I’m not really a Maserati guy, but there is something to be said for a little flash from time to time.
I’m an Executive Elite with National, and I am a fan of the brand. When I get to an airport I walk to the Executive aisle, I pick a car I like (usually a Tahoe or Denali) and I drive out. To be an Executive Elite you need to rent 85 days or more per year, but even free registrants with no prior rentals with National can join the Emerald Club and pick out a car they like from the Emerald Aisle and drive away. It’s the easiest part of my business travel, and it would be hard to move me to another brand because of it. The best part about being an Executive Elite is that you get upgraded vehicles to pretty much whatever you want.
Except a car like this.
A few months ago National sent out an email to Emerald Club members (seriously just join if you aren’t already a member) telling how they will soon feature the Maserati Ghibli S Q4 in select airports around the country. National is owned by the same parent company as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which also a few locations around the country with some really unique cars. Las Vegas, Miami, and Los Angeles come to mind where you can rent some top dollar vehicles if you want something really special. Unfortunately, I rarely find myself in those cities but this was something different. They were making this car available in 10 cities: Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego and Seattle. Looking at the list, Los Angeles is the only overlap, but look at the rest – you have a chance to be the only guy (or girl) rolling around in a Maserati in the Twin Cities.
I had to try it.
As luck would have it, UPGRD-Con was taking place in Los Angeles this February. Once the Sherpstress encouraged me to go to the event, she was over the moon that I reached out to National to see if I could arrange a review of the vehicle and the experience and was in no way jealous. They connected me with local managers who reached out by email in advance and arranged for me to pick the vehicle up. Their local staff performed really well and their help was appreciated.
One of the biggest drawbacks of LAX is the off-site car rental facilities. Waiting outside of the terminal across the street for one of the many buses to go to National (along with every other major rental company) takes longer than it ever feels like it should and while it’s not National’s fault, Silver Car has managed to figure out a way to pick up their customer’s in their Audi’s right at the terminal – a perk that would be welcomed by Executive Elite customers everywhere.
Once we got to the facility there was a big sign for Maserati and all the premium vehicles are positioned right at the top of the stairs. Sitting in the driver’s seat made me feel like I was on Entourage (I would have been “E”). I cleared the parking lot and headed out to pick up an old friend for breakfast in Venice Beach. It made for some natural photo opportunities.
After having a little breakfast at Cafe 50s we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu. Cafe 50s was an awesome breakfast stop. Just a few blocks from the ocean, great value for money and an unapologetic diner in LA were a welcome departure from wheat grass smoothies and coconut everything… not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It was snowing at home in Pittsburgh. The salt air rolled into the car with the Malibu hills on my right and the Pacific ocean on my left as we headed north. I was taken far away from the daily monotony of the usual schedule, this is as far away as I could possibly be from work.
After a couple more stops, and letting Erik from Banana Man films drive us to see some friends (he loved pulling up in a Maserati) it was time to head to UPGRD-Con. We discussed upload procedures, directions for our perspective blogs and the site in general, but as Mike droned on and on my thoughts were never far from her… sitting out in the parking lot all by herself. She needed my attention, I shouldn’t have left her so long.
“Does anybody have a couple of extra seats to give people a ride over the Reach for the Miles meeting?”
I did! My hand shot up like I was a middle-schooler with the right answer. As you might imagine, it wasn’t hard to find takers for my vehicle for the 1.2 mile journey to another hotel for our gathering.
At the Reach for the Miles LA meet-up we had a chance to meet some new members of our hobby. It’s always such a pleasure to meet people just starting out and realizing that there is more possible than they had previously thought. My favorite part is when I see their eyes begin to widen. You share a detail that someone had missed and all of the sudden their eyes are saucers and you can see their mind racing away from the trick you are teaching them to the possibilities.
I had to get back to the car. She needed me. I needed her.
I made an exit and headed back to see Erik. The windows rolled down, I could her roar as I dropped my foot on the pedal (though of course never exceeding the speed limit and laws of the fine state of California). We were to go to an opening of an Underwear store because… LA. Only in Los Angeles do you have an opening for an underwear shop (not lingerie) where nothing is for sale yet, the products are only available in a vending machine and whether anyone is actually wearing the product is completely unknown because everyone is covered up.
We ditched that place shortly after we got there and my vehicle was waiting in front. In fact the valet had never moved it, which was fine by me, but unusual for two reasons. The first was because I have never had a car that was so nice they wanted it parked out front to attract other people, so that was a bit of an UPGRD. Second, I was having a little trouble with understanding exactly what I had paid for, being that it was well after dark on-street parking was already free, and I had parked it in front of the shop when I pulled up, so I basically paid to park it myself and not move it (#firstworldproblems).
Erik and I headed back through Venice where I dropped him off but not before stopping and getting some decent tacos from a truck.
“You know how you can tell the difference between a legit taco truck and some foofy non-sense?” Erik asked. I was stumped. “The legit taco trucks, the ones with the best food are in some poorly painted, white, rusted-out truck, and the over designed, brand-new, digitally designed, wrapped trucks in premium spots are going to have Kimchi bacon hot dogs or whatever.”
He wasn’t wrong. Before I left him, he wanted to just see how long he could keep up with the Maserati in his Volkswagon. We found a red light with maybe two blocks before the next one, and he pulled up besides me. The light turned green and we stormed off. I wasn’t even in third gear by the time we saw the next light go yellow.
“I kept up pretty well.” He did, I had no desire to reveal to him that I was working harder to restrain the vehicle than to actually win.
We parted ways, I went back to return the car and say good bye. I took my time getting there, it was a wonderful experience that I knew had to come to an end, but it was such an elevated experience that I was having a hard time letting it go. People were asking if they could take pictures with the car, I got to park in front wherever I went. I felt like a million dollars and as long as I stayed in the car, I looked like a million dollars. How do you part with that?
I tossed the keys to check-in agent, “Take good care of her, she took care of me.” She looked at me a little awkwardly as rightly she should and they arranged for transportation back to my airport hotel for the night out before flying back to the blizzards of the northeast.
…Thursday I will reveal the following:
- How much does it cost?
- How do you secure one?
- Any other choice cars to consider?
- Pet Peeves with the process