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My wife and I took the Abarth Spider on a long 2+ week road trip from my home in New Hampshire to Orlando and back, nearly 3400 miles. We took 3 days to drive to Orlando because my daughter, son in law, and 2 year old grandson followed us down and I wanted to go easy on the little guy.

We were able to pack enough stuff for a 2 week trip into the trunk of the car. It is actually bigger than it looks, and if you pack carefully, there is plenty of room. I bought a suitcase that was about the same size at the well in bottom of the trunk, and my wife's suitcase fit in on top of mine. We each had 6 days of clothing, so we did laundry at the hotel twice. My cameras, computer, and chargers were in a backpack and fit in along with the suitcases. There was still room for the small purchases we made on the trip, but because space was limited, we had to limit our purchases... I am sure that saved me quite a few bucks!

The trip down to Florida was pretty uneventful, except for South Carolina. On I-95 in South Carolina, there were swarms of black flying bugs that coated the front of the car and the windshield, I had to stop at a gas station twice to clean the windshield, the windshield washer wasn't doing the job. The front of our cars seem to be pretty aerodynamic, the bugs were concentrated on the front plate, (New Hampshire requires a front plate) the flat part of of the front facia below the grille, and the headlights. You could see the bug hits on the top of the front facia, (in front of the hood) but they just left a smear. Each time I stopped, other cars, and especially trucks, were completely coated black with these bugs, our spiders do much better in comparison. I basically wind tunnel tested the spiders aero with bug guts, and the spider proved to be much more aerodynamic then most.

No offense to those of you who live in South Carolina, but I will always remember South Carolina as the place that coated the front of my spider with bugs! Also, the pavement on I-95 was in poor condition and the rest areas are not very nice.

The car is very comfortable on long trips, my butt got a little sore, but I discovered that it was from the way I was sitting. I was running the cruise control with my feet off the pedals and putting most of my weight on my right side. The padding on the arm rest broke down where my elbow was resting and never recovered. It was really uncomfortable! I will be bringing the car to my dealer to get the arm rest replaced under warranty.

I did a couple of things to make the car more "road trip" friendly. I installed side pockets between the seats and the console to hold little stuff like a travel pack of tissues, wallet, pen, etc. To control the amount of trash floating around in the car, I put a plastic grocery bag in the space between the seat and the door sill on both sides of the car for trash. I also discovered that a standard bottle of Gatorade fits perfectly in the space between the seat adjuster and the seat, just slide the bottle in behind the adjuster and it will stay right there without rolling around the footwell.

I arrived in Orlando 4 days before Hurricane Irma hit. Bob Z and I were emailing each other about the hurricane and our cars, I told Bob about the bugs, I was thinking that I would let Hurricane Irma wash them off for me, but Bob pointed out that bugs are acidic and could damage the paint. I know that the manual says no car washes, but I took the car to a touchless car wash. I selected the basic wash because I didn't want any polish or wax being sprayed on the fabric top. The car actually did fine in the car wash and I would not worry about taking the car through touchless car washes on rare occasions if necessary.

A couple of days before the hurricane hit, I decided to fill the tank in case we had to evacuate. The first two gas stations I went to had no gas. When I got to the third station I decided to pack the tank as full as I could. I put about 2 gallons in after the pump clicked off, filling very slowly all the way up into the filler neck. I expected the car to throw a CEL afterwards, but it didn't and the car ran fine.

We had to hunker down in the hotel for 2 days while Irma approached and left Orlando. I was in Orlando with my entire family, and yet, I wasn't worried about our safety during the hurricane. We were in a concrete hotel with hurricane glass windows, so I figured we were about as safe as we could get. I was worried about the spider though! The hotel parking lot had a bunch of trees around it, so I parked in the middle of the parking lot as far away from the trees as I could get, right in front of a mini van. (Dodge Caravan) Turns out, another mini van parked on one side, (Honda) and a Hyundai Suv parked on the other side. My little spider was well protected. After the hurricane, the car was undamaged and the interior was dry. Irma coated the car with crud, dirt and plant matter and who knows what, but there wasn't a scratch on it. The hotel parking lot was full of tree branches, uprooted shrubs, leaves and sticks, and bits of foam panels that blew off the roof of the hotel, but nothing hit the spider. The hurricane was pretty impressive, the wind howled like a freight train, and the rain sounded like someone was spraying marbles against the glass. We get hurricanes in New Hampshire, but they are usually weaker.

We left Orlando on September 15th, my family headed home while my wife and I traveled to Cherokee, North Carolina at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We pretty much followed the path of hurricane Irma and there was a lot of damage all along our trip. Fallen and uprooted trees along the highway, tree branches and trash in the break down lanes, and places without power. I was glad that I packed my gas tank in Orlando, because it was hard to get gas in Georgia and North Carolina. Stations either had no power or no gas! I started looking when I had 1/2 a tank, and I was able to find gas when I had just under a quarter tank.

I did buy a bag of Pecans in Georgia to snack on while I drove, and the bag fit nicely between the seat and door sill right in front of the trash bag. I could drop my hand down, grab a few nuts, and I was good to go.

The beginning of the Blue Ridge was shut down because of Irma damage, and it took us a hour or so to find and get to the next access point. After driving a little more then a hundred miles, the highway was closed again. We spent another hour figuring out how to get to the next access point, and that access point was also closed. I gave up at that point and drove on the interstate to our next hotel reservation in Boone, North Carolina. I skipped about 120 miles. The National Park Service is no help at all with the closures, they put up a sign saying "Road Closed" and that's it. No information on how much is closed and what access point is open. No guidance at all, you are on your own.

The next morning, my wife was really sick, probably from a bug she picked up in the Florida theme parks, so we got a late start. We had enough time to run the rest of the Blue Ridge, but I had to skip Skyline Drive because it was near dusk when I got to it.

The speed limit on most of the Blue Ridge is 45 mph. Honestly, I think that is too fast for most vehicles, especially in the corners. However, 45 mph is a piece of cake for our spiders. Most cars I got behind were going 30-35 mph and even slower in the corners, but I could maintain 45 the whole way. At one point, the speed limit dropped and I got pinched for speeding 54 in a 35. To be fair, it was in a straight section of the road at the bottom of a very long steep hill. I got off with just a warning. For the record, 35 mph feels really slow in our cars, excruciatingly slow!

I ran most of the Blue Ridge in 4th gear and about 3200 ish rpms. That was the sweet spot for me, I had plenty of power to climb the hills without downshifting, and I still had some engine braking when I needed it. It was a lot of fun to go through the corners at 45 mph, lifting to slow a bit on entry and accelerating out. I kept getting stuck behind slow moving mini vans and suvs... I don't know what they were doing there...There are no shopping centers, soccer fields, or dance/gymnastics studios anywhere on the Blue Ridge. They must have been really really lost!

The built-in navigation came in handy, the navigation map was a pretty good representation of the actual road, I was able to see the curves that were coming up and how sharp they were. There was no cell service on most of the the Blue Ridge, so Google Maps wouldn't work unless I downloaded the maps beforehand. It wasn't really necessary.

It's a shame that I was unable to drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. There is a Fiats on the Dragon event every spring. (I think) the Dragon is about an hour from Cherokee NC, so I am planning to attend and run Skyline Drive and the entire Blue Ridge on my way to the Dragon.

We ran the Blue Ridge top down of course. Here's a tip from my wife... She used one of those "C" shaped pillows you see in airports for the drive. She told me that it was good for keeping her long hair from blowing around when the top was down.

I learned that I get better gas mileage then the cruise control, but I still used the cruise control extensively in the southern states because I didn't want to speed. I figure that I am a **** Yankee, Secular, Liberal, Democrat driving a sports car in the south... I probably shouldn't speed.

The car got a lot of attention every where I went. Just about every place I stopped, people would come over and check out the car. They would look at the Abarth Badge and have no idea what it is. Most people guessed it was either an Alfa or a Masarati, and just about everyone thought it cost a hundred thousand dollars. No one I talked to had ever seen or heard of the car. Maybe Fiat should step up the marketing.

There are a lot of sports cars on the Blue Ridge. A group of 6 Porsches waved at me, as did a guy in a Lotus Evora, a Mercedes CLS, a bunch of single Porsches, and an tiny old MG that looked like it was new. I started waving at other sports cars, but no one in a Miata, Mustang, Corvette, or BMW waved back. Interesting... I had a Jeep Wrangler, so the waving comes naturally to me. I usually wave at any Fiat I meet on the road, and I have since I bought my 500 back in 2012. Fiats are unique looking and easy to pick out, so they are perfect for the "Wave". I think it would be cool if the Fiat Wave became a thing just like the Jeep Wave.

I left New Hampshire on September 3rd, and returned home September 18th. I drove 3375.0 miles, and my overall gas mileage was 31.6 mpg as calculated by the trip computer. That might seem a little low, but it includes my driving in heavy Orlando traffic, and the traffic jams on the DC beltway and NYC. The car functioned flawlessly with the exception of the drivers side armrest. Overall, it was a long, but comfortable drive in a fantastic car. A lot more fun than flying!
 

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I use a Touchless Car Wash regularly. I guess I'll find out what it does to the top Etc.

I went to Fiat on the dragon in the spring and drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home to Raleigh. Always a great drive.

Great story thanks for taking the time to write it.
 

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Wow! Now this is the story of an honest-to-goodness adventure, Indiana Jones style. It had its ups and downs- good times, bad times, exciting times, and dangerous times. But in the end nobody was worse for wear and it is a tale that will be with you forever. Thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

Steve.
 

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Steve6225:

Nice write up. Thank you. Near where I am in Mooresville, NC is a really nice, twisty, elevation change road called Brushy Mountain Road in Wilkes County....old moonshine territory.... Google it...I call it my personal Tail of the Dragon. Your statement about driving in 4th gear at 3K to 3.5K RPM is spot on. My car's sweet spot on this road.

Plenty of power to climb, enough engine braking for the next turn and plenty of grunt pulling out. Speed is around 45 to 55MPH in turns yellow signed at 25MPH. So entertaining, that when you get to the end, you make a u turn and do it all over again....and again....

Thanks for sharing your trip. By the way, you're right about the bugs in SC....however not as bad as Florida....my personal bug state....
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your comments everyone!

I was a little worried that the top would leak in a touchless car wash, mostly because the manual says no car washes. No leaks and no problems. The hurricane was probably harder on the car then the car wash was.

Steve, the trip did turn out to be quite an adventure, but not quite to the "Indiana Jones" Level... I hate wearing hats so I don't have any,maybe I should buy a Indiana Jones hat to wear when I drive the spider top down. I squint my eyes a lot on sunny days.

hefbadr, I took a look at Brushy Mountain Road on google maps, it does look like a fun road to drive. The section that is almost a hair pin, with more curves at the entry and exit, looks pretty challenging. I bet it is a lot of fun to drive.

LOVE BUGS??? I didn't see any thing to love about those things. Nasty!
 

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steve6225:

Happy that you looked at Brushy Mtn. Rd. Neat thing is that there are several sections as you describe, and let me tell you,
I am a risk taker, within limits, have raced for many years, but thank goodness for traction control and ABS. That road is an absolute hoot to drive,but you must be mindful of the sudden drop offs without guard rails!!

A free roller coaster ride that I enjoy on a weekly basis. Love this Fiat. Need to try the X1/9 on Brushy soon....can you say trailing throttle oversteer???
 

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Thanks for your comments everyone!

Steve, the trip did turn out to be quite an adventure, but not quite to the "Indiana Jones" Level... I hate wearing hats so I don't have any,maybe I should buy a Indiana Jones hat to wear when I drive the spider top down. I squint my eyes a lot on sunny days.
Outback Trading Company, online or various retailers. I bought at Cabela's., and they still show my Outback Trading "Flinders Reef" at their website- http://www.cabelas.com/product/Outback-Trading-Mens-Flinders-Reef-Hat/1617402.uts

https://www.outbacktrading.com/oilskin-hats
My Outback Trading "Flinders Reef" oilskin cotton hat is discontinued now at the mfr. site, but consider some of the hats here that include a draw string (I keep mine under my chin, have never had the hat blow off my head, but if it does, I want the chance to keep it instead of losing it) and at least the 3" wide brim. Such as: Kodiak Mesh (claims to have a draw string, but not pictured), River Guide, or the Bootlegger if you could get it's side brims to lay flat. UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating is the sun protection rating for clothing, similar to SPF for sunscreens. More UPF info on the web. I have no experience with them, but their "Technical Poly/Cotton" hats may not be as formed as their oilskin cotton hats, and might flop around more in the breeze of the moving car. A brim on the stiffer side of things may be better than a brim on the floppier side.

My hat, similar to the River Guide hat. Give great sun protection for my easily-burned head during the peak sunburn hours of the day, say 9am-4pm or so. When I'm in my Spider, this hat is on my head.


Steve.
 

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