Just a couple hours drive down the coast from San Francisco is the village of Carmel-By-The-Sea, a self-consciously European community occupying one of the more attractive locations on earth. Sharing a small bay with the Pebble Beach Golf Links and several other world class golf courses, Carmel has been rated one of America's top ten resort destinations by Condé Nast Traveller magazine.
An overnight visit to Carmel rose to the top of the agenda when Torbin at Club Sportiva offered to loan me the club's red Maserati Spyder convertible for a short trip. Between San Francisco and Carmel is the Pacific Coast Highway, about two and a half hours of relatively open and highly scenic road.
Club Sportiva does a highly professional job of checking members out on its vehicles, and that's a good thing. The Spyder, for example, has only four inches of ground clearance. Without the orientation I'd probably have had a close encounter with a gas station ramp.
But forget ground clearance - the Spyder is a great car on the open road. Nor were we the only people to appreciate it. I learned to maintain my composure when other drivers screamed as we passed, or as they passed us, but the first couple of times I was looking frantically around to see what pending doom was upon us.
We departed late morning of the first day, dressed in slip-on shoes, linen trousers, polo shirt and an odd jacket and wearing an old Panama hat that wouldn't have broken my heart if the wind had taken it. The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay provided lunch, and we arrived at L'Auberge Carmel in time for a single malt and a cigar in the courtyard before dinner.
The next day we had a late breakfast, spent a few minutes at the beach and headed North to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Then lunch, and more open road to San Francisco.
At end of day we transferred our belongings back to our own car and took our leave of Club Sportiva's Spyder. For anyone that likes the experience of driving an open topped car as I do, two sunny days in a Maserati on the Pacific Coast Highway makes getting there most of the fun.