Words and Photos by Elaine Bak
Some combinations just don’t mix well, such as greasy Deals Gap burgers and Dragon turns or local troopers and caravans of fast cars. But when you take a warm May weekend and add in the elements of family, friends, Audis (and other European cars) and their enthusiast owners, thrilling drives, waterfalls, and the Great Smoky Mountains, you are bound to have the winning ingredients for a memorable experience.
2012 marks the eighth annual Quattro de Mayo event in the southeast region, an event that began when a group of Audi Club members from Ohio decided to make a road trip to Tennessee in order to drive the Tail of the Dragon, an 11 mile road with 318 curves. Simultaneously another group from the Audi Club chapter in Tennessee was making the same trip. The groups inevitably met up and thus they created a new tradition. Each year since, the event forever dubbed “Quattro de Mayo” grew in popularity and attendance. Though the locale for the event headquarters fluctuates to add variety, the basis for the event remains the same; enthusiasts from all over meet together for a weekend centered around driving on some of the most challenging and beautiful roads in the country.
Nantahala Village Resort & Spa in Bryson City, NC was headquarters for Quattro de Mayo 2012. In addition to drives organized around The Tail of the Dragon, routes were available for Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway, Foothills Parkway and Wayah Road. There was also a bonus Waterfalls and Wineries route available on Friday. Other family-friendly activities were available such as hiking and horseback riding. On Saturday morning, some of the ladies chose to have a spa day and relax while being pampered. For our family, the obvious choice activity was to drive The Tail of the Dragon since we had never been privy to that experience.
Like something straight out of a video game, I was sitting next to my husband helping to navigate as he maneuvered the APR Stage II+ S4 through the twists and turns of the Tail. Our son was intermittently watching the route on the navigation screen and warning of sharp lefts and hairpin rights. My husband laughed as he said it made him think of being a kid and watching the old-time action movies where it looked like hero drivers were just moving the wheel back and forth at super fast speeds. Only in this case he wasn’t sitting in a remotely operated bouncing vehicle in front of a green screen, that is unless the blanket of thick shrubs and lush green trees that framed the mountain side count as a screen of green.
While experiencing The Tail of the Dragon for the first time, we happened to be in the midst of a column of Audis in the third drive option for the morning. Throughout all the drive options, the groups made multiple stops at scenic overlooks in order to take pictures and socialize. It was a great opportunity to learn from other drivers in attendance since many of the drivers there have had years of experience with driving schools, track events, and other challenging road courses. Drive leaders briefed the groups on maintaining a safe distance, choosing lines, braking to enter curves and accelerating out of them. We were reminded that we were sharing the road with aggressive motorcyclists and that while we couldn’t expect the bikers to be predictable, we were to always ensure that we were predictable in order to keep everyone on the road as safe as possible. As Ted D. so philosophically put it, “On the road, what’s in your rearview mirror is of no importance to you”
2012 was another huge success for Quattro de Mayo. Over 90 people were in attendance with over 60 Audis, a handful of VWs, one Lotus and one Ducati. With the event running so flawlessly, it’s not difficult to imagine the months of preparation that went in to it. Thanks to the hard work of ACNA officers and members for all their planning, the many trips they made to the locale to run routes meet with the chefs and work with the resort.
Quattro de Mayo 2012 was hosted by ACNA and presented by Jim Ellis Audi (who kindly made the overall cost of the event affordable by all). Quattro de Mayo has grown into a huge tradition, and that’s apparent by both the quantity and the quality of the sponsors. During the banquet on Saturday night, guests feasted on a spread of German foods while prizes were given out from APR, Atlanta Sports and Imports/Atlanta Auto Salon, Audi Collection, Butler Tire, Dents & Dings, Detailers Domain, Forge Performance, Mirror Detailing and ModShack.
Quattro de Mayo has an element of enjoyment that is in a class of its own as Roger L. tells us after he attended QDM this year for the first time:
I was so pleased with this year’s event. While my first QDM, it’s not my first foray into the Western North Carolina Mountains with a German car club. Let’s just say Roundels and Quattro have no comparison in this venue. I found this event to be simply the best organized, most professionally run such trip, I’ve enjoyed in more than 30 years. Sure, driving schools are more intense, perhaps orgasmic for some – but practically, shorter and more singularly satisfying – less shared with fellow club members than this really. This provided for me at least a wonderful driving and socially engaging experience, surely to be looked forward to next year, and for many more too…My congrats and sincere thanks to the team for their outstanding efforts.
As Paul G writes on the Audi Club of Georgia Facebook group, “The Audi Club of Georgia has done a wonderful job this year. Very happy to see QDM turn into a featured event nationwide!” We definitely are looking forward to seeing what 2013 will bring in terms of adventure, growth and support. See you there!