It’s no secret that Natty Guy has been a life-long Porsche enthusiast! We recently took an epic road trip, one that any sports car, biker, or driving fan will love. Check out our journey from the Tail of the Dragon to the Porsche Experience Center and beyond.
For our anniversary last year, I got Natty Guy a package at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta. Due to COVID restrictions, we opted to wait a bit to make the trip. Initially, the plan was to fly into Atlanta for a long weekend. However, he’s always wanted to drive the Tail of the Dragon, a well-known driving enthusiast’s road so we decided to take a road trip instead.
Tail of the Dragon
In southern Tennessee near the northwest quadrant of North Carolina there lies a road that legendary drives are made of: The Tail of the Dragon. US Route 129 features 318 curves in a scant 11 miles of roadway. As one traveler along the route commented, “some of those turns are so tight you can read your own tag number“!
While fantastic for drivers, the stellar scenery along the route makes it equally compelling for passengers. For the best experience, travel the route early or late and mid-week when there is less traffic to slow you down. And be sure to stop for your photo op with the dragon sculpture at Deals Gap, near the end of the trail.
You’ll note photographers camped out at many of the most epic curves. They’re from the company Killboy, and you can look for shots of your vehicle on their website. All are for sale and are easy to find based on date, time of day, and make of car that you drive. I especially loved the shots they have on display of semis navigating these corkscrews roads. Keep an eye out for them at the two little shops in Deal’s Gap.
The Tail is something you’ll want to drive more than once! To do so, I recommend staying at the historic Tapoco Lodge in Robbinsville, North Carolina. It’s just 2.5 miles from the thick of the twisty-turnies, by far the closest full-service lodging you’ll find.
This small, cozy lodge offers a variety of rooms, suites, and cabins (two of which are even pet-friendly), in one of the most idyllic settings we’ve come across in the US. Covered parking is available for motorcycles and sports cars.
Built in 1930 by the ALCOA company as part of a nearby hydroelectric project, the property was used as a retreat for company executives and corporate events. Eventually, it fell into disrepair until it was purchased in the mid-90’s. It’s changed hands 2 more times since then and the owners have made many historically appropriate but significant modernization efforts. Today the Lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At your stay, you can expect to find:
- 9 lodge rooms/suites and 18 cabin rooms
- 2 on-site dining options; one that serves an incredible breakfast buffet and another (The Tavern) that offers a full bar and wood stone pizza oven.
- Several outside seating venues, one connected to the Tavern for dining, an upstairs porch for reading/lounging, a riverside area with tables and chairs, and several firepit areas.
- A charming on-site gift shop that also sells firewood and fixins’ for smore’s at those above-mentioned firepits.
- Beyond The Tail of the Dragon, hiking, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking and rafting are activities you can enjoy right from the resort.
Porsche Experience Center – Atlanta, GA
From the Tail of the Dragon, it’s a 3.5-hour drive to Atlanta and the Porsche Experience Center. At the PEC, you’ll get the opportunity to truly appreciate what a Porsche is engineered to do. The center features a:
- 1-mile handling circuit;
- dynamics areas that highlight maneuverability;
- kick plate that mimics inclement weather conditions, skids, and spins via sliding sensors;
- wet, low-friction circle – great for testing over-steer capabilities,
- dedicated low-friction handling circuit; and
- an off-road circuit. NOTE: This feature is designed with the Cayenne in mind.
A vast variety of vehicles are available for testing. Natty Guy tried out the GT3, known for its maneuverability, something this shorter track favors. You can also choose an option that allows you to drive your own car for half the experience and then compare it to one of their fleet vehicles.
Due to ongoing COVID restrictions, the current format is to go through the track events in a coach/leader – student/follower format. Natty Guy’s coach was David Ulbach and we’d highly recommend him. Boy, do these guys work hard! They’re in constant radio contact, giving advice and monitoring other vehicles on the track. This enables each driver to get the maximum possible time at each event station.
Not a driver? You may want to opt for a demo lap. This experience lets you feel the thrill of the track as a passenger while a professional does the driving.
Outside of the track options, you’ll want to leave time to:
- visit the on-site Heritage Gallery/Porsche museum;
- sign up for a virtual race in the simulator lab;
- take a peek at the restoration workshop;
- dine at one of the two on-site restaurants, Restaurant 365 (dressy) or the Carrerra Cafe (casual); and
- pick up some swag at the Porsche gift shop!
BONUS: Porsche Track Experience – Birmingham, AL
Do you still have some life in those calipers or tread on those tires? Consider expanding your experience with a trip to the Porsche Track Experience in Birmingham, Alabama (a 2.5-hour drive from Atlanta)! The Porsche Track Experiences uses a slightly different model than the Porsche Experience Centers. The focus here is on racing strategy and skills development. This track offers introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses. Upon completion, graduates of the advanced courses are eligible to apply for their SCCA full competition license.
Have you been eyeing a car but are yet to pull the trigger? Think about the new vehicle delivery program. For a small additional fee, you can pick up your car in Atlanta, get a dedicated walk-through of all features, experience some track time, and a lovely lunch. Any of the experiences mentioned in this post make for fantastic gift ideas for the Porsche (or perhaps any) sports car/racing lover.
Stayed tuned for future posts that will feature city guides to some of the other places we stopped at along the way. And be sure to check out prior travel posts at this link. Thanks so much for your likes, shares, and follows! Until next time,
Thanks so much for your likes, shares and follows! Until next time,