Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Beach, A Little Rain and Some VW Beetle Convertible

Southern California is known for, among other things, sunshine and balmy temperatures. I saw no evidence of either on a recent trip to the Golden State.

Volkswagen chose Santa Monica to introduce its redesigned Beetle Convertible to the motoring press. (Doesn't "motoring press" sound elegant? Almost as though we are doing something worthwhile.) During my two-night stay, the temperature never exceeded 65 degrees and the sun never bothered peeking from behind the clouds. We might as well have been in Seattle.

On the positive side, had the weather cooperated to the point we could have dropped the top for the day, we wouldn't have formed an appreciation for how well the Beetle's cloth cover keeps out traffic and road noise. It is remarkably quiet with the top in place -- a top that requires just 9.5 seconds to lower at speeds up to 31 mph.

The nasty weather didn't prevent us from driving cars armed with each of the available three engines. The 200-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder turbo was the most fun to drive, but even the entry-level 170-horsepower 2.5-liter engine wasn't a slouch. There's also a torquey TDI diesel in the mix.

All of the cars I drove were equipped with the optional mind-blowing Fender-infused audio system. It's one of the best factory systems in a small car. VW is also making some special editions with unique color schemes, wheels and badging based on 50s-, 60s- and 70s-era Beetles.

Base pricing begins at $24,995 and escalates to $32,295 before adding on the $795 destination charge.

On our Beetle Convertible drive we based out of Malibu Beach's Sunset Restaurant. We hopped in and out of various Beetles, driving them on routes that took us along the beach and into the mountains. Going up to Mulholland Drive the fog was so thick, visibility was perhaps 30 feet. It was like being in an episode of the old TV series "Outer Limits." That's a bit more adventure than I want from a California ramble.

While in California, VW put us up at The Shore Hotel on Ocean Avenue, just a block or two from the Third Street Promenade with all of its shops and watering holes. In fact, VW took over the entire hotel for the week.

This didn't exactly provide us the freedom to ride the elevators naked, but we had the run of the place.

Dinner the first night was a catered affair at the flagship Converse store at the Third Street Promenade. It's quite the operation.

VW had us fitted for a pair of shoes and also arranged a tempting discount on any purchases of our own. I haven't owned a pair of Converse in 45 years; now I have two pair. What, I'm not going to take advantage of a deal?

One of the desserts was red velvet Twinkies. Yes, decadent, but tasty.

Dinner the second night was at Mercado on 4th Street. You may assume from the name that it specializes in Mexican fare. The food was good, if a little foo foo for my taste. I'm down for the basics: tacos, enchiladas and so forth.

In the "basics" department, however, were the glasses of Dos Equis Amber beer punctuated with shots of Don Julio 1842 tequila. It may not have transformed me into the "Most Interesting Man in the World," but it made me happy.

Stay thirsty, my friend.

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