It was just the next year in 2008 when I would have the quintessential Dragon experience. That was the year our youngest son turned 21 and I suggested to my two boys that we take a sort of “coming-of-age” road trip together. At the time I had two Miatas and the Mini so theoretically we would each have a car to drive. Only problem was one of the Miatas was in San Francisco where my oldest son lived at the time. But still with two little sport cars to drive, we were in for some fun.
The start of the Dragon is just about 400 miles from Memphis so there is always the almost day long anticipation just to get there. My oldest son offered to drive the Miata and so my youngest son road shotgun with me in the Mini.
Our trip was at the beginning of May and the weather was perfect.
We made our first run with me in the lead and then my boys swapped so my youngest son could get his first chance to drive the Dragon. My oldest son then acted as paparazzi for us snapping pictures reflected from the right side mirror making it appear we were driving right-hand steer cars on winding British roads.
Our last run of the day, we came across someone obviously on the wrong road or foolishly thinking the Dragon would be fun to drive in an RV.
We capped off the day getting our photos next to the Dragon sign and then heading over to Topoca Lodge where we spent the night.
After dinner, a torrential down pour came and so we made our way over to the lodge game room and shot pool while enjoying a few adult beverages well into the night.
The next morning after a hearty country breakfast, we decided to make two more runs before we headed off for our next destination. After riding in the Mini for the first run, I decided to ride shotgun with my youngest son in the Miata. This then allowed me to become the paparazzi for the drive.
Only my photos came out a bit blurry as my son was taking the turns so aggressively that he had to reach his right hand across the dash just to hold on for himself.
We then made our way to our next destination, Asheville, NC, where we took in some of the usual activities, hanging out in Montreat and visiting the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) where they interestingly had an exhibit on the building of the BRP.
That night, we enjoyed more adult beverages at a pizza parlor in downtown Asheville. We were reflecting on the fun we had had driving the Dragon and then I began to tell some stories of when I had turned legal age. After I mentioned a couple of instances in college where I had had way too much to drink, my oldest son turned to me with a puzzled look and said, “But Dad, you told us when we were little that you had learned your lesson when you had too much to drink.” To which I replied, “that’s correct, I just didn’t tell you that I had to learn that lesson multiple times.”
For our return home, we had planned on taking the BRP South of Asheville as the first leg of the trip but my oldest son was coming down with what turned out to be acute appendicitis. So instead, we took the easier interstate route all the way home.
I know for my oldest son that this probably was not the best memory, as he had to have an appendectomy the day after we got back to Memphis.
I do have several souvenir reminders of these fun NC road trips.
A raised relief map of the Smoky Mountains showing the route of the BRP.
A poster of the Tail of the Dragon showing all of the named curves.
And as a birthday gift from my daughter, a t-shirt of the Tail of the Dragon.
These road trips to NC gave me tremendous satisfaction in driving the Dragon. But the little bit of BRP driving I enjoyed on these four trips left me wanting more of the BRP. And so it was in 2010, I would get that chance (BRP).
But for the Dragon, I think an anniversary trip should be in the future. And since both Miatas and the Mini are now in Memphis, no one would have to ride shotgun and all three of us would get to enjoy driving each run of the Dragon.