Taking in Florida’s sights, sounds and sand in a factory-fresh Aston Martin Vanquish
Author Brett Forrest
Inside the restaurant, lazy strains of Florida beach music washed over a lunchtime crowd. I took a seat near the water and ordered sautéed whitefish. Soon a stubble-chinned guy came up and nodded at the Vanquish. “That yours?” he said, removing his wraparound shades to reveal the raccoon tan line of the professional fisherman. “Yeah,” I lied, and Captain Bruce joined me for lunch.
The captain told me how he stalked yellowtail and hogfish in the reeds of Florida Bay, charging day-trippers a premium for his angling expertise and wealth of local lore. “What’re you doing with that kind of car around here?” he asked, then leaned in close and told me I should check out a bar called Alabama Jack’s. He smiled and, for no good reason, I trusted him.
A funny thing happened on the way to Alabama Jack’s: The captain’s directions turned out to be no good. The guy at the gas station wasn’t any help either. The car’s GPS informed me that I was heading for something called Crocodile Lake, so I pulled off the road—and promptly got stuck in a sandpit. After much effort and many imprecations to the automotive gods, I extracted the Vanquish and carried on with the business of getting lost. I was just about to give up when I saw a rusty barge floating in the distance.
The first thing that crossed my mind as I entered the barge-bar was: How many people here have done time? An unkind thought, maybe, but not an unreasonable one. This was a crowd of rough-edged archetypes, with scowls, scars and nonstop tattoos. And then it hit me: Captain Bruce! Had this been a setup? What if the car was gone? What would I tell the man from Aston Martin? I raced out to the parking lot.
A waitress on a smoke break was giving the Vanquish a calculating once-over. “Is it a convertible?” she asked. I told her it wasn’t. “Too bad,” she said, flicking her butt away. My mind now at ease, I went back inside and ordered up a pile of conch fritters.
Alabama Jack’s turned out to be a pretty good place, but it was getting late—time for me to return the Vanquish to its rightful owner. I climbed in and slotted the glass ignition key into the console. The odometer told me I’d already done 280 miles. I was, by even the most forgiving calculation, a good deal more than 20 miles away from Miami International, the drop-off point.
Ah, well. You can’t let a little thing like responsibility detract from one of life’s few true pleasures. So, on the final leg of my journey, I ranged left and right along the highway, testing the vehicle’s 457 lb/ft of torque, enjoying every minute, every transgressive inch. Finally, gazing out across the sleek hood, I watched Miami take shape ahead of me.
The man from Aston Martin was waiting, clipboard in hand. He must have noticed that the P Zero tires, which Pirelli developed specifically for the Vanquish, were caked with sand. He surely saw that the car was coated with dead bugs and sea salt. It was only a matter of time before he realized I hadn’t even bothered to fill the gas tank. “Let’s have a look at the mileage,” he said.
Eyeing the odometer, he declared I’d come in at 299 on the nose.
BRETT FORREST is a writer based in New York City, a place he believes would benefit from a few more rusty barge-bars.