This May, the Georgia Chapter hosted Quattro de Mayo, Presented by Jim Ellis Audi, in beautiful Asheville North Carolina. Quattro de Mayo, or QDM for short, is an annual gathering that started back in 2005 when members of the Ohio Chapter drove down to Tennessee to drive the famous Tail of the Dragon. They returned a year later and linked up with the Southeast Chapter for even more fun. Each year, the group grows and the venue changes, introducing exciting new drives and outings. We were a good bit further away from The Dragon than last year, but the area presented us with new drive options and countless choices for non-driving based activities.
My first QDM was in 2008, and I haven’t missed one since. This year was my daughter’s first QDM. At only nine weeks old, she is by far the youngest attendee to date. In total, she rode 430 miles in my S4 Avant, and 60 miles in a 2013 S6 loaned to us by Audi of America. She only complained once while riding in the car: when we came to a stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but more on that later.
This year, we had a record-breaking 76 cars and 115 attendees from 14 states! In total, our group drove somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,500 miles to reach Asheville, and just as many miles to return. During those three short days, we drove about 21,000 miles on a total of eight drive options. Over the past few years, our raffle has grown thanks to the generosity of our great sponsors. Last year, we called it “epic”, and it was; we even got a few complaints that the drawings went on too long because we had so many prizes! So what would you call something that is twice as big as “epic”? We never did figure that out, but we did decide to hold drawings each night. We also held a silent auction for several large items and even gave away two big boxes worth of items from Audi Collection any time a group was assembled. Our sponsors for the event include Jim Ellis Audi, APR, Detailers Domain, AMMO Detailing, 129 Euro, Butler Tire, The Dent Specialist, Dents & Dings, Achtuning, Audi Collection, Serenberry Vineyards, The Smoking Tire, H&R and Bilstein. Audi of America was also kind enough to loan us an S6, S7 and S8 for the weekend, and our friends at APR brought their highly modified TTRS, plus an RS5 and S8.
Like every past QDM, our group of cars was as diverse as our group of attendees. While Audis were certainly the main attraction, we also had a collection of 4 Porsches, including a beautiful 914, two VWs and a Lotus. The Audi populous ranged from a beautiful 1983 urQuattro to a 2013 Q5. All five generations of S4s were in attendance, as were multiples of every R and RS model available in the US. And as always, there was no shortage of TTs. The Avants didn’t represent as well as past years, but I digress…
Over the course of the weekend, we offered eight official drives: one Thursday, four to choose from on Friday and three on Saturday. Each drive had a different destination and pace. Because each of the drives were so unique, we all had different stories to share at the end of the weekend. The weather was overcast and unusually cool, but the rain held off until Sunday. On several of our drives, we encountered thick fog once we passed above 3500′ altitude. Our rear fog lights were put to good use for sure.
On Thursday, attendees arrived throughout the day, so our only drive was at dinner time. Our rather large group rolled out right around rush hour. Thankfully Asheville’s rush hour was nothing like Atlanta’s, so we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway in no time. We headed west to Pisgah Inn, passing through a half-dozen tunnels along the way. Rather than taking in an amazing sunset, we found ourselves dining among the clouds. Dinner was concluded with our first raffle of the weekend, with over a dozen prizes given away. Before leaving, I snapped a quick panorama shot of our cars with only their running lights on. The drive down was even foggier than going up, but remained clear at lower altitudes. Remember my daughter complaining on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Well… As tail of the group, I was able to come to a stop inside one of the longer tunnels. I had the S6′s 4-liter twin turbo V8 at my disposal, and I wanted to hear it. Apparently, so did she. I rolled down the driver’s window and accelerated, instantly returning her to the status quo.
Friday was our longest day for drives. We led two groups westward to drive The Tail of the Dragon. The first group left early in the morning and also included a spirited drive on Foothills Parkway, located at the ‘top’ of The Dragon. The second group left about an hour later. Both groups reported minimal traffic on The Dragon, a lucky outcome considering how popular this weekend for several other car clubs. With 318 curves in 11 miles, who could blame them?
Equally popular was our Wayah Road drive. This drive had it all! Challenging twists, long sweeping curves, breathtaking views, exhaust-note-enhancing tunnels and fabulous shopping – could you ask for more in a day? The group made an extended stop in Highlands, NC for a lunch break and to stretch their legs exploring the town’s great shopping opportunities before heading to Wayah Road’s 27 miles of challenging curves and minimal traffic. Despite heavy fog during the early morning portion, this drive definitely delivered plenty of smiles per mile.
Our final Friday drive option was our Waterfall drive. This popular scenic drive was introduced last year and was very well received. The drive included some scenic twisty mountain driving, a couple of short hikes, and lunch. The first stop was Pearson’s Falls in Saluda, NC, a gorgeous 90-foot waterfall, accessed by an easy 1/3 mile hike. Next stop was High Falls in Dupont State Forest. (Hunger Games was filmed in portions of Dupont Stae Forest). After a ½ mile hike the group reached High Falls, a 150-foot cascade. After High Falls, the group stopped in Brevard at Hawg Wild BBQ for lunch. From there it was a short drive into Pisgah National Forest to Looking Glass Falls, the final stop for the day. This 60-foot tall waterfall was the easiest to view because it is right next to the highway, and can be best seen by climbing down a series of steps to the base of the falls.
The groups returned just in time for the evening’s cookout at our headquarters hotel. We grilled up burgers and hot dogs for everyone, along with fixins’, sides and drinks. By this time, nearly all of the weekend’s group had arrived and were sharing stories and making new friends. I didn’t quite buy enough food for the group of 65 plus, and we had to send someone back to the store for more meat. In my defense, who sends a man to the store by himself to buy that much food? Once everyone got their fill, we held another raffle. The prizes were bigger, better and more abundant than the previous night’s. After cleaning up and tearing down, several groups continued socializing in the parking lot and hotel lobby for several more hours.
Nonetheless, my small group had a great drive. Meanwhile, the two other groups had a great time tackling twisty roads, as one group headed south into Apple Valley, and the other north to Hot Springs.
The Apple Valley drive was lead by an Asheville native who knew all the best roads in his back yard. With sweeping curves and lots of elevation change, this drive was a real treat. While the some of the views were a bit inhibited by fog, everyone returned happy. At the end of the drive, the group was taken to Highland Brewing Company (just down the street from the headquarters hotel) for a tasting of the some of the local brews.
Hot Springs is located at the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek. A natural hot spring is also located here, the only such spring known in North Carolina and in much of the southeastern United States. A resort destination for almost 200 years, it has long been renowned for its healing mineral springs and scenic mountain setting. The Hot Springs drive made a figure-8 like route on some amazing curvy roads leading to and from the springs. The group was by far the biggest of the day, but ended up splitting into two groups, making the drive a bit smoother.
To conclude the event, we held a banquet at Tressa’s Jazz and Blues club in downtown Asheville. Though the club is only 15 years old, the building is a historic landmark. Our group filled up both downstairs and upstairs dining areas, as we gathered again at the end of a day of great driving. After dinner, we all gathered downstairs for our final gathering. We thanked our sponsors and event volunteers and gave out the Officer Friendly award to one individual, who will remain nameless, who zipped away from his group on Friday to try and get back to Asheville a bit early and got caught by a state trooper. We closed the silent auction and held the final raffle of the weekend, where in addition to general raffle prizes, we held a kids raffle and four grand prize raffles. All of the kids in attendance won a great prize, and left with a smile. Our grand prizes included: two interior/exterior detailing kits, a fully-loaded APR ECU upgrade, and an amazing motorsports memorabilia package. Afterward, a few brave souls went on a haunted pub crawl at the local brewpubs, while the rest of us returned to the hotel for a few more hours of socializing.
This unforgettable event wouldn’t have been possible without a great group of people in attendance. I’m already counting the days until QDM 2014, and more so for the people than the driving. As five-time QDM attendee Jim Schade put it: “The first year, we came for the roads. Every year since, we come for the people.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
In addition to our diverse, fun loving group, there’s a team of dedicated volunteers who make this happen. This year, Philip Monk, Ted Dannemiller, Deborah Kim (who you may remember from last year’s “Proposal” story) and myself headed up the planning team, and were also group leaders. We also received invaluable help from Asheville native, and group leader, Jay Maveety, group leaders Bud Dannemiller and Paul Gazella, swag master Carl Criswell, treasurer Phil Dinwiddie, Susan Monk, Katie King, James Walsh, Dirk Loeffler, David Kim and Gregg Brodka.
Want to learn more about Quattro de Mayo 2014? First, go ahead and mark off May 1st – 4th on your calendar, then check out www.quattrodemayo.com this fall as we announce location details.