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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tripping Around Southern California in the Mazda3

2014 Mazda3.
I like Mazda's Mazda3. I feature it in the pieces I write for my financial dot-coms every chance I get. So, I was excited to receive an invite to the media launch of the redesigned 3 in San Diego a few weeks ago.

I was a late add-on to the event that fell smack in the middle of about three weeks of nonstop travel I had going on in September. There were times I didn't know what day of the week it was or which time zone I was in. In fact, I arrived home from my Illinois boondoggle at 11 p.m. and headed out of my house at 5:30 the next morning for my Mazda adventure. It was like that, trip after trip, day after day, week after week for much of September.

The issue with my Mazda-trip flights was that they were booked so close to the event dates, I had to deal with some pretty lousy seats. I hit a couple of times every day prior to leaving, checking to see if better seats had opened. My efforts were rewarded by moving myself out of middle seats into aisle or window seats for every flight. I even managed to pick off a recently abandoned “Economy Comfort” seat on one of the flights. Economy Comfort seats are a relatively new addition to Delta's portfolio of gimmicks to attract business. They offer nearly as much legroom as exit-row seats.

Every seat was an exit-row seat.
 Even when sitting in exit-row or Economy Comfort cabin seats, I always spend some time during the four-hour-or-so flight feeling sorry for myself before thinking about people one-hundred years ago taking months to make the journey from Atlanta to the California coast. I try to put my flight into perspective historically as I munch on the 12 peanuts that pass for a snack on Delta these days. 

San Diego's Ship Museum.

Making this jump from Georgia to the Pacific was well worth it. San Diego is a gorgeous city with near-perfect weather 360 days out of the year. 

San Diego W Hotel's lobby bar.
 Mazda put us up at the W Hotel downtown. It's located about three blocks from the water. 

The focal point of the San Diego W Hotel's rooftop is this odd fire feature.
 Ws are fairly funky joints, but always lively. Thank God, though, someone in authority finally realized having hallways so dark guests couldn't locate their rooms wasn't the best idea. 

A fine array of taps at the Karl Strauss Brewery.
 Thanks to my early morning start and the three-hour time difference, I arrived at the hotel early afternoon. My microbrewery radar was operating at full tilt and I noticed a brewery just a block or so from the W as my airport car passed by it. Always eager to sample a selection or two at a local brewery, I struck out from the hotel, hiking the couple of blocks to the Karl Strauss Brewery.

Settling at the bar, I chose a Wreck Alley Imperial Stout. A fine example of the brewer's art. A 20-something sitting next to me engaged me in conversation. He is a cook on charter boats. He mentioned that his home was in Illinois. Having just spent four days in Kewanee, Il. before traveling to San Diego, I replied that I had just been there. Turns out his home town is only a few miles from Kewanee. We had plenty to talk and laugh about.

 Dinner the first of our two evenings with Mazda was on W's rooftop. A panoramic view of the city, fine drinks, excellent food: What else could you possibly want? I found the servers' snappy “Mazda” aprons a nice touch.

The bulk of the next day was spent piloting 3s around Southern California. 

Mazda cut no corners with the redesigned 3. Rakish good looks, comfortable cabin and its fuel-stingy SKYACTIV technology meld into one terrific car. Sedan pricing begins around $17,000, and the hatchback at about $19,000.

Although the wheelbase is now more than two inches longer, over all, the latest 3 is about half an inch shorter than the the previous generation. Mazda also trimmed about half an inch from its height. 

The cabin seems roomier than that of the previous 3. Quality materials and careful craftsmanship increase the interior's ambiance. I really like the all-new Active Driving Display – a first for Mazda. It pops up from the center of the top of the instrument panel directly in the driver's line of sight. It posts speed, navigation, and other important info.

I liked the previous 3, and I like the redesigned one even more. Athletic and well balanced, it is a blast to drive.

Gateway to meatballs.

For dinner on day 2 after our drive, we trooped to San Diego's Little Italy. Our destination: Monello. Swilling wine and sampling a variety of dishes in this family style presentation, we were treated to some serious Italian hospitality. 

The bar at Monello.

I particularly liked the Maccherone Al Ragu. If your Italian is a little rusty, that's macaroni in red sauce. Yes, my tastes run to the pedestrian. I am a meat-and-potatoes guy after all.

I was off and running early the next morning for my return voyage to Greenville – more planes, trains and automobiles.

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