Throwback Thursday: Life in the Fast Lane

The bug stains on the windshield are a visible reminder the previous two hours spent on the Pacific Coast Hwy had been memorable. Life in the fast lane has a high price and per capita the biggest contributor to this successful road trip is the west coast insect population.

My inspiration for this trip started in early September, when on a rainy day I attended the Bridgestone Racing Academy in Mosport, Ontario. It was during the evening dinner that I sat down with fellow racing student Andrew Firestone, (The Bachelor- Season 3). We talked about his passion for wine, life as a bachelor and reminisced about the day’s driving events.

It wasn’t long before the discussion turned to cars and our personal favourites for sports cars we would both like to drive. Andrew’s first choice was a Dodge Viper SRT10, in either Coupe or Convertible trim.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I had suggested a road trip from Los Angeles to the Firestone family vineyard in Santa Ynez, California. To my delight he had agreed and now I am cruising the Pacific coast with Andrew in the passenger seat of one of the most powerful cars built in North America.

Inside the cockpit of the red 2006 Viper SRT10 Convertible, life is just about perfect. Fresh ocean breezes ruffle my hair and shirt, while the lusty burble of the 8.3-Liter V10 engine plays a steady tune underfoot.

With 510 horsepower and 535 lb-ft of torque available, keeping off the gas pedal is a real challenge. My heart jumps a few times as representatives from The California Highway Patrol are never too far away.

A slick 6-speed transmission assures excellent connectivity between car and driver. Huge black sidewall tires mounted on 18” polished aluminum wheels in front and 19’s in the rear, offer superb traction and menacing good looks.

Driving the Viper SRT10 is not for the faint of heart. Unlike many of its supercar counterparts, this Über-mover lacks much of the techno-gadgetry so innate to the sport cars of today. A throwback to a time when driving fast actually required a thorough understanding of the limits of adhesion, the Viper is a fun car that can quickly turn “big and scary” if you’re not paying attention.

Black suede seats with leather trim hug hips and thighs, while an oversized black on white tachometer, with side speedometer and fuel gauge dominate the gauge package. A 3-spoke steering wheel provides excellent road feel and a side-stack of smaller gauges allows for a quick check of vital engine stats even while apexing a corner.

Viceroy Santa Monica

Passing through Malibu and Ventura on the way to Santa Barbara, my previous evening spent at the Viceroy Santa Monica hotel was a gratifying, but distant memory. An urban retreat of renown in the heart of the Santa Monica beach district, the Viceroy commands attention as the place to see and be seen by the beautiful people of Hollywood and Los Angeles.

With a total of 163 scrumptiously adorned guestrooms and suites, the lure of the Viceroy Santa Monica was not so much in lavish decorations, but in the simplicity of design and vibrant colours that define the intimate style of this elegant hotel.

Hardwood floors, white walls with interspersed black columns, mirrored backdrops and comfy white and bright green wingback chairs dominate the main entrance. Take a short stroll through the lobby and you find yourself immersed in the casual, high energy atmosphere of a Hollywood pool setting. Private cabanas play host to the tanned and toned. Nearby, small round tables with zebra striped umbrellas bring a chic closeness to the dining experience at Whist Patio.

Rooms are oversized and laid out to perfection, offering the latest take on the trendy minimalist theme. It had taken considerable effort to force myself not to spend the whole day in the king-size bed. So comfortable were the extra thread count sheets and warm comforter that I had to remind myself on several occasions of the big red machine waiting for me in valet parking.

But that was yesterday and as nice as my stay at the Viceroy Santa Monica had been, I chased away any lingering thoughts and let the sweet sounds of a high revving V10 reverberate through my head as I downshifted from fourth to third gear and blew past an unsuspecting motorist.

2006 Viper SRT10 Convertible

According to Andrew, driving the Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect tonic for whatever ails you. With the sun glinting off the hood of the Viper Convertible, I couldn’t agree more.

A ribbon of asphalt that winds through much of California, Oregon and all the way into Washington, this highway is known as much for its scenic beauty as it is for the eclectic collection of cities and towns that dot the western coast of the United States. Landmarks abound, but all flashed by in a hurry as we let the intoxicating qualities of the Viper take over while reveling in the pungent aroma of salt air and sea fog.

Before long we arrived in the picturesque city of Santa Barbara, destination the El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas, (now the Belmond El Encanto). It is a setting worthy of a Hollywood glam film from the 40’s.

Rising early the next morning, I enjoy the bright California sunshine on the rear deck of the restaurant and anticipate a perfect day of challenging the backroads around Santa Ynez with my co-driver Andrew Firestone. With his intimate knowledge of the area, it is truly going to be life in the fast lane!


Related links:

Dodge Canada
Belmond El Encanto
Viceroy Santa Monica

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