I'm not the kind of guy who says, no, a lot.
Several years ago I read an interview with Virgin's Sir Richard Branson in which the interviewer asked him something to the effect, “With all your money, why do you continue to risk your life doing crazy things like hot-air ballooning around the world and jumping out of airplanes?”
His paraphrased response: “Because life is more fun when you say, yes, than when you say, no.”
Indeed, it is.
I've sort of followed that philosophy since reading his interview, and it has led me to some very interesting, entertaining and fun episodes – fodder for some of my favorite and most regaled tales. Anyone who has heard the telling of my Audi R8 adventure can appreciate the power of “yes” over “no.”
|Out in the Kia K900.|
So, when faced with the dilemma of “to go or not go” presented me by the predicted “winter storm of the century in the Southeast” last week, I chose, yes, and last Monday boarded the airplane bound for the Kia K900 media event in Newport Beach, Calif.
Even with all their satellites, computer models and high-tech barometers, weather prognosticators continue to be wildly inaccurate when gazing more than a day or two into the future. It wasn't that I was laughing in the face of an impending, road-closing winter mess; I just wasn't convinced it was going to happen. I did pack some warmer clothes in case I was stranded out in the open somewhere, and I made arrangements with the vendor that swapped out cars for me at Atlanta's airport to have an AWD vehicle waiting upon my scheduled return.
I took what I considered the prudent precautions; and then, I pressed on.
I arrived at Atlanta's airport after driving 160 miles around 7:30 a.m. without incident. I skated through Prechek with no problem. I was number 35 on an upgrade list of 91. I'm not making this up. The Premium boarding was something akin to opening the doors of a Walmart on Black Friday. I managed to sneak on the plane among the first half-dozen Premium boarders. So far, so good, right?
Stepping off the plane after the five-hour flight, I saw that I had a message from Delta: My return flight Wednesday was canceled! Oops.
Yep, without the first raindrop or snowflake falling, Delta began canceling flights.
As I checked into Kia's hospitality suite at The Resort at Pelican Hill, I reported that my return flight was already canceled. I had rescheduled my return for Thursday. Delta routed me through Minneapolis and then into Atlanta.
|The main entrance to the lobby area of The Resort at Pelican Hill.|
Pelican Hill is an uber up-scale joint priced far above the budget capabilities of anyone who didn't invent oxygen, or who isn't a drug dealer, trust-fund baby, CEO or Hollywood celebrity. Or, a long-standing member of congress. Someone mentioned that they had seen George Clooney wandering around the lobby area. I had been at Pelican Hill in August with Nissan; so, I had some idea of the opulence.
This resort was a solid choice to introduce the K900. It now serves as Kia's flagship car. It won't coax a lot of enthusiasts out of their BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it is a luxury car on the order of those revered German luxury sedans. It's a 420-horsepower V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan. A V6 version is coming later in the year. Its 119.9-inch wheelbase compares favorably with those big Benzes and Bimmers. Oh, and it will retail for about $20,000 less!
Inside, it's chocked full of high-tech and upscale amenities: Nappa leather, heated steering wheel, a 12-way power driver's seat, a 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon surround-sound audio system, a 9.2-inch color touchscreen and Kia's UVO telematics system are only the tip of the features iceberg. Among the other available upgrades is the dual-zone reclining heated/cooled rear seat.
I got to really experience the upgraded rear seat as I was
being chauffeured around by Kia PR types on Thursday. Yes, my Thursday flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta was canceled, causing me
to stay yet another day under the wing of Kia.
|Don't spare the horses please, Amy!|
As a luxury car, the K900 checks all the boxes. It is more engaging than some target competitors. It's outrageously quiet, too.
|A little song and dance at North Africa.|
Dinner my first and third nights with Kia was a progressive setup in four Villas. As a meat-and-potatoes guy, it was mostly lost on me, but fun nonetheless. Spain, Italy, the Middle East and North Africa were the culinary stops. I did find some stuff to eat in Italy. There is actually a North African dish called Baba Ghanoush. So I learned something as well as getting filled up.
|Draw me a beer, please!|
Lunch on our ride and drive the next day was at the Crush & Brew in Temecula, Calif. I had a world-class burger while salivating over the 20 or so local micro brews on tap. Sadly, I couldn't imbibe.
Dinner that night was another exercise in how the restrained wealthy live. The food was terrific, but I was blown away by the beer, wine and tequila bars. Upon arriving, I moved directly to the tequila station to check things out. Oh, Momma! Ten or so tequilas and a mescal were being offered. Don Julio was prominent among the tequilas. I'm a big fan. I sipped its Reposado and Anejo before graduating to its 1942! You couldn't pry me away from there with a crowbar.
The post-dinner activities in the hospitality suite included a photo contest with a “Matrix” theme. My stunning performance earned me the second-place nod. It was good for a set of Harman/Kardon headphones. Harman is Kia's sound-system partner and a welcomed addition to Kia's media programs. Harman had a $20,000 home-theater surround-sound system hooked up with a huge flatscreen TV in the hospitality suite's media room. You haven't seen a movie until you've seen one with this caliber of audio system. It knocked me out.
Day number three for me was day number one for the second wave of journalists. I got to sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and generally goof off all day. I returned to the hospitality suite, where I was greeted by the resort staff with whom I had become well acquainted. I like “Norm” status wherever I can get it. I guess I was getting a little ripe because Kia gave me a couple of the event shirts the internals were wearing.
Having already been through the product presentation, I skipped that portion of the Wave Two activities, but I did hitch a ride with a couple of Kia PR types to the ride-and-drive lunch stop.
My plan was to visit one or two of the micro breweries in and around Temecula, have a beer and buy a tee-shirt. It was foiled when I discovered not one of the five local micro breweries opened before 3 p.m. Unwilling to miss out on the local micro brews completely, I sneaked into a second bar at Crush & Brew and ordered a terrific stout from Temecula's Wiens Brewery. It was delicious.
|It's good to be king!|
I returned to Pelican Hill with my Kia/Zeno PR buddies, who were ready to issue me a W-2 and make me a part of the team, and we headed to the hospitality suite. We beat the bulk of the group back by a couple of hours and took advantage of the time to snap a few “Matrix” photos.
During the “tequila tasting” dinner my first time around, there were only a couple of people hanging out. I really talked up the tequila bar after my first experience and the Kia Krew took it to heart. On this second visit, the tequila station was two or three deep with people wanting to sample the 1942. Who could blame them?
|Sunset music at the big "Tequila dinner."|
I retired to my room and bed at a respectable hour my fourth night. I had a 5 a.m. shuttle to the Orange County (John Wayne) airport the next morning. I was upgraded to first class – no clue how that happened.
I returned to Atlanta to find it utterly snowless. In fact, I didn't see any real snow until I turned onto my street 160 miles later. The AWD of my Infiniti QX60 didn't come into play until I turned into my ice-covered driveway.
|Eight ball in the corner pocket. Nero never had to endure this!|
Despite Kia's hospitality and being stranded at a Five Star resort for several days, I was happy to be home.