You Say It’s Your Birthday? Thirty Years of Mazda’s MX-5 Miata!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY!

Our 2003 NB2 Miata

Thirty years ago, in 1989, Mazda introduced to the world the new MX-5 Miata, the two seat convertible roadster that re-invigorated the sports car genre for the common man and woman. Today, the MX-5 is going stronger than ever, with gatherings of Miataphiles all over the world to celebrate the 30th birthday of this happy little roadster.

So here we are, Roo and I, in Bristol, Tennessee, at an event dubbed Zoomin’ the Mountains of East Tennessee to take part in the MX-5 birthday bash.

This five day event is everything Miata. Daily drives to different and interesting venues, car shopping (looking at other folks MX-5’s and seeing what mods they did), vendors on hand plying their Miata wares and, as the event organizer put it, “we’re gonna party like rednecks!” all week. We were afraid to ask.

On the downside, it rained all day, every day. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of the attendees, and it certainly didn’t stop the spirited driving we did in our groups on the beautiful, twisty back roads of East Tennessee and Virginia. No drop top driving on this trip.

We drove to Breaks Interstate Park in Kentucky and Virginia, Abington Vineyards in Virginia, Johnson City, TN and downtown Bristol, which straddles the Tennessee and Virginia state line. The crown jewel of the trip was spending a day at Bristol Motor Speedway doing autocross and hot laps on the track. What a rush! Read the next post for a rundown on that. Here are a few photos from the venues we visited.

MX-5 HEAVEN IN THE PARKING LOT

BREAKS INTERSTATE PARK

Breaks is a state park overseen by both the states of Virginia and Kentucky. Known as the Grand Canyon of the South, the gorge is beautiful, when you can see it! The thick foliage at this time of year pretty much obscures it unless you take a long, difficult hike down (and back up) the gorge.

ABINGTON VINEYARDS

Abington Vineyards is a small Virginia winery that makes wonderful, off the beaten track wines from hybrid grapes that grow in this difficult to grow climate of southwest Virginia. You won’t find the standard Pinots, Cabs and Chardonnays here (those grapes can’t grow in this climate), but instead a variety of delicious hybrid whites, reds, and even a to die for brandy port! The grounds are beautiful, the hosts are wonderful, and they give a great winery tour and tasting of four wines for eight bucks!

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The roads here in East Tennessee and southwest Virginia are tailor made for sports cars and motorcycles; twisty, curvy mountain back roads that just keep a shit eating grin on your face! But one road in particular has you grinning with a healthy dose of nervousness, a place called The Intimidator. And we were to find out just how intimidating it is.

Zoom zoom!

Next Post: Redlining on The Intimidator. Miatas invade Bristol Motor Speedway

On Cars & Motorcycles & Coffee…….A Pictorial of sorts.

The weather over Memorial Day weekend was perfect for my hometowns monthly Cars & Coffee gathering in Greenville, South Carolina. Just like The Meltdown Vintage Motorcycle show that we rave about each year, our monthly Cars & Coffee is a great grass roots petrol fest of two and four wheels. People of all ages; Millenials, Geezers, Hipsters, Gen X,Y&Z, small kids, big kids, dogs…..all coming out to see, smell, and hear the sound of internal combustion engines housed in all kinds of sheet metal skin. As the temps are starting to get quite a bit warm, the usually large canine contingent was noticeably under represented this day.

So, enough words. Here are some of the more interesting, aesthetic, weird, freaky and WTF cars and bikes we came across. Enjoy!

Motorbikes had a good turnout

Modern and Vintage. It was all here.

A Thing? C’mon. Everyone remembers VW’s Thing. Soooo ugly it’s beautiful! And you too, can have this one.

A Cornucopia of really beautiful, really fast cars. Check out the kid, already pointing out the attributes of a Ferrari to his dad.

The French Invasion: a weird little car is this Citroen

The weirdness continues……………..

In the market for a beautiful, upscale, Italian Roadster? Alfa Romeo 4C. Where do I sign?

Back to the Bikes

You want patina? This guy’s got patina. Used to be called rust.

We’ll end with the freak in the room……………. WTF?

 

 

Land of the Noonday Sun

Nantahala. Cherokee language translated as land of the noonday sun. And that is quite precisely the only time that the Nantahala Gorge sees any sunshine, that small window of yellow light as the sun climbs over the easterly mountains to its zenith, and then immediately begins its westward descent, and the gorge is once again enveloped in shadow.

I was just up the mountain in Western North Carolina, attending the 10th annual Honda NC700 owners gathering at the Kickstand Lodge, a great place to moto camp or rent cabins when in the area. It is located in Stecoah, North Carolina, in the middle of nowhere between Robbinsville and Bryson City.

Kickstand Lodge

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The grounds are beautiful, the staff very friendly, and of course, there is a camp dog. Newly acquired at only four months old, this is Jo-Jo, a chocolate Lab. She loves belly rubs, and yes, that is my hand she is using as a chew toy!

Jo-Jo

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My riding this weekend would have me on two fantastic motorcycling roads: Wayah Road, accessed from the Nantahala Gorge, and the Cherohala Skyway, an indescribable twisty, 50+ miles one way from Robbinsville, North Carolina to the little hamlet of Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It had been years since I had ridden either of these roads. I was pumped. Both are very scenic, and, as I was zoned in on the curves on the Cherohala, I neglected to stop and take photos! Here are a few from Wayah Road:

Wayah Road begins its ascent up to Wayah Bald, where a hard pack dirt road and short hike will take you to the summit. I elected to forego the summit, having been there before. I was getting hungry, and Franklin, North Carolina was at the end of the road. So was lunch. The descent into Franklin is a nice twisty two lane, but caution is advised, as the in and out of sunlight plays tricks with your eyes and a crucial curve may be missed. How those Isle of Man TT guys do it I’ll never know. Finally pulling into Franklin and searching for a parking space on Main Street, I came upon this:

A car show!

As much a car guy as motorcyclist, this was a moto weekend, and I was hungry, so I passed the car show by.

Back in the saddle and onward to Tennessee via the Cherohala Skyway. As mentioned previously, no photos: I was in such a sweet spot winding through the Skyways curves that I didn’t want to stop and break the spell. What a fantastic road.

It was a long day in the saddle on curvaceous mountain roads. Seven hours and 230 miles later I was back at Kickstand Lodge and sufficiently tired. A shower, a couple of beers and dinner with the guys put a great cap on the day. Oh, and we found the true location of Sasquatch.

If you’re ever in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina, check out these roads. And stop in at KSL and say hey to Jo-Jo (don’ forget the belly rub!).

 

THE MELTDOWN!

Spring! Our favorite time of year. Not only is the weather wonderful for introducing my motorbikes wheels to some lean angles again after a shitty winter, but end of April marks an event Roo & I wait for all year. Putting rubber to pavement in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the Ton Up Club of Highlands stages a fantastic vintage and café motorcycle street show: The Meltdown.

I have expounded profusely about this grass roots, family oriented, all-comers show in this blog every year. Young bikers, old bikers, non-bikers, women, kids, newbies, dogs. All gather here to ogle over beautiful vintage iron in all stages of preservation or restoration. And the majority of them  are ridden. No trailer queens in this group!

Southern Appalachian Brewery offers up food trucks and their excellent libations, while in their courtyard bandstand two or three bands play good old rock n’ roll and rock a billy, befitting the era of these motorcycles.

Oh yeah. THE MOTORCYCLES!

DID THE KING OF COOL RIDE THIS BIKE?

The Meltdown is a very Cool moto show. The bikes here are Cool. Way Cool. One motorbike in particular could be The Coolest. Not because it is exceptional, it is. Not because it is an uncommon ride, it is. But because it may have been ridden by the King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen.

It is known that McQueen had an affinity for the Rickman Metisse, and is believed to have had one built. If it was this particular bike, no one knows. What is known (from the current owner) is that Bud Ekins, McQueens good friend and stunt double in The Great Escape, did own this particular Metisse. So, it stands to reason that during Ekins ownership, McQueen could have thrown a leg over this Rickman. Did he or didn’t he?  We’ll never know. But it’s Cool to imagine that the King of Cool just might have.

IF YOU MADE AWAY WITH THIS BIKE, YOU COULD TELL YOUR FRIENDS YOU’RE TAKING A WHIZZER!

RANDOM MOTO PICS

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As mentioned earlier, this is a grass roots event, showcasing bare bones motorcycling as it was in the 60’s and 70’s. Real bikes, real people. No poseurs (bikes or people) were to be seen. No riders dressed like pirates or space aliens. Almost all the bikes we saw were ridden to the show. Of the very few that were not, they were trailered by vehicles like these. Doesn’t get any Cooler.

THE CAR ENTHUSIAST IN US WAS SMILING:

A HOT ROD

AND THEN, NOT SO MUCH. A JUSTY??? IT ACTUALLY DROVE HERE!

Our time at the show was winding down, and we needed to head back down the mountain to the waiting beagles. But there was one more machine that caught our eyes that we had to see up close and personal. It put a smile on our faces, even though I was only five or six years old when this motorbike came to the US. Roo wasn’t even born yet. But we knew the history. This bike changed the course of motorcycling in America, and changed Americans perception of motorcyclists and motorcycles forever. It was a Honda, and Honda’s marketing team hit a home run with their “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign. It was the Super Cub, and it’s back for 2019.

2019 HONDA SUPER CUB

” YOU MEET THE NICEST PEOPLE ON A HONDA.”

See you at The Meltdown in 2020!

Life on the Orient Express at Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival

World War I had just ended, hard times for most everyone in Europe. WWII was within sight, and sandwiched right in between was the Great Depression. Tough times for nearly everyone here in the States and Europe. However, for Europe’s upper echelon and the ultra-rich, these decades were to become one of the most opulent and exciting the continent had ever seen. Two words capture the period perfectly: Elegance and Speed.

1939 Delahaye Type 165 Cabriolet (web photo)

Roo and I were really excited about this exhibit here at Hilton Head. The cars during this period were just extravagant works of rolling Art Deco. But they performed also. As was written in Britania.com, “Speed took on a new form of social significance. Someone who lived fast lived well…and incautiously. Moreover, speed also implied elegance.”

1938 Dubonnet Hispano Suiza (web photo)

The Elegance Class here at Hilton Head featured English cars like Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Jaguar, French cars such as Bugatti, Delahaye, Voisin, Spain’s Hispano-Suisa and Italy’s Issotta Fraschini.

The Speed Class showed “open” cars that were deigned to travel fast like Jaguar, Peugeot, Dar’l Mat, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia. These sporty cars were as luxurious as their saloon counterparts.

1938 Talbot Lago T150-C-SS (web photo)

These were the automobiles owned by the same people who rode the Orient Express, the super fast, super luxurious rail line that people with means chose for long distance travel.

As mentioned, these were extravagant automobiles designed to showcase the Art Deco style of the time. Long and low, sweeping flared fenders with running boards, beautiful swooping wheel covers. These cars were built to make a statement, and they did, loud and clear. Roo and I drooled over these masterpieces of fine art.

This was the most opulent exhibit in the Motoring Festival, with doscents and car owners alike dressed in period costume as they walked back in time to the 1930’s.

Well, as if planes, trains, and automobiles weren’t enough, how about………… boats! Beautiful wood boats from the early days of power boating were also on display here.

Power boating in style 

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BEST IN SHOW

Sunday was wet. We didn’t stay long. But the show must go on as they say. So we stayed long enough to see the Best in Show award given to this beautiful 1931 Stutz.

1931 Stutz DV32 Convertible Victoria

RANDOM BITS

There was so much to see here at Hilton Head. Here are a few random pics of other great looking and interesting automobiles.

This is a great Concours event to put on your calendar. Besides the Concours itself, this is Hilton Head! You’re on a beautiful island, gorgeous beaches, golf, hiking, bicycling, history, nightlife. Who needs the Caribbean?