The V-10 cracked and popped as I let off the accelerator and dipped into another corner after a touch of brake. The wind threw my hair across my forehead as I got back on the gas and the trees overhead parted to glance at my arms with heat.
“This was work,” I had to remind myself as I chased the Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet into a blind right turn.
My day had started early that morning with a 4:15 am uber to the airport and then a 6:00 am flight from Chicago to Atlanta. In reality though, our journey had started months earlier. It began as a casual idea thrown around in a few meetings. “What if we took Xtreme Xperience and finally tried it on the road?” At this point it had been 9 years and over 250,000 supercar experiences on racetracks around the USA. Exploring such an audacious idea was only feasible thanks to the company running like clockwork. We were great at putting ANYONE in a supercar and letting them rip around a racetrack.
Open Road, as it soon became known, was an entirely new idea with very different challenges. However, as meetings continued and CEO Adam Olalde officially commissioned the idea as the newest arm of the company, things got exciting. Open Road Tours would be guided, 15-150 mile tours offered 5 days a week out of a set location for 2-4 weeks while Open Road Travel Experiences would be multi-day luxury vacations where car & travel enthusiasts would enjoy driving, rich experiences, and fine dining.
We decided that Georgia would be the first destination and in filming some initial teaser content in Chicago, realized that we had our four supercars. The ferocity of the Huracan was a must (more on that later), the Ferrari (488) is every enthusiast’s dream, a Porsche 911 GT3 has handling made for the Open Road, and the C8 effortlessly attacks every corner, turning heads along the way. The next major step was to find the roads.
Armed with Google Maps on a conference room screen, our team laid out various lengths of routes, pouring over every gap, mountain pass, and known destination north of Atlanta. We found two sets of routes, each offering incredible driving roads, beautiful lookouts, and stunning scenery. On paper, they looked ideal, but we knew we needed to see them for ourselves.
A few weeks later, Dave, one of our leadership team members, Elia, our videographer, and myself (Aaron) met at the airport at 5:00 am on a Monday. We had 36 hours to meet our objectives – test the routes and capture content along the way – before we were back on the plane to Chicago at 8:45 pm on Tuesday. We had three rental cars awaiting us in Atlanta. A Volvo S90 R Design for filming and scouting, and two supercars, a Lamborghini Huracan and Porsche 911. We were told at least one and hopefully both would be convertibles.
The anticipation really started to build when, after connecting with a local Xtreme Xperience instructor (Walter) who would lend his expertise as an additional driver for the first day, we arrived at the private airport in Northern Atlanta. There in the parking lot were two stunning, seemingly brand new supercars. The Porsche 911 Cabriolet was a looker, but the Lamborghini Huracan EVO Sypder? My goodness. We have three EVOs in the Xtreme Xperience fleet (red, black, and green) but this one still made my jaw drop. The black soft top was the perfect contrast to the white exterior and black wheels, while inside the red leather and carbon seats screamed exotic.
I should mention that by this point it was 90 degrees in Atlanta and I was confident in my choice to wear shorts.
Once signing a few papers, giving over a copy of our licenses, and submitting a sizable deposit, we put the top down in both cars and headed north into the mountains. Immediately, both cars were mobbed by gawkers and budding supercar spotting photographers.
It was at the gas station that I realized just how special these two days were going to be. Day-to-day, I drive a Toyota Highlander, the ultimate dad-mobile. But in the driver’s seat of a Lamborghini with the top down, it was like I was someone else. Every time I got in or out of the car, I found myself re-explaining why we were driving these cars through the mountains, standing back so the gawker could take a picture, or offering a quick fact about what it was like to drive (amazing! powerful!).
But if those moments were exhilarating, it was nothing like what we experienced after dropping our bags at the hotel. The casually winding road almost immediately gave way to a climbing, twisting mountainside pass. Covered with shade from trees on one side and the towering cliffside on the other, we snaked up to the top of the mountain.
I was in pure bliss. At this point I was by myself in the Huracan, Walter (a professional driver) in front of me in the Porsche, and Dave and Elia filming from behind in the Volvo. Alone, I found myself repeatedly grinning at each shot of acceleration that lit up the V-10 and shouted through the trees. I started cautiously, eventually confidently and smoothly pushing in and out of each turn.
After our first stretch, we turned onto an even more technical stretch of road. There, I had one of the best experiences of my life. Every corner seemed different and better than the last. Some banking one way before quickly switching to bank into the other. Tight hairpins that pressed you into the car and the car into the road. Sweeping downhill corners that felt worthy of a roller coaster. It was also at the end of this that I realized that Walter truly is a professional driver. Whereas I found myself at my limit, he lamented needing to brake for my sake saying, “normally we’d be taking that stretch a lot faster.” I didn’t care. I loved the whole thing.
The rest of the day was spent flying up and down stretches of road to capture various photos and video clips – a lot of U-turns onto small pull offs on the side of mountain roads. By 5 pm, we had exhausted Elia and his equipment and called it a day. Getting in and out of my Huracan Spyder and pushing that fighter jet starter was at this point commonplace. Can life get any better?
That night, we dropped off Walter and got some much needed burgers while deciding on a plan of action for day 2 (Sitting in a Lamborghini is hard work, I got a double burger, fries, and shared fried pickles). There was a high chance of rain and we were hesitant to put the two rear-wheel-drive supercars in the rain on mountains even if they were in tame mode. We had scouted some of the roads and were confident in the footage captured, but had a few more routes to test. We also really wanted some great sunrise footage. We went to bed with our fingers crossed and alarms set to 5:15 am ready to make the final call the next morning.
I sleepily peeked out into the dark. No rain. The weather app had pushed it to 8:00 am. I roared the Lamborghini to life (in the covered garage – apologies to the other Holiday Inn guests) and Elia jumped in the Porsche. Dave was headed for a quick breakfast and then off to check on a few other routes and lookout points. Anxious to make it to our destination before the sun came up, we postponed breakfast and coffee.
The lifeless roads offered no resistance as we carved our way through the diminishing darkness. 10 minutes into our 25 minute trip, we came upon a fellow car enthusiast enjoying the stillness of the dawn in a BMW five series. Clearly used to the roads, he led us to our destination. As we turned off to the Burnt Mountain Lookout, he roared on, down the other side of the mountain. For those few miles, we had shared a bond every car enthusiast understands.
The sun was climbing across the mountaintops and spilling into the valleys as we placed the two supercars for a set of photos and videos. More than once as Elia captured stunning shots, cars would round the corner and slow at the sight. I would have done the same. The lookout seemed as if it were seated at the head of the table with other peaks all gathered around the valley for our enjoyment. Yet another, “is this real life,” moment.
From there, we strapped GoPros to both the interior and exterior of both cars and chased each other down the mountain. I’ll confess, the rate of speed was increased on this leg of the journey, partially due to the road but mostly thanks to an increasing need for Waffle House and a strong cup of coffee.
After a quick breakfast (with a highly entertaining, restaurant-wide discussion speculating as to the types of the fancy cars that were parked outside) we met up with Dave and headed back up a road that we had traversed the day before. It was on this jaunt that we found ourselves in awe of a Toyota Tacoma with a Trailer and Toyota FJ that were taking the now damp corners with such confidence that our trio of performance oriented cars barely needed to back off from our original pace.
Halfway up the mountain, we pulled off to take what was likely going to be the last set of photo & video footage. A slight drizzle had taken over the overcast morning, so we took the opportunity to film putting the tops up on the cars and then captured some final drone footage and subdued cloudy shots. Dave departed up the mountain to time and measure the 130 mile route before the rain made life miserable while Elia captured a few final drone shots up in the clouds.
With the rain staying to a minimum, we then drove to the top of the mountain where at a second lookout, we met the Toyota owners who drove with admirable confidence. Yet again another car enthusiast conversation. Unsurprisingly, the admiration was mutual and we swapped stories about cars and roads. To me, this is the best part about being a car enthusiast – meeting someone anywhere and being able to instantly connect thanks to a shared passion.
We headed back down the mountain, stopping to snap a few vibrant photos in the rain, and headed back to Atlanta. Mercifully, after five minutes of a blinding downpour, the hour-long trip on the highway was the perfect relaxing end to our time with these cars. Elia and I switched so he could enjoy the roaring V10 and I could enjoy the adjustable cooled seats in the Porsche (fixed carbon seats are cool, but not always comfortable). More fellow car enthusiasts and gawkers snapping photos and motioning for a quick rev of the engine. We of course obliged.
We dropped the cars off, met Dave, drove back to the airport, and dropped off the Volvo. Once through security, we sat down for dinner as our flight was not until later in the evening. We sat against the window, watching planes scurry to and from their gates, debriefing the trip as we ate.
We each shared our individual favorite moments – having a little kid lean out the back window of his car to ask us to rev the engine of the Lamborghini, challenging the Volvo to keep up with the Porsche & Lamborghini through the tightest, most technical parts of the road, a family sacrificing their timely arrival at their destination and pulling off the road so that their begging son could see and then sit in the supercars.
After a bumpy flight, Elia, Dave, and I parted ways at the airport. It was 10:30 pm when I got dropped off at home. As I got out of the car I couldn’t help but notice how normal everything was. There was my Highlander out front. The lawn still needed mowing. Nothing had changed. Yet somehow the last two days had made everything feel different.
Despite having woken up at 4:00 am that morning, I found myself unable to sleep. Instead, I recounted the feeling of driving the Huracan around each corner. It was an experience like none other, which I would never forget and would be one of the best in my life. OPEN ROAD is going to be the highlight of many other people’s lives as they enjoy the best roads in some of the world’s best supercars.