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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Redesigned Subaru Forester: An Adventure in Driving and Tequila!

My second trip to Tucson in five months was a gift from Subaru. It's where those impresarios of all-wheel drive chose to introduce the latest generation Forester to the motoring press.

My telling you that I like it might be construed as breaking the driving-impression embargo that doesn't expire until the end of the week. So I will refrain from gushing over its utility and off-road prowess.

What I will tell you is that it's larger, more comfortable, more off-road worthy and loaded with more technology than the previous Forester. Although it is no larger than the typical mid-sized crossover, it has a ton of cargo room. Moreover, the cargo opening is absolutely huge to receive larger items. Subaru has enlarged the door openings to the passenger compartment as well. Chubby Aunt Belle won't have to squeeze herself into the back seat like trying to shove a watermelon through a knothole. She will enter the Forester with a couple of inches of clearance on each side of her ample frame.

Prices for the normally aspirated Forester will begin at less than $22,000. Opting for the more powerful turbo engine will goose the price by roughly six grand. Expect to see them in Subaru U.S. showrooms by mid March.

Subaru put us up at the Miraval Resort and Spa. It's a beautiful facility north of Tucson. So far north, actually, that Tucson is a mere reference point -- like you might say that New Zealand is near Australia. It's not, really, but it is in the same quadrant of the world. More than an hour from Tucson's airport, you won't stumble upon Miraval by accident. It's hard enough to find when you are looking for it. Some GPS navigation systems don't even recognize its address.

I'm almost certain we passed a few bleached cow bones and a tombstone with the name "Donner" on it as we motored from the airport to the resort.

The accent on the resort's name is "Spa." It apparently attracts mostly well-heeled women who show up with between one and thirty friends in tow, who want to get rubbed, scrubbed, waxed and buffed. I felt like I was on a set of the "L Word" TV series.

 From what I could tell, the resort's guest list this week was comprised primarily of Subaru's group and roughly 200 women. I did see a couple of men with blank stares wander out of the main dining room during breakfast the second morning. I suspect, though, it's like the stories I've read about Amazon tribes that once a year or so capture a few males with which to breed. These guys didn't look particularly happy; I can only guess why. They didn't utter a word or even cast a glance my way. Dead men walking.

Evidently Oprah hangs out at Miraval. That in itself is reason enough for any self-respecting possessor of a Y chromosome to steer clear. But I have to say the beds were outrageously comfortable and the staff more than friendly.

We were sort of thrown into the mix of the regular resort guests for breakfast. We could join the buffet or order one of the half-dozen items on the breakfast menu. The selection looked like politically correct substitutes for a high colonic, which I am almost positive is also on the spa menu. I can't begin to express the relief I experienced when the server returned from the kitchen to report that the chef indeed had the culinary acumen to fry a couple of eggs over easy. For some odd reason, bacon -- the chocolate of meats -- was on the buffet. Bacon and eggs: I felt positively decadent.

Our dinner entertainment at Rancho De Los Cerros.
Our first night, Subaru arranged dinner at Rancho de Los Cerros. It is a spectacular property serving as the residence of its owners David and Molly Hoffman. The ranch house and dinning/party facility was once a "Y" of either the "M" or "W" variety. The Hoffman's purchased and renovated it. At some point, a friend asked to host a party there and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hanging with Molly and David Hoffman.

The Hoffmans are warm, friendly hosts who are happy to share stories about the ranch's history. David invited us into his cigar room for some after-dinner drinks and a game of pool. It was a great night.

Try finding this road on your GPS.
I have spent some time in southern Arizona -- a result of my 10 years chasing video for the TV series "Discover America." I didn't realize, however, what spectacular roads wind across the area. The never-ending mountain vistas added to the experience. Roughly 50 miles of our 200 plus-mile route were over gravel and dirt roads. It was a blast hauling butt, slipping and sliding over these unpaved surfaces.

Lunch was at the Inde Motorsports Ranch. This is a member-only racing club close to Wilcox, AZ with a surprisingly fun track. We only got in a couple of laps, but it was grin inspiring. When Subaru launched the second-generation Forester, they did it at Talladega. I wasn't surprised when they included some track time for the latest version, too.

Left to right -- llegal Mezcal Anejo, Clase Azul Reposado, Asomborso La Rosa Reposado, Chinaco Anejo and El Tesoro Platinum.
Dinner that evening was in the hotel. The highlight was a tequila bar featuring four tequilas and a mezcal. All were unknown to me. The very knowledgeable pourer confided that he had nearly $1,000 worth of spirits lined up in front of us. Vive Subaru!

Spectacular scenery, a capable vehicle, inviting digs and mind-numbing tequila: What more could a boy want in a car event?

Not sure who these characters are, but they look suspiciously like the Subaru PR staff.

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