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Awesome Appalachian Adventure....

Discussion in 'North & South Carolina' started by wthensler, Nov 12, 2020.

  1. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Apr 27, 2015
    1,333
    FL and BlueRidge Mtns.
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    William
    Just wanted to post a few pics from our fall extravaganza tour of 7 states in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast region in the 458 spider. With my wife as navigator, we covered just under 3,000 miles in some of the most beautiful parts of seven states - NC, TN, VA, WV, SC, KY and GA.

    We encountered some of the loveliest and most challenging roads along the Appalachian mountains and through forests which included Monongahela, George Washington, Jefferson, Pisgah, Mount Rogers, Cherokee, Nantahala, Chattahoochee-Oconee, the Canaan Valley and The Great Smoky and Shenandoah National Parks.

    On our journey, we viewed incredible mountain vistas, beautiful flora and mountain streams and rivers, dramatic waterfalls, witnessed fall foliage in multiple states, and spent 8 nights on the road. Our travels took us through some of the most beautiful areas of nature and to some of our most elegant resorts, to the poorest regions of Appalachia, and of course, the tallest peaks east of the Mississippi.

    You folks in NC/TN have some of the best twisty, curvy and steep mountain roads in the Appalachian region. I tried to select some of the most awesome, challenging roads out there, have a Ferrari experience of a lifetime, give the car a real workout, and arrive home unscathed.

    During the journey, since we spent so much time in the car, much in challenging driving, there were lots of things I discovered about the 458. In general, it is a fabulous car, and I will try to post them in the 458 section as I get the chance.

    Many of the best Ferrari stretches of roads had little traffic - so we mostly had them all to ourselves - both long open roads and tight, twisting mountain passes. A dream come! Except for a brief, rainy few hours, which we spent at the Greenbrier having brunch, the fall weather was outstanding!

    In no particular order, in NC/TN we drove or visited......

    The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)
    An absolutely beautiful stretch of road that runs 470 miles from Cherokee, NC to Afton, VA (near Charlottesville). We did most of it, much of the ride is directly on the ridge itself, at elevations between 2,500 and at some points, above 6,000 ft. I can’t say enough about the scenery, the general condition of the road, the varied terrain, and the open and twisty segments of road as well as tight switchbacks and curves. It can be a great Ferrari road, and there is no fee to ride on the BRP, but there is a 45 mph speed limit, and is more heavily traveled with folks pulling into and out of numerous overlooks, so exercise caution.

    I love tunnels and there are 26 on the BRP, the vast majority close to and south of Asheville, NC. Twenty-five of the twenty-six tunnels along the Parkway are in North Carolina. The longest is Pine Mountain Tunnel at 1,464 feet in length, but be careful, as many are curved, and you’ll be going from blinding sunshine to complete blackout!

    Not on the BRP, but part of another really great loop (The Snake) in TN is shortest and coolest tunnel.....Backbone Rock in Johnson County, TN. Do yourself a favor, park and get out, walk along the top.

    Exotic Cars, Anyone?
    In our 3,000 miles of travel, with the exception of The Greenbrier, I saw zero Ferraris, one Lambo , teo McLaren (on I-26), one C8, and a few Porsches. Fall, beautiful weather, lustful roads, and not enough exotics. By way of full disclosure, Andy (AD211) brought his 488 to the BRP, but we were too distant to hook up. Next time, Andy!

    Cherohala Skyway and Tail of the Dragon
    These two classic roads were among the most challenging days of mountain driving. If I had to pick ground zero of some of the best driving on the trip, it would start at the Tapoco Lodge in TN, where we spent three marvelous nights. From there, it’s easy access to the full 138-mile route (we did it clockwise), deviating a bit to include The Hellbender (SR 28),then the challenging SR 143 until it meets the Cherohala Skyway. Don’t miss the Skyway - it’s a more open, relaxed drive, and you can decide if you want to stop along the way (we did). The 43-mile-long Skyway eventually plugs directly into SR 165, and once you’ve on it, take the six mile deviation to visit Bald Falls, an outstanding work of nature and a great place to chill for a bit (well worth it!)

    On the return, next up is the infamous Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile section of US 129 that’s known for its 318 curves. The curves on the section of US 129 leading up to the Dragon are less intense and allow moments for side glances of the verdant countryside. After crossing over the Cheoah River at the base of the Cheoah (aka Fugitive) Dam begins The Tail - and 11 miles of heaven (or hell). The Tail is unique because it borders Great Smoky National Park, and there are no interfering driveways or intersections. If you’re going to drive The Tail hard, it takes utmost concentration, and you will be exhausted! Dragon’s curves end at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort on the North Carolina and Tennessee state line. Deal’s Gap has a “Tree of Shame,” with its Christmas-tree-like ornaments of motorcycle parts recovered from riders who tempted the Dragon and paid the ultimate price.

    I ran the Dragon a total of ten times in both directions (Race Mode), but then noticed the electronic nanny comes at a price - it was holding the car back under duress. I could really feel the tires and electronics working, but found small pockets of brake dust on the rear wheels after each run. A real workout for the car, LOL!

    By the way, you can ride SR-28 south of Franklin, NC. I believe it’s called Moonshiner, and is a very challenging stretch. Watch out, that guardrail is awful close!

    Smoky National Park and Clingmans Dome
    This is a gorgeous view, but heavily travelled and one I would have skipped in the Ferrari. Too much attention and parking was a hassle.

    Enjoy the pics and sorry for the poor write up. I had a better one that I accidentally deleted, now too tired to redo.......
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  3. jdlegg

    jdlegg Karting

    Dec 22, 2009
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    Bryan
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    James Legg
    Looks like you had a fantastic trip! I did the Dragon a few years back while touring colleges for our middle son -- in a rental minivan! The kids enjoyed the ride. My wife not so much. She puked at the end of it. :)

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  4. AD211

    AD211 Formula Junior
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    Aug 19, 2017
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    Andy Davis
    Great trip William and amazing pics! We’re gonna catch up with you guys on your next one!


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  6. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Apr 27, 2015
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    My wife wasn’t so keen on it either. Eventually she set me free and I did run it on my own. I don’t know what is more unsettling - having guardrails close to your car, or having nothing at all!

    In any event, I couldn’t believe I had it mostly to myself, except the Saturday we left. The entire complexion changed as folks descended on it like flies, LOL!
     
  7. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    We certainly will! If it were up to me, I’d get one more trip up there before it gets too cold. I can’t say enough about the roads compared to FL......
     
  8. BT

    BT F1 World Champ
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    Mar 21, 2005
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    Bill Tracy
    Great trip, and nice writing. I see you hooked up with Travis in the half wrapped Lambo. His mountain driving group here has over 600 members now, and the last drive had 56 cars. It is a bit large for my taste, but they seem to have a good time. My opinion is that it is only a matter of time until something pretty bad happens, but hopefully not. I have been coming up to the mountains of this area for about 15 years, and I don't really get tired of it. I used to drive a Ginetta for fun, and it is probably the best car I have driven on these roads when the weather is cool and clear, but also glad I sold that car without losing my life in it. Now I drive either an S2000 or an Alfa 4C for fun, both are quick and engaging in very different ways.
     
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  9. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Apr 27, 2015
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    Thanks - yes, I met up with Travis at the Lodge, and he took some pics before he left. I actually prefer to drive these roads solo, or only with one or two other vehicles at most. I saw a precession of Corvettes stuck behind a slow-moving van and thought - that can't be any fun at all!

    A Ginetta must have been a hoot, as would be a Cayman (we saw several). The 458 is a bit overkill, but IMO doesn't lay down enough rubber to really mash it (I had new Michelin 4SPS tires).

    It seems the old Miatas with wide tires and oversized wings is the standard here. Some folks do take lots of chances on these very twisty roads. You certainly don't need an exotic to have a blast, but they tend to be far and few between (except Corvettes and Porsches).

    The Skyway is far more open with long sight distances and offers spectacular views (much more to my wife's liking and I made sure to accommodate her with multiple stops along the way).

    What kind of shocked me were the shear number of spectators setting up lawn chairs and coolers directly off some of the most dangerous curves on the Tail. As exciting a seat as it must be, this is a substantial (huge) risk, and certainly not worth losing your life over.

    Anyway, these are fantastic roads and we'll be back again come spring. The Tapoco is scenic and has gated security, if not lacking a bit on the food side.

    Another area to re-visit would be the area around Mt. Rogers and Shady Valley, TN. Those are easily accessible from my mother-in-law's home which is north of Charlotte (I towed the 458 from FL to there and then onwards to Tapoco).
     
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  11. RedlineG60

    RedlineG60 Formula 3

    Dec 25, 2003
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    Andy Thomason
    Someone say S2000?! I daily drove one for 8 years. Absolutely loved that car.


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  12. RedlineG60

    RedlineG60 Formula 3

    Dec 25, 2003
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    Andy Thomason
    Ha! Small world. We saw that wrapped Huracan on I-85N last Saturday morning as we were headed south to Road Atlanta. We also had dinner last night with the guy that wrapped it lol.


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  13. BT

    BT F1 World Champ
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    Bill Tracy
    I bought my first S2000 9 years ago (an 06 Laguna Blue). Last month I added a 2008 CR delete in Apex Blue Pearl. They are simply awesome cars with fantastic engineering. Definitely the best bang for the buck. The Alfa is way faster and a real hoot, but not nearly as confidence inspiring. Great looking car though with lots of fun sounds and good thrust.
     
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  14. nicholasn

    nicholasn Formula 3

    Nov 7, 2013
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    Nicholas
    I've always wanted one, but the S2000 market is starting to encroach on the Elise market, and I am a big Lotus fan....

    Any issues with yours? It would have to be a daily driver for me, at least for the near term. I've seen numerous examples with 150k+ miles (some over 200k), and it's a Honda so I don't envision too many issues, but always good to hear from actual owners themselves.
     
  15. RedlineG60

    RedlineG60 Formula 3

    Dec 25, 2003
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    Andy Thomason
    I literally drove mine everyday here in Greenville and never had any problems (other than our crappy roads). I changed the oil regularly and maybe did a few other normal wear and tear things but I had it from 60k to 190k miles over 8yrs. It was black, lowered with a hardtop, Volk wheels, and a few bolt ons.

    I’ve driven a lot of cars and I still claim it to be one of the best feeling transmissions ever.

    But y’all are right. Now there is an “S2000 tax” on it. Especially if the miles are somewhat low or it’s a CR.


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  16. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Apr 27, 2015
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    William
    With all due respect, SC had the worst roads we encountered in our tour. SC has relatively cheap gas and could impose additional gas taxes to fix them. Just don't do what NJ did (raised gas tax under the promise of repairing roads and didn't fix diddly).
     
  17. RedlineG60

    RedlineG60 Formula 3

    Dec 25, 2003
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    Andy Thomason
    You ain’t kidding!!! It’s amazing when you go up Caesar’s Head and then cross into NC and it’s literally brand new pavement. Or you go to GA and as soon as you cross over Lake Hartwell they’re in the middle of repaving now. It’s so frustrating.


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  18. BT

    BT F1 World Champ
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    Mar 21, 2005
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    No issues at all. I have put 50k miles on my first S2000 (mostly pretty quick mountain miles), and the car just keeps on going. Currently with 115k miles, I would not be surprised if it goes past 200k without issue. As a daily driver, they are reliable, but the seats are only comfy for about an hour. Also, the steering wheel is not adjustable, so make sure it feels good to you before buying.
     
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