My Aston Adventure through the Tail of the Dragon


From Russia With Love
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Jan 13, 2013
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Completed a 1600 mile road trip over memorial weekend down thru Tennessee and on the Tail of the Dragon.

Figured I'd share not only my thoughts on the new car, but also on the trip itself. Hopefully some of my insight can help anyone who may be planning such an adventure. Its my 6th visit so Im pretty comfortable with the logistics and area in general. This was my first solo trip as well.

Note - pardon my lack of pictures. I'm not really a photo taker and really spent most of my time to myself. I'll post the pics I did take.

I know a number of times the thought of a TCG group trip has been kicked around so I'll offer some tips here as well.

Total trip was 5 days - Saturday through Wednesday.

Loaded up the car with my overnight bag, my hiking gear bag ( shoes, backpack, hiking clothes, poncho, plastic bags, etc), detailing bag, spare oil and was ready to roll.

Being a hatchback the Vantage has great space for packing for a road trip. For storing the detailing supplies and fluids I picked up this nifty Chemical Guys trunk organizer:

The steering wheel of the Vantage has great feel and is nice soft leather, It is a little thinner than my M3 but thats not really an issue. I picked up a nice set of driving gloves which really helped with driving grip and hand fatigue reduction, especially when running hard on the dragon and nearby roads. Steering feel in this car is A+, arguably the best of any car I've driven.

One bummer is none of my upgrades had arrived so the car was 100% stock for the journey. At least it gave me a chance to really baseline the car. Random bonus - Sirius had free satellite radio this weekend, so in the mountain areas where my phone had no reception I still had access to some tunes.

Day 1 Saturday
Chicagoland - Terre Haute IN

Headed out Saturday AM down through 290-294 and took 394 to 41 south. This has always been my preferred route as I despise I-65. Also with the Indy 500 in town I wanted to avoid traffic and the relentless ISP patrol that would be in force.
First stop was Turkey Run State Park near Rockville, IN. Roads were clear and was able to stretch the cars legs a bit. The Vantage has pretty tall gearing which hurts drag acceleration a bit but once underway the car moves pretty good.

Turkey Run is arguably one of the best parks anywhere within a days drive. I think its superior for hiking and activity than Starved Rock here in IL, and I like Starved Rock. Changed into hiking clothes and set out on the trails. The challenging trails here are no joke, some even requiring basic climbing gear. I managed a couple miles before the skies darkened and cut my hike short.

Cleaned up and hit the road to first hotel stop in Terre Haute. Its only 30- 40 minutes away so no biggie. Caught some rain. First time using wipers on car and a good first glimpse and how quirky this car is lol. The rain sensor has NO idea what its doing. The sensitivity adjustment means nothing - one drop and the wipers go apeshit. So no point in using them, best to use the single wipe or just skip to the standard speed. The wiper mechanism is neat though; the passenger wiper operates like a locomotive wheel so as it rotates its position on the window moves as well, giving it good window coverage.

Day 2 Sunday
Terre Haute - Nashville TN

**Note if you were planning a 4 day dragon tour and not planning hiking or major sightseeing I'd recommend using Terre Haute as lunch stop and heading to Nashville on day one.

Easy driving day. Slept in, some Bob Evans, then gassed up and headed out. Got Rain. Then More Rain. Was planning to hike at Clifty Falls Park in southern IN but weather had other plans so I kept driving. Cleared up around the KY TN border. Then it was HOT. Got to Nashville in early afternoon. Hot and humid. It was 93 there. Downtown was PACKED as it was Memorial Weekend. I stayed at the Downtown Hilton. They let me park the car in front of the hotel so that was nifty. Cleaned up the car a little and joined the festivities. Huge battle of bands so even more live music than usual. SO many bachelorette parties haha. Used to like Nashville more, but its obvious millennials are ruining it. If it wasn't those infernal LIME scooters littering up the place it was the shocking amount of homeless all over the streets. Anyhow had a few drinks, scoped some skanks then back to hotel for some peace and quiet.

Day 3 Monday
Nashville TN - Fontana NC

Eastbound and down through TN on the way to the Dragon. God I love driving through TN. Such a beautiful state. Broke off from I-40 to head down to Fall Creek Falls State Park for a short hike. Its a real gem tucked away in the center of the state. The state roads at this point are quite scenic and a real pleasure to drive. This is a great park along the Trail of Tears so absolutely some of the best driving roads around. Weather was clear and cooler as I headed east.

After hiking I cleaned up and hit the road for the final leg into Fontana. The route actually uses US 129 so the final leg goes right thru the dragon.
I've been down here on some busy days but man was the Dragon wicked packed. I cruised through and stopped in Deals Gap for lunch, chat with fellow enthusiasts and enjoy the chaos.

Once the afternoon craziness died down I headed back out north on the dragon and took what I call the Cherohala Skyway 'loop' drive. Its a 3-4 hr cruise around the Dragon, through Tellico Plains, and Robbinsville NC. Driving perfection. And man was the car was made for this. So smooth. The taller gearing really helps here for minimizing shifts but not too tall to drop it out of its powerband. This car has the big brakes from the Vantage S which are more than enough for this thing. No brake fade even in the most aggressive driving. If anything, the only weak point was this car's Bridgestone Potenzas. This car has way more in it than those tyres could handle. A set of good Michelin Pilots will be in order once these are worn down.

I stayed at the Fontana Village Resort. I cannot recommend this place enough. Its right on 28 just east of Deals Gap, its priced reasonably, and has great amenities and views. They even have a wash spot with a hose for cleaning up a car after a day's drive. Got a cabin, hosed the car off, grabbed some dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant, and called it a night.

Day 4 Tuesday
Fontana NC- Lexington KY

Early morning Full tilt Dragon Run - Virtually no traffic so I was able to make a clean pass. Clocked a good time from Deals Gap through the Scenic Overlook. Then onward out through Knoxville and up into Lexington. Easy peasy drama free.

Day 5 Wednesday
Lexington KY - Home
Rain. Finally cleared up around Indianapolis. Otherwise nothing exciting.

Car impressions - I noted a number of them above but man this was a fun car to be the behind the wheel of. Seats were perfect; no fatigue even after the whole trip. Averaged 22 MPG, which given I really burned through some fuel in NC is pretty good for this car. It has a good sized tank (21gal), so I had plenty of range.

Car was flawless - no problems, didn't burn any oil ( I checked every morning lol; also interesting that the car uses the same oil as the M3 10w60, and Aston even recommends BMW M oil as an alternate brand), AC was cold. The navigation worked great. Everything I hoped it would be. Car sounds great; can't wait to get new exhaust and other mods on it as it should really be a hoot to drive then.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of its flaws. I mentioned the Wiper sensor's lack of precision. Another funny thing - Opening the rear hatch while wet. Water of course drains right into the trunk. Not exactly BMW engineering lol. Also, the oil check procedure is like a 7 step process. Its a dry sump system, but compared to say the check procedure on a C6Z its hilariously complex.
The worst thing about this car, though - Reverse gear. Reverse on this car is basically the same ratio as 2nd gear, so it requires WAY too much clutch/throttle to prevent stalling yet back up carefully. Its just stupid.

Final Trip thoughts - If you're planning a similar trip here, 4 days is ideal shortest time-frame. 3 is IMO too aggressive to enjoy the journey or the destination. 5 gives you more time to see all there is to offer. I left out a number of really fun things to do as there really is so much to see.



Super Moderator
Donating Member
May 23, 2007
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Avondale, AZ
God that car is gorgeous. And also being used correctly.


El Presidente
May 23, 2007
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Aston makes just some of the sexiest cars ever.


If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail
Donating Member
Mar 3, 2008
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Pingree Grove IL
The first lean picture on the road is great.
Sounds like alot of :fy:


Well-known member
Jul 9, 2013
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In Da Hood
enjoyed your write up, interesting your choice of stopping twice before getting there. it is a hike to do in one day, but it can be done, and while the dragon is a cool tourist area, the roads around it are actually a lot more enjoyable. doesnt sound like you were with a group so your choices make sense. id like to do a group trip and maybe reverse it a bit. hit nashville on way back for music and bench racing about the trip. either way, good to hear the aston was worthy for the trip!


4 cams
TCG Sponsor
Sep 10, 2006
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Awesome fun trip , on my list of things to do one day

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