The story behind my Tail of the Dragon picture

Fixing the Civic

We managed to beat the tow truck to Heyward’s garage. While waiting for the Civic to show up, we got a quick tour of the garage and the Honda collection. What I didn’t realize was that Heyward had a few decades of SCCA Solo history right there on the property, with three STS cars present, the Acura Integra that served as a track beater for some of the National TT staff for a while, and a clean CRX that was destined to become a Tuner 5 track car.

The Civic arrives at Heyward’s garage.

But the Civic eventually arrived, and the tow truck driver did a masterful job of backing down the driveway and placing the Civic nearly perfectly into the empty garage bay. We slowly pulled the Civic completely in with makeshift wood ramps and a jack. Once inside, Kevin got to work on the car.

Getting to work on the Civic.

It took but a few hours to take an upright from the EF shell that was inside the garage and put it on Kevin’s Civic. We installed a spare axle on the car, and the car was ready to roll once again. We took all of Kevin’s stuff off my tire trailer and out of the Miata and put them back in the Civic, then helped Heyward push a car back into the now-empty garage bay.

We bid farewell to Heyward and his kids and traveled north, staying at a hotel halfway between Asheville and Detroit.

Cording my tires on the drive home

While Kevin left for home early in the morning, I stayed in the hotel room and worked remotely for a few hours. It wasn’t until around noon that I packed up everything and headed home myself.

At this point, the rear tires on the Miata had taken a beating. Not only were the Continentals worn thanks to the track day I did at Gingerman with them, the extreme camber I had in the back to make the Yokohamas work along with the severe rubbing on the inside wheel well at full suspension compression had done a serious number to the inside edges of my rear tires.

I made it to the Ohio/Michigan border when I pulled over at a rest area to check my tires. Cords were showing on the inside edges of both rear tires. I thought briefly about nursing the car home for the remaining hour of driving on these tires, but then thought the better of it and changed them. I unhooked my tire trailer, grabbed my tools and a jack, and swapped the rear two Continentals for a pair of the Yokos.

As much as I love driving on the Yokos, I’m considering running other tires for next year. The Yokos are super happy with -4 degrees of camber in the back, but it’s not ideal for street driving. I may choose another tire that works better with a street-oriented alignment.

I continued on home, putting the Miata in the garage where it remains to the present day. It’s now on jack stands, awaiting upgrades to the brakes and safety equipment before the arrival of next season.

Photo postscript

A few days after returning home, I found the picture of the Miata running the Tail of the Dragon with the tire trailer. I posted the photo as my Facebook cover photo with absolutely no context added.

Some of the FB comments on the cover photo.

Not surprisingly, despite there being no photographer logo or indication of where the photo was shot, nearly all of my car friends instantly knew what the photo was about.

But there were a couple of folks who had no idea what was so special about the photo. Most of my dance friends couldn’t piece together the meaning of the photo outside of the dichotomy of a small sports car towing a trailer that was two-thirds the size of itself.

Which brings me to the significance of the Tail of the Dragon and what it means to car culture in America. To the uninitiated, this photo could have been taken anywhere, yet there’s such a gravitational pull to this road for car enthusiasts (and motorcyclists) that a snap from any of the photographers that line the side of the road instantly calls to mind a single place in the Appalachians.

I’ll be honest: the road was entertaining to drive, but I’m not so sure that it’s so amazing that I’d make Deals Gap the destination of a trip. Maybe I’m old, or just a wimp, but I don’t derive great joy from trying to push it on a public road. Besides that, it’s possible to have a road that’s too curvy, and I think the Tail of the Dragon suffers from that problem. I think back to the roads I drove in California, and I’d much rather drive those than the Tail of the Dragon. It’s nice to have to break up the twisty bits with a little bit of straight(er) road — it allows you to catch your breath and refocus on the transitions ahead.

That said, I’m glad I finally got a chance to drive the road and see what all the fuss was about for myself. And I got a sweet photo out of it, haha!

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