Nate Hassler, Lisa Linke and the new SL 500.
The best is yet to come.
As I grew up and came into my career, the illusive “euro trip” never fell into place. In fact, it wasn’t until I was about age 24 that I made it to the European continent for the first time. That trip was a bit of a tease however, as I was only in Spain, and only for about 3 days. It took another few years before I was able to return, to a trip that included a 24 hour “sprint race” with the Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG and two of my best friends. On that trip, I fell in love with the European landscape and the German automotive brand. About 2 months later, I was fortunate enough to return once again to take one of my dream trips, a drive through the Alps south to the Italian Riviera. I invited my German friend and fellow automotive photographer Lisa Linke.
Now as if the road trip of a lifetime wasn’t sweet enough already, the best part was the vehicle in which we would be travelling, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL 500, a 2-seater luxury grand touring car.
Simply enjoy driving.
With a car like this, it’s easy to cruise comfortably and forget that you have 4.7 litre V8 with over 400 horsepower at your disposal, due to the balance of comfort and performance. Lisa and I relaxed, hit cruise control, and simply enjoyed the two and half hour drive south from Stuttgart to the town of Lindau, a picturesque and quiet town in the southern corner of Germany near the Austrian and Swiss borders and the first stop along our trip. Upon our arrival, the residents and tourists of Lindau noticed us straight away. The SL is beautiful, and the red hue really stood out from the majority of more subtle coloured cars around us.
We retired early for the evening, as the next morning would be the start of the long haul down south.
After a nice breakfast at a small café, Lisa and I hit the road south towards a place of somewhat legendary proportions, a place that exists only in the imagination of far too many car enthusiasts. The place I’m talking about is called the Stelvio Pass, aka the Italian Highway SS38, aka the “Top Gear road.” This highway sits atop the Alps in northern Italy, not far from the town of Bormio. The funny thing about the Stelvio Pass is that it is kind of like 3 roads that all meet at the summit, and your view and experience varies wildly depending on which direction you travel. But no matter which direction we went, I’m hard pressed to think of a car better suited for roads like this. It was here, in the relentless switchbacks of SS38 that the SL came to life and put a smile on my face cheek to cheek.
While the car is large in stature, it is nimble and feels like a true sports 2-seater. Time after time, turn after turn, I was rewarded with responsiveness and power, all the while being serenaded by the bi-turbo V8 underneath the bonnet in front of us.
Lisa had to remind me a few times to stop for photos, which is ironic because the Stelvio Pass is hands down, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The car is that good, it made a landscape photographer forget to shoot landscapes.
The lack of turnouts.
After enjoying some of the best food and drink Italy had to offer, and of course some touristy sight seeing in the evening, Lisa and I rested up and headed south the following day towards the Cinque Terre region of the Italian Rivera. We decided to take the road less travelled and go the coastal route all the way. Along this drive, we were blown away by the views, and yet as photographers, we were annoyed time and time again by the lack of a turnout or anywhere to stop the car safely. Believe me when I tell you that the most frustrating thing you can do to a photographer is give him a beautiful Mercedes-Benz and gorgeous scenery, but nowhere to stop and shoot the scenery.
A simple pleasure.
After arriving in La Spezia and checking into our hotel, we emptied out the SL 500 and decided to go back out once more, drop the top, and make it happen one way or another. We lucked out by finding a gorgeous overlook right as the sunset hour was approaching.
After snapping away for a few minutes, I was again forced to remember how lucky I really was. There I was, standing in Italy with one of my new favourite people, doing one of my favourite things; photographing a beautiful car. A simple pleasure…
On our last day of this amazing road trip, Lisa and I had a long drive back to Stuttgart ahead of us. But no matter, it was yet one more chance to enjoy the pure driving pleasure that is the Mercedes-Benz SL 500. As the weather worsened, we got to experience the car in the wet, and it did not disappoint. After the rain stopped, I caught a glimpse of something in the mirror that I had to stop for in the Austrian Alps. We had been on the road all day trying to make good time, but what I saw was the sun peeking out between two gigantic and completely green mountains, something that you NEVER see in California where I live. That‘s why I am not exaggerating, when I say that road trip changed my life. I got to see some of the things I had always dreamt about seeing.
Style, comfort and class.
At the end of that day, Lisa and I both agreed that the SL 500 really was the best car possible for a trip like this. We had style, comfort, class. Our only complaint was that we had to give it back and return home now.
As the sun finally set behind the clouds, Lisa and I reflected on where we were, and what we were doing. Even though the light was grey and flat that day, it didn’t matter. We just had the time of our lives and we had a fantastic machine at our disposal. All we could do was smile and laugh.