First Destination - Ocean City, Maryland
The wife and I first met up with our travel partner at the Baltimore airport, a sexy 2010 model shed in Phantom Black Pearl paint with a Magma Red interior. A daring and bold choice suitable for nothing with less than 300 horses under the hood. Luckily, this one had 354HP thanks to its FSI direct injected V8. I myself immediately dug the color combo. But, it was met with uncertain and skeptical views by some along our tip, including my copilot. Maybe it's a man versus woman thing?
At any rate, from the parking lot in Baltimore we plugged our destination into Audi's latest and greatest "3G" navigation system and off we went. Having a 2009 A4 as a daily driver back home, the changes made to the newest iteration of the NAV unit seemed subtle at first. Skipping ahead to present day though I sure do miss that S5's system. The improvements can really be appreciated once you go back to an older one. The enhanced map views, UI tweaks, and more exact and detailed direction listings amount to one near-perfect experience. It was a huge time-saver for us and definitely a must-have on a trip like this.
Upon arriving into Ocean City on a Thursday night, days before the actual H2O International show, we were amazed by how many tuned Audis and Volkswagens were already buzzing around town. This being my first East Coast VW/Audi show I was quite impressed. Nothing like it on the West Coast even comes close, past or present. While greatly outnumbered by modified VWs, the stock Audi S5 still got some looks and a little love. Only a car this sexy straight off the assembly line can do that. And of course, the sound of the V8 growling under the hood and burbling out of the tailpipes helps a little as well.
Our final day in Maryland had us parked on the fields of Ocean Downs, the venue for H2O. We were located in the "Club Parking" section with a number of other Audi enthusiasts and Audizine members, putting us out a bit further in a grassy area sprinkled with the occasional sand trap. Here we had a couple of tents set up with plenty of room for anyone that wanted to stop by. It was a good thing too. While for the better part of our stay on the Maryland coast we had experienced the lovely humidity that the North East offered in late Summer, on that Sunday things changed a bit. The clouds darkened and the rain began to fall. Surprisingly, this ended up making for some of the most memorable parts of the trip.
It was truly a great pleasure to meet so many members and supporters of The Zine that I'd only conversed with on the site itself, through email, or via telephone. Sitting under the Audizine and N.E.R.D. tents scarfing down Daft's grilled goodies, running from the various tuner's booths between rainstorms to talk shop, and watching front wheel drive Dubbers getting stuck in the wet sandy grass all made for a seriously unforgettable time. Least I not forget the amazing hospitality we received from the GCC
'ers. Shouts for the shots! Before we knew it though we had to say goodbye. It was time to confidently turn all four wheels as we headed on out, north to New York.
Destination Two - New York, New York
Like most, you've probably heard your share of horror stories about car rides through "The Big Apple". Whether in a cab or your own vehicle, you're probably frightened about the potential dangers that the streets of New York may hold. I tell you what, it's not that bad. The worst part about the drive to our hotel in Mid-Town Manhattan was actually all the damn toll booths we encountered on the drive up through Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. Nobody warned me of the need to carry a wallet full of cash, but lesson learned. If it wasn't for the somewhat understanding guy we encountered at the very last toll booth of the evening, we would've spent that night in the S5 just outside the Lincoln Tunnel.
The other cliche is how rude and uncaring Manhattanites are. Again, not entirely true. While the guy I referred to at the Lincoln Tunnel tollbooth did give us some grief for only having two dollars left on us, when the toll was eight, he did eventually let us through with a smile and a "have a nice night"
. Sure maybe it was because he was planning a much pricier $50 bill in the mail for failure to pay the toll, but I like to think he simply forgot to clear us through the appropriate channels after letting us pass. At any rate, we made it. The V8 roaring a triumphant note which echoed from one end of the tunnel to the other.
Once on the island though, surrounded by the towering buildings, the navigation was no longer as helpful as it had been. It wasn't able to accurately track us and therefore give us the correct turn-by-turn directions. Luckily the graphical map was detailed enough, and the street signs fully legible under the bright city lights, that it wasn't all that hard to find our way. I also thank my stars for the instant-on power of the V8 coupled with the sure-footedness of the quattro all-wheel drive system on the damp city streets. It had us dancing passed the pushy NYC cabbies with a quickness. I also thank Audi for their Blind Spot Assist feature, most importantly because this 66-thousand dollar car wasn't mine!
As we awoke to another day of drizzle, I couldn't wait to get over to the local Audi mecca - The Audi Forum New York. I actually booked the hotel we stayed at because it was within walking distance of the Forum. It was on my list of must-visit places while in The City. Unfortunately the showroom floor was somewhat cleared out due to a private party held earlier that week so there weren't as many vehicles on display as there might normally be. They had an A4, A6, Q5, and to my surprise an all-new 2011 A8, weeks before they went on display at Audi dealerships across the country. It truly is a beautiful car, inside and out. It's another step ahead for the Audi brand, one that needs to be seen (and felt) in person. Photographs cannot capture the details and craftsmanship of Audi's latest edition of their flagship sedan. Needless to say I had a hard time pulling the wife out of it.
All told we spent roughly three days in NYC doing a number of the usual touristy things. On Tuesday evening though, it was time to head to our next destination. Luckily the rain had let up because I was really hoping to snap a few photographs of the S5 in front of our very classic Manhattan hotel. I knew the hardest part of that task would be talking the doorman into not only letting me park the car long enough to load our bags, but to get some decent photos before we left. When I first mentioned this rather odd request to him I'm pretty sure he thought I was nuts, but once the S5 rolled up it became a different story. A grin appeared upon his face and he even happily offered to move the car parked right out front - which just happened to be a BMW. He then came over and said, "take all the time you need"
. I love NY!