Pebble Beach Weekend
August 22, 2013—The drive up the Pacific Coast Highway was a bit tedious, but at least the views were spectacular. The elevation changes along that road border on the extreme from sea level to crests that look down on the foggy sea and back down through twists and turns carved by the unrelenting waves (and seismic activity). Ben, Carlo and I separated approaching Pebble Beach, as they wanted to check into their hotel. I went to claim my press credentials so I could wander uninhibited.
On Friday though, the only cars present on the greens were manufacturers’ late model show cars (with a couple of exceptions, notably, Jaguar). Still, the grounds are vast and I enjoyed walking and getting lost on the cool, misty peninsula. Every so often a distinctive exhaust or engine note would shatter the monotony of passing traffic and a pair of round headlights would materialize. Sometimes they’d be pulling a Jaguar XK140 others a Ferrari 250. It was incredible to see such a rich display of automobiles.
The rest of the day was spent in a similar manner, moving slowly to familiarize and appreciate the natural and automotive beauty in this place. My two friends and I reconvened later that night for a meal of meager proportions, but epic flavor and execution at the one-Michelin-starred Aubergine. While the food was delicious, the maître d’ did not appreciate my sense of humor. I replied, “Yes. I am allergic to bad food,” when he asked if we had any allergies the chef should know about. He looked at me in the same manner as the maître d’ from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, below.
We finished the diminutive, tasty meal and decided to call it a night. Saturday was a chaotic shock in comparison to Friday’s laid-back stroll around Pebble Beach. We began by attending a Cars and Coffee at a local mall that was also attended by the Lamborghini club and used as a starting point to their rally. If I had a dollar for every time the organizer repeated, “this is not a race,” I’d be able to afford a new Lamborghini.
They departed and we headed for Laguna Seca. At this point, I feel that I should reveal my bias—I LOVE Laguna Seca. In my opinion, it’s the greatest track in America, if not the world. You can see a great deal of the track from the top of The Corkscrew, it has a fairly long straight and a couple of great hairpins. Additionally, the change in elevation (and the speed with which the elevation changes) is difficult to appreciate unless you’ve seen it in person.
No, I haven’t been to every track in the US and certainly not the world, but Laguna Seca feels like a hometown track while remaining challenging and world class. How I wish I lived closer. It certainly isn’t perfect—it’s dusty and windy, especially at the top of The Corkscrew and can get quite sunny and hot near the straight and infield. But when the sun peaks through the clouds rolling in from the Pacific, it’s just magical.
Anyhow, after passing signs warning of unexploded ordnance, I parked the Viper on a hill that must have been cleared long ago (hopefully). I didn’t hear anything, which is odd because the Historics should have been in full swing and the sound echoes through the valleys and peaks. They must have been in between heats. I called Ben to see where they were. I approached the front straight as he answered and the pace car pulled off the track. Needless to say, the resulting thunder from the track made a phone conversation impossible until the cars cleared turn three.
A paddock pass was included in the price of admission and I walked from Porsche stall to McLaren stall to Allard stall to... nearly starstruck. The diversity of cars was astounding. Jay Leno was admiring a Ferrari 250 GTO while I shot photos, grinned and said, “amazing,” as he walked off. Until he spoke, I hadn’t realized who was right next to me. A brief while later, Patrick Dempsey walked by as I drooled over a ninety year-old Talbot Grand Prix car about to head to the starting grid. Legends surround you, but I’m not just talking about people. There was an ex-Niki Lauda Ferrari F1 car. And there’s George Follmer chatting with Christi Edelbrock next to the transporter.
Ben and Carlo eventually found me and we spent some time on The Corkscrew watching the cars being pushed and getting loose through the right handed descent of the famous corner. They decided that they’d had their fill and sped off to one of the several auctions being held. I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years. It was good seeing him and we spent the majority of the time reminiscing about our old cars and trading stories about our new ones. I think we also talked about his wife and my fiancée. Maybe. We’re just a couple of old gearheads, I guess.
I hit the RM Auction afterwards and watched a Lancia Stratos sell for around $350,000. I regretted that the person purchasing it would probably, at best, drive it once a year and permit it to collect dust and leak oil the rest of the time. A Ferrari F50 then sold for about $1.5 million. I guess these sums don’t compare to the $27 million NART Spyder that exchanged hands.
Drifting to sleep, excited for my first Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the morning, I couldn’t help but think of the irony: I actively contribute to this madness by glorifying and fetishizing cars. Oh well. They excite me, symbolize freedom and adventure and frankly, there are worse ways to earn a living.
The alarm pierced my dreams and I shot out of bed like a lightning bolt the following morning. I was ready in twelve minutes, back at Pebble Beach by 7:30AM and off the shuttle by RetroAuto by 7:40. After some quick shots of cars brought by OEMs, I walked through the Pebble Beach Lodge down to the eighteenth green. If you like blue blazers and khakis, Johann Sebastien Bach or the elderly then you missed quite an event!
It’s easy to poke fun because the Concours takes itself VERY seriously and so do the attendees. And yes, the folks attending are very rich, very traditional and extremely sartorially challenged. But they’re also car buffs of the first order and will happily chat about the car you’re both staring at. The event itself is difficult to describe because there is such a variety of cars and people. I hadn’t imagined that I would enjoy it as much as I did. Comparing Pebble Beach to your local Cars n’ Coffee (which is how I had perceived it) is like comparing the Amazon to the flower section in your local Home Depot. The diversity, richness and historic nature of the cars cannot be understated. The concepts that OEMs display and the cars on the eighteenth hole comprise the cars that actually matter.
And the people? Well, in the four hours I was there I spotted Wayne Carini, Norman Dewis, Art Fitzpatrick, Jean Jennings, Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, and Ed Welburn. And I am awful at celebrity spotting. I actually managed to shake Sir Jackie’s hand and introduce myself, telling him that I was a big fan and he replied graciously in his famous brogue. That to me is the spirit of the event; regardless of wealth or status everyone is united by a common passion. I’m already planning for next year.
The drive home and the best photos of all the events coming soon... [kiWO]