tight… very similar to those in Spain.

The tide on the river reminded me a little bit of Cairns in Australia.

St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, established in 1585.

Lots of Ponce de Leon references. Famous Fountain of Youth, etc.

The castle looked a lot like the one in Puerto Rico…

Lots of Spanish flags around the city.

Next Stop: Schooner’s Seafood House

The Schooner’s version was a bit more watery. The chunks of clam were much smaller, but chunks of potato and tomato were much bigger.

Onwards!

Oooo… what’s that? Martini Racing…

Final Stop: Singleton’s Seafood Shack

Unlike the first two places in St. Augustine this one was some 30 miles north, past Jacksonville Beach in a town of Atlantic Beach where to cross the St. John river to continue onwards on A1A you must take a ferry. (Oh how I wanted to take that $6 ferry ride with my car… but unfortunately my next destination was in South Jax not in the Northern part).

I was basically running late for my next appointment, so I didn’t immediately dive into this Minorcan Clam Chowder… but interesting observation… it cost a few bux more than the others and was about half the size. I had a bite when I got back to the house in Daytona Beach and the texture was good. I still prefer O’Steen’s out of all the three I sampled.

Driving back I noticed the Martini Racing trucks actually offloaded some interesting machinery on the shores of St. John river.

I pulled over. Asked one of the people standing around there if it was OK to take some pix… the person said “Sure!” and so I did… and them some bloody British wanker voiced his objections… so I said Alright… and walked away. Some dude followed me explaining that they paid a lot of money for those cars to be in a photoshoot for some magazine… go figure! So here’s a low budget, iPhone shot of these cars long before you’re meant to see them in some publication:

Voila… next stop the JAX Miata Club meet at yet another seafood place… stay tuned!

How about a Road Trip to the South: Volunteering MX-5 Cup at Barber in Alabama and PWC at VIR?

I would really love to plan a Southern Road Trip to Alabama and Virginia for some awesome car racing. The trip would be approximately 2,000 miles long and last two weeks with a weekend at Barber Motorsports Park volunteering for the Global MX-5 Cup and it’s parent sanctioning body IndyCar. Followed by a fantastic weekend at Virginia International Raceway volunteering for some classes of the Pirelli World Challenge which would include Sprint X, GTS and the TC/TCA/TCB support series which all feature Miata’s.

How cool would that be?

I think it would be fantastic! But how do I make it work?

Challenge #1: Money!

My concern isn’t just driving down 1,000 miles to Birmingham, Alabama… that’s actually an easy part, and I could make it happen relatively cheaply. There’s only $1 in tolls crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and then smooth sailing all the way down i81 which is my preferred route to travel to Florida. The problem is if I plan this now when I’m still unemployed it would be super tough requesting time off from an employer if I do find a job which obviously presents a predicament… should I make contacts now hoping to be accepted or wait until later time when I know for sure I am not committed to actual paying work… I don’t know.

Both the Barber event and VIR event pay for participation. At Barber Motorsports Park, Flagging by Faynisha organizes marshals. They pay some money which would certainly offset the fuel and some of the accommodation costs involved in getting there. Similarly, VIR pays employees for participation at non-club events. And even though last year both the Global MX-5 Cup and Pirelli World Challenge were under the SCCA Pro umbrella, this year neither one is. The MX-5 Cup went with IndyCar as it’s sanctioning body while Pirelli World Challenge switched to USAC for the same reasons. And that will be interesting to see how and what, if any, will the differences be within the series. I suspect little to none, but I am curious to say the least.

There would be a few days to kill between the event in Alabama and the next event in Southern Virginia on the North Carolina border, which is about 500 miles drive from Barber. I would imagine instead of heading directly to VIR I’d make a few day stop in Georgia and maybe spend some time exploring Atlanta. It’s a nice city with nice food and I would love to have a few delicious meals there, like the amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles I sampled on my last visit to Barber where I flew via Atlanta and spend the night before flying back through Philadelphia (hey, the flight was cheap… $35 bux cheap). Anyway, it would be pretty amazing.

And I think I’ll put this high up on the list of events I’d like to participate in this year.

Since neither event is SCCA sanctioned and neither of the marshal bodies are run by SCCA people, I wonder if I should even renew my SCCA membership this year?

Stay tuned…