Monday, July 5, 2010

3-Star Michelin Event + Kicking Tires = Worth a Special Journey

I had enough time to stop at a little bakery downtown called Baked and bought an iced coffee and malted cupcake and strolled to the waterfront to enjoy the sun, sweets and sips. It was hot, and little kids were running through the fountain at Waterfront Park to cool off.

Then it was time to find the resort. With a few "re-calculating" notifications from my GPS, I made it to The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island. On the way, I was pinching myself while driving under tree canopies draped with Spanish moss, smelling the fragrance from the magnolia trees and feeling the brush of humid air.

After checking in with the Michelin representatives and viewing my luxurious room overlooking the terrace and with a view of the ocean, I decided my toes needed to feel the Atlantic Ocean. I took lots of photos, had a nice chat with the guy who was putting away the lounge chairs on the beach, and checked out the exclusive shops in the hotel.

"where the ocean meets the sand"

Finally it was time to get ready for cocktail hour on the terrace. Greeted with a glass of Champagne, I mingled and awaited the delivery of the five tastings while feeling the warm breeze from the ocean and listening to the Spanish guitarist playing in the background. It was a perfect evening.

Day 2 was all about tires. The new Michelin tires for luxury vehicles are made from a compound that contains sunflower oil, the same oil used in cooking. The tires perform great in wet and snowy conditions (perfect for Ottawa weather) and are able to stop up to two car lengths shorter. They'll be available to purchase in July 2010, and if I owned a Mercedes, Infiniti or Audi, I would be standing in line at the local tire shop to buy them!

After a breakfast and a presentation, we got in another luxury vehicle (this time an Infiniti for me) and all drove in caravan to the executive airport where we boarded a charter flight to Lexington. There, we hopped onto a wifi bus and drove to a Michelin tire plant to get a tour. It was amazing to see all the machinery involved in cooking up a tire.

Then it was lunch and off to the Laurens Proving Grounds where we did two wet-handling test drives with BMWs and test drivers coaching us through the required maneuvers.

As we waited for our turn to test drive the cars with the luxury tires, we were offered a massage that even included a little sunflower oil rubbed on the back of our necks!

Soon it was my turn to take the car for a spin on the straight track.

{Watch in full screen.}

I was told to bring the car up to speed (55 miles or 88 km an hour) using the cruise control. At just the right time when the nose of the car reached an orange pylon, I was supposed to slam on the brakes as if I was about to hit something. The track was wet, by the way. We tried this in a car fitted with the new tires versus a competitor's tires. Everyone stopped quicker with the Michelin tires. Given my experience with cars (a mini van and a Volkswagen bug), my stopping window wasn't as short as the seasoned automotive media in attendance, but I did stop sooner in the Michelin tires. :)

The other wet track test was on a curved track that was sprayed with sprinklers. Going around the track at top speeds around various obstacles and with the windshield wipers on high was tough enough let alone trying to seem like a seasoned race car driver. The test driver who was coaching me repeated over and over: "faster, faster, faster" and "take it off the corner". My fastest time around wasn't very fast, but I did notice a big difference in wet handling with the Michelin tires compared to the competitor's. I definitely felt more in control and confident. Although at one point, I "crashed" into the orange pylons (but I was in the car with the competitor's tires)!

It was a great experience! Not only did I learn a lot about tires, but I enjoyed some fabulous food, have a new restaurant destination the next time I go to New York and hope to return someday to Charleston to enjoy their beaches and resorts.

The Photos

The People

I met some interesting automotive media people who know a lot about cars and tires:

• Jody DeVere from Ask Patty, a website dedicated to providing automotive advice to women 
• Lauren Fix, the Car Coach, Automotive Expert and professional race car driver
• Steve Hammes from Drive Time Productions 
• Danny Bailey and Brad Diamond from MotoringTV

And the wonderful people from Michelin:

• Nadine Lussier
• Matt Dianella
• Jenn Quadar
• and many others

Thank you! I give the event 3 stars!

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Eliana said...

WOW - what a fun trip! I absolutely love Baked. They have a location in Brooklyn, NY that I go to often. Everything there is so good.

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