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Here we go. I have decided to document this little trip to South Carolina starting right now. It's 8:09am Central Time in sunny (?!?) St. Louis and as I sit here drinking my coffee I am building new playlists for my iPhone for the long drive home on Thursday. This afternoon at 4:15pm Central I board a flight to Charlotte, followed by a puddle jumper to Greenville. I should be there about 8:30 Eastern this evening ready to settle in and fail miserably to sleep because I'm pumped and excited.

I would post pictures of this stage, but no-one wants to see me in my t-shirt and sweat pants, hair unkempt and pouring coffee down my throat. :)

Further updates during the day, and into tomorrow :)
 

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First update. Sitting at Gate A16 waiting for US Airways Flight 1062 to Charlotte. I don't know what it is about airports... but I just sat down and already I'm bored :)

Ah well... half an hour until boarding. I think I can survive...
 

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A rather inauspicious start... stuck at the back of a full flight. Nothing but me , my phone and my Kindle for company. Oh and the other poor buggers on the flight with me.

At least I resisted my temptation to eat chili for lunch



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Well, the rest of the day was pretty nice... and my apologies to anyone who clicked on this post earlier; the image above was WAY TOO HIGH RESOLUTION. I forgot to resize it... it's corrected now to a more reasonable size...

And to continue with my journey:

Charlotte airport is... well... an airport. I am a frequent traveler and thus of the opinion that once you've seen one airport you've pretty much seen them all. I had enough time to get across from my disembarkation point to the new gate for my flight... chill for a bit, update Facebook and them time to board. A puddle jumper for the 100 mile flight or thereabouts. In hindsight it might have been quicker to just ask the Marriott to pick me up in Charlotte!

Anyway, we pulled back from the gate on time... and sat. And sat. And moved a bit. And sat. Eventually we had spent so much time on the taxiway rolling along then stopping that I was tempted to ask the pilot if he was going to stop at a 7-11 to get a Milky Way and a Coke. What was even more amusing was that I think the time between us leaving the gate and getting to the runway was (I think) longer than the time it took us to fly to Greenville! Or maybe it was just that seriously uncomfortable seat.

So I arrived, got my bag back (which had been put into the "carry on hold" because of the tiny overheads in these CRJ-200's) and called the Marriott. They got the guy headed straight over and I headed outside. Here's a quick shot of the inside of the baggage claim area;



See? Much like any other airport. Note though the cute X3 sitting off to the side advertising the local big business :)

So outside... well it's cold since it's late November, but it wasn't too bad as I waited;



Within 10 minutes a white 5'er GT pulled up and a nice guy named Mark met me and then we headed for the Marriott. He handed me some forms to fill out and filled me in on all the details of how the morning will work. Gonna be an early one :)

So got to the Marriott a little after 9, but they still seated me for a wonderful dinner. This included a comp'd alcoholic beverage so of course I took advantage of it and had the house Merlot. Which is not bad, in case you're wondering. The place;




Very nice. And the menu, special for the BMW Performance Center customers;



So of course, I had to order one of the oddest presented but tasty Caesar Salads I had ever seen;



The 6oz filet;



Now this my friends is how you do a medium rare;



And of course I couldn't resist blowing my diet in grand fashion with cheesecake;



So now to the room. Not bad... no pictures. Again, it's a hotel room. Can't wait for tomorrow... :)
 

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Its my delivery day! Can't wait. Right now sitting at breakfast at the Marriott.

I think I slept about three hours last night. I would like to say it was just the excitement... and yes that's definitely part of it. But more than that I just don't sleep well in hotels on the first night.

And seriously Marriott? $10 a day for Internet access? Damn glad I have my phone and it can tether!

Anyway its unlikely I will update much today... hopefully pics and bids coming real soon.

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Oh and as an aside... the coffee snob in me must say the coffee at Greenville Marriott is not bad. Maybe 6 out of 10... most hotels usually rate a 4 :)

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Keep up the posting. I'm excited to be coming down tomorrow night for Friday's delivery! Then the wonderful drive back north, just me and my new BMW! Hoo rah!
 

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thumper, great report so far. Sounds like you are having an awesome time. I get my 135 on Friday @ the PCD! :thumbs:

Kappie, I am also heading up to Greenville tomorrow afternoon. What model are you picking up?
 

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OK... delivery day. Yeah, I'm posting this later than I'd hoped... truth is this week has been a whirlwind between the PCD and the ear infection I had last week turning into almost complete hearing loss and a perforated eardrum. Lovely, I know... but hey, that's my excuse :)

Delivery day was awesome, and I really wish the videos I took that day had turned out. I had my ContourGPS turned onto the wrong mode; it was in "Dusk" light mode so all the video looked totally washed out. I had wanted to test the camera and forgot to reset the settings. I know... my bad... but I corrected it the following day. Yeah, more on that later.

We started with a trip over to the Performance Center in a hotel bus... a good time for us all to chat about our cars to come and some of us commenting about the 335is that followed us out there. We were all pumped and excited, and I have a suspicion I wasn't the only one who didn't sleep much the night before.

Arrival at the PCD was as trouble free as you'd expect from BMW. The experience on arrival was easily as awesome as arriving at The Welt, but while the Performance Center is not as grand as The Welt by any stretch, it is a gorgeous building that just gleams in the sun and makes you feel like this is the right way to take delivery of a BMW. Even the best BMW dealer in St. Louis seems like a pale shadow, even though their building does echo The Welt.

As we walked in the door, though my jaw dropped almost to the floor. Could it be?



OMG... yes... that's it. My car and a gorgeous M3 coupe had pride of place right in the lobby of the PC as we walked in the door. I probably looked like a bit of an idiot standing there staring saying "That's my car!" After the long and arduous road I have taken to get the car, and never being able to actually meet the car for the first time at The Welt I guess it was a little overwhelming to see my car sitting peacefully in the sun, waiting for me. Yes, that definitely got my engine started...



From there we would introduced to the people who would be our mentors and delivery specialists for the day.



The lovely lady in the middle is "Willie". She was my delivery specialist for the day, and let me say that she was utterly awesome.

Once we got our introductions out of the way, we headed back the classroom via the lunch room...



In the classroom they collected our waiver forms that had been given to us the night before so we could fill them out at the hotel. You did remember your form, right? Yes, it was hard not to hear a voice with a thick German accent saying "Papers, please?"

So then it was on to the quick introduction to BMW and what we'd be doing at the Performance Center, presented by Donnie.



Here we were also introduced to the central idea that would drive me to excel later; Not Your Car. Despite the resemblance to your car, these are not your and are intended to be pushed by customers visiting the PC. Remind me never to buy a BMW Program Car near Spartanburg...

Then, a quick bathroom break and we were introduced to our cars. I got a 135i quite similar to mine, except white with black interior. I had plenty of time to get the car fired up and warming up, meanwhile I mounted my CruiseCam mount to the passenger side headrest to record my driving on the track. Disappointingly none of the video is really usable... but I guess that means I'll just make sure I do it better next time... ;)

Our first exercise was the anti-lock braking exercise. Donnie was our group's instructor which was awesome in itself. He first demonstrated braking by showing us how much further it took to stop a car when the speed was only increased by 10mph. Then we were sent down a road toward a line of cones where we were slam on the brakes at a few different speeds and at higher speeds take the car through a turn where we can feel that the car remains in control.

I was the second of the three cars, the first being an M3 and the third being a red 135i. Yeah, the M3 driver was the same guy whose car was in the lobby. Anyway, all I can say is this was awesome. The braking exercises were an incredible way to feel how ABS really works in a very visceral way. Donnie kept commenting that my attempts were "textbook" and even commented that "This is a guy who really takes 'Not Your Car' to heart." I took that as a compliment. It was also fun watching the M3 lose it and end up in the grass... but no-one was hurt.

By the time we got to the performance track itself, my car had a tire pressure warning. Donnie explained sometimes the TPMS sensors get tweaked and the tires looked fine. I shrugged and figured "he knows" and we got started on the track. A quick guided run through told us about how to clip the apexes, where to look and where to turn and brake. All in all, excellent information and really enjoyable. It's awesome to take something that you've been taught and put it to work in such a fantastic venue.

We were finally let loose on the track... and MAN I wish that video was usable. It would've been awesome to post that here as I was having a blast. The 135i is a REALLY capable car on the track. While not as precise as the M3, it definitely feels like it's capable of far more than most people are capable of when driving. As it was I had Donnie tell me to stop and wait on three different laps because I kept catching up with the M3 in front of me. Oops! I think now that if the M3 is a Katana, then the 135i is a Wakizashi; shorter and better for quick close attacks, while not able to quite wield the same amount of power over distance.

I have to say that all of this was over FAR too soon. We did quite a number of laps... I didn't count so I had no idea how many... and honestly Donnie's comments that I was doing a great job of clipping the apexes just made me even more into it and enjoying it and made me push the car that much harder on the next lap. I didn't hit a single cone, and there were one or two moments when I got the car a bit flummoxed while doing quick transitions and at least once when I thought I was about to lose the back end through the cones... but through luck and technology (I won't credit driver skill as I am nowhere close to the guys who do this all the time) I was able to keep it composed and make it through the turn. At that point, we headed back the PC for a quick break. I needed it; between the water I had drunk before going out on the track and all the jostling around, I needed to let it go a bit :)

More in the next post...
 

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It's hard when you get back from an experience like this. You find yourself wishing that you'd taken more video, more photos, or both. I was too wrapped up in the experiences of the day to really pay much attention to capturing it... but I guess that means I'll just have to do it again.

After our break, it was back out in the cars and time for the skid pad. This was fun, and involves you taking a 335d with Donnie (or other instructor) in the passenger seat on a circular skid pad and goosing the throttle both with and without traction control turned on. First you get to do it with the traction control turned off, and you definitely get a respect for how easily the car can spin out. On my first spin when it broke loose it took me a little by surprise with how rapidly it did it, and I ended up jamming my thumb on the wheel spoke. It hurt for the rest of the day, but I never did once regret it. It was fun! A couple more attempts were a little better, but without a serious amount of training there was no way to keep control of this torquey monster of a car once it lost traction.

With the traction control turned on, the contrast was striking. Hitting the throttle hard caused a moment of revving, then the car started to lose it... and then it all went calm. The throttle dropped off immediately, the rear of the car stopped its loose feeling and we were back on course. As the computers decided we were under control it let the revs rise again but then the whole circus started up again and in moments we were under control again. Again, the whole thing was over before I was ready for it to be over... but it was fun standing on the sidelines watching others spin out uncontrollably :)

Taking "not our" cars back to the PC, we bade farewell to our temporary friends and then we all climbed into the M Cars for a hot lap with one of the instructors. Words can't really do justice to this as we were hurtling around corners with the back end hanging out. In my case we were in an M3 sedan... it's sometimes just sick what a professional driver can do with a completely insane sedan. Again, I wish the video had come out... that would've been awesome :)

As we stood in the gradually warming day in the sun, the smell of cooked brakes and burning tires hung heavy in the air... and we all breathed deeply the musk of performance cars at their best. Now it was time for us to break up into two groups... the first group would head over to the off-road track and factory tour, while the second (my group) were now going to take delivery of our cars.

Willie, my performance specialist was a delight to talk to. And as I was introduced to my car for the first time I think she could tell I was happy...



You know, the photos look great and all, but I don't think it's possible to capture with a camera the gorgeousness of the Deep Sea Blue. It's such an unusual colour, especially on a 1 series... and everyone who saw the car was complimenting how the DSB looked wonderful with the Terracotta interior. I had also opted for the Gray Poplar trim which added an element of class to the interior while still remaining muted enough to be sporty. I also happen to love the "cheeky" lines of the 1'er that really make it stand out from other cars;



We went through the introductions to the car, and I wanted to take my time because I felt I missed out before. Even though I did a mock delivery in Munich, in a sense I felt I had missed out because it hadn't been my car. It was nice to be able to take the time, talk with someone knowledgeable and really get to have a sense of the car I had bought. I found myself discovering some things about the car I didn't know, and gaining an appreciation for the car as well as the philosophies that drive BMW to create drivers cars. And of course, how could we resist taking the photo that I felt I should have had at The Welt;



Yes, me behind the wheel of my car. As we continued working through the process we tried to activate the BMW Assist... which didn't work because the car wasn't registered. Oops! Not sure if it was something that was forgotten or because perhaps the activation request had been made with the VIN of the original car that was built for me. No worries... a call to my CA would sort it all out... except that Irv doesn't work on Wednesdays LOL. Ah well, it'll wait.

Delivery done, and my luggage in the trunk (which for such a small car is truly cavernous in the 135i), one of the guys pulled my car out front so it can take in some sun. I can't resist but take a picture of the PC with my car sitting out front, particularly since they parked my car right out there in front of the building.



Can you spot my 1'er? :)

After my delivery, it was time for lunch. I must admit, BMW put on a great lunch where you eat along with employees of BMW. There's a great selection of food, and it's all wonderful. It wasn't a thing like the Premium Lounge at The Welt, but it was awesome to sit at a table with Willie and Donnie both and chat about how much I was enjoying my day. Donnie also asked where I was headed next, and when I told him I was headed to Robbinsville via Waynesville, he asked me if I was taking the Interstate. When I said yes he told me that I didn't want to do that... "You want to take 276, that runs right into Waynesville from here. They're also some great driving roads you don't want to miss." Of course, when Donnie advises you of things like that, you'd be a fool to ignore him.

I will continue to update later. I've been typing for a while and need to take a break :)
 

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Thumper,
I couldn't have written this any better. You really do a very good write up. I just did my delivery Friday and you pretty much left nothing out. Had Andy as our course instructor, Donny ate with us at lunch, and Willy assisted me with setting up BMW Assist and Sirius Radia too. As I did the ED, I didnt get the full tour of the ar, but Willy went over some points of the I-drive system again. They proved quite valuable for the drive home. It truly was a wonderful experience and the 800+ mile drive home was most excellent.
Enjoy!
 

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Thumper - I did my PCD on Friday with Kappie and it was fantastic. Love the look of the Terra leather, almost went with it but chose Oyster with LeMans. Anyway glad you had an amazing time and hope you enjoy your 1, I know I am!
 

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Great writeup thumper! Enjoy your new car!:thumbup:
 

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For the afternoon, those on lower bandwidth connections will be glad to hear I got no photos ;)

OK... not many.

The afternoon started with our off-road adventure. Each of us were led to the big ol' X5's sitting out back and taken out on the off-road track. Now, for the record I have never had much of an interest in the X5; it's always seemed too big to me as I'm really a small car kind of guy. Still, I was interested to compare how the vehicle felt from behind the wheel particularly compared to the 535i I drove on my Euro Delivery trip. I got a X5 35D for my steed; the other two drivers had 50i's. I just shrugged... figured either way I'd enjoy this.

Sitting behind the wheel, it was an awful lot like the F10 535i I had driven in Europe. Sitting a lot higher, yes and you definitely felt the height of the greenhouse. However, the car itself seemed nice and comfy, solid and just about everything you'd ever expect from a BMW.

Starting the engine was of course a push-button affair, and after a quick rattle or two to start with, the engine settled nicely into a hum that was neither quite what I expected from a diesel, nor quite what I would expect from a gasoline engine. Still, once we got moving it actually felt quite nice. I would say that the first thing I noticed is that there's an obvious numbness to the steering that's not there in the smaller cars. That's to be expected given the bigger tires. Still, for a big SUV I was already quite impressed at how much it felt like a smaller vehicle... not 3-series small but definitely felt smaller than it was.

It took a bit of low-speed street driving to get to the off road track, but once there our first "mission" was to ford some deep water while our driver (whose name I missed... Andy?) was talking to us about the dangers of water and how it wouldn't take much more water than this small ford to overwhelm the car, particularly when flowing. As someone who grew up on the wild Antrim coast in Northern Ireland I am VERY aware of how powerful the water can be. I have watched people dragged off the Giants Causeway in water that came just above their ankles... quite a sobering experience.

From there it was over some deliberately rough ground. The X5 performed beautifully across this ground, never seeming to lose composure. The steering seemed a little overwhelmed by very rough spots on occasion, but I suspect that was maybe because I was going a little faster than I had thought at first. The problem with this diesel engine is it's awfully easy to get this motor pulling hard and accelerating quickly. Still, once I'd gotten the hang of it, it was all good.

For the rest you'll have to forgive me as I've kind of forgotten most of the order of the rest of the driving... but there were some definite things I'll review. There was some driving up and down hills, and some demonstrations of loss of traction on one or more wheels and how the AWD took care of keeping you moving.

First was the "frame bender". This was actually probably the favourite part of mine on the off-road track as it really was incredible to look at from outside, and just as incredible to watch! Basically you go up a steep hill... and like many of the hills we had already climbed and descended you had to use the wooden railings to try to center yourself on the course because you couldn't see the road. Once at the top you find yourself beginning to descend but the drivers side descends a lot more than the passenger side, and the rear passenger side wheel ends up hanging up in the air. When that happens you slam on the brakes, turn hard to the left and then move slowly forward again. This was fun especially as the windshield previously full of sky became a windshield full of ground. Reminded me of some of my stall training in Cessnas that went a little awry and I ended up pointing vertically down... fun ;)

Behold, video from behind of the people in front of me cresting the hill;


And from in-front;


Sorry about the awful camerawork... I had stability turned off :eek:uch:

Another great thing that was a feature of the car was the hill descent control. This is like cruise control in reverse... it holds you at a particular speed as the vehicle descends without you having to touch the brakes. I found I liked that feature a LOT. Basically, you just come over the top of the hill with the descent control speed set, and just let the vehicle coast. When it exceeds the speed you set, it takes care of applying the exact amount of braking you need to maintain that speed. Awesome and I can see that being VERY handy off-road. Particularly in vehicles this big and heavy.

Like many things at the PCD; this was over way too quickly. I really enjoyed it and I honestly gained a new respect for the X5; as mentioned before a vehicle I would never otherwise consider for myself. Makes me wonder if an X might be in my distant future... maybe an X3? Or an X6M ;)

We returned and got a surprise extra bit of testing the capabilities; because some X5's were still parked in-line we had to mount the curb to go around them and park them up front. OK, not off-roading but it WAS a BIG curb... like the size of the concrete "stops" they put in car parks. Yeah, obviously not much of a stop for an X... ;)

Generally, I have to say I was well impressed with the X, and to be honest if I were to buy one I'd choose the diesel in an heartbeat. While it lacks high end horsepower, it has torque enough to pull up tree trunks or move my house off its foundation. It's also fast enough and comfortable enough that you'd never really notice the lack of horsepower unless you wanted to try to track it... though I have no idea who'd want to track something like an X5. Still, it definitely gave me food for thought and showed a side of BMW that really isn't made much of in advertisements.

So then it was back to our cars, and we all said goodbye to the Performance Center. Over now to the Zentrum and BMW Museum...
 

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I must admit that as we drove over to the factory tour it struck me what an odd trio we must have appeared. A blue 1-series, a silver M3 and a white X6 all tooling over to the factory, following an M3 convertible. We drove over near the Zentrum and were led up to park on the path next to the Zentrum itself. So much for having to find parking... I like that. In hindsight I wish I'd captured a picture of the three cars together, but by the time I thought of it I was the only one left LOL. I guess the others had places to go and be by that night... me, I knew where I was going and didn't figure it was going to take that long.

As my first time actually driving my new car, it was actually pretty exciting and a bit of overload... trying to take in every nuance of the car and get a feel for how it responded. I knew I was going to love owning this car the moment I pushed the pedal to cross the main road and take my first drive out onto a public road in my new car. The 135i really is a monster... but that's a thread for another day.

Anyway, into the Zentrum we all meandered, and were immediately taken back to get our headsets and drop off our cellphones and cameras at the front desk for the factory tour. Yup... no cameras, no cellphones. For the terminally connected, maybe you should skip the factory tour :) Me, I didn't mind. As it was, only my son's geography teacher ended up trying to call me to tell me the bad things my son had done that day. All things considered, I am glad the factory tour wasn't spoiled by that :rofl:

I think it's somewhat unfair to compare the Spartanburg Factory Tour to the Munich Factory Tour. They're such different experiences. While Munich seems awfully sanitized and "tour-ready", the Spartanburg tour feels much more like a walk around a true factory. Having worked in a few factories in my life I know whereof I speak. In Munich even in those areas where you are pretty close to the action, most of the time you're on a walkway and thus isolated from the process. Here, you're down on the floor just feet away from the actual line. However, in Munich you do get a much better picture of the paint process; here it's talked about and there's a video about it but that's about it.

There's also so much you can say about the level of automation... and while some do fairly claim that automation does take away jobs at some level, it's also true that BMW built this automated factory in an area that created employment for a huge number of people, and had the automation not been available it is unlikely they would have built in such an area. It's a double-edged sword, but one that has been very good for the Greenville - Spartanburg economy. On that subject though, watching the ballet of motion as the machines assemble, glue and weld huge pieces of steel together really has to be seen to be believed. Don't know if I'd recommend wearing one of your favourite shirts on the tour though; you DO get awfully close to sparks and I did get one bounce off my hand at one point. Very glad for the safety glasses :)

Although the tour was very much "out of order" of the actual production process, it was incredibly informative and visual. I loved watching the shells getting their interiors, spotting the international as opposed to domestic vehicles by the subtle differences... even watching a right-hand-drive X5 getting assembled and wondering who in their right mind in England or Japan would want to try to park a car this huge. Of course, I gave up trying to park the 535i in Munich in frustration at least once so maybe I'm not the best person to judge :)

Anyway, the tour itself was awesome. We even got to applaud as an X6 got its Roundel at the end of the production line to the great amusement of the guys on the line. We even got to see some awesome non-US options on the X6 like the black rims that look GORGEOUS on that car. Come on BMW US... give us better wheel options!

Factory tour over we were released from our schedule, given our cellphones back and then it was pretty much over. We were free obviously to stay as long as we liked, go to the cafe, tour the museum... but I definitely got the feeling that some of my companions were chomping at the bit to hit the road. Either way, I decided to avail myself of some coffee (which actually wasn't half bad) and do a quick museum tour.

Now, a comparison of the BMW museum in Spartanburg to the one in Munich is REALLY unfair because the one in Munich is just amazing. It's also about 5 times the size. Still, I appreciated little things like the crash-tested X5;



The Isetta with caravan;



And a number of cool motorbikes;



But still, the one in Munich... if you get the chance to make that pilgrimage... make it!

By the time I sauntered back outside, my car was the only one of my delivery group remaining;



As the day was wearing on, and I didn't want to much get caught in anything that might resemble a rush hour around here (it was 3:30 already) I figured I had enough time left to capture some nice pictures of my car before I left.



And of course this shot, which has become the basis of part of my signature picture;



At that, it was time to head out. I got myself comfortable in my new car and dialed in my destination of Waynesville, NC on the iDrive. I chose that place partly because it was pretty much on my way, and also where I ended up getting stranded for a weekend last year when the outlet pipe on my water pump in my 545i decided it didn't want to hold liquid any more and emptied my car of coolant between Charlotte and the Tennesse border. Call me sentimental, but I wanted to return to Waynesville intentionally this time... poke around and see the town again.

On dialing in the iDrive I remembered what Donnie had said about 276. As I had been taught I went into the route information and looked at the routes that were available. The quickest route took the Interstate all the way there. The second alternate I looked at was actually the right one; go down the Interstate a few miles from the plant then head North on 276 all the way to Waynesville. It would take about an hour longer but what the hell? Why would I be in any hurry? Besides, who wouldn't listen to route advice from Donnie? :D
 

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Wonderful write up and pics! I've never seen that color before. And the interior is absolutely perfect. I honestly would have chosen that one over the Black Novillo that I got on my M3, if it was available.
 

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Very nice write-up. BTW the Marriott offers free Internet to BMW guests. Just ask at front desk.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Wonderful write up and pics! I've never seen that color before. And the interior is absolutely perfect. I honestly would have chosen that one over the Black Novillo that I got on my M3, if it was available.
Thanks, man! Yeah, I got a lot of compliments on the colour and combination at the Performance Center. It's quite unusual in a 1 series especially. I first saw it on a 5 series at a car lot when I don't think it was available on any other model line. When I saw it was available on the 1'er I intended to order I knew I just had to buy it. In the sunlight it has a very slight dark green hue to it that just doesn't come across in pictures, and in the dark it looks almost black.

The Terracotta interior honestly I had never seen until I got my car... at least not in person. I took a chance because honestly it was far nicer than any other colour scheme that was available on the 1'er. That's my opinion of course :)

Back when I ordered my aborted M3 (long story) I ordered it with the silver novillo... I still think that's a stunning interior. But hey; you have an M3... right there you stop caring so much about the colour ;)

Very nice write-up. BTW the Marriott offers free Internet to BMW guests. Just ask at front desk.
LOL... in truth it never occurred to me to ask. I get lazy about these things since my Android phone can tether quite happily (Motorola Atrix). Quite often it's faster than hotel WiFi anyway :)
 

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As I departed the BMW Factory ground at 4pm, I got caught up a bit in what I suspect was change of shift. As a result, ended up waiting in a queue of traffic waiting to leave the BMW plant. Still, not bad. It gave me time to sift through my music collection on my iPhone to figure out what I wanted to listen to while I drove. As I got moving though, I pushed the throttle in a bit (respecting those important break-in limits) and let my car sail onto I-85 enjoying the sound between gears in sport mode. I like this. Only bit I didn't like was some old guy in a 750i trying to cut me off as I merged onto the highway... I think he was startled at the acceleration of this little car, and it made me laugh.

It's not far down I-85 that you get onto I-385 into Greenville. Thankfully at this time of day it also didn't take long for me to get through Greenville and onto 276 heading North. At first I was a bit underwhelmed; pretty average suburban roads heading through the Northern parts of Greenville. However, as I continued to head North the road started getting narrower, and much more fun. By the time I was climbing the steep and curvy road into Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area I was pretty much grinning from ear to ear. At one point I passed a white X6 with a paper tag that looked awfully familiar... so I waved as I passed.

The 135i seemed right at home on these roads. Each curve it just ate up and the DCT was upshifting and downshifting precisely where I would shift a manual transmission. I hit the paddles once or twice to get the car stabilized for a particularly steep section or for passing slower moving X6's, but other than that I pretty much just left the transmission in "Drive" with the sport button lit. As I ate up the curves I became more and more comfortable with the car, and happier that I had purchased this awesome little vehicle. Really, I haven't had this much fun in a car... well... in truth, ever I think. Oh, except maybe the 1'er that I drove at the PC earlier that day ;)

Highway 276 seems to be one of the better kept secrets in this area. It's gorgeous. A wonderful combination of mountain driving and tight turns, followed by stretches of open roads with sweeping turns. I wish I had hooked up my video camera to record some of this run as there was almost no traffic the entire way up 276. In fact the only hairy parts I recall were in the mountains just to the South of Waynesville where the temperature had dropped precipitously and there were some wet patches that appeared worryingly icy to my eye. Still, taking it carefully I found myself really enjoying the road, and when once I ended up behind a pick up truck who was going slower than me he actually pulled over into one of the passing areas in the road to let me go past. I haven't seen drivers that considerate since the Autobahn in Germany! Made me at least have some hope for US drivers :)

As I cruised into Waynesville, quickly things looked familiar. As I said, I ended up stranded in Waynesville last year when my car lost all of its coolant about 3 miles short of the Tennessee border on I-40. That of course happened at 4pm on a Saturday evening so by the time a truck was able to collect me and my stranded car it was far too late to get the car seen to. I had ended up on a walking trip around Waynesville for a weekend and had found it a quaint and nice little town. Re-visiting it with wheels this time was different, but not so different. It was late enough that the main street shops were closed but I was here to eat. I looked at the points of interest on the iDrive, but seeing nothing that really tickled my fancy I pulled out my phone and instead surfed Google Maps. One place that did catch my attention was the "Chef's Table". The reviews seemed excellent and I decided that I was going to go all out and eat some quality food. The other alternative would have been Sagebrush where I ate last time... but I wanted to do something better and more local.

I will say for the record that if you're ever in Waynesville (and if you're going to take 276 you will be) then you owe it to yourself to visit the Chef's Table. This place is a chef-owned restaurant that's a little hole in the wall. The interior is gorgeous though, having tables out front and out back, then in the middle and having pride of place is a bar behind which is the kitchen. Wanting to enjoy the experience, I chose to sit at the bar which turned out to be a wonderful experience. Here's what the view was like looking toward the front door from my vantage point;



And the other way, showing the tables behind the bar and some of the bar itself;



I of course got a glass of the house Merlot, which was actually really good. And as I chatted with the chef himself he showed a real passion for the food he cooks. I ordered my dinner and as he cooked it I shot this picture;



Apologies for my hand getting into that shot :) But the experience of sitting there watching him cook my dinner was awesome, the bread and balsamic was welcome and really good (they make their own bread of course which I could also see from my vantage point) and the service was beyond awesome to me.

My meal itself; well what can I say? The chance to eat a meal and give your compliments to the chef because he's standing three feet away from you might make some people uncomfortable, but he was never hovering or looking for praise. I offered it because it was really that good... easily one of the best dinners I've had in a long time and highly recommended to anyone coming through town. Like the performance center though, dinner was over way too quickly and though I was tempted I was able to refuse dessert.

For the record, if you come to Chef's Table then make sure you ask about the specials. The chef has enough of a passion for food that he loves to try new stuff just because it sounds interesting. My waiter was telling me that a couple of weeks prior the chef had decided to make Antelope Sliders as a special... and they had been a huge hit. I can't say enough good things about this place because as much as I travel it's rare to find a place where they are so passionate about making the food right and getting the atmosphere right. I hope this guy has huge success in the future.

I of course took a bit of a driving tour of Waynesville after that. A quick drive around the areas where I had been last year, and smiled at the recollection. Despite the bad start, it had actually been a really pleasant weekend and even now I can't wait to return again. It's a lovely little town, and so close to the Tail of the Dragon and Cherohala Skyway that if you're going to do either of those you owe it to yourself to at least check the place out.

On that subject though, there will be yet one more post to come. I ended my evening with a leisurely drive down 74 and then 28 and into Robbinsville, NC. As I rolled in there that evening I felt I had just finished a great adventure. Between the Performance Center Delivery itself and then the awesome drive up 276, I had connected with my car in a way that I had never connected with a car before. Some of that was due to the car itself, but most of it I was sure was because of my choice to take this option for delivery. There's no experience quite like it, and I find myself wondering if I'll ever be happy buying a car in any other way ever again.

So ends the Performance Center Delivery day... so begins the adventures with my new car. But this won't be the end of the thread; I still have one more day to write about with some cool stuff :)
 
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