We recently moved from Texas back to near where I grew up in New England. As part of the move, Mrs. SSO and I decided to drive the Maserati Granturismo Cabrio and the McLaren 650S Spider respectively the 1,800 miles northeast. This would be the first time Mrs. SSO and I had done a road trip driving in tandem. As long-distance driving is not one of Mrs. SSO’s favorite things to do, the agreed criteria for the trip was we would keep the driving each day to around 500 miles and our nights’ lodgings had to be karenable.
Day 2: Memphis to Asheville
After a wonderful night’s sleep at The River Inn, we were up early as we had 510 miles to cover on day 2. Mrs. SSO headed down to breakfast while I went out to check on the cars quickly. By the time I got to the breakfast room, she was in deep conversation with the woman at the next table who turned out to be a hard core petrolhead. After getting a quick bite to eat, I was volunteered to take Mrs. SSO’s new friend out to take a quick look at the two cars. As we approached the McLaren 650S Spider, I pulled the spare key fob out of my pocket and pressed the unlock button. The 650S Spider remained in total slumber. Crap. I quickly ran up to the hotel room to grab the other key fob, confirming my initial suspension that it was a dead battery in the spare fob. If nothing else, this brief crisis certainly had me fully awake now. With the situation now under control we loaded up the cars, checked out, and plugged in the routing for the day in Waze and both car’s satnavs.
As it was Saturday, I expected a fairly fast transit to Asheville. Our plan called for one petrol stop both mid-morning and mid-afternoon with lunch just outside of Nashville. If all went well, this would put us in Asheville between 4-5pm. Our departure out of Memphis and back onto I40 was both smooth and quick. We settled into a good pace that Mrs. SSO was evidently quite happy with as there were no instances of her zooming past and giving me the “pick it up” sign as per day 1. With little to no traffic, we made very good time to our first pit stop. Coming out of the gas station, I noticed that the routing on Waze had changed and we were now being told to get off the highway at the next exit about 10 miles down the road. I checked with Mrs. SSO and she had same change on her Waze but no change on the Maserati’s build in Satnav which was consistent with the McLaren’s. I looked at google maps quickly and could not see any traffic between us and Nashville, so we decided to ignore Waze and stay the course. All seemed fine as we cruised past the exit Waze wanted to divert us down. Another 10 miles past beneath our tires before all the Satnavs suddenly warned of heavy traffic ahead. Two minutes later we came to a complete stop. After 10 minutes of not moving, I stopped the engine, got out of the McLaren and walked over to a trucker to see if he knew what was going on. Turns out there had been a major accident about 5 miles up the road involving a tractor trailer and two cars. The debris was blocking both lanes and the State Police had closed the highway. All traffic was being directed off I40 at the next exit onto a small country road.
I walked over to the Maserati and updated Mrs. SSO on the situation. After a short discussion and a mutual agreement to never doubt Waze again, it was back to the McLaren 650S Spider. After another 10 minutes of sitting, all of a sudden traffic started moving again. This lasted for about a mile before we stopped and sat again for another 15 minutes. This sequence repeated three more times before we reached the next exit off and were able to head off into the countryside to loop around the accident site. All in we lost just over an hour on the highway and about another 45 minutes on the detours. We eventually made it back onto I40 about 30 miles west of Nashville. Our lunch plans were now completely out the window as we had close to two hours to make up.
Once we had finally cleared most of the remaining traffic, Mrs. SSO and I got on the walkie talkies to discuss a revised plan for the remainder of the day. Lunch would now be a quick stop on the east side of Nashville after which we would see if we could push straight through to Asheville. I called the Inn we had booked in Asheville to let them know we would now be arriving after 6PM. They gave me the instructions for late arrivals and confirmed that there was plenty of parking behind the house.
Navigating through Nashville turned out to be easy as the highway interchanges were all well marked. Once we had passed the airport on the east side of the city, we began the search for a quick place to eat. This was not a small challenge as all the usual fast food outlets were all deemed not “karenable” long ago. In fact, Mrs. SSO and I have only been to one McDonalds together, ever. It was in France many years ago and I still have a picture of the historic, never to be repeated again, occasion. Thanks to Yelp, I was able to find a small Italian sandwich shop that was only a short distance off the highway. Mrs. SSO had her first meatball grinder and after a quick run to the Starbucks across the street for expresso, we were back on road.
The next two hundred miles passed quickly as we made up time in very light traffic. I kept checking the remaining range on the 650S Spider display and it was clear we would not be able to make it to Asheville without one more pit stop. One the very few complaints that I have with the 650S Spider is the relatively small 16 gallon fuel tank. The Maserati Granturismo Cabrio has a 20 gallon tank and on long trips, the extra range is helpful. We pulled off the highway about 50 miles east of Knoxville and found a gas station that had a bit too much rural flavor to be comfortable for us arriving in two European sports cars. We filled up quickly, ignored a few uncomfortable stares, and got right back on the highway.
The rest of the drive to Asheville was brilliant. Shortly before you get to the North Carolina state line, I40 enters the Smoky Mountains National Park and winds alongside the Pigeon River for around 40 miles. This stretch of interstate highway has to be one of the top 10 highways to drive in the US. The combination of lots of elevation changes and quick corners make it both a challenge and a delight to navigate. As we entered this section of I40, I closed up on a Porsche 911 Turbo. As soon as the 911’s driver saw the McLaren 650S Spider in his rearview mirror, the 911 took off like a sculled cat. This was a perfect situation, a great road, no traffic, and a lead blocker out front. I dropped back slightly and held at a distance where I was able to keep the Porsche just in slight as we wound down through the canyon. Mrs. SSO kept pace nicely and seemed to be enjoying herself. This section of the drive was brilliant and quickly erased all memories of the morning’s challenges. In no time we were on the outskirts of Asheville. At this point I did close up and pull alongside the 911 Turbo. I thanked the driver and gave him a big thumbs up right before we headed down our exit.
Our shelter for the night was provided by the Black Walnut B&B Inn in Asheville. I had chosen it based on a few reviews that rated it as one of the top Inns in Asheville. If you are into Victorian décor and lots of tea pots, the Black Walnut is nirvana. We aren’t and the bed was not that comfortable, so our experience was pretty average. What was brilliant was the restaurant we found for dinner. The Nine Mile is arguably the best Caribbean restaurant I have ever been to. It’s almost worth a trip back to Asheville just to go have dinner their again. Breakfast the next morning at the Black Walnut was a French Toast Brulee that was so sweet you risked diabetes just looking at it.
So, after two days and 1000 miles, the Maserati & McLaren had consumed about 50 gallons of gas each, zero oil or other fluids, and not lost a single psi of tire pressure. Both cars had run flawlessly in a range of conditions and actually seemed to be running better the longer we were on the road. Not a single warning light had come on in either car and the only car related drama was an easy to replace dead battery in one of the McLaren 650S Spider key fobs. Supercars have certainly come a very long way in the last couple of decades.
…….to be continued……with a long drive through heavily patrolled Virginia coming up
The Black Walnut B&B Inn
288 Montford Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
Karenable rating: 🍾🍾🍾
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