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Eclipse of the Dragon

Old 08-25-2017, 02:23 PM
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Default Eclipse of the Dragon

Be warned. This is not a short read.

I was inspired by MicVelo’s post, “This is why I drive a Z” in making this thread. It is lengthy, but if you have some time, I hope you enjoy it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, I’m sure that most of you are aware of the “Great American Eclipse” that occurred on Monday, August 21, 2017 where the moon cast its shadowy figure from Oregon to South Carolina allowing many Americans to witness such a breathtaking cosmic event. The first that I heard about it was seven years ago when I met my wife. It happens that through some celestial coincidence, her birthday falls on August 21 and she first learned of the solar eclipse making its way across the US when she was in college about 12 years ago. Every birthday she has not-so-subtly reminded me of how many years until the solar eclipse and whether we were going to the path of totality.

In May of this year, I thought it was best to check for hotel availability and where exactly this “path of totality” was occurring. Based on my research, I discovered that the path crossed through the Nantahala National Forest which is danger close the Deals Gap, NC and the “Tail of the Dragon.”



For those not in the know, The Tail of the Dragon is a small stretch of 11 miles on Highway 129 that has 318 turns.



I couldn’t have been more excited. I immediately jumped on the travel search engine to find accommodations. Almost everything was booked with four months to go. I managed to find a hotel in a quaint little hamlet named Townsend, TN, one of the three gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a staggering population of 444 people.

I ran the idea of driving the Tail of the Dragon by my wife and somehow persuaded her that it would be enjoyable to be thrown around in the Z in switchback mountain turns on her birthday. I guess those years in law school weren’t a complete waste.

Remembering the lyrics of that famous Manfred Mann’s Earth Band song, I realized that some type of special glasses would be necessary. I ordered some glasses for the Missus and I and also got a sheet of black polymer film to fabricate some type of viewing lens for my camera. I already had a telephoto lens for my DSLR, but no solar filters. Based on other customer images of how they used the solar film to attach it to the end of the telescopes with rubber bands or tape, I thought there must be a better way. I ordered a generic lens hood and cut out a circle from the polymer film to secure it to the lens hood with silicone. Voila! Instant solar filter for under $20. Not to mention, I had plenty of film left over since I ordered a much larger sheet than what I needed. This film was legit. It filters light transmission to 1/1000th of 1% and makes the sunlight appear in a red-orange glow.

While I typically fall victim of “over-purchasing,” in this case it paid off. With about a week to go until August 21, I get an email telling me that the glasses I ordered were counterfeit and they were not safe to use. Thanks to price-gougers, eclipse glasses prices skyrocketed from a 5-pack for $12 to a 3-pack for $100 and there was not nearly enough time to get any replacements in time. Luckily, I was able to remove the lenses from the fake glasses and retrofit some of the black polymer film in their place. Great success.



With our 14 year old blind rescue dog in the capable hands of my wife’s brother, and a freshly washed and waxed Z filled with 93 octane 0% ethanol fuel, we left Raleigh, NC on Saturday, August 19 and embarked on our 6 hour drive to Tennessee.





We stopped in Winston-Salem for the night to stay with an old high-school friend and his wife and kids and left in the morning with a slight hangover as these things do tend to happen when old friends get together.

On our way, we drove through Pigeon Forge, TN which was quite an experience to say the least. I honestly have no explanation for this “Myrtle Beach” of Tennessee replete with a wax museum, Dollywood, Ripley’s aquarium, Hard Rock Café, and giant Ferris Wheel. I’m not besmirching Myrtle Beach by any means. I just don’t understand how this place came to be.

I (or rather my wife) also discovered something amiss on the drive. My passenger window switch stopped working. I suppose I never noticed it since the passenger window rolls up and down properly when using the driver's side switch, but the passenger switch does nothing. I'm guessing a new switch is in order or perhaps a good cleaning or loose connection.

We arrived at our hotel on Sunday and I managed to tuck the Z away in a safe spot in the parking lot.



The next morning on the day of the great, much anticipated event, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise that seemed like a good omen for the day’s coming events.



Armed with the morning’s dose of caffeine, we watched the local news and saw stories of people massing in fields outside of Sweetwater, TN to watch the eclipse. In the back of my mind, I was fearful that our trip would be plagued by traffic. We left around 10:30 AM and headed on our way to Deals Gap.



On the way, we passed thousands of people gathering at the scenic overlooks of the Smokies to watch the eclipse.



As we approached the Tail of the Dragon and passed by Chilhowee Lake, the traffic disappeared and we passed a sign alerting drivers of the high risk crash area for motorcycles for the next 11 miles.

I fired up the GoPro mounted on the wind deflector behind the two headrests and we set off.

The road was amazing – loaded with switchbacks and hairpin turns. I stayed in 3rd gear for the most part and occasionally went into 2nd for the 15 mph turns. I managed to get my way into 4th gear twice, but it was short-lived. This road is quite formidable if you don’t respect it. I was caught up behind a truck at one point, but he courteously utilized one of the many pull-offs and allowed us to pass. Along the way, professional photographers (129slayer.com; killboy.com) were stationed snapping action shots that were available for purchase. Needless to say, I had to order some.








The Z handled the turns with style and grace as the mountain air flowed through my hair with the top down as my face basked in the sun of the warm Tennessee day and adrenaline coursed through my veins. I imagine there are few better feelings in life.

Approximately 20 minutes later, we arrived at Deals Gap. There was a plethora of sport bikes, heavy bikes, some cruisers with a few cars scattered around.



Continued...
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Old 08-25-2017, 02:43 PM
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I parked next to a fellow Z driver, but he had a much less enjoyable time on the Tail. It took him much longer than 20 minutes to tackle the road.



He asked me if I had a code reader as his Z completely shut off while driving the night before and the SES light was on. Unfortunately, I could not oblige him. He suspected a failed cam or crank sensor. Thankfully, he somehow managed to keep control and stay on the road after his ordeal.

We set off towards the restaurant and gift shop area.

We stopped to take in the “Tree of Shame” serving as a stark reminder of the riders and drivers over the years who failed to respect the road.



We had a couple beers and returned to the Z with souvenirs after engaging in small talk with others from around the country. We staked our claim next to the fire pit and waited for the eclipse. As we patiently waited, we were serenaded by the DJ with his eclipse playlist featuring many appropriate songs like “Walking on the Sun,” “Steal my Sunshine,” and “Bad Moon Rising.” Much to my dismay, “Eclipse” by Pink Floyd did not make the cut. Fortunately, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was not played. There likely would have been an uprising. In fact, I thought we were close to mutiny when Sheryl Crow's "Soak up the Sun" came on.

The moon began making its way between the Earth and Sun a little before 2PM.



I played with the white balance settings for a few shots.



The sky was not completely clear and a few clouds were scattered around which created a few very ominous shots.





The banana sun cometh!



The “Diamond Ring”



And finally… the big event!



Totality was truly breathtaking. The ambient temperature plummeted about 15 degrees and the nocturnal animals sounded off in full force. The total eclipse lasted a little over two minutes.



Following the eclipse, we stayed around for about an hour before setting back off on the Tail of the Dragon.



The road was a little more congested after the Eclipse so we used a couple of the pull-offs to put some distance between us and the cars in front.





After we completed the Tail on the way back, we pulled off at the lake to take in the majestic scenery and I used this an opportunity for a quick photo shoot.







And my wife wanted to leave a message to our fellow Z drivers.



The journey was truly amazing and made me fall in love with the Z all over again. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you can relate to a similar experience you’ve had with your Z. While the Roadster is often not regarded as the most popular body style and is called names like a “girl car” or the “ugly duckling,” I can’t imagine a more suitable choice for the trip. This is why I drive a Z. This is why I drive a Roadster.

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Old 08-25-2017, 04:39 PM
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Almost as cool as my day, at work... A bunch of dudes came out of a shop I was dropping a car off at with welding helmets on... It was almost as impressive.

For your window issue did you accidentally hit the botton that disables the passenger side window switch?

And just because you must have drank some hateraid.

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Old 08-25-2017, 05:42 PM
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You look like you had a great time, picture quality is amazing.
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Old 08-25-2017, 06:15 PM
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@ Daniel-
Post of the Year!, Bro.

Nice ZR, excellent quality pics in the most revered area of NC. Love the ChargeSpeed kit, mine is going on this wknd.

All the best, and rubber-side down. See you at ZDayZ 2018!

A humble picture to echo your fun,
All the Best!


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Old 08-26-2017, 04:19 AM
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Originally Posted by dboyzalter View Post
Almost as cool as my day, at work... A bunch of dudes came out of a shop I was dropping a car off at with welding helmets on... It was almost as impressive.

For your window issue did you accidentally hit the botton that disables the passenger side window switch?

And just because you must have drank some hateraid.
https://youtu.be/lcOxhH8N3Bo
Thats a good call on the welding helmets. That was actually "plan C" if the black film didn't work out.

I initially thought it was the window lock button as well so I cycled it on and off a few times, but no such luck.

I prefer this version:
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Old 08-26-2017, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by rustyschopshop View Post
You look like you had a great time, picture quality is amazing.
Thanks, Rusty. I'm no professional photographer by any means, but I was pleased with the results.

Stay safe this weekend. I hope Harvey doesn't affect you too much.
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Old 08-26-2017, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by jhc View Post
@ Daniel-
Post of the Year!, Bro.
]
SECONDED!!!

That was easily my favorite post of recent memory!!! Easily beats anything I've ever posted here because of it's soul, prose, subject matter, and concise delivery (unlike someone I know very well, ahem. haahahahaha!)

It took me there. Seriously. Awesome.

My favorite shot..... Liz' note to other Z people!!





PS My bro-in-law just moved back to NC.... Raleigh area if I'm not mistaken. He and your tale of the Tail... just two reasons I need to visit again. Been years (like 30) since I was there last and I certainly never even knew about the Tail until later. Road trip!!
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Old 08-26-2017, 08:47 AM
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@ Daniel-
Kyle Moroney "Likes This", RIP.
He and a friend perished there in a Z34 a few months back.

So wise of you to encourage safety to others, as people do die every year on these roads testing their skills and their machine's limits. Rubber-side down, sir,
All the Best!
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Old 08-26-2017, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MicVelo View Post

PS My bro-in-law just moved back to NC.... Raleigh area if I'm not mistaken. He and your tale of the Tail... just two reasons I need to visit again. Been years (like 30) since I was there last and I certainly never even knew about the Tail until later. Road trip!!
I appreciate the positive feedback! PM me if you wind up in this area. First round (or five) are on me

Cross-country road trip in the Z does sound fun. Although, I'm still not sure how 2 golf bags are supposed to fit in the trunk

My wife thought the ride was comfortable with the recently installed B8 Billys and Hochkis springs. But you likely already know that being the suspension guru 'round these parts. Maybe a trip in the spring for ZdayZ?
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Old 08-26-2017, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jhc View Post


@ Daniel-
Kyle Moroney "Likes This", RIP.
He and a friend perished there in a Z34 a few months back.

So wise of you to encourage safety to others, as people do die every year on these roads testing their skills and their machine's limits. Rubber-side down, sir,
All the Best!
Absolutely. I remember reading that story. He and his friend were so young. Best advice I can give is to not overdrive your car. There's no need to unnecessarily test your limits on such a road like that (or anywhere for that matter).

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Old 08-26-2017, 05:57 PM
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Your post inspired me to get out of town and bring my dslr... No tail of the Dragon but we have some fun roads if you know the right places to turn.


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Old 08-27-2017, 12:45 PM
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Epic thread is epic! Gotta admire the time spent on spinning the story out with all the cool photos.
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by dboyzalter View Post
Your post inspired me to get out of town and bring my dslr... No tail of the Dragon but we have some fun roads if you know the right places to turn.
Nice pic, dboy. Thank you for the homage.

And, I'm glad you took a break from disassembling your Z to enjoy some twisties.
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:45 AM
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Awesome fcking post.
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by SmoothZ View Post
Epic thread is epic! Gotta admire the time spent on spinning the story out with all the cool photos.
Unlike that dork who allegedly, supposedly, had a hand in "inspiring" the travelogue. You know, the one who just tawks cuz he wants to hear himself tawk. Idiot.

Like the above paragraph. Hahahahahahaha.....

But ya, I'm still in awe at the pics n' stuff.
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Old 08-28-2017, 12:00 PM
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Nice documented Journey. Finally hit the Dragon myself that Saturday. Needless to say the Z handled those turns like a boss.
I just moved to Knoxville TN after living in NY all my life and Route 129 is about 20 minutes from my house.
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Old 08-28-2017, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by RedBullRR View Post
Nice documented Journey. Finally hit the Dragon myself that Saturday. Needless to say the Z handled those turns like a boss.
I just moved to Knoxville TN after living in NY all my life and Route 129 is about 20 minutes from my house.
That's amazing you live so close. I'm jealous. See you at ZdayZ 2018!

Welcome to the South! I hope it treats you just as well (or better) than NY life. It takes a little adjustment speaking from my own experience as I'm a Northern transplant myself.
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Old 08-28-2017, 02:54 PM
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I'm truly loving the south so far. So many good things happening.
1 funny thing... I speak to my neighbors at first I thought it was crazy. Coming from NY never once spoke with my neighbors here we actually hang out.
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Old 08-28-2017, 04:18 PM
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I lived in Georgia for a little bit in my early 20s... They people that age didn't really give northern peeps like myself a super warm welcome most the time haha.

Might have had more to do with living in a military town who knows.
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