Road reunions

July 14, 2005

Car writers spend a good amount of their time behind the wheel - and also behind the bulkhead of some random 757 bound for the West Coast, or under the sheets of an interchangeable five-star resort with the same relabeled toiletries and stale pouch coffee as the same hotel in insert-your-city-name here. It's easier for car companies to bring us all together than to reach us separately - and thus evolved the press trip.

Now, you can confirm all that you've heard about lavish press trips right here. Week-long jaunts to Morocco were in vogue a few years back. The Eighties were famous for eat-and-drive trips across southern France. Me? I spent two days last year sleeping off jet lag in the back seat of a Maybach 62, in between rounds of incomparable fondue.

The exotica is lovely, for sure. But more often, the real highlight of a press trip is the reunion of sorts that takes place on the road. You might work down the hall with your drinking buddies. You might sleep with your secretary. We can't do that - or at least, do it every day. Car writers usually have to do their male and female and male/female bonding with colleagues on the road and that's why some press trips begin to resemble family reunions where everyone mysteriously and happily shows up with the same, brand-new vehicle.

I can click online and see what the weather in Tampa Bay is like - but on the road, Howard Walker, caught in some unspecified act above, can tell me the exact shade of aqua of the water the last time he went sailing. I could always send an email, but asking Benz PR's Pat Molina (Walker's victim, top left) how the crew in Montvale is doing is always better, because you get the eyes rolled in exactly the right manner.

Around the dinner table, you can get all the stories. Who's just back from Australia, whose surgery went well. Who's about to have another baby or another addition to their ever-expanding garage. And of course, it all degenerates into heated political discussions and finally, into unheard-of uses for port wine. (You'd expect more from a Pulitzer Prize winner and a man formerly in service to the Queen.)

If it sounds like your extended family -- it does to me, too.

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