Escape from Pebble Beach

Goats, a rogue Pagani and $6 per gallon gas.

Amidst all the hullaballoo of Pebble Beach, all the purple Rolls-Royce Phantoms and guys who bring parrots to parties (seriously), sometimes you need to escape for a couple hours. Sometimes, at an event devoted to celebrating the car, you need to get in a car and actually go somewhere. So I snagged a Bentley Continental Flying Spur Series 51 and set off to find lunch in Big Sur, about 30 miles distant.

You may think that “Flying Spur” sounds like a karate move used by cowboys. But I’m here to tell you that it’s also a car that goats find extremely interesting. And I know that because I got held up by a herd of goats in Carmel. Barely a mile from the Lodge, the epicenter of highbrow snootiness, my path was blocked by a big mess o’goats wandering across the road and eating tasty underbrush or whatever it is goats eat. Whose are they? Are they always hanging out near the Lodge? Are they members at the club? I don’t know. What I do know is that they took their time crossing in front of the Bentley, perhaps admiring their goat visages in the vast chrominess of the grille. Meanwhile, a guy behind me in a Honda Accord kept impatiently inching up behind me. I threw my hands in the air—the international gesture for “Goats! What are you gonna do?”

Soon thereafter, we found ourselves sharing Highway 1 with another wild creature, the Pagani Huayra. This is the kind of encounter that defines Pebble Beach and separates it from other car shows. While a traditional car show is static, Pebble is like Night At the Museum, where the displays come to life.

The day before, I’d seen the Huayra parked at the Pagani stand at the Quail, constantly surrounded by a mob. And now here it was, looming in my rearview mirror with its insectoid rearview mirrors probing the slipstream and its various active aero flaps opening and closing like gills. When traffic-clogged Route 1 opened up, I did the only proper thing and pulled over for a moment to let the Pagani slide past. The second he was even with my door, I floored the mighty Bentley. But my twin turbos and 12 cylinders were no match for his twin turbos and 12 cylinders, and he was instantly at the far end of the straightaway ahead of us. Traffic what it is, I soon caught up and had plenty of time to contemplate the Huayra’s active rear aero flaps, which seemed to deploy whenever he hit the brakes. About halfway to Big Sur, the Pagani pulled over and very gingerly pulled a u-turn on the dirt shoulder. It was quite a Pebble Beach moment—a 700-plus horsepower super-duper exotic negotiating a dirt shoulder during a Route One joyride. Celebrities: They’re just like us!

After lunch at the Ventana Inn, where the parking lot contained two Lamborghini Murcielagos, I stopped in Big Sur to gas up. I can now confidently assert that Big Sur is a poor place to buy fuel. I spent $100.01 and didn’t come close to filling the Spur’s tank, which had less to do with the Bentley than with the $5.89 per gallon price for Big Sur Premium. Come to think of it, there was also a Chevy Volt parked in the Ventana lot. I guess a Volt or a Nissan Leaf probably looks pretty appealing when your local Shell is charging $6 per gallon.

By the time we got back to Pebble, I was ready to dive back into the melee of million-dollar cars and rich people behaving in curious ways. Other car shows might have Pontiac GTOs—aka, The Goat—but Pebble’s got goats of its own.