Travel: Touring Santa Barbara County in a Bentley – OCRegister

1 of 19
The Bentley Continental GT looks especially good in wine country, a natural environment in which to drive such a luxury car. COURTESY OF JIM FOSTER

1 of 19
Muscle auto enthusiasts discuss a $306,000 Bentley that arrived throughout their compiling in Huntington Beach. DREW A. KELLEY, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
Muscle auto enthusiasts discuss a Bentley Continental convertible along with writer Paul Hodgins throughout a auto reveal in front of Adams Avenue Donuts Saturday Morning in Huntington Beach. CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
The Bentley was the perfect touring auto for the backroads of picturesque wine country north of Santa Barbara, where lots of auto companies have actually filmed TV ads over the years. CINDY YAMANAKA , FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
A Bentley Continental convertible’s 12-cylinder engine on display throughout an American muscle auto reveal in front of Adams Avenue Donuts on a recent Saturday morning in Huntington Beach. DREW A. KELLEY, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
Signs directing you to the almost 20 different wineries along the Foxen Canyon Trail are evident as quickly as you leave Highway 101. The curving, gently hilly route along with superb views was an outstanding place to put the Bentley through its paces. MICHAEL GOULDING, FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
A flag marks the intersection at Los Olivos’ town center. CINDY YAMANAKA , FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
Orange County Register’s Paul Hodgins drives a Bentley Continental convertible throughout an American muscle auto reveal in front of Adams Avenue Donuts. DREW A. KELLEY, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
Fog from the Pacific Ocean hangs in the air as a hot air balloon lands at a Firestone Vineyard property in Los Olivios. It’s perfect country for taking in from behind the wheel of a fleet-footed red convertible. CINDY YAMANAKA , FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
Epiphany Cellars, is owned by Eli Parker, son of Fess Parker. It’s one of lots of attractive tasting rooms in downtown Los Olivos. CINDY YAMANAKA , FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
A Classic King room at the Landsby. The trendy boutique hotel is located in downtown Solvang. THE LANDSBY

1 of 19
The German-built W-12 enhgine delivers 582 horsepower, which gained this three-ton beast surprisingly agile and responsive on Foxen Canyon Road’s twists and turns. PHOTO BY JIM FOSTER

1 of 19
Inside the Landsby, the bar at Mad & Vin offers some fantastic bang-for-the-buck cocktails and appetizers at happy hour. THE LANDSBY

1 of 19
Orange County Register’s Paul Hodgins drives a Bentley Continental convertible throughout an American muscle auto reveal in front of Adams Avenue Donuts on a recent Saturday morning in Huntington Beach. DREW A. KELLEY, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Cafe, right, and Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa are located in Los Olivios, north of Santa Barbara. CINDY YAMANAKA , FILE PHOTO

1 of 19
A typical view along Foxen Canyon Road, where the Bentley was born to roam. MICHAEL GOULDING , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
The Tower Suite at the Landsby. The hotel has actually been decorated in a spare yet elegant midcentury modern style. Its art is animal-themed. THE LANDSBY

1 of 19
The view as seen from Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards near Los Olivos. CINDY YAMANAKA, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

1 of 19
The British beast at rest at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara along with Paul Hodgins, left, and Jim Foster. The valet staff parked it in front of the main entrance for the duration of Hodgins’ two-day stay. PHOTO COURTESY THE FESS PARKER, SANTA BARBARA

She was young, blond and attractive, and she was talking to me.

“Hey!” she said. “Exactly what type of auto is this?”

At initial I didn’t notice. I’m middle-age, gray-haired and wallflower-ish, and my perpetually grimy 2007 Maxima has actually never ever been much of a chick magnet. However I wasn’t in my Maxima merely then.

She sidled up to my window, leaned in and gained herself a lot more noticeable. “Nice ride,” she purred.

This is one of the lots of strange and wondrous points that will certainly happen as quickly as you trade your humdrum wheels for a shiny red, spanking brand-new Bentley Continental GT convertible. Women beckon. Doors open. Valets bow and serve. Strangers shout compliments and questions. You seem to be at least 50 percent a lot more witty, handsome and irresistible. And for a brief moment, you get hold of a furtive peek in to an exclusive globe where the 1 percent spends its glorious, gilded days.

The adventure began a few weeks before, as quickly as a woman representing the luxurious British marque (well, Anglo-German – Bentley is owned by Volkswagen now, though last assembly takes place in Blighty) contacted me along with a curious proposal. “exactly how would certainly you enjoy to drive one of our motor cars for a few days?”

At initial I demurred. “I’m not a auto critic,” I told her. “I write regarding wine, architecture, interior design … .”

“You’re specifically Exactly what we’re looking for,” she responded. Her company is encouraging journalists that aren’t auto writers to merely use a Bentley in their everyday lives. exactly how could I stand up to such an offer?

I planned to visit several of O.C.’s most lah-de-dah addresses to see exactly how a Bentley driver gets treated – the Resort at Pelican Hill, The Ritz Prime Fish and shellfish in Newport – after that travel up the coast to wine country north of Santa Barbara. Next, I invited my ideal friend Jim, a Calgary lawyer who’s a serious fan of British cars, to come down and take pleasure in the ride. It took your man regarding 3 seconds to decide and yet another 10 minutes to buy the plane ticket.

The Bentley was delivered to my door on a Friday afternoon. The handler took 40 minutes explaining the car’s quirks and gizmos. I felt enjoy I was discovering exactly how to drive an interstellar spaceship made for the royal family.

That night, Jim and I headed down PCH to Pelican Hill, an imposing Donald Bren vision that looks enjoy an Italian villa on steroids. A group of young valets greeted us. “That’s a beautiful car, sir,” one of them said.

“Isn’t it?” I blurted out. “And it’s not even their most expensive model. No, this is the Ford Crown Victoria of Bentleys … .”

Jim grabbed me firmly by the arm and led me away, after that stopped me as quickly as we were from earshot. “Dude, you’re going to be driving that auto every one of weekend, so act enjoy you own it.” Point well taken: Don’t be a rube.

Aside from Jim: Dealing along with restaurant valets and hotel doormen, one swiftly learns to say “Thank you” (along with a Tom Hanks degree of modesty) for compliments regarding the car, such as the frequent “Beautiful car, sir.” However I additionally sensed that the exchange was a lot more regarding two individuals equally as sharing an appreciation of something that’s flat-out beautiful. We every one of enjoy nice things.

Following the Blond Incident later that evening – it happened in the prime valet spot of the Ritz parking lot – we went estate prior to the Bentley got us in to genuine trouble (we were the 2 wearing wedding rings, which the blonde ignored). The next morning, I decided it would certainly be enjoyable to wheel my 3 tons of British enjoyable to the Donut Derelicts, a venerable auto compiling that happens early each Saturday in a Huntington Beach strip mall.

We arrived about 6 a.m., and the place was already crammed along with the usual jaw-dropping collection of midcentury American muscle cars and hot rods of older vintage. My Bentley stuck out enjoy Lord Grantham at a rodeo. I parked it discreetly on the edge of the lot.

Soon enough, it drew a crowd – a surprisingly respectful crowd. I was expecting a sneer or a put-down or two, However auto nuts are a gregarious bunch, and they were curious and complimentary. Everyone wanted a look under the hood, which revealed little of the car’s 12-cylinder engine beyond an enormous and impenetrable metal cowl. “It looks enjoy the Millennium Falcon,” somebody said.

We played the “guess the sticker price” game. “I’ll say $100,000 at least,” said Homa Daravi of Huntington Beach. I pointed my thumb skyward. “One fifty?” I developed a copy of the sticker: a shade under $306,000. “Three hundred grand? I believe I’ll stick along with my ’61 Caddy,” he said, pointing to his magnificent, exuberantly finned dream machine. “My initial residence cost much less Compared to that.”

Ken Wilkinson of Huntington Beach agreed. “She’s a genuine beauty, and I enjoy the color, However I’m happy,” Wilkinson said as he cruised by in his ’66 Mustang, which had one thing in common along with my sexy beast: It was bright red.

Soon enough Jim and I were on the road to Santa Barbara, top down every one of the way. The blond woman’s comments from the night prior to were repeated several times by random motorists. On Beach Boulevard, some youngster leaned from a car’s rear window, megaphone in hand. “BITCHIN’ RIDE!!!” he yelled at a volume the entire county could hear.

This auto was gained for wine country. It continued to turn heads as we rolled through Santa Barbara, Buellton, Solvang and Los Olivos. It ate up Foxen Canyon Road enjoy a growling, ravenous tiger as we negotiated its gentle curves and undulations. The Bentley wanted to go faster, faster. I resisted the urge – for the most part.

Gradually, though, I came to a surprising realization. as quickly as you’re in a car, no matter the rate tag, you forget regarding it after a while. You’re going somewhere; it’s taking you there. as quickly as you’re in a spot as beautiful as the Santa Maria Valley, it’s every one of regarding the journey, not the horse you’re riding. I remember the music Jim and I listened to, the conversations we had, the jokes we shared, a lot more Compared to the moment-to-moment feel of the car.

That’s the Authorize of an outstanding automobile, some may argue: as quickly as it does its task perfectly, you forget regarding it. True. However there are impressive cars that cost less, a lot less, Compared to Homa Daravi’s initial house. somebody at the auto reveal summed it up best: “This is a auto for individuals that have actually accomplished a certain station in life, and they want the globe to understand it.” Exactly. And I’m so far from that station I can’t even imagine Exactly what it’s like.

Monday came, and I handed over the Bentley keys along with a mixture of regret and relief. While it delivered lots of of the thrills I had anticipated, it’s additionally a heavy responsibility to drive about in a auto worth a druglord’s ransom. exactly how would certainly I feel if it got keyed? Bumped into? Vomited on? Life appears a lot more threatening as quickly as you’re in a auto enjoy that.

After bidding farewell to the Bentley, I retrieved my aging Maxima from its lowly spot on the street. It looked and smelled enjoy a Soviet taxi from the Brezhnev era. The moment that believed crossed my mind, I knew Exactly what I had to do: get hold of the old girl washed, waxed and vacuumed.

My auto is no Bentley, However it’s paid for. And driving it guarantees me a quiet, uneventful life devoid of obsequious valets, bullhorns and inquiring blondes.

Still, I remember catching a glimpse of myself behind the wheel as we passed a glass storefront. Yup: at least 50 percent a lot more handsome Compared to normal.

On the road

Places we visited (and where the Bentley was frequently treated enjoy royalty):

El Paseo Mexican Restaurant

Traditional Mexican meals served in a picturesque courtyard in the heart of Santa Barbara. Helpful for individuals watching.

10 El Paseo, Santa Barbara; 805-962-6050,

elpaseosb.com

Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort

Although it’s starting to reveal its age, this sprawling complex near the beach is still impressive, and the concierge knows a lot of secrets. You can easily locate good room deals on the hotel discount websites.

633 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara; 805-564-4333,

fessparkersantabarbarahotel.com

Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria Valley

The quintessential convertible road in wine country. You’re surrounded by undulating hills dotted along with live oaks, interspersed along with countless rows of vines. No wonder the auto companies enjoy to film their ads here.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos; 800-841-1104,

fessparker.com

One of the a lot more picturesque wineries in the region, along with a large, bustling tasting room and decent bang-for-the-buck chardonnay. Bonus: look for the Davy Crockett and Disney memorabilia, a legacy of the late winery owner’s previous career.

Landsby Hotel

1576 Mission Drive, Solvang; 805-688-3121,

thelandsby.com

One of the traditional hotels in this Danish Disneyland has actually been transformed in to a sleek midcentury modern boutique inn along with a Nordic twist. Fantastic in-residence bar and restaurant right off the lobby.

Ken Brown Wines

157 W. Highway 246, Buellton; 805-688-9400,

kenbrownwines.com

The master vintner of Santa Barbara, that got his start almost four decades ago at Zaca Mesa, went on to make several of the very best wine in the region at Byron. Now he’s making pricey However delicious pinots and chardonnays under his own name. He’s frequently kicking about the tasting room, and he’s friendly.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7979 or phodgins@ocregister.com