View Full Version : NC mountains tour 2011

09-05-11, 06:31 PM
Ever since my cousin moved out of Maine to NC, I had been meaning to visit him. It never really worked out. He liked the roads so much down there that he sold his C5 Z06 and got a Lotus Elise, which is actually better suited to public roads where a good chassis is more important than power to weight ratio. I'm over a year into ownership of my 05 V and between finally having a truly good car for running in the mountains, and the first baby on the way sometime next year, I thought it was finally a good time for a road trip like this. So, I left my wife to fend off Irene (yeah, I know - but on the plus side, we never lost power, nothing fell on the house, and my antenna even stayed attached) and headed to NC two Wednesdays ago (24th) with a friend, on our way to Charlotte.

These are decent road trip cars, aside from not being as commodious as, say, a 300C SRT-8 or a G8 GXP. We discovered that the cruise control seems to impact mileage by as much as 2 MPG, which is a shame, because cruise is nice on a long trip. But, having pulled down unprecedented mileage figures on this trip, such as 25 or even 26 MPG, perhaps it is worth it. Just about all of that was with A/C use. Speeds were reasonable, like around 70. Speeding on a road trip like that is just dumb, especially for an 850 mile one-day affair. Too draining, too much risk.

Earlier in August I had my car on a lift all weekend and, with the help of my father in law, did a new steering rack (for play, which is still there, IN THE RACK), CS mounts, and a starter. I haven't even posted about anything but the rack. The mounts have more vibes but I am starting to get used to it. Overall I prefer the feel. The new starter....starts, consistently. In preparation for the trip I also did Goodridge stainless hoses, and flushed with ATE superblue. I flushed the clutch a few months ago, and the PS fluid was obviously brand new. Did an oil change just days before leaving (I like GC 0W-30). I was mostly prepped. The only thing I didn't get to was the new Brembo pads I got from Luke. We looked at my drilled rotors and decided I should just use the HPS pads up on these rotors, then change everything. So I left them.

I'm sure some of you have driven this much in one day, but it was a first for me. Honestly, with a co-driver, it really wasn't THAT big of a deal. The last ~2 hours I was definitely starting to drag, but I can at least report that I found the seats extremely comfortable.

I also managed to talk an XM CSR into a free 3-month trial subscription, so we'd have some other tune options. Problem is, XM sounds like crap, and for all of the stations, there must be, at most, 6 or 7 that I'd ever listen to. If it was CD quality, I could possibly see paying for it. Also a V drove by while I was arguing with the XM lady. He acknowledged me, I was scowling on the phone....sorry.

This happened:

Other than some epic traffic in PA, and some not-as-epic traffic in a few other places, the drive down was ok. About 15 hours from RI.

Thursday morning on our way out west we stopped at this old school alignment guy in Charlotte. I made the mistake of assuming these cars had eccentric bolts for caster and camber. They do not. He spent 20 minutes telling me how cheap GM is, though I kind of had to agree. The reason I stopped here is because, despite TWO attempts at a Firestone on a fancy Hunter rack, the steering wheel was still not centered. This guy discovered that my caster and camber was actually set fairly optimally, with over -1 at the front. The rear toe, specifically, the thrust angle, was wrong. He corrected it by creating a sight down the rear sidewalls to the front tires. I was skeptical but it actually corrected the steering wheel back to the right, which I can live with. He drove the car with me afterwards and was very complimentary of it. He was a European car guy and was very pleased with the ride/handling of the FG2 shocks.

So with that dialed in, we motored west, following the Elise. Here's a multi-car-trip tip: get 2-way radios. They are WAY fun. We had some Motorola MR-350R's, and I had the optional mic thing, which is sweet.

The first road we drove was very curvy but had some of the worst pavement I've seen. Nevertheless, the Elise began to run so I did my best to keep up, much to the dismay of my co-driver. The chassis kept itself planted but it was more hairy than fun.

We also did some Blue Ridge Parkway on the way.


One strange and alarming thing that happened here is that I began to smell raw gas from my car when we stopped. It was concentrated at the driver's side rear door area. It made me really nervous since we had literally days of hard driving ahead of us. I regretted not having a fire extinguisher. Maybe it was the climb, because it really was never an issue for the rest of the trip. Fix't?

I forget what else we did, but our end goal was the Dragon. We checked in at Fontana Village, dumped all the luggage, and made 2 evening Dragon runs on Thursday.

The thing about the Dragon is, it's really the best thing ever. Ok, sure, these cars would prefer higher speed sweepers to some of these ridiculous corners. Yet, I am confident that I was able to give the car a complete and total workout. And by workout, I mean WOT until it was time to brake, then brake HARD, turn, and roll back onto the throttle, toward WOT, as the corner opens up. Repeat 318 times. I was following the Elise much of the time, and that was one hell of a challenge. It took a pass before I really got warmed up but when I finally remembered to use Competitive Driving Mode, and use ALL of second gear, I put in a damn good showing to the Elise. Granted, he had the disadvantage of leading, and I'm not saying I was glued to his rear bumper, but these cars can REALLY dance. I must credit the FG2 shocks (installed by the previous owner) and newly purchased Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. I am confident that both were pivotal in turning the car into a sophisticated, confidence inspiring, capable runner. Here's what you get at the end of the Dragon, at the TN end:


This was very typical of most of the weekend:

I did get a few questions and interest in the V (to include the quintessential "wow, 6-speed manual" "that's all they came in" "really? wow!"), but with the Elise present, it's very hard to compete.


Everything runs the Dragon, especially cruisers. More of the time, they will point you by, which is courteous.


This is where you come out for the cool down (or should I say, heat soak....):


But man, the view:

To be continued...

09-05-11, 06:33 PM
Back on the NC side (Deals Gap):

As far as mechanical integrity, I think the car did very well for itself, considering it had somewhere around 107k here. I did have the classic PS fluid puking but other than some token wiping, I kinda just let it be. I brought many fluids but it made no sense to top off. It seemed to eventually find a much happier level so I just monitored things. All other fluids were good. I had no radiator leaks, at all. I DID feel the clutch get heavy at many points along the road. But since my slave is probably 15k old, and I have flushed it multiple times since I bought the car, the only thing I needed to do was engage it once in a while, then it was fine. It never stuck or did anything else bad. The Dragon is basically a 2nd and 3rd gear road and I was using ALL of 2nd gear once I got into the pace of things. I saw oil temps of up to ~280F but I think that is acceptable. I was having too much fun with the car to slow down anyway. I think it's great that the chassis and brakes are good enough so you really can use all of the engine, which is unlike a muscle car.

I eventually was able to read the road and if it was banked a certain way, I knew I could charge into the corner and hit WOT mid-corner, for the coolest feeling in the world. You can just walk right up to the limit in this car and it feels great. I am still only on Thursday (our drive lasted until Sunday), but through the entire weekend, I had not one moment where the car got out of hand. I think that says a lot about the chassis (shocks, tires, alignment). G peaks, as I mentioned in the other thread, were 1.26g <--> 1.17g, which are new highs.


Then we made another run. This time, my friend drove my car and I rode along in the Elise. After the run, he parked next to us and, well...


The Elise is, almost exactly, half the weight of the CTS-V. With a little under half the power. As such, it is just a tad slower in a straight line. We discovered that I can just slowly reel the Elise in out of corners.

Then I started looking at the car and got a gratuitous wreath and crest shot, with bug:

But FAR more interestingly, it was after the second pass that I noticed GOLD CALIPERS!


Here are the rears, for color comparison:

Yep, the Dragon turned my calipers gold. I'm pleased that the HPS pads held in there. The ATE fluid did its job, despite repeated heat soaking at the end of each run. I smelled brakes a few times, but no smoke, and the pedal stayed nice and firm. In fact, my friend, after running the car for the first time, jumped out and exclaimed "the brakes are amazing!" I said "wait until I get the stock Brembo pads on there, someday..."

That is the end of my Dragon shots so I'll just do the rest with text. We exchanged cars a few times, with me driving the Elise, and with my friend driving the Elise. Here's the problem with the Elise: it makes every other car feel like a turd. I was so thrilled with how good the V was feeling, then I ran the Elise. Wow. What a car. So dialed in. And you can actually approach the limit, in spite of the weight and wheelbase. That's a sign of a good chassis. The brake feel sucks, though.

The worst part, however, is getting back into another car; any other car. I got back into the V for another run and it took probably 2 minutes to get adjusted. The damn thing felt like a truck! I was wrong on almost every input for the first few turns. That's how different the Elise is. I warned my friend, who probably thought I was just rambling on. He drove the V after the Elise and when we finished the run, he came out of the car grinning. He said I was right about getting back into the V.

I haven't purchased any shots yet, but the V and Elise Dragon shots can be seen at the following places:

Killboy Dragon Friday:

Xtreme Dragon Thursday (start at page 18):

Xtreme Dragon Friday (start at page 2):

D&C Dragon Friday (start at page 2):

Moonshine Dragon Friday (start at page 2):

Of particular interest is this shot:

I am leaving that rubber from my rear tires. As if that wasn't cool enough, the same guy got us coming back the other way (at the same corner, obviously), with my marks in the shot:

That was Friday morning. This old lady in a Mini wouldn't move over for half of our last run. The worst part is, she moved over for the Elise, but NOT for the V. She seemed to be "driving hard" so, meh.

Another note: these cars do need more tire pressure when really running hard. I ended up at what was probably around 35 or even 36 psi cold front and perhaps 34psi cold rear. Could have even used a touch more. Toward the end of the run, it felt like the rears were getting a tad greasy, but only a tad.

To be continued...

09-05-11, 06:41 PM
So we left the Dragon and headed slowly east, on our way to Asheville.

Here is some TVA hydroelectric dam thing:

Kinda post-cardy:

V, Elise, electricity, water and gravity (gravity and water not shown):

No problem.

Then we climbed to the top of the dam, and parked, which is probably not allowed, but no one bothered us.

18mm wasn't really cutting it to show 485-some-odd feet of drop, but I tried:

So I switched to 12mm:

Which makes everything look cool:

Water shown (gravity still not shown):

Look, I made a stock photo. I think I'll name it "power lines:"

To be continued at NC-80...

09-05-11, 06:58 PM
We stopped here to chat up the nice photo people (Blind Kenny). We also met up with my cousin's GF, sporting a 2006 Cayman S (I know, right?).


Here we are chatting away:

This was the grouping for the rest of the weekend:

Did the V fit in? Well, technically, I suppose not. Can the V run with these cars on twisty mountain roads? You bet your ASS it can. Though, fair warning: when the Elise got out of my sight, that was it. I could never catch up unless he backed off. If I stayed with him, I could keep up.

This was the corner Blind Kenny was setup in:

I tried some 12mm action shots but they kinda sucked. I needed to be in the middle of the road, with a little less shutter speed. But here are my attempts:

This was the only time my cousin drove the V. I knew how it would feel to him after driving his Elise up to this point, so I wanted him to drive it longer to appreciate it properly...

With the 12mm still on...

Finally it was the Cayman's turn.

After listening to all 3 cars approach this turn while climbing the road behind and below us, we all made the following aural observations:

The Elise, with the Larini exhaust, sounds like FIVE sport bikes. So loud, so fitting.
The V, with the Magnaflow, is just awesome. I nailed it through a bunch of tunnels on the Blue Ridge and the Elise reported, over the radio, that they could hear my exhaust, and I was BEHIND them. Nice.
The Cayman S, with the stock exhaust, sounds like a vacuum cleaner and a blender with a brick in it. Hopefully an exhaust can fix it.

To be continued...

09-05-11, 07:07 PM
Mount Mitchell was now in our sights.


The drivers:

Highest point east of the Mississippi. And socked in, big time.

No, really.


I'm not making it up:

FOG (I don't know why I like these, but I do).

Neat fact: the nav altitude was only ~20 feet off that of the sign at the peak. It was fun watching it climb during the trip, though I had a surprising amount of GPS signal issues. Mountains.

To be continued...

09-05-11, 07:21 PM
On our way out of Asheville, we stopped at Lake Lure.

New place? Time for another V shot. There was some biker thing that had just finished when we pulled in around mid-day.

It was pretty nice. Irene was basically smacking down New England at this point...

The sign explicitly said no feeding the geese, but people obviously did, as they swam right up.

More post cards.

One day I'll get a shot with the horizon level.

So that's pretty much it. We drove back Monday, the 29th of August.

Some fun mileage facts:
Highest tank was 26 MPG.
Lowest tank was 9 MPG.
After filling up and running the Dragon, the DIC said 7 MPG, but that tank came up to 9 after some non-hammering.

Total miles driven: 2500 miles. Average mileage: 20 MPG.

During the hard driving, the Elise was running a little less than twice my mileage, which seemed to make sense. During non-hammering, it was nowhere near twice, though. Also, the Cayman S was running only ~1 or 1.5 MPG higher than my V. A little over 100 more HP and 900 more lbs in the V, so I'll take that.

So it was a success, and a blast. I also completely avoided the hurricane aside from some windy conditions Saturday night in Asheville. No rain. I left before it and came back after it. Wife and house were fine...hey, I planned this trip long before Irene planned herself.

09-05-11, 08:04 PM
Wow. What a great trip! That area is one of the reasons I moved to the upstate of South Carolina. Glad you had a good time and all is safe on the return home.

09-05-11, 08:17 PM
Cool trip, thanks for sharing! I ran the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway back in Dec '05 in my Subaru (http://www.submariner.org/thepno95/Pictures/Cross%20Country%202005/Cherohala3%20-%20snow.jpg), and really need to get back down there while I'm stationed in the Mid-Atlantic and have the opportunity. The V would love the Cherohala - while the Dragon is all tight switchbacks, the Cherohala is all high speed sweepers.

Just to clarify, you were saying the cruise control was costing you MPG? I guess I've never really tried cruising without it, so I don't have anything to compare to. I'll have to try it the next time I take any sort of road trip.

09-05-11, 08:33 PM
Yup, I've never seen 25-26mpg highway before. Try averaging around 70mph without the cruise (lose a little up and add a little down). Cruise mileage seemed to top out at 23 or maybe 24. It was fairly warm, so without A/C, and with a tune, maybe this car could see 27 or even 28. That would be awesome.

09-05-11, 09:34 PM
Just did the Tail and Cherahola in July in the V2. Twas awesome...

09-05-11, 09:39 PM
BTW, whose blue V is that? It looks familiar...

09-05-11, 10:26 PM
Whose is it, or whose was it?

09-06-11, 10:51 AM
Great trip write-up. I missed you by two days at the Dragon. Your pics came out pretty awesome. You've got quite a bit more sway in your pics than I did. I wasn't leaving any tire marks either. Sounds like you guys had a great time. Wish I could have met up.

09-06-11, 10:59 AM
Sweet write up.....looks like a blast! Awesome pics!

09-06-11, 01:08 PM
That looks like so much fun. I wana do these kinda trips but I need a spare first. haha

09-06-11, 01:51 PM
Nice trip. The V belongs on the open road.. I enjoyed the perspective on the elise. Good pics too.. Unfortunately I'm on the armpit side of tennessee so I don't get to visit the smokies very often :(

09-06-11, 11:25 PM
Whose is it, or whose was it?was.

09-07-11, 08:02 AM
Rich from the STS-V forum...

09-07-11, 10:37 AM
That looks like so much fun. I wana do these kinda trips but I need a spare first. haha

Haha, I did my trip without a spare. I was a little nervous about it, but it worked out ok... fender rub and all. I just got my spare wheel in the mail yesterday.

09-07-11, 11:12 AM
Great post. My wife and I go to NC often and this spring was our first road trip with the V. We did the bourbon/whiskey trail and spent some time on the parkway. We did the dragon a few years ago just to do it but I'd love to take the V back.

09-07-11, 03:12 PM
I have no spare either, just four brand new Michelin PSS's (and the 150 mile free tow that comes with them). I just put vital fluids in the spare tire well instead.

Ironically, I was driving home from work a few days after getting back from the trip, and got a nail in the left rear. It's patched and back on the car but...wow.