A British Invasion of Cars, Bikes, and a Beagle

So whats with the Italians? Is this a mob movie? I thought this was a British car show. Well, it is, and The Italian Job is a part of it. But more on that later. How’s this for now?

More befitting the British Invasion. Asheville, North Carolina is host to the British Car Club of Western North Carolina’s big motoring event every October, Autumn in the Mountains British Car Show. British cars of all stripes, vintage and new, fully restored and not, descend on Asheville from all over the southeast and beyond. A mall parking lot is filled with these fantastic vehicles from Britain’s automotive and motorcycling history (see previous post). Roo and I were in heaven, and to make the day even more enjoyable, we came across another Brit car enthusiast: a beagle!

As we made our way into the plethora of British automotive excellence, Roo, Don (a Porsche driving friend), and myself were giving a Morgan the once and twice over, when Roo let out a scream; “It’s a beagle!” and took off running across the parking lot. We lost Roo. We caught up with her later (still with the beagle).

This is Ginger the beagle, and he drives in his dad’s Morgan everywhere!

I have always been drawn to British sports cars, having owned a Triumph Spitfire way back when. So whenever I see a vintage British sports car, it lights a fire in me. As a matter of fact, it was a Brit sports car that got me hooked on this automotive genre when I was 13 years old: a Jaguar XKE convertible roadster.

The car that lit my sports car fire: Jaguar XKE convertible roadster

 Triumph Spitfire 1500

So many gorgeous cars were here, it took us a few hours to negotiate them all. Granted, though, we do like to really look deeply at the cars and talk to the owners, whose stories are usually quite interesting and entertaining. Below are some of the cars we saw, in no particular grouping or order. Enjoy the gallery.

The Italian Job – Mini Cooper S

The Italian Job is a 1969 British comedy film which featured many Italian and British cars. The movie was also remade in the U.S. in 2003 with modern versions of some of the same cars used in the original film. A Lamborghini Muira, Aston Martin DB4, E-Type Jaguars, Alfa Romeo Guilia and Mini Coopers were all showcased in these movies.

The Mini Cooper S, a high performance Mini used in the films is the only Mini  privileged to wear the Italian Job badge.

Motor racing driver John Cooper persuaded the Mini’s creator Sir Alec Issigonis to let him produce a high performance Mini. Sir Alec didn’t believe it would sell. The car was an immediate success. The powerful Cooper S was a big hit, as was the film.

 

There’s The Show, and then, There’s The Bike Show……Brit Bikes in the Carolina Mountains

 

The show was the Autumn in the Mountains British Car Show in Asheville, North Carolina (post forthcoming). But, the show  were the British motorcycles on display. However, I was a bit disappointed at the turnout of bikes. Granted, it was a car show after all, and the motorbikes were the red headed stepchildren at this event. However,  what did show up was excellent: two 1970’s Triumph Bonnevilles, an awesome looking Triumph X-75, a very cool Rat Triumph, and a Norton Commando.But where were the other great marques like BSA, Ariel, Vincent, JAP, and AJS to name a few? They’re out there. Just not here. I’m sure we’ll see them in upcoming vintage bike shows we’ll be attending. Enjoy the Gallery.

POO

Poo. Poo is Nirvana. Poo is satisfying. When you arrive at that “ahhhh” moment, everything slips away as you feel your body completely relax. No matter how you felt pre-Poo; exhilerated, anxious, or just plain focused on the task at hand, your arrival at Poo is nothing short of elation. And Poo is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. There is nothing distasteful about Poo.

 Peaks of Otter. Poo. Located approximately ten miles north of Bedford, Virginia. The Peaks of Otter are three moutains in the Blue Ridge Mountain chain; Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. The Lodge is situated right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 85. This is our third trip to the lodge; twice by motorbike and once, this trip, in our MX-5.

SHARP TOP

After a spirited drive up and down the Back of the Dragon (see previous post), we headed east and took the back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. This area of Virginia is stunningly beautiful, and the lodge property is as well. It was here, way back in 2006, that we had a magical bear encounter with a female bear and her two cubs. A photo hanging in our living room that Roo took at the time showing momma bear and her cubs looking right at us with no fear or aggression at twenty feet away reminds us of that magical experience.

The grounds here at the lodge are gorgeous, invoking a sense of calm and peace the moment one arrives. We parked the MX-5 and didn’t drive for two days, electing instead to chill and hike the many trails both on the property and the surrounding area.

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The restaurant on site serves wonderful cuisine in a rustic mountain atmosphere. A fiddler is playing in the lounge, and the music filters through to the dining room as Roo and I enjoy a bottle of wine from a local vineyard. A perfect ending to a great day of driving as we walk the trail around Lake Abbott in the moonlight.

The next morning we awake to a gorgeous Virginia morning, and prepare to hike to the summit of Sharp Top mountain. Sharp Top peaks to just under 4000 ft. in elevation. A 1.5 mile trail takes us to the summit. That doesn’t seem like a very long trail, and it isn’t, as the crow flies, but this is 1.5 miles with a lot of vertical.

Another View Of Sharp Top

The views from the summit are breathtaking! We could see for miles. And it was very, very, cool and breezy. I was dressed for seventy-five degree temps in a fifty-five degree atmosphere with a wind chill of another five to eight degrees. Brrrr.

I reached into my pants pocket to retrieve my camera to take photos of the beautiful surroundings, and came up empty handed! I left the camera in the room. Below are a couple of web photos of the summit of Sharp Top:

There is also a cabin at the summit, built in the 1880’s, that was used as an overnight rest stop for hikers and travelers of that era. The National Park Service had just finished restoring the cabin this year.

Another historical structure on the Poo property is Polly’s Ordinary. An “ordinary” was the term used in the 18th and 19th centuries for overnight accommodations for travelers in the area. Nothing fancy, just a place to drop your bedroll and get a simple meal. This was a popular area for travel and recreation even back then.

A full day of hiking, beautiful weather, another wonderful meal in the on-site restaurant and one last evening walk around Lake Abbott, left us pleasantly tired. Tomorrow we begin our journey back to Wytheville and the Trinkle House B&B for an overnight stay, via the Blue Ridge Parkway and some of Virginia’s best twisty roads. Then its back home to South Carolina and the anxiously awaiting Beagles.

Another satisfying Poo experience. If you ever want to make a trip to Poo, check the area out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 85, Bedford, VA, and have your own wonderful Poo experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Climbing on the Dragon’s Back in The Commonwealth

Back of the Dragon. VA16, Marion to Tazewell, Virginia. Thirty-two miles, one way. Three mountain ascents and descents. Untold number of sweepers and tight hairpin curves. Beautiful vistas. The tag line is a snub at the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina/Tennessee: “Eleven……Try thirty-two.” This is one freakin’ fantastic road!

This is a sports car enthusiasts paradise. The county here is trying to market this road similar to the Tail of the Dragon, to increase tourism in this rural section of Virginia. Marion is a small town, Tazewell even smaller. The nearest town of any size is Wytheville, a 20 minute hop on I-81, and it is small. The surrounding countryside is absolutely gorgeous.

 Roo and I took this trip in our Mazda Miata MX-5, and this post is appropriate to appreciate what this road can offer to motorcyclists. My Honda NC700XD will get its crack at the Back next year.

Now thats one happy MX-5!

Vistas from the Back

The Road

This road has everything to keep the sports car enthusiast entertained: sweepers, tight hairpins, offset camber curves, three mountains to traverse, oh, and a nice little coffee shop in Tazewell to caffeine up for the return thirty-two miles to Marion.

Tazewell, VA

 The views are beautiful………

and the road is fantastic

It was raining on and off, so a drop top drive was not in the cards today. Exhilarating none the less.

Our base for the Dragon Drive was the Trinkle House in Wytheville. A beautiful B&B that sported very reasonable rates in a restored house built in the 1880’s. A truly relaxing place to chill with a glass of wine on the veranda after dueling the Dragon beast. A short walk to downtown Wytheville brought us to dinner, then a walk around downtown had us seemingly in a time warp in small town 1950’s. Back to the Future re-visited.

THE TRINKLE HOUSE 

 Tail of The Dragon vs. Back of the Dragon. A comparo: 

Both of these roads have their appeal. The Tail of The Dragon in North Carolina/Tennessee is a technical road by virtue of the continuous curves thrown at you, many of them blind and off-camber. At eleven miles, it is short, so multiple runs over a day or weekend are a must for maximum enjoyment of time spent. This, of course, decreases the challenge during each run as one becomes proficient at “learning” the road (depending on speed and other road users).

The Back of the Dragon in Virginia is challenging due to it’s varied and undulating terrain. Significant elevation change, off-camber curves, sweepers and switchbacks thrown at you in random fashion. At thirty-two miles, it’s a long road. An up and back run is sixty-four miles. That’s two hours at a reasonable speed. Do a double run, and you’ve spent half a day with a grin on your face. One really doesn’t “learn” this road unless you live on a nearby farm and drive it everyday. Lucky you.

I love them both. However, the nod goes to the Back of the Dragon as the preferred of the two. The surrounding Virginia countryside is gorgeous. The road’s varied terrain is appealing and challenging, forcing the driver to make use of all his/her mountain driving skills. And after just a single run of sixty-four miles, you feel satisfied and pleasantly tired.

Do try to get to VA16 and The Back of the Dragon before it becomes another marketing success, if that happens at all. This is a very remote, rural section of Virginia, so what if it doesn’t happen. That’s better for those of us who found it and can enjoy it without the crowds.

Expanding The Motoring Horizons

Change is constant, we are told,and although it doesn’t seem like it on this blog, the reality is our adventures have modified a bit. Periodically, those of you who follow this blog see a post thrown in with our Mazda Miata MX-5 Roadster as the main character. We have had the little four wheeled sport bike going on two years now, ever since Roo has not been able to ride a motorbike due to back surgery. The MX-5 has become her “motorcycle.”

This change coincided with the motorbike downsize from my Honda ST1300 to now, my Honda NC700XD, which I ride solo. Even though the method of conveyance changes from time to time, the intent is the same: to have fun blasting back roads and touring on two wheels or four, seeing interesting places our readers might like to visit, and reporting on motoring events we attend.

 

So, we decided to combine our passions of touring by motorcycle and sports car into one blog site. Many motorcyclists are sports car enthusiasts and vice versa. Content will continue as mentioned above, but beginning with the next post, the site will be            re-named Motoring Adventures. Categories will also change to make it easier to find specific motorcycle or sports car content.

We invite you to continue to follow us on our adventures, and although some trips will be driven in the MX-5, the roads taken will all be motorcycling roads!

“Everything will change, then will change again”

-Tom Petty