Classic Car Week on a Budget
For 10 days the third week in August, car enthusiasts from around the world converge on the Monterey Peninsula. I know very little about cars, other than I drive a blue one. But I was fascinated by the cars that filled our narrow streets that week.
Before one thinks that these exorbitant prices serve only the rich and famous crowd, take note that part of these high price tickets go to charities, such as the Pebble BeachCompany Foundation which funds numerous grants for the youth of Monterey County.
What can someone on a budget enjoy at the Concours d’ Elegance? Shhh now don’t tell anyone, but…
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Pre-Reunion
($20 per person includes parking)
For the first time, the Pre-Reunion was open to the general public. Our ticket price included free parking, access to the paddock, grandstand bleacher seats and no crowds!
We closely examined and admired touring and racing cars from 1929 to 1989, candidly talked to the owners, asked dumb questions, and snapped photographs without other people blocking the way.
Once the racing started we sat in the bleachers with an unobstructed view of the cars as they came into Turn 4 and then attempted to pass one another on the straightaway before Turn 5. Note to self – bring sun screen next year.
Concours on the Avenue
It’s 8am on a Tuesday morning, Ocean Avenue from Junipero to Monte Verde and surrounding side streets are blocked off to regular traffic. In the early hours of the morning, just as the coffee houses are opening, the streets are eerily empty of cars and people. The next three hours will be the best time to view the cars at the Concours on the Avenue.
Grab a cup of coffee at Cafe Carmel and walk down the middle of Ocean Avenue to San Carlos. Here, 175 classic cars are beginning to line up. Their owners will form three rows between Seventh and Ninth Avenue, revving their motors as they wait for the signal to continue on to Ocean Avenue and their assigned spot for the Concours.
The actual event starts at 10am and runs until 5pm, but if you prefer to view the cars and talk to the owners at your leisure without the crowds, go early.
After viewing all the cars on Ocean Avenue, I still don’t understand much about what is under the hood, in the trunk, on the floor or dash of most cars. What have I learned? That cars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some with fancy grill work, wings, hood ornaments or tops, and most come in pretty shinny bright colors.
Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance
($9.25 price of the ticket into the 17 Mile Drive)
8:30am Thursday morning I was parked inside the Carmel Gate on the 17 Mile Drive about ½ mile from the Lodge on my own private turn out. Quite surprised that very few others had the same idea I had, that of following (some might call it stalking) the cars as they drove the Pebble Beach Tour d’ Elegance to Big Sur and back.
Just as I settled into my lawn chair with the morning paper and a cup of coffee I heard the loud buzzing of motors. A moment later a motorcycle officer led the procession of around 190 cars built between 1903 and 1954 around the bend in the road, drivers and passengers waving or tipping their hat as they passed. No time to lounge, the parade had begin.
As the last car passed, I pulled out of my turn out and headed south to Big Sur. The tour would take these cars out the Pebble Beach Gate then into Carmel Valley via Aguajito and Monhollan Roads before cutting back along Carmel Valley Road and turning south onto Highway 1. My goal was to be ahead of them and parked at the Bixby Bridge when they came by going south on their way to the turn around point in Big Sur.
Not alone this time in my idea, I arrived to find most of the few available pull off spots already taken. I managed to park in a safe spot and walk back to the north entrance to the Rocky Creek Bridge and wait.
Someone with binoculars spotted the touring cars to the north on the stretch of highway coming our way alerting us all to our camera ready positions.
As the last car (or what I thought was the last car) passed, I headed back to meet friends in Carmel and view the cars arriving on Ocean Avenue around 11:30. As I made the turn at Highway One and Rio Road, some of the slower cars were just passing through this intersection on their way south.
Up to this point I had run into very few “crowds.” That is because while I was following the tour up and down Highway One, the rest of the world was lining Ocean Avenue. Still we managed to squish ourselves into a prime location to view the cars as they entered Ocean Avenue just before noon.
The cars remained parked on Ocean until 3PM that day. The crowds were huge, but plenty of time to walk and admire these historical cars.
Total spent for three days of events for a family of four at the Concours d’Elegance on a budget, $89.25 and about 4 gallons of gas, but remember this is our secret!