For as long as I've frequented forums I've enjoyed seeing pictures and reading details from road trips, track days, Euro deliveries, and other adventures. While I suspect that I'm not alone in this regard, to date I've not "given back" and shared my own experiences of the same sort for a couple of reasons. First, I've never been the picture/video type. My philosophy has always been that obsessing about taking pictures and/or video while involved in something memorable and impermanent detracts from the real experience itself. Nothing grates me more than the interruption of a fleeting event/moment with the inevitable "can we take a picture?!?!" and "Oh my god! There's an xyz! where's my camera!? Where's my camera!!??"… Secondly, I'm probably self-absorbed and lazy.
Well, this time around I chose to do the opposite of my norm. Accompanied by my relatively new iPhone, I committed to documenting the trip. I'm happy that I did.
It's a drive that I've done a few times before -- Michigan to Bonita Springs, Florida. About 1500 miles straight down I75. I've made the trip previously with my E39 M5, a 335xi, and this was my first time with the M3. (Long story short on the comparison front -- by the time I reached Georgia I was yearning for the relative comfort and quiet of the M5, on my 5th gas stop I was reminiscing about the 335's 400+ mile range, and after my first lap at Homestead in the M3 I wasn't thinking about either.
I have no pics from the trip down as it was fairly unremarkable. Oh, and for about the first 500 miles I was in a god damn multi-state deluge that required my total concentration. Not just a rain shower, but raining buckets… like, I could barely hear my radio with the rain hitting the windshield… for 500 miles. This threw my timing off, sent my blood pressure up, and I got stuck in both Dayton and 'Natti morning rush hour traffic.
Did snap a pic of the on board computer trip summary once I was nearing my destination. Not bad on the mileage and average speed. I find the mileage average to be perhaps a bit optimistic, but not by much. Arrival ended up being about midnight, and I departed that morning at 3:00 a.m., so about 21 hours, which is pretty good considering the first 1/3 of my trip was slowed significantly due to weather and traffic.
Not a lot of photos to share from Bonita Springs/Naples over the first few days, but I did make it to Naples Motorsports where they had one of these… EPIC in person. The 458 Italia, SL65 Black and other exotics in the showroom might as well have not been there.
After a few days it was off to Miami Beach for a couple of nights with my fiancÚ. Beautiful, vibrant place…
Never a shortage of exotics in Miami Beach…
Lineup outside Smith and Wolensky at South Pointe -- S63 AMG, E63 AMG, Bentley Flying Spur Speed, SLS AMG Vert. First time I'd seen the SLS in person. Way better than in pictures, in my opinion. Wish I had a better picture of it in particular, but the valets were eyeing me, so this is all I got.
On my way out of Miami back to the west coast, we made a stop at Velos Designwerks for a tune. Details can be read here: Got the Velos Designwerks tune.
Two days later it was track time at Homestead. Up early for a blast back across Alligator Alley.
Approaching and arriving at Homestead… out of my mind with excitement. I love track days, and this was my first time out after the Michigan winter.
Some serious machinery on hand as would be expected at a track that is a stop for many race organizations. Advanced group looked like a Rolex race with some Nascar sprinkled in.
These fellas were running in the Intermediate group (http://ngtmotorsport.com/
). I got buzzed by them more times than I can count… good god they were fast. Difficult to describe -- missiles basically. Cannot truly appreciate unless you're on track with them.
Picture from the garage between sessions. Very cool that they open these up for use during the event. Would have been a hot and draining day out in the sun otherwise.
I only filmed one session, and this was my only uninterrupted lap of the session. Not my best lap, not my worst. Having never been to Homestead I was kind of freestyling it, experimenting with lines. This was also my first time on track with the M3, and it held up really well. I did all 5 25 minute sessions. No issues whatsoever, and my "Stage 1" brake upgrade from EAS did the job. I wasn't crazy about how my Contis performed. They were definitely a limiting factor. Really quite an advanced Intermediate group. I got the impression that most were track regulars, and my M3 was probably the most stock vehicle in the group. Seemingly everyone had coilovers, tires, bbk, etc.
Great event overall, and I really liked the track. I'll look to return sometime next year.
After the event it was back to Bonita, and then time to head for home a few days later.
Rather than drive straight thru on my return trip, for the first time I contemplated stopping at the halfway point. My family, worried about my potential fatigue, has long suggested that I do so. I was resistant to the idea at first, and then it occurred to me… isn't there a famous motorcycle road in Tennessee somewhere? Ah yes, the "Tail of the Dragon." Looked into it and realized that it's only about 50 miles east of I75. With that I decided that I would stop for the night, and see what this road was all about first thing in the morning..
The next morning I awoke in Ooltewah, TN. (Yes, you read that right. Ooltewah, FTW.) From there I headed up I75 20-30 miles, and took an exit into the shockingly beautiful Tennessee backcountry.
Few pictures en route.
Arrival at 129.
The route/road on the nav. The plan was to take it all the way to the North Carolina border, then turn around and head for home. 318 turns in 11 miles I think it is.
On 129 heading toward the mountains and the twisties.
Quick photo op roadside with "Marissa".
Stopped at a scenic overlook a few miles in. Came upon it suddenly. Stunning.
And the point of, well… return.
INCREDIBLE road. I think I'll go back just to drive it for a couple of days. Highly recommend.
From the TN-NC border it was an 11 hour drive back home to Michigan. Fantastic trip, awesome car. End of journey.