The majority of people have a bucket list of things they want to achieve within their lifespan. It could be a daredevil option in Bungee Jumping, swimming with Dolphins or something else that you want to at least experience while you’re still here.
For me, most of things I want to do is typically outside of the UK. What doesn’t help is if you have a natural fear of flying, it can make this an even bigger challenge to get there.
From a young age I’ve always wanted to travel to the USA. Plenty of places to choose from but one of which was to just say I had been to California. It didn’t matter where within the state exactly. I just wanted the chance to say I got to see a totally different scene and culture.
The grand age of 30 was approaching fast and the family were throwing ideas at me in how to celebrate it. I would have been content with the usual meal surrounded by those who mean the most, anything else would have been a bonus. My sister works at Virgin Atlantic and with her staff travel perks had been pestering me to take advantage of it while she was still working there.
The option was for the family to pay for me to go to Pasadena, California for a weekend while she was working the flight. It’s a hell of a long way to travel for a couple of days, even more so when the idea of being on a plane for over 10 hours made me sick at the thought.
Nevertheless, the idea was put forward and was arranged for me. No sooner had this been discussed, the light bulb had lit up with an idea…
`While I’m over there, why don’t I try and squeeze in the opportunity to check out 500 Madness HQ`
For however how long I have ran my RJABARTH account on Instagram, I have spoken to some amazing people that have provided me with a tonne of opportunities for having it able. Conversations stretching worldwide with an all-round appreciation for the Abarth brand.
As such, I had grown a friendship with a guy called Joey Reyes (also known as BoostJenner) and made him aware that I was going to be over there celebrating my birthday. Joey at the time was heavily involved working at 500 Madness and arranged everything for me without having to do anything. He had even arranged to be picked up from the hotel I was staying at in Pasadena to travel to Signal Hill, a distance from say Newcastle to Middlesbrough. Saved me the bother on having to get a train on my own through Compton which would have been interesting!
After a long 12 hour flight I arrive late at LAX Airport all over the place mentally knowing I had got over the fear of travelling that far by plane… but then realising in 2 days I’d be doing the same thing again, great.
No real time to sleep and the body clock all over the place. I may have managed to cram in a hour’s sleep but the buzz of being there knowing what I was going to see. I couldn’t waste time sleeping. Eric (another employee at 500 Madness) had come out of his way to pick me up in his Abarth and it felt weird getting in the right hand side of the car without having the steering wheel in front of you. We discussed as much as we could within the trip, more so calling me crazy coming all this way just for an afternoon. I assumed it would just be a quick tour of the HQ and that would be it… but I was wrong.
As we approach the HQ there is a crowd of boisterous American’s all gathered together in a group surrounded by a fleet of Abarth’s & 500T’s. I’m none the wiser at this point as I’m assuming they’re waiting for the place to open. Eric informs me they are all here to meet me. Now at this point as I’ve mentioned I’m a bit all over the place trying to take it all in but to suggest that they were all here for me was insane. I’m just a normal lad from Sunderland and that’s where it ends. I make my way out of the car to receive an applause and cheers with multiple of shaking hands. Probably the best greeting I’ve ever had and likely ever will! I’m being made out to be like royalty and it just wasn’t sinking in at all.
Prior to the tour of the facility, Joey would round everyone up and inform those in attendance that I’m down as the special guest and why I’m here. He then puts me on the spot to make a speech about it to have every head turn and face me. Not what I was expecting to have to do but I just about managed to say something off the cuff to explain my passion for Abarth and what I wanted to experience from the American side of things to what they do different to us in the UK.
Blistering heat conditions wouldn’t take me long to look like a lobster as usual. I mean I burn in the winter over here so I’m trying to maintain staying awake on little to no sleep while being drained by the sun. At this point I’m being pulled in every direction to speak to the majority of Abarth owners over there. It was brilliant! Funnily enough I’m hearing similar things being said to me saying they’re jealous of what Abarth options we have back home. But then they have equally as much with the custom options available to them over there.
Didn’t matter the fact I’m over 1000 miles way from home, the Abarth DNA stretches across the world with everyone still wanting their own unique stance on their car. I got to see some amazing cars during my time there and it still wasn’t over with.
Towards the late afternoon. A guy called Tuan had said he had been a big follower of me on social media at the time I had my Black 595 Competizione. We continued to shoot the breeze talking about what we’ve done so far. He had to head off home and if what had happened so far wasn’t strange enough. Tuan pulls out a white marker and asks me to sign his Abarth. Now at this point I’m looking round thinking `right come on, where’s Beadle` but it was true, he asked me to sign his car as a memento. The whole thing being totally overwhelming at this point and I’m having to explain to him that it’s going to probably devalue his car big style here but if it’s what he wanted then it’s not as if you get the chance to do this type of thing often! Signed the car and he headed off. I’m there watching him disappear in the distance trying to work out if that had just happened or whether it was the sun stroke kicking in.
The tour was over with and the majority of American owners had departed. I’m called into the 500 Madness unit where it was just wall to wall every custom option and parts you could think of. An Abarth heaven! – Again I assumed it was over with, but waiting for me at the reception was a care package full of Madness goodies. Stickers, Number Plate holders, Sunstrips and more. I had even been given a set of mats so I was fully kitted out in their gear. A hell of a lot to take in over less than a day. It was all unbelievable.
To finish off the experience, the team and a few of the remaining owners who held back had arranged a drive down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to get a chance to see the real California. The sunset, the beach and coastal views literally a scene out of Baywatch.
It was an incredible experience to be involved with. Certainly a birthday present I’ll never forget. A huge thank you would go out to everyone who made it all possible. The list is wayyyyy to long to write up but they all know who made it all happen.
The trip would end us all kicking back at a shopping mall in Long Beach, I can’t remember the name of it but it’s no Dalton Park mind!
At the time I was loving the fact I had all these items to bring home. Then the realisation of having to carry a set of mats through LAX airport, nearly missing my flight home and then likewise for the train back to the North East.
Within 48 hours I was sitting living a different life over there to being back to reality driving past the Washington Galleries in the rain heading home. An amazing trip that would make my personal Abarth journey even more special. I’d fully recommend anyone if they do travel stateside to California to squeeze in some of their time to check 500 Madness out because it is totally worth it!