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.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Taking Note: My Trip to San Diego to Drive the Versa Note

I’m wrapping up what is, in essence, a 10-day block of travel with a 3-day stay in San Diego. Nissan flew me in to drive the redesigned hatchback version of Versa now called Versa Note. "Note" I'm told is used in other countries to identify the 5-door; Nissan wanted to make the nomenclature consistent internationally.

Usually for flights to the West Coast, I drive the 2.5 hours from Greenville to the Atlanta airport; however, because I drove nearly 1,000 miles round trip from Greenville to Louisville over the weekend -- returning the day before I had to be in Calif. -- I chose to fly out of Greenville-Spartanburg instead.

My flight was delayed nearly 35 minutes because of overweight issues -- not mine, the plane's. It was a smaller regional jet. First Delta overbooked it, then was surprised by some sort of migration of Asians back to their motherland. The area around Delta's check-in was crowded with Asians, mountains of suitcases and stacks of large, sealed cardboard boxes.

After loading the passenger cabin to capacity, and apparently cramming all the flotsam associated with 30 people returning to Korea, China or wherever -- I'm not well versed enough in the subtleties of Asian genetics to tell one from the other --  from their extended stay in the Greenville area, the plane was too heavy. Ya think?

The gate agent came aboard to announce two or three passengers needed to get off the plane. Ummm, did anyone think to just unload a bunch of the cargo, sending it out on a later flight? Wouldn't that make more sense than disrupting several persons travel plans? Evidently not. A couple of volunteers were secured and they filed off the plane as the rest of us stared at our shoes, refusing to make eye contact with the gate agent in case another volunteer was required.

One wasn't and we took off. Delta pads these flights from Greenville to Atlanta by about 30 minutes, so we arrived on time. Delta upgraded me to First Class for the 4-hour sprint from Atlanta to San Diego. I love this flight, particularly the flight path that takes landing planes right through downtown San Diego. Sitting on the left-hand side of the plane, you can actually see people working at their desks in the office buildings as they rush by.

Nissan put us up at the Andaz in San Diego's Gaslight District. This is in the heart of San Diego. After checking in, I strolled the streets of the Gaslight District for an hour or so.

Dinner that night was at the Stone Brewery. What! Yep, I didn't even need to go hunting for a brewery as I typically do on my out-of-town trips. Nissan took me to one. Sadly no stout, but they did pour a very meaty Stone Smoked Porter and wonderful Alesmith Nut Brown Ale. Arrogant Bastard Ale is Stone's beer with which you might be most familiar. Stone also crafts an OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale that's excellent.

This is a photo of Junior Brown my buddy Mark Elias shot.
Junior Brown was playing at the Belly Up about 30 minutes from the hotel. Nissan organized a group of us to go, loaded us aboard a shuttle and hauled us to Solana Beach. I am familiar with some of Junior Brown's music that I've heard on Outlaw Country on XM. An amazing guitarist, he put on a short, but highly entertaining show.

This is a photo of our merry band of fools at Belly Up that some unidentified drunk shot.
I should have stayed at the hotel and gone to bed at a reasonable hour, but when faced with the choice, I've discovered life is much more interesting when you say, yes.

Much of my second day in San Diego was taken with a drive of the Versa Note. With an entry-level price of $13,990, this competent little car excels on several levels. As a driver, it is comfortable and fairly quiet. It has class-leading cargo space and rear-seat legroom.

It earned an EPA-estimated 40 mpg on the highway with a city/highway with a best in class combined EPA number of 35 mpg.

Fetching exterior lines and a stylish interior give the 5-door Versa a look more high end than its reasonable price promises. Nissan's Around View Monitor providing a 360-degree view around the car is available to simplify parking.

Handing off the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine's 109 horsepower to the front wheels is a CVT transmission. Nissan has gone all in for CVTs and the Versa Note is the latest Nissan to use it exclusively as the automatic tranny choice. A five-speed manual is available in the base S version. CVTs are designed for fuel efficiency rather than performance or quiet. Goosing the Note's accelerator is rewarded with a roar from the engine compartment that doesn't diminish until pressure on the accelerator is released. I'm not crazy about any CVT and its use in the Note didn't win me over.

Our drive route was mostly urban with a few twisties tossed in to minimize journalists' grumblings about a boring route. Our lunch break brought those of us who had gone out the night before back to Belly Up. As it turns out, it is affiliated with the café next door that cooked up a terrific lunch for us.

My driving partner had an early flight home, so I had to make my way back to the hotel on the afternoon drive by myself. I cheated and rather than following the route book, I plugged the hotel address into the nav system and high-balled it back.

Dinner that night was at some joint in Little Italy. I write "some joint" because no one, including the Nissan PR people I asked, seemed to know its name. "Italia" received a couple of votes among the responders, but no one seemed quite sure. What I can tell you is that one of the deserts -- a chocolate-caramel concoction in a small pie crust -- was outstanding. I often skip deserts at these dinners, but wolfed down two of these wonderful little treats. I am still suffering from diners remorse.

Speaking of culture shock: I leave San Diego after driving the Versa Note to be welcomed home by a Nissan GT-R waiting for me at the airport! Oh, Momma! Pray for me!

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