(Editor’s note: During the month of August, the ClassicCars.com Journal not only is previewing and covering the various events that comprise Monterey Car Week, but we’re asking our staffers to share their memories of Monterey trips past. We’d also like to share your Monterey memories. If you have stories about Monterey Car Week to share, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include a photo or two if possible.)
Come to think about it, my first visit to the Monterey Peninsula has nothing to do with what we now know as Car Week. It took place nearly 50 years ago (yikes!) and it involved an assignment to cover the Formula 5000 race at the Laguna Seca race track.
My rental car was an AMC Javelin, and the first thing I did was to drive Highway 1 down to Big Sur, an exciting undertaking anytime but especially in a rental car with failing brakes.
I also remember the thrill of driving that car around the Laguna Seca race track, though I have no recollection of how I talked my way beyond the paddock. I also recall being amazed at Jody Scheckter, the young South African who was dominating the series, and who a few years later would win the F1 world championship.
But my favorite memory of that trip was a dinner with the late Tony Adamowicz. The conversation was only a little about racing and a lot about his time working in the Kennedy and Johnson White House.
I wouldn’t return to the Monterey Peninsula until the mid-1990s, to cover an Indy car race at Laguna Seca. My oldest daughter, 11 years old at the time, went with me and I’ll never forget the frigid shock that surged through my body when she insisted we go swimming in Monterey Bay.
It was probably about that same period of time that I attended the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for the first time, and also a new event on the calendar called Concorso Italiano. Another new event started a few years later, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering.
I pretty much have been a regular holder of Pebble Beach press credentials this century, though I have yet to correctly predict which car the judges will proclaim as the Best of Show.
I’ve done Dawn Patrol, been fortunate a few times to be invited into someone’s hospitality suite during the concours, and one year stayed well after the awards ceremony doing a long interview with BMW car designer Chris Bangle.
Ah, for the good ol’ days when there was a parking lot just across from the Lodge reserved for members of the media!
Among other Monterey memories are finding a place along the route and watching the cars drive past on the Tour d’Elegance; discovering the wonderful community of Pacific Grove, it’s free car shows and the amazing breakfast menu at its Victorian Corner Restaurant; realizing the benefits of wearing soft golf spikes when covering car events on golf course fairways; driving some amazing cars — including a Ford GT and an early Mitsubishi Evo — on some amazing roads, especially those in the Peninsula’s eastern hills; speaking of discoveries, finding Angelina’s Bakery and Deli in Seaside, and why did it take me so long to discover Monterey’s Fish House?
I’ll conclude with two of my fondest memories:
For the past few years, Bob Golfen and I have driven to and from Monterey together. We argue and laugh, stop on the way each year at Blackwells Corner General Store, where James Dean made his last stop, and on the way back eat at a delightful Mexican restaurant in Boron, just across from the 20 Mule Team Museum.
One more: One year I got to stay as a guest at the Inn at Spanish Bay. I was returning to my room from dinner, heard a piano playing somewhere down the long hallway. I turned a corner and there was the piano. Sitting at the keyboard was Adrien Brody, the actor who had just starred in the movie The Pianist. He was playing a lovely melody, and serenading a lovely young woman.
It was quite a moment, truly a Monterey moment.