Purpose: To attend the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at VIRginia International Raceway (Alton, Virginia) with Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT)
Start/Finish: Drive Performance headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- According to mapping services -- 1,957.0 miles
- Actual (with commute to/from hotel) -- 2,141.3 miles
Major routes to VIRginia International Raceway (VIR):
- Wisconsin: Interstate 94
- Illinois: Interstates 94, 294
- Indiana: Interstates 94, 65
- Kentucky: Interstates 64
- West Virginia: Interstates 65, 77
- Virginia: Interstate 77, U.S. Highway 58
Major routes from VIR to Tail of the Dragon:
- North Carolina: U.S. Highway 29, Interstate 40, U.S. Highway 74, North Carolina Highway 28
- Tennessee: U.S. Highway 129
Major routes from Tail of the Dragon to Milwaukee:
- Tennessee: U.S. Highway 129, Interstate 75
- Kentucky Interstates 75, 64
- Repeat route taken from Milwaukee
Fuel consumption: 80.8 gallons
Mileage: 26.5 mpg
I've come to terms with music in the DP WRX. Perhaps it would be more accurate to flip that thought and say that I've come to terms with my hearing. After traveling a few thousand miles with the Genuine Subaru Accessories 10-Inch Powered Subwoofer (made by Kicker(R)) installed, I don't focus on its bass notes anymore -- only to make sure it's playing. The other part of coming to terms with hearing ability is not being able to hear the high pitches that my son plays via a smartphone app; at least I can hear the bass notes.
The subwoofer definitely enriches the audio system's output, just as the performance exhaust system enhances any drive with engine music. Even though the two sets of sound sometimes crosses over each other, they enable the DP WRX to make a statement through the sense of sound.
Tail of the Dragon
This round trip originally was intended only to take me to VIR for the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race in which Subaru Road Racing Team was competing. But I added to the itinerary after studying a map to see how close VIR is to Tail of the Dragon -- an amazing 11-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 129 in Tennessee that should be the mecca for any driving enthusiast.
Tail of the Dragon has 318 turns in its 11-mile span, and they're not for the faint of heart. The 30-mile-per-hour speed limit is too much for some of the turns -- the ones marked for 10 miles per hour, for instance.
Read more about Tail of the Dragon on the Drive Perfomance website.
This trip was all about weather. Through Indiana and Kentucky, temperatures ranged between the 70s (at night) and lower 90s, but once I reached the mountains in Virginia, lower temperatures and rain clouds dominated. What I had hoped to be a journey into early summer became chilly, rainy, early spring.
In the mountains of Virginia on Highway 58 -- one of my favorite portions of road to drive -- rain clouds were low enough to be fog.
Rain threatened during practices and for the race on Saturday. The Subaru team would have benefitted from it toward the end of the race, but it didn't fall until approximately half an hour after the checkered flag.
Later in the weekend, when setting up a video camera for the drive on Tail of the Dragon, threatening rain affected camera location. I had to mount it inside the cabin rather than on the hood.
You'd think that all of this would ruin the weekend. Instead, the overcast skies worked out well for photography, and there was enough grown grass that the mud could be avoided when tromping around VIR. The weather probably kept people away from Tail ofthe Dragon, leaving it more open for those of us who were there.
Notes from the Drive
Driving at Night
There's a wonderful children's book called Night Driving (by Peter McCarty) that's probably out of print now. One of my sons gave it to me because we had driven so many miles after midnight. The illustrations are in black and white, and the story is placed in the 1930s or 1940s, by the appearance of the vehicles. The story celebrates night driving for long distances.
I did some night driving again this trip, and it was wonderful. At a certain point in the night, you realize that you're one of only a few cars on the road. The other vehicles are mostly trucks, and there are few of them. Rarely are there traffic jams or crowded roads. If the moon is right, you have plenty of light beyond the headlamps, and landscapes can be surreal.
AM radio used to be excellent after midnight. You could pull in New York, Chicago, and someplace in Texas. The Texas station had the best music; that's the one on which I first heard "Big Joe and Phantom 309." Look it up.
Stalking DP WRX
I suppose the word stalking is a little strong. People aren't shy about approaching me concerning the DP WRX. One fellow followed me into a parking lot to ask if it was the car in the magazine. Another was picking up coffee at a fast-food place where I was eating breakfast one morning and found me because he had seen the car in the parking lot.
Interstate 64 across Kentucky has some beautiful scenery. If you have a chance, take a tour.
If you drive the Tail of the Dragon and would like some good conversation, stop and see Dennis Dearing at the Dragon Pitt BBQ nine miles north of the stretch's north end, at the junction of Highways 129 and 72. After attacking the Dragon, one of Dearing's BBQ sandwiches tastes pretty good, and you can sit in the outdoor restaurant and watch other vehicles heading for the drive. Look it up at www.punkincenterinn.com.
-- Ric Hawthorne