AS MOST OF US CAN ATTEST, the first real drive in your foremost Ferrari is a special one – to say the least. A poster car materialized onto the road is almost a sight you never thought you’d see. This adolescent vision didn’t waver much for newly christened owner, Mike Veitengruber, who just took delivery of his 1997 Ferrari F355
Spider. A six-speed example dressed in giallo fly yellow from the factory – just as it was pinned from the ceiling of his bedroom – was in his possession and ready to drive on the streets of the Monterey Peninsula. O h , s o y o u ’ v e h e a r d o f Monterey before? Perhaps the first thoughts running through your mind when reading this takes you back to a nostalgic place, filled with competition cars and caviar, champagne and spyders. It might also give you grief in the way of overpriced
hotels, overcrowded cobblestone streets and absurdly expensive entry tickets. Both answers are correct and acceptable, frankly. The fact of the matter is, Carmel is quite a quiet town most of the year. We have our busy tourist seasons, like any beach community does, but, honestly, the locals get to quietly enjoy the fabled restaurants and windy roads, iconic views and wine cellars you all ascend upon come August. We just do it with none of you here.
Such was the case on a crisp spring afternoon; Monday April 1st to be exact. My pal Mike, a thirtyyear resident of the area, called and baited me to come out and take a spin in his new Ferrari. I was browsing a car in the showroom over at Mohr Imports right on Del Monte Avenue – a family owned classic car sales and consignment
dealership that you’ve surely have had to stop by over the years. “Come pick me up” I blurted, “I’m hungry and I know just the place to go.”
Off we hummed up the hill on Pacific Coast Highway One on our way to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Thoughts of Concours on the Avenue filled our brains and directed our conversations. We casually pulled onto Ocean Avenue without a breadth of traffic to slow us down. If this was during car week, a mad scramble for a parking spot would
be the mindset, but not today, not for us. A call into fellow-Ferrari-owner and restaurateur, Richard Pépe, and we had a spot waiting for us in front of Little Napoli. Always a hot spot during the week, Pépe always puts his best foot forward in tasteful Ferrari decor, a spirited enthusiast environment and most importantly, the curated entrées.
“In Carmel, there’s always a reason to stop by one of the fifteen wine tasting rooms, drop into your favorite restaurant, or simply stroll around and do some fabulous shopping,” said Rich as we basked in the sunlight in front of Little Napoli. A multiple Ferrari owner, he also gives Mike a little bit of advice.
“The joys and wonders of driving a Ferrari come to life as you drive down the coast toward Big Sur overlooking the Pacific, the windy roads of Pebble Beach or cruising the streets of downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. As I like to say, “every day is a good day in a Ferrari.”
over at the Light + Shadow Gallery, on 6th Avenue between Delores and Lincoln, was in order. A car lover’s dream gallery with one-of-a-kind pieces by artist Thierry Thompson and the most delicate automotive models in the world by Amalgam. Managing director Beverly Thompson is already at the door waiting to greet us as we pull up in the spider. Eager to show us the latest models delivered and inspired art by Thierry, Bev is incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and understanding to her clientele.
“Having vacationed here on numerous occasions, Thierry and I have always enjoyed the artistic history and the quaint nature of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Moving to the area gave Thierry the opportunity to paint the spectacular beauty of the greatest meeting of land and water in the world,” said Beverly.
“With our automotive fine art gallery, we welcome the enthusiasm of our international clients and auto collectors who visit our gallery year-round. I’m constantly in awe seeing them light up over their favorite car or race car driver, brought to life in Thierry’s paintings.”
Now that we were well fed and stimulated, it was time to stretch the legs a bit on the F355. Not many are aware of the Carmel gate into Pebble Beach at the top of
Seventeen-Mile Drive, as it’s a bit of a tucked away secret we don’t tend to share. With a quick local’s gesture to the gate guard, we were waved on into the area without any hesitation. Pebble Beach is a spider’s web of long roads, huge lots and vacant forests. Admit it, you’ve been lost before in the lack of streetlamp backstreets in Pebble trying to be clever and ‘take a shortcut.’ Mike and I knew exactly where to go to not be seen or heard, letting the 3.5-liter V8 sing amongst the cypress and oak trees.
I suggested we let the engine cool off a little bit over at The Lodge, where of course the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place. It’s quite the different scene over there in April, with little to no activity other than a foursome bumping into another on the back nine. We casually pulled into the valet circle and spoke to the bellmen, who were happily enjoying the car, without the jaded demeanor one would get after a weeks’ worth of cars. People buzzed around us and took pictures as the car
truly stood out amongst the Teslas and assorted rentals from visiting tourists. No stream of Testa Rossas or Short Wheel Bases clogging up the traffic, but somehow
that was okay.
We decided to keep driving and catch the misty sun setting. West of Spanish Bay and directly towards the Pacific Ocean is a stretch of road we both cherish deeply. Out on Bird Rock Road, we were virtually all alone. Perfectly content with unobstructed splendor, we had zero stress to make it to the next event, rush to meet a client, hurry to catch an auction lot or just rush to get some sleep for the next day of activities that car week force us to do. To simply enjoy the car, company and views as we rocketed through the gears on perfectly pitched pavement was just as it should be.
As Mike downshifted into the Lighthouse Avenue tunnel for the first time, hearing the sweet notes of his childhood come alive, we laughed and honked the horn at only ourselves. No showing off or worrying about a concours detail. Just a couple of car guys living in our hometown and using our cars. Before too long the masses will embark on this small Peninsula, making the pilgrimage to Holy Week. Auction houses and manufactures will construct and create, entertain and break down – all to vie for our attention and satisfaction. Shows and car clubs survive by us all being there, but here is where we both just make a living. Just happen to be lucky enough to do it in the ultimate car mecca every August.