How Hai jinks were the perfect cure for jet-lag

| 24 Oct 2013

Flying to San Francisco should be a chore. It's a hell of a long way, I always get the one seat with a busted DVD player and usually find myself in the middle of a line of a jumbo's centre four, the other three taken by members of the Samoan rugby team.

Yet somehow it is never a pain, simply because of what awaits at the other end. Not just San Francisco itself (a wonderful city that we only ever get a couple of hours in and most of that time I am usually ferreting around the Gap for Kids superstore clutching a shopping list provided by my wife), but because it means we are on the threshold of Monterey and Pebble Beach.

That on its own is enough to make the travel bearable, exciting even, but in 2007 I was really itching to get out of the airport and not just to get the fix of nicotine that I had been denied for so many hours.

No, this time Mick Walsh and I weren't jumping in a hire car and heading straight to the peninsula, we had a local call to make first.

To be honest, a visit to the amazing Fantasy Junction in nearby Emeryville would be worth the trip to California on its own, but when you know that something rather special is waiting for you there, it is all the better.

Rather special? Well yes, it would be churlish for me to dismiss all the amazing classics I have been privileged to drive over the years, but amongst the motoring hacks there are certain holy grails and the Monteverdi Hai is just about the holiest of them.

As I rather pretentiously wrote at the time: "Even seeing a Monteverdi Hai is akin to catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster… Getting to drive one is the equivalent of riding a unicorn bareback down Brigadoon High Street."

Well, I was very excited.

Of course, my excitement didn't stop my trying to buy the Maserati Quattroporte that was sitting out back and which Wolfgang Blaube was telling me they had taken as a $2500 charity case after it was found abandoned in a car park. He wasn't playing ball, though.

So on to to the Hai. Accompanied by Blaube, the car's owner Bruce Milner, Walsh and our then-publisher Stuart Forrest (worth a mention because he loaned me his sunglasses), we circled the Bay looking for somewhere suitable to drive and photograph it.

We ended up in an unassuming car park that, though hardly Laguna Seca, had just enough space and corners to find out quite how the car could go, handle, and potentially spin around its gearlever.

You can read the resulting feature here but suffice to say that eventually we ran out of light, took the car back to the garage, took each other's pictures outside the nearby Pixar studios to make our relatives jealous and then retired to a diner recommended by the locals for some great classic car chat and an amazing burger and fries. As a sidenote, any Americans wondering why the latter is so special need to travel to Europe to know how good that experience is compared to what passes for burger and fries (and passes for a diner for that matter) over here.

Normally by that point we would have been tucked up in bed, jet-lagged to narcolepsy and dribbling gently out of the corners of our mouths. In the state we would usually be in, the last thing in the world we would have been capable of doing would have been getting in a hire car and driving on down to the Monterey Peninsula in the dark.

But not that year, we breezed down to Pebble wide awake and buzzing and ready to take on the world.

There's a lot of talk nowadays about "natural highs", well I can guarantee you won't find any dubious product on the internet that can compete with the "natural Hai" of that day.