We exhibited the mighty Sunbeam at Quail Lodge today. It’s totally over the top. It runs sort of in opposition to Pebble Beach and cars shown at one are not accepted at the other.
It is pretty expensive to enter and very expensive to access. An admission ticket is over $500, but you do get free (?) food and drink.
A number of manufacturers have stands and there are lots of very shiny cars on display. Our section was prewar racing and sports cars , which didn’t mean anything really as there was a Silver Ghost and the most appalling LaFrance special. Peter Briggs was there with his beautiful K3 MG and won the class. Jim Hull and Tonya were there in their amazing Type 57 SC which has a body formed out of Electron and rivets. Peter Mullin had a Type 40 Fiacre. And there was a Type 46 trying to look like an Atalante.
Thr Quail didn’t really do it for us. Maybe we are a bit jaded after the last couple of weeks.
Next blog after PB on Sunday.
My second Pebble Beach in about 20 years. I am struggling to make sense of it.–the effort , money and time that goes into this event which lasts less than a day. There is huge sponsorship, the car companies have multi million dollar stands. All the auction houses are there doing their thing. The public pays $300 for a general admission ticket. All to see a hundred or so interesting and boring cars which by and large are a reflection of how much money their owners have.
The cars are displayed on the fairway of the PB Golf Club, so are dusty. There is no shade.
Competing cars are lined up from 5 am. And the judging starts. The public get access from 10 am. And there are many thousands. It’s a bit like the Melbourne Cup — lots of couples looking as though they had stepped out of the Great Gatsby. Lots of highly improbable breasts on conspicuous display. Later in the day areas of the lawns strewn with empty Krug bottles. A guy wandering around at lunchtime drinking Krug out of the bottle.
The Locals all take showing their cars very seriously. On our Rally from Seattle it was the main topic of conversation.
For a chance at outright success– Best in Show , it seems you need to be a billionaire. It was observed a number of times that the judging was quite political. There has been pressure to award Best in Show to a post war car and yesterday it happened. Best in Show went to a really lovely Ferrari. But to me it could just as easily have gone to any one of 20 cars
The whole thing is pretty bizarre. And a very long day.
Final day and beyond
Well, we did it ! And in fine style in the mighty Sunbeam. Another rally where it has needed no mechanical attention at all.
I am writing this sitting in my complimentary folding chair ( two per entrant) on the lawn at Quail Lodge. We are surrounded by some fabulous cars and lots of free restaurants and bars. Lfie can be hell!
Now , winding back a bit , we had a rest day in the Sonoma Valley before our final day run down to Pebble Beach. Our event organiser, Al McEwan had a special treat for us– a visit to Arturo Keller’s collection at his winery. As Al said, it’s a collection of the best of the best. There are about 200 cars in five buildings, one each for British, German, French, Italian and American cars. Each car is perfect. There is wonderful memorabilia. Strictly no photos.
The Bugatti line up comprised about half a dozen 57s in various forms, a Brescia, a 51 and a 37A with touring bodywork
One of Keller’s staff told me that fewer than 100 people a year get to see the cars. It does seem a shame to me that this astounding collection is reserved for the pleasure of one man, now well into his eighties. But, they are his and I guess he can do what he likes with them. At least they are being loved and nurtured.
Our final dinner at the Kenwood Inn was the usual semi riotous affair, with Al and Sandy McEwan making very funny speeches.
Our final day was a drive to Pebble Beach over the Golden Gate Bridge, which was pretty special. Al had worked out a route which minimised traffic and he had a final surprise for us– lunch at the home and car collection of Larry Carter. Larry has about 60 cars, all immaculate. His passion is Ferraris and he has a dozen or so. The rest of the collection is idiosyncratic, just stuff he loves. Lots of muscle cars and hotrods.
After lunch the caravan moved on to our Rally finish at the lodge at Pebble Beach. More speeches and red wine and some goodbyes. We won an award for bon vivantism I think.
Then Reg and I had an adventure collecting our rental car and finding our apartment. But it all ended well.
You really have to be here to see what a huge event Pebble Beach has become. The traffic is chaotic, yesterday it took me an hour to drive the seven miles from Monterey to Quail Lodge.
The Organisation behind the event is really slick, the amount of corporate sponsorship is amazing.
Yesterday was the Pebble Beach Tour. This is only open to cars which have done Al’s event from Seattle or which are entered in the PBConcours. The latter get extra points in the Concours if they do the Tour.
We had to get up before 6 to get our to PB before the traffic got too terrible. The Tour started at 8 and was very slow. We did a lap at Laguna Seca where they were setting up for this weekend’s historic races and wound up in Carmel for lunch. The crowds were astounding! Thousands of people milling everywhere, lunch in the park with a string quartet serenading us. Then off to Quail Lodge to leave the Sunbeam overnight.
More to come.
Day 7 Albion to the Kenwood Inn , Sonoma Valley. Approx 150 miles.
An easy morning for Reg. We set off down the Pacific Coast Highway and he said ” the first call is in 92 miles” .
This must be one of the world’s great drives.The road hugs the coast pretty much all the way and there are few houses built between the road and the ocean. The road is mainly one lane in each direction, but there are lots of little turnouts and people are very good about using them to allow faster cars ( like the Sunbeam !) to pass.
The road is undulating and pretty twisty. As we bowled along I thought just how good the Sunbeam’s chassis and steering are. It isn’t as good as a Bugatti, but then nothing I have driven is. The steering requires very little effort at any time and it doesn’t load up in corners. I have finished each day feeling quite fresh and without aching shoulders. My braking leg is another matter. The pedal effort is pretty high and there are a lot of corners.
As we proceeded we encountered coming the other way a train of at least 50 Lamboghinis heading the other way. A very impressive sight and sound.
We drove down the coast to Jenner (92 miles ) and then turned inland into the Sonoma Valley which is wine country. Three things happened almost simultaneously– Reggie snapped into action, it started getting hotter as we went inland and the road surface deteriorated significantly.
Our destination for lunch was the Hop Kiln Winery. While there, Corry and Donna McFarland arrived sans car. The transmission had failed in their 1958 Mercedes Cabriolet.
A short , but very bumpy afternoon drive to the Napa Valley and our home for the next two nights, the Kenwood Inn. It is like a little bit of Tuscany and the rooms are really lovely.
I got my days wrong about the car collection viewing. It’s tomorrow and I can reveal that it is the collection of Arturo Keller.
Tomorrow is a lay day , but I’ll report on the visit.
Day 5 Riverside to Eureka. 168 miles.
Today I realised a dream and drove through a forest of Redwoods. To me they add another dimension to the word ” majestic”. So we stopped and I hugged one!
Our run was down the Redwood highway to the Pacific coast at Crescent City. The road was excellent, passing through forest with a number of small towns and some industrial stuff. There was more traffic than we have been used to, but no problems. Reg and I are enthusiastic collectors of quirky signs. We collected these this morning:
“New beer– Slippery Zipper ” at the “G Spot” bar
A Cobra with the number plate. “HSSSS”
A hearse with the number plate. “FNL RYD “
Chicken fried steak
Spotty’s Car Wash
We had lunch looking over the Pacific, then headed down the Redwood Highway to Eureka. We are staying at the Carter House, which is a beautiful Victorian boutique hotel. Eureka is famous for its Victorian architecture.
I’ll finish with a couple of general observations. There is coffee available everywhere. It’s awful and almost invariably comes in paper cups. Yuk!
All the places we have stayed have abandoned check in codes for WIFI. About time.
Day 6 Eureka to Albion 175 miles.
We have experienced a huge range of temperatures today. This morning started cool and foggy, requiring a jumper and jacket. By mid morning it was warm and shirtsleeves were the way to travel . After lunch it must have been in the high 90s– really hot– as we headed for the coast. When we reached the coast it was back into jumpers and jackets. Strange.
Last night at dinner we heard about a coffee shop in Eureka with a motorcycling theme, so we decided to check it out on our way out of town. Good decision. It is called “Lightning”. I had easily the best coffee (in a mug) i have had in America. Lightning features a collection of interesting motorbikes and memorabilia and the owner is a delightful guy .
It also features on a wall a mural of Roly Free setting a speed record at Bonneville lying prone on his Vincent Black Lightning wearing only a crash helmet and bathers! What a man!. Please support it next time you are in Eureka.
After leaving Eureka we did a bit of freeway motoring to Ferndale, which has a lovely Victorian main street. The many and varied shops feature some really high quality craft and art and some great antiques and quirky stuff. As luck would have it there was a liquor store open, so we were able to stock up for our lunchtime BBQ among the redwoods.
The road to the Avenue of the Giants went through a valley chock full of cows. The road, unusually, was quite rough. Then we hit the Avenue of the Giants and drove for 10 miles through giant redwoods. Fantastic. We stopped at a picnic area and really did have a BBQ under the Redwoods. The red was a local petit shiraz and very palatable indeed.
The afternoon started very hot as we wound our way through more forest to the coast. Once we hit the coast the road became much easier as it ran along the cliffs above the coast. I have to say that it puts the Great Ocean Road to shame. And Reg says that it is like this nearly all the way to San Francisco.
Our afternoon finished with a run down the Coast through Fort Bragg , Mendocino and Little River
( without the Band)
Tonight we are staying at the Heritage House Resort, which is excellent so far, apart from the fact that our room has only a double bed and a couch.
Tomorrow we are going to visit what we are told is the best car collection in the World.
From Mt Hood 250 miles through the Cascades to SunRiver Resort in central Oregon , with lunch at BlackButte Ranch. A long , hot, hard day on beautiful, mainly empty roads, with fantastic scenery. Mile after mile of forest. The road following big rivers. Two big passes– Mc Kenzies Pass and another whose name I can’t remember. The Sun River Resort is at about 4500 feet.
The Sunbeam is going beautifully. Today’s highlight was overtaking two modern Corvettes going up a hill and the tucking in behind a truck for a run downhill. And there at the bottom of the hill was the Highway Patrol. We survived. Don’t know about the Corvettes.
A book could be written about American shower taps. In every hotel or motel they seem to be different and confusing. I spent ages fiddling with one last night to discover that you had to pull down on the bath tap outlet to make the water come out of the shower. What happened to the good old hot and cold taps?
In yesterday’s instalment I was railing on about American showers. I also am experiencing a problem with the height of the ambient water level in American toilets. It is much higher than In Australia , or Europe come to think of it . So I’ll leave it to your imagination (or experience of American toilets) to complete the sentence.
Back to the Rally.
We left the SunRiver Resort early so that we could arrive early at our lunch destination because that was the only way they would agree to handle our group. The lunch destination was Crater Lake lodge, another of the series of wonderful old Lodges we have visited on the Rally. It is built on the very edge of Crater Lake. Think the Mount Gambier Blue Lake by about one hundred. Absolutely breathtaking.
The drive to Crater Lake started chilly but rapidly warmed up. The drive was again mainly through fir forests on flowing , billiard table roads. It was among the best drives I have ever had.
As usual Reg got the calls spot on. After lunch a 90 mile drive To Grants Pass, a 200 mile day. Waiting for us was a special treat — a jetboat trip to a BBQ dinner . We did all the jetboat stuff– spins ,clipping the banks ,going through rapids. Everyone got soaked and loved it.
There have been a couple of casualties. The beautiful ambulance has retired . It just couldn’t handle the climbs over the passes. Today the German Speed Six Bentley has had magneto trouble, but they seem to have that sorted now. The Sunbeam is just singing. It loves these flowing traffic free smooth roads.
I am tremendously impressed by the way the American cars go. Most of the cars on our Rally are Concours standard with heavy bodywork but except on the severe climbs they really get along and have been very reliable.
Tomorrow we head for the Coast.
And more shower mechanisms!
We have just finished day 2 of the 1500 mile Pebble Beach Classic Rally from Seattle to Monterey.
It takes 8 days and goes through the Cascades Mountain Range . Tonight we are staying at the fabulous Timberline Lodge , which is on Mt Hood and is at about 7000 feet. The roads and scenery are quite wonderful.
There are 25 cars on the Rally , a combination of American and European. The Americans are mainly Packards and Cords with a Kaiser Darrin and a fabulous 1930 Studebaker Hearse with stained glass rear windows.
The Europeans comprise Hispano Suiza, Mercedes, Maserati(2), Delahaye, Riley MPH, Ferrari and Bentley(2). Allen Reid from Melbourne joined me as the Aussie contingent in his beautiful Delage D8 S and I am here in the mighty aero engined Sunbeam with Reg Kenny riding Shotgun.
Our first day covered nearly 300 miles, a lot of which was in the mountains. We passed Mt.Ranier and then had a twisting 30 mile climb to view the devastation which resulted when Mt St Helens blew it’s top in 1980. A severe test of cooling systems and hard going with jetlag kicking in savagely.
The American owned cars are pretty well all what we think of as American Concours. But they all go very well and are driven enthusiastically. No one is being precious about their car.
Today we started from our overnight stop at Bonneville Hot Springs and spent most of our fairly short day following the mighty Columbia River until our 26 mile climb to the Lodge. The road was wide and open and the Sunbeam just ate it up.