The question of the day is: What's a driving tour without great roads, a wide assortment of fabulous cars, and a bit of "adventure" (feel free to substitute the word "drama" at your discretion)? Our June 26 tour created by a motorcyclist had all of that and more.

Our staging area at Sav-Mor market in Burnsville provided ample sunshine and socialization opportunities as 17 cars filtered in, bearing 22 participants.

No one was setting any clocks to our departure schedule, but knowing that our lunch spot would be most crowded early in the noon hour, we opted for a casual roll-out. By 10:20 all cars were on the road, enjoying the relatively cool breeze and deep shade along much of the route. Following US-19E and the twisting Cane River through the wooded landscape kept us on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest, until we finally crossed the stream to probe deeper into the Forest.

Passing road work zones with generally absent crews, we proceeded mostly unhindered up towards the Tennessee line, at which point the road became silky smooth yet riotously twisty! This made for a euphoric run mostly downhill, with steering bearings nearing the smoking point! Or was that brake fluid being heated to the boiling point? When Allen Peerson and Bev Davis announced on the radio something to the effect of all the breaks in our group being gone, it at first sounded like good news... We had a nice, tight bunching of cars. Except, what were those visible gaps showing in the drive group through the rear view mirror? The next announcement made clear what no one wanted to hear: their brakes were gone!

Never one to become perturbed, Allen stayed calm and carried on, using lower gears and the parking brake in his 1982 SC to continue as though this was all quite routine. Bev denies pouring Allen a cup of Earl Grey to keep him from dozing off until he rolled in to our comfort stop in Erwin, TN, though he clearly was more mellow than anyone had a right to be. One wheel turned out to be very hot to the touch, suggesting a stuck caliper had overheated and boiled the fluid to create a compressible vapor bubble, leading to no brake resistance. After letting the wheel cool down and then driving back home on their own, with returning braking capability (which they used a total of 10 times I'm told), their mechanic confirmed a badly worn set of pads most likely caused by a stuck caliper.

Disaster averted, Edward and Martha Rayneri stepped up to fill the vacant sweep position for the return to Burnsville. We were soon on TN-395 and back in the curves through the rest of Tennessee and into NC, where the road follows parts of the Nolichucky and N Toe Rivers. In NC the road becomes Route 197, which could have led us on a clean shot back to Burnsville. Except... Some slow traffic ahead of the group (including a tractor trailer) was laboring down the mountain, and stomachs were beginning to growl. When the truck finally took a right turn, the lead driver was thrilled to see the offending truck deviate from our course. Ah, hold on, the truck stayed on our course, it was us who deviated when we should have remained in the truck's slipstream.

Now some people are fans of improv. I... er, the errant lead I meant to say, was on the spot to pull off something innovative... Making a U turn would not be an attractive way to improvise, and besides, surely any way south that wasn't on that truck's rear end would certainly be an improvement. So improvise we did, adding maybe 15 minutes to the tour, less the time we would have been trailing the truck. So we doubtless actually improved our time, while getting to explore the likes of Route 226, Wing Rd, Snow Creek Rd, and Route 80- all exceptionally fine roads with great character; truly it would be a shame to miss any one of them!

 

Timing for the arrival of the second group at Pig and Grits turned out to be impeccable, as the first group had taken complete control over the waitstaff by that point and had procured adjacent tables where both groups could thoroughly enjoy a delicious lunch together. Especially tasty was the lemonade; if the day dealt anyone a lemon or two, that became a sweet reminder of what great things can come of some unexpected ingredients thrown in to make a routine plan really sing! Many thanks to all who attended for rolling with the circumstances and for making the day memorable (in a good way).


Doug Menchhofer – Appalachian Region Tours Chair