Friday night was either the chance to stoke up old friendships - the case with many of the attendees who knew each other from local clubs or from the 1st North American TT Gathering - or to meet folks for the first time. In my case it was the latter since, as previously mentioned, I had not run with this crowd in the past.
The issue of my TT crowd virginity safely out of the way, I spent Friday night getting to know the usual suspects from AudiWorld's TT Forum.
This was not, however, what would normally come to mind when one envisions a get-together of automotive enthusiasts. Conversation ranged from travels to computers to politics to careers. Clearly the TT's were the glue holding this gathering together, but they did not particularly dominate the conversation at the event kickoff.
Frankly this was one of the most pleasant things about the weekend and precisely why I would recommend future enthusiast events emulate this one.
It goes without saying that the setting for many of the planed events helped contribute to the mood. The Nakoma Resort and Spa is not only set amidst the beauty of Gold Mountain (45 minutes north of Lake Tahoe), but is a work of art itself. More to follow on Nakoma later.
Happily the Feather River Inn where many of us stayed was located approximately 10 minutes away and accessible to Nakoma first via a lively country road and then for the last few minutes by a twisting climb-the-mountain road. I can attest to becoming quite familiar with that particular roundtrip and grateful for the excuse to give the car a workout. The short drive foreshadowed the much longer drive planned for Saturday morning.
Unless you've actually driven in one of these Audi caravans, it is difficult if not impossible to describe the exultation. I'd been to plenty of smaller club events, but now understand that eight or nine cars form a feeble caravan at best.
My co-pilot Jay ("suiTTman") initially urged me to take up a position near the front of the TT chain where we could help lead the giant four-ringed snake. Like everything at TT West the organizers had efficiently chosen a route allowing participants to not only experience the natural beauty, but also experience a wide variety of driving conditions.
Imagine a car personifying John Travolta's strut in Saturday Night Fever and you can visualize our starting pace - basically "cruising". At that speed the driver and passenger both got the opportunity to look about and soak up the procession of TT's. At other times the speeds turned downright explosive with the drive taking on a much more competitive edge. Indeed, we covered both extremes as well as everything in-between.
At one point during the drive we came upon a large paved clearing in the mountains. This parking lot in the middle of nowhere suddenly served the singular purpose of accommodating group photos of the TT's. The real photo opportunity, however, was perhaps the exuberant owners who scurried just like Audi hill climb cars up the sides of the hills in order to secure better vantage points for photographing the cars.
Having admired and photographed the gathering of over $1.5 million dollars worth of German engineering (I seem to recall that the final automobile count was 41) we were off again. The second part of the drive included much longer stretches of open road. Rather than negotiating abrupt curves, it was time to just open the cars up and enjoy the fresh mountain air as can only be afforded by an open top sports car.
During one pit stop for gas and refreshments (imagine a small gas station complex suddenly overrun by TT's) somebody spotted another TT parked nearby. A quick search for the owners turned up a husband and wife who had never heard of AudiWorld and had no idea there was a TT event in the area. They were quickly converted, however, and joined up for the next couple of hours.
Our drive eventually led us to the Jamison Gold Mine, a site that had yielded over $25 million of gold. Today the mine is not operational, but serves as a museum and glimpse into the rich economic past in the region. Following a (perhaps) anecdotal talk from one of the local guides and a brown bag lunch, we were free to explore the mine further or head back for the afternoon.
I used the remainder of the afternoon to relax and look forward to dinner, but also got the chance to look a little closer at a very unique TT owned by attendees Gary & Meg from Washington State. As far as I know it is unlike any other Audi in North America, in that it is a Denim Blue 225 TT Roadster with the baseball interior.
Gary related the story about convincing a friendly dealer to special order the vehicle - a process that I didn't know existed in the U.S. - and choosing the unusual combination. Further solidifying the distinctiveness of the TT, Gary has added leather matching the baseball interior to the trunk.
The event was somewhat bittersweet for Gary inasmuch as his TT had never previously spent an evening outside of his garage. With extremely low mileage and a detailing regiment that would put most fanatics to shame, it is clear that the intent is to maintain the pristine vehicle for years to come.
Formal dinner was held on Saturday evening at the Nakoma Resort and Spa. It would be difficult to make a distinction between which was better - the culinary experience or the ambiance.
In a massive dining room rising 55 feet high and dominated by a four-sided fireplace in the center, everything works together to inform the visitor in an anything-but-subtle way that he or she is within the walls of a distinguished structure. The food was no less spectacular with main courses such as king salmon, duck or rack of lamb. My favorite was the crème brule assortment for dessert.
It is probably safe to say the Nakoma dining room experienced a level of boisterousness not previously known there. A certain attendee even used the atmosphere as a perfect excuse to get his picture taken with anybody and everybody at Nakoma.
Saturday night was capped off with a raffle and auction of Audi-related merchandise that had been graciously donated by event sponsors. Auctions proceeds benefited the League to Save Lake Tahoe, a local organization working to benefit the environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Although many attendees had recently made donations related to the September 11th tragedy, it was pointed out that local non-profits were struggling to raise funds with so much attention going to large relief efforts. I think everybody appreciated the beauty of the region and was glad to support the cause to "Keep Tahoe Blue".
The event wrapped on Sunday morning with a getaway brunch, but I was unable to attend due to an early return flight.