Sunday, July 29, 2007

NC Tour - Day 6, Sat 28 July: Kannapolis, NC

Our first stop is the Center Grove Lutheran Cemetery to see the grave of Ralph Lee Earnhardt, Dale Senior's father, who hubby met in 1972, a year before Earnhardt's death.
Next stop is Lowe's Motor Speedway (formerly Charlotte Motor Speedway) where we get tickets for the 1:30 tour. We have lunch at the Texas Roadhouse nearby where they live up to the saying, "everything's bigger in Texas" with their generous portions. Willie Nelson and George Jones are playing it one more time.
We tour the Speedway in a Chevy van driven by our enthusiastic guide Frances. She yells "boogity, boogity, boogity" as we tackle the turns at 90 mph.
"Feel The Thrill Tour includes a close-up look at areas that are off-limits on race days. Visit the NEXTEL Cup garage, travel down pit road and take a picture in Victory Circle. The highlight of this half-hour tour is a comfortable van ride around the superspeedway where you will feel the full-tilt force of the 24-degree banking. Feel The Thrill Tours are available on non-event days Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m."
In the evening we meet many of Bruce and Linda's family and friends at her birthday dinner held at Costello's Pizza and Pasta. A good time was had by all.

NC Tour - Day 5, Fri 27 July, 2007: Kannapolis, NC

We get caught in traffic as they're blasting rock on the highway out of Blowing Rock NC. When we stop at the post office in Scotts, NC, to get stamps for postcards, Terry Martin, the clerk, comes out to look at the smart car and we answer his questions. Scotts has that certain southern charm, no more than a whistle-stop on the rusty railroad tracks. Bruce and Linda Clanton warmly welcome us to their lovely home in Kannapolis, NC. We sample southern cooking for lunch at the Townhouse II - the fried okra and crowder peas are very tasty.
North Carolina is the centre of the NASCAR universe and we visit the Hendrick Motorsports Museum in Concord and DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated) in Mooresville. There are several custom cars parked outside DEI, which had been through a tumultuous week after a merger with nearby Ginn Racing. DEI is a shrine to Dale Earnhardt Senior who has the status of an Elvis Presley in these parts.
Kannapolis was once home of the world famous Cannon (and later Fieldcrest-Cannon) Mills. We watch an interesting film and view exhibits on the subject at the Cannon Village Visitor's Centre which was once the Swanee Theatre. The Centre is also home to the The Dale Earnhardt Tribute Center by Sam Bass.
Kannapolis (kənăp'əlĭs) , city (1990 pop. 29,696), Cabarrus and Rowan counties, W central N.C.; founded 1906, inc. 1984. It began as a planned company town and was owned by Cannon Mills (later part of Pillowtex, which went into bankruptcy), known for its production of household linens and textiles. Source:
We pay our respects to the Intimidator at Dale Earnhardt Plaza.

NC Tour - Day 4, Thurs 26 July, 2007: Blowing Rock, NC

Getting on the road early has its advantages. We see groundhogs, skunks, wild turkeys and 25 white tailed deer before breakfast. We stop to take photos of the historic Brinegar Cabin, in the quiet of the mountains, before breakfast at Doughton Park, where we get our first taste of grits. We meet a guy who's brother has land in Cochrane, ON, where my aunt lives. Some bikers from Quebec arrive. Small world.
Our timing is perfect when we park at the North Wilkesboro Speedway which has been closed since 1996. Caretaker Paul Call, who has been connected to the track for decades, kindly opens the gates to let us look around. He chats with hubby while I make friends with his pug dog Belle and take lots of photos. Grass is growing up through the track but the atmosphere persists with authentic NASCAR Winston Cup signs here in the heart of moonshine country.
In Blowing Rock, NC, we have lunch at Knight's on Main - black eyed peas, collard greens with vinegar and sweet potatoes for me. The food and service were great. At the Marian & Robert Hayes Performing Arts Centre we catch the 2 o'clock matinee show about the musical Carter Family - Keep on the Sunnyside. Both the theatre facility and performance were exceptional.
We check into the Boxwood Lodge where we got a friendly welcome and I walk down Main Street looking for signs of Mitford, the fictional town made famous by Jan Karon in her books based on life in town. Blowing Rock is more like Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, or Lake Placid, NY, than Mitford - far more touristy than local. Many of the shops have signs outside saying -No food, No drinks, No strollers, No unsupervised children etc. It sure didn't encourage me to go in and browse. I ventured into the only bookstore I saw and bought a copy of Karon's Mitford Snowmen and the service was indifferent. There are plenty of small towns in the south that are more like the home of Karon's well loved characters.

NC Tour - Day 3, Wed 25 July, 2007: Big Meadows, VA, to Meadows of Dan, VA

We get on the road early and stop for breakfast at Loft Mountain. No grits on the menu yet. In Waynesboro, we stop for gas and use the internet at the public library. As always the smart draws some interesting comments. An old timer tells hubby: "You got a bunch of limey accents." At Kroger's supermarket we buy sandwiches and snacks for a quick lunch then head out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. We cannot find a postcard with the name Waynesboro on it.
"The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. It runs for 469 miles (755 km) through the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Park Service. It is the longest, narrowest National Park in the world and is the most visited unit in the United States National Park System. In many places, the park is bordered by land protected by the United States Forest Service." Source:
At Meadows of Dan, VA, we check into the Blue Ridge Motel, at 2295 Jeb Stuart Highway, just off the parkway, billed as with TV and carpet for $60. The motel restaurant has long been closed so we head up the road to Mountain House Country Buffet. I enjoy a salad, main course of macaroni cheese, veggies etc and dessert. Three courses all for $5.25 - the dinner bargain of the trip. The waitress says, "You're driving that little red car out there aren't you? I had you pegged. They're all asking about it." We top up with diesel at the Poor Boys country store opposite, while chatting to a guy with a Lincoln Continental. We really are in the south now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NC Tour - Day 2, Tues 24 July, 2007: Dubois, PA

After free breakfast at the hotel, we head down I80 and enter the "Chesapeake Bay Watershed". We pass through the villages of Cessna and Bald Eagle, speculating about the origins of their names. The Pennsylvania Turnpike costs us $1.25 as we travel between Bedford and Breezewood. The Truckstop in Breezewood is heaving and everything that is glorious about a road trip. In quick succession we cross the Mason-Dixon Line into Maryland and the Potomac River into West Virginia. At Berkeley Springs we stop for tourist information and take pictures of the 'Roman' Bathhouse. We opt for the lunch special of half sandwich, cup of soup and iced tea for $4.99 each at the Fairfax Coffee House. We travel through Virginia on the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway and stop at the Visitor Centre in an old railway station at Front Royal. There were five passenger trains a day from here to Washington D.C. up until the fifties. The staff are very helpful and curious about the car.
We wrong slotted on the road to Luray after the stop in Front Royal. Marvelous old high-level steel railroad bridges. We back track and finally found the mountain road heading up onto the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. We spot a Turkey Vulture circling above the road, a black bear foraging by the roadside, and five white tailed deer. Overnight at Big Meadows Lodge built in 1939 with stones cut from Massanutten Mountain. The lodge is run by Aramark Harrison Lodging and our CAA card gets us another discount on a room free from television and telephone. We listen to "upmarket Karaoke" in the Tap Room while drinking green tea, after dinner in the restaurant upstairs. Highly recommended.

NC Tour - Day 1, Mon 23 July 2007 : Toronto, ON, to Dubois, PA

On the road at 7:55 Monday morning and stopped for diesel near Grimsby, ON, where the cashier says, "It's hardly worth opening the pump for that", as we spent $14 CND. In the parking lot of Tim Horton's I pick up a cup from the ground and toss it into the nearby garbage can. An older guy calls out to thank me and offers me a doughnut.
We arrive at the Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls at 9:55 and by 10:10 we've cleared customs/immigration and are headed through the burbs of Buffalo. We're stopped at a red light and a guy yells, "Get a life!....It's OK...I'm only messin' with ya. That thing got a radio?"
We pass the ominous looking Gowanda Correctional Facility and head south on Hwy 62. The Racer's Restaurant is billed as "South Dayton's finest fast food" and we stop for delicious frozen yogurt. Through Warren, PA, which is suffering from Walmartization. At the Amish Deli at 70 Fraley Street, Kane, PA, we stop for tea and a home-made scone. Call in or stop by for "Something Wonderful Good." We decide to stop around 17:00 at the Hampton Inn in Dubois, PA, where our CAA card nets us a discount and we get a 10%-off coupon for dinner at the Italian Oven restaurant nearby.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

North Carolina Road Trip

I have been researching the Fuller Family of Sussex for many years and recently have attempted to find the surviving cannons made at their Heathfield Forge, Sussex, England between 1693 - 1793. When I located one at a museum in Beaufort, North Carolina my hubby said, "I'll take you there if you want to go see it". How could I say no?
I've been re-reading Jan Karon's Mitford Series (see my Sabbatical Books blog) which she wrote while living in Blowing Rock, North Carolina so we'll be stopping there too.
Hubby has friends in Kannapolis and Kill Devil Hills, NC and I'm looking forward to meeting them.
We hit the road yesterday and had no problems getting out of metro Toronto and across the border at Niagara Falls. When we stopped for coffee at Tim Horton's, Grimsby, a very polite young man from Virginia asked if he could take pictures of our smart car Trudi. We wish him, and his family, a safe journey home.
Stayed last night at the Hampton Inn, Dubois (say doo-boys), Pennsylvania - amazing value for money. Heading south through Maryland into West Virginia today.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No diesel for North America

The new smart fortwo will be hitting dealerships in Canada in about two months time. The 1.0 litre gas-engined car will be the only model on offer. It will displace the current diesel-powered car, so if you want a diesel get a 2007 model while stocks last.The changeover has been dictated by the US launch of smart where the new model is being targeted at fifty cities. Canadian customers who have been sold nothing but diesel to date will be disappointed by the lack of a diesel option on the new model. A diesel version of the new car will be sold in Europe but is not expected across the pond anytime soon.
Story and photo by RLT

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Smart ForTwo Pure MHD

When it comes to buyers' pockets and the environment, the Smart ForTwo makes a lot of sense as the city car of choice.
By Richard Aucock
What's the smartest way to travel? Well, when it comes to buyers' pockets and the environment, there's no doubt about it - the Smart ForTwo makes a lot of sense - especially as it is about to get even greener.
Three super-efficient models, which promise to save pennies as well as the planet, have just been unveiled...and we've driven them all. Biggest news is the MHD - or Micro Hybrid Drive. This is no battery and electric motor-equipped hybrid, as with Toyota's Prius. Instead, it features a starter generator, which means the ForTwo can stop and restart its engine when needed. Come to a halt and as long as you keep your foot on the brake, the engine cuts out. It restarts as soon as you lift off. The unit also disconnects if your speed drops to 5mph or below, too.
Fuel savings equate to eight per cent on the combined cycle, or 13 per cent in town. And CO2 emissions of 103g/km make it cleaner than a Prius. When this model arrives next year, it will add £300 to the price.
Read full article here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Live Earth" is killing Earth

Concert series doesn't practice what it preaches

Anika Manzoor, Online Staff Writer7/16/2007If we don't think about it, "Live Earth" sounds like a great idea: celebrities from across the globe unite to spread awareness about man-made climate change and how detrimental it is to our environment. Let's face it, whether we like it or not, celebrities have a significant impact on the mindset of the average person. They are considered role models by many, their words have value, so when they say, "The world is in trouble, we need to save it," people are likely to listen. However, this message is deeply marred by the disturbingly huge amount of gas used and pollution expelled to put this event into action.

Matt Bellamy, lead singer of the British band Muse dubbed the event as "private jets for climate change," a sentiment shared by many bands, including Arctic Monkeys and the Who. Bellamy couldn't have hit the mark better. "Live Earth" concerts were spread out through all seven continents, which required over 150 performers and presenters to fly a total of 222,623.63 miles around the world. This figure doesn't even account for the various dancers, technicians, and support staff. And we cannot forget the audience of 1,268,500 worldwide, who certainly didn't walk, bike or use any other mode of environmentally friendly transportation to attend the concert.

What was more unbelievable was the main sponsor of the concert held in Germany was DaimlerChrysler, and the Smart car was the official automobile to transport stars. Greenpeace was outraged at this deal, claiming that finding a more inappropriate sponsor would be difficult. They stated that Chrysler has an average carbon dioxide emission of 186 grams per kilometer, although it has been an industry goal to reduce emissions to 140 grams per kilometer. Greenpeace also pointed out that the Smart car is hardly environmentally friendly, as its original purpose was to "transport two people and a case of beer."

Read more here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Analysts Say This Little Car Is Going to Sell Big (at First)

Smart May Find It Has Limited Appeal in U.S. After First Year
By Jean Halliday Published: July 16, 2007

DETROIT ( -- Are SUV-loving Americans ready for the Smart Car? Even though the micro-vehicle is rather odd-looking, seats only two and tops out at 91 mph, it will be a hit -- at least for a while -- after it hits the U.S. market in January, auto experts predict. But they question its long-term outlook.
Knowing U.S. consumers had safety questions, Smart went on tour to show off its rebuilt body. The timing is good here for Smart due to increased environmental awareness and fuel efficiency, said Vic Doolan, nonexecutive chairman of consultant Courland Automotive Practice, former president-CEO of Volvo Cars of North America and ex-president of BMW of North America. (Smart is designed to deliver 40 miles per gallon, and the brand was an "official global partner" for Live Earth.) Mr. Doolan said another plus is that savvy auto magnate Roger Penske is the U.S. distributor for Smart, which is owned by Germany's DaimlerChrysler.
Read more here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Smart fortwo concept trailers prove fortwo will tow the line

Posted Mar 23rd 2007 9:21AM by Damon Lavrinc

In what appears to be way of addressing the lack of trunk space in the new Smart fortwo, DCX has released a few sketches showing the Smart accessorized to appeal to that overly-pursued active lifestyle consumer.The three drawings (two of which are posted after the jump) include the above boat trailer, a motorcycle hauler and a traveling living space; complete with sink, stove, storage and bed.While all are intriguing, Smart doesn't intend to build these trailers anytime soon. We certainly like the idea, but are a bit worried about getting stuck behind one on our way up to Tahoe.

See source for more sketches.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gordon Murray to Develop Revolutionary New City Car

The name Gordon Murray might not be a household name, but he's theman behind some of the most radical vehicles to hit the road. He was the brainchild behind the McLaren F1, which held the record as being the world's fastest car for quite a number of years, only recently defeated by the Bugatti Veyron. Since that time, Murray has gone back to building lightweight, minimalist sports cars, contributing to the Caparo T1 [photo] project amongst others. The next thing on Murray's list of achievements is nothing less than to revolutionize the automobile once more.
The car will be called the Type 25, the number standing for the 25th new vehicle he's developed. Murray has been pretty tight lipped about what the car will be like, but he's revealed that it'll be tiny – less than the size of a smart fortwo (of which he's a big fan), and will take the form of an MPV microvan, though there are up to 14 different body styles in the making. Regarding the car itself, Murray says, “You don't sit normally in it, you don't get in and out normally, and you don't load luggage in the normal way.” Given this statement, we're not exactly sure what to expect.
Read full article here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

12th Annual Microcar and Minicar Classic

In its first eleven years, this event has become one of the premiere microcar events, with three micro-tours, a huge eclectic gourmet feed, cruise night and a spectacular farewell breakfast. Last year, over 125 registered guests with 70 unusual microcars and minicars and over 1,000 spectators attended the Lawn Exhibit at the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation, in Brookline Massachusetts.
A wide array of really unusual, eccentric microcars and minicars including Isettas, Fiats, Crosleys, Goggomobiles, Messerschmitts, Vespas, Lloyds, NSU Prins', Hondas, Subarus, and others!
Extremely rare and exotic microcars, including a Brutsch Mopetta (in 2000), any number of Messerschmitt Kabinenrollers, a Kleinschnittger F125, a Peel Trident (!), Victoria or a Fuji Cabin.
For more information go here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New smart fortwo BRABUS: More power, still stingy

Posted Jun 28th 2007 7:31PM by Alex Nunez
Smart has introduced the BRABUS edition of the new fortwo, which is available in both coupe and convertible bodystyles. Like the versions that preceded this latest iteration, the new fortwo BRABUS is a trick-looking little ride, sporting the German tuner's Monoblock VI alloys, a lowered suspension, flared wheel arches, and a sport exhaust system. BRABUS pedals, gauges and a 3-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters complete the look. If the Xclusive package is selected, additional skirting is added outside, and inside, the seats are leather-shod and heated, with additional leatherette and aluminum-look elements sprucing up the surroundings.Power comes from a 98-horsepower turbocharged inline 3-cylinder that affords brisk performance (for a smart) with a 9.9-second 0-62 time and a top end of 96 mph. Fuel economy in the combined cycle is 45 mpg even with the extra punch, and it emits just 126g/km of carbon dioxide. Prices range from €16,490 to €22,430 depending on body style and trim packages. Once again, the butchiest-looking smart fortwo is also the coolest of the bunch, and it's still a miser at the pump, to boot.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Miss Trudi meets Mr Lincoln

We went to the Street Classics Cruise a couple of weeks ago and saw some very cool vehicles. When we got back to our smart car, Trudi, a Lincoln Continental (circa 1974) was parked next to her. Check out the 59 De Soto Firedome in the background and its tail light below.

Smart Touts Safety Ahead of U.S. Debut

By MATT MOORE 07.10.07, 2:04 PM ET
The tiny two-seat Smart car is a common sight on the congested streets of European capitals, something DaimlerChrysler AG is eager to duplicate in cities like New York and Los Angeles when it begins selling the vehicle in the U.S. next year.
But alongside the promise of fuel efficiency - the Smart fortwo can get around 40 miles per gallon - and of parking in the narrowest of spaces, the automaker will have to convince American drivers braving roads filled with sport utility vehicles that the micro-car is also safe.
At just 8.8 feet long and slightly wider and taller than 5 feet, it is already one of the smallest cars on any road in any country; it weighs around 1,700 pounds.
Compare that to a Ford Explorer, a sport utility vehicle 6 feet high, more than 6 feet across and nearly 16 feet long, and it's not hard to see why safety might be a concern.
The company touts its safety package: a stiff "safety cell" frame, antilock brakes, side and knee air bags, and intelligent seatbelts that sense motion changes.
Read full report here.