AMG Driving Academy - Laguna Seca

Nov 15-18, 2009

For Steve's birthday this year, April got him a different type of present - an experience rather than a thing.  She found out that the AMG arm of Mercedes was going to start doing driving academies in the US, much like the ones they've done in Europe for a while now.  This year, AMG was also releasing their brand new, built from the ground up, SLS supercar - and at one of those events, they would allow you to be one of the first people in North America to drive it.  Sounds like the perfect gift for Steve :-)

The event the SLS was going to be at was going to be staged at Laguna Seca, near Monterey, CA.  April originally signed Steve up for one of the openings, but later changed that reservation to another day.  There's a group of people, AMG enthusiasts in North America, that are part of a web community - the AMG Private Lounge, that had managed to get a special day set aside for that group.  Everyone that owns an AMG (like we do) can sign up to be part of the Lounge - which April had done years before.  The event that took place was a bit more special for these members, as they're treated like family at AMG - some of their best customers.

Now - onto the events of the day.  We had a flight booked to San Jose on Sunday at 12:30pm on Alaska Air.  We would then drive to Monterey from there and were looking forward to some daylight to take in the scenery.  Unfortunately, as the plane was boarding (we were seated already - in first class - yay for April's MVP Gold status!), a mysterious mist started pouring out of the ventilation system.  At first it looked like normal condensation, but it got thicker and didn't look like it would dissipate soon.  Over the intercom, the flight crew asked us all to leave the plane in a quick, but orderly fashion - leaving behind our bags.  We ended up getting a new plane fairly quickly, but the flight crew had timed out - resulting in a 4 hour delay to our trip.  When we got to San Jose, it was already dark.  After getting our rental car (a 2009 Prius - how's that for irony ;-) - we were on our way without many issues, thanks to the GPS in Steve's phone.

We got to the hotel, the Intercontinental Clement Monterey, gave the car to the valet, and made a bee line to the red SLS that was on display out front.  Very nice car!  We checked in, unpacked and then went to the restaurant bar for dinner.  We had checked in with the AMG group as well (with Rebecca), and got a surprise - someone had canceled at the last minute for the Monday event and Rebecca gave us their breakfast voucher (for the full buffet).  The main restaurant was all reserved for the AMG event - a set of drivers that were going to go out on Monday (Steve's group was going on Tuesday).  While at the bar, there were a number of people one-upping each other about their abilities, cars they drove etc - it was sort of funny.  After we ate, we went outside to take pictures of the car and take a look around.

The next morning, after April had a terrible night's sleep due to the pillows being super soft and thin, we went down and had a nice breakfast - seated at the windows that overlooked the bay.  We saw otters, pelicans and other sea birds doing their morning things.  Our server had found another voucher that wasn't used, and let April take that one - so she didn't have to pay for her breakfast either.  After breakfast, we took some more pictures of the car and headed out to the Monterey Aquarium.

Pictures from our first night and morning below.

Day 2 - Monterey Aquarium
Day 2 - SLS and sneaking into Laguna Seca
Day 3 - Track Day writeup, pictures and video
Day 4 - Wildlife refuge and returning home

April and the fiber optic jelly fish.  This was in the stairwell at the Clement Hotel in Monterey. It changed colors often, and there was mood music that made you feel like you were under water.First shots of the SLS that was sitting outside the hotel.
There was an event person guarding the car 24 hours a day.  He didn't seem to mind that we were taking pictures.This is one of my favourite shots.Security dude and doorman in the background.
Nice looking car.Closer view.I felt welcomed :-)
View from our room.Someone else admiring the SLS. Unfortunately, the light pole obstructed an otherwise very nice view of the SLS from our window.
April checking her email on Monday morning - making sure her team could handle things on their own. Good morning ;-)The front end of the SLS is really nice looking.
I'm not so keen on this side of it though. The back end isn't too bad. 6.3 litres!
Close-upAt breakfast that morning, we spotted a number of sea otters floating by, playing in the kelp. Lots of pelicans as well.
...but the otters were our favorites. They're playful and adorable.Something we weren't expecting was to see this.  Kind of startling at first when we didn't know what was happening.  Turns out it was a controlled burn at an army base.
Lots of these birds around - this one found a nice rock to sit on to sun itself.and jelly-fish in the wild A lot of pigeons as well.  This one was interesting enough to take a picture of.
So was he.

Send mail to Steve or April.