Photographer Douglas Friedman and model Sean O’Pry get behind the wheel of their dream car—the new Ferrari California T—for an epic road trip. Around the bend: candlelit camping, fireside Scotch and a brush with the law.
I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but how could I not? The longest, straightest, most gorgeous country road stretched out ahead of us like a private landing strip and our Ferrari California T—top down, wind in our hair—was ready to fly. “You have to take her out,” said my co-pilot, Sean O’Pry—his supermodel grin capped by his glinting sunglasses—egging me on. I needed little encouragement, and by the time I’d said, “This looks like a speed trap,” I’d already pinned the accelerator to the floor.
Learning that O’Pry would be my partner in crime for a two-day adventure to Big Sur to get to know Ferrari’s latest GT convertible—the new California T—was the clincher for an already irresistible invitation. I tell stories with pictures, after all, so having something sexy to shoot like an iconic sports car makes life so much more interesting—adding a dollop of O’Pry, who Forbes in 2013 billed as “the highest-paid male model,” made it more interesting still. We’d never met, but the casting agent in me started storyboarding our shenanigans on the plane from JFK to Monterey, using O’Pry’s Instagram posts to his nearly 600k followers and counting (which he reckons are mostly smitten teenage girls) as added inspiration.
Soon after, there we were: meeting at a specially prepared, all-organic chef’s dinner together with a handful of other guests at Big Sur’s Ventana Inn & Spa. The scene, set by glowing candlelight at the nearby Ventana Campground—surrounded by towering, century-old redwoods under a ceiling of white stars and an indigo sky—was like a dream. The sublime evening concluded with Scotch and s’mores over the campfire and a tribal drum circle led by an area musician. The next day would bring 12 hours of driving through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, so we made it an early night.
After breakfast the following morning, O’Pry and I were handed the keys, with no stipulations. It’s one of those moments I won’t soon forget, and once behind the wheel, the moments kept piling up. The car embraces you—a sensation that grows when you fire to life the twin-turbo V8 engine and hear its thrum and purr, a cocooning vibration, welcoming you aboard. On the road, even driving slowly feels good; it’s confidence-inspiring whether you’re going 20 mph or 120.
O’Pry and I took turns driving and navigating, heading north on Route 1 through the famously gorgeous coastal stretch from Big Sur up to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where we took a right on Carmel Valley Road, heading inland toward the vineyards (including its most famous, Bernardus). What starts as a wide-open, four-lane highway shrinks down to two lanes, then given another 20 miles or so, becomes even narrower, and curvy and wonderful. Dappled sunlight, vistas of Carmel Valley, picture-perfect barns and cow-filled pastures unfolding turn after turn, the car growling and thrilling as it seduces us further into the valley. For a blissful two hours, there’s almost no one on the road but us, our speed hampered only by the tight curves, cattle grates, and an occasional cyclist giving us the thumbs-up. So when the road finally unfurls to that glorious straightaway, the temptation is irresistible.
I can’t be sure how fast we were going when I saw the red and blue lights in our rearview mirror, because about halfway through my apology—“Officer, I’m sorry, I just had to. We’re visiting from New York having the ride of a lifetime in a Ferrari we don’t own”—he just smiled and said, “I get it. I’ll ticket you for the minimum violation,” which it turns out was just 65 mph. I’d like to think the officer knew he’d have done the same thing in our shoes. As for O’Pry, I think he actually wanted that ticket, like a badge of honor—tangible evidence of an unbelievable day.
Photographed and written by Douglas Friedman.