Without the muffling effect of the 335i's turbos, there's more commotion when the Infiniti tackles its speed-generating task. Take the BMW's cream, toss in a helping of Grape-Nuts, and you've got the G37S's breakfast bowl. The 3.7-liter V-6's gritty bottom growl morphs to a savage howl at the 7500-rpm redline. The Infiniti works harder achieving what the BMW makes look easy, but one coupe is as likely as the other to seize the lead at the end of every short straight.
Throughout Appalachia, ancient trailer homes suffice as the standard accommodation. More prosperous families reside in factory-built dwellings. While the days of tar-paper shacks have passed, rusty corrugated metal and rough-hewn siding are still commonplace. Bricks and white paint are generally reserved for the Southern Baptist churches that, by our count, outnumber schools ten to one. In some of the more populous rural areas, we spotted three houses of worship per mile.
Route 30 hands off to Route 315 at Reliance, where the Webb Brothers Texaco station has stood guard for more than seventy years. As we ventured north, the wisdom of plotting a path paralleling America's eastern mountain range became clear. What the Appalachians lack in sheer altitude (North Carolina's 6684-foot Mount Mitchell is the highest peak), they more than make up with perseverance by sprawling over most of the eastern seaboard. The Appalachian range's western plateau is not surging peaks and towering summits in the usual mountain sense but rather rugged terrain that heaves and dips like an angry sea.
This tumultuous surface constitutes the perfect storm for entertaining roads. Add winding creeks establishing the path and mild winters to keep the asphalt pristine. Then factor in a low population density and depressed economic conditions to hold the strip malls and the truck traffic at bay. Let the tourists enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the glories of Dollywood--all not far to the east--we'll take the road to Tellico Plains.
What looks like a straight shot on the map is a route chock-full of second- and third-gear bends. Densely packed hardwoods toil by day, converting carbon dioxide into green leaves and fresh oxygen. We pass the ultimate yard car, a faded vintage fire truck, in situ with a Ford Bronco, a Mustang, and a Pontiac Firebird in full hood-feather regalia.
Wouldn't you know it, our motoring bliss was interrupted by a warning lamp in the BMW. Stopping to inspect revealed a double catastrophe: a flat right-front tire and a trunk that was missing a spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. Luckily, the 335i rides on run-flat radials, and a service oasis was located only a few miles ahead, in Tellico Plains.
Ren McDaniel sprung to action at the Tellico Tire shop. Her jack and air-wrench expertise were up to Wood Brothers performance standards, so our tire was plugged and we were rolling in a jiffy. The bill was four dollars; Ren reluctantly accepted the tip added for exemplary pit-stop service.