When There's No Snow, Vail is Nothing But Kobe Bryant and Hybrids

("Follow us as we lift the hood on the world of industrial automotive espionage in From The Car Spy's Dossier, a series of road reports from A-list spy shooter Brenda Priddy and some of the world's greatest car spies!)I barely had a chance to unpack at my motel right across from BMW's so-called "top secret" hot weather test garage last week before Toyota called and invited me to Colorado for a few days to drive their new Highlander Hybrid. I used to think that an invitation from a auto company was nothing more than a ploy to get me out of town, and out of the action of wherever I may be at the moment, so that they could proceed to test their upcoming vehicles without worry about which cactus or maple I'd pop out from behind. But a couple of days in Vail...err...I mean a chance to drive a pre-production Highlander Hybrid was too good to pass up.

I threw some clothes in a backpack, lined up a couple of shooters to take my place and made the 3+ hour drive to the nearest airport. A 737 and a couple of puddle-jumps later, I finally made it to Vail. It was one of those trips where you spend more time in airports than on planes, but who could pass up a few days in the Colorado mountains? Especially at a luxury hotel where even the toilet paper looks like a piece of artwork? And, of course, who could pass up driving the new Highlander? Especially as we'd heard Toyota designers and engineers worked closely with consumers in clinics to make the Highlander as friendly as possible with a unique "Customer First" approach.

When There's No Snow, Vail is Nothing But Kobe Bryant and Hybrids

But the Highlander wasn't the talk at the bar...err...in the media room. That's because every limo driver and tour guide in Vail mentions Kobe Bryant within the first 3 minutes of stepping in — despite the story being . And because we were staying at The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, the details kept on pouring in from well-intended tour guides.

Now, sorry guys, I'm not a big sports fan. Perhaps Bryant is one of the reasons why, but even I knew who Kobe was. Doesn't everyone?

And this is definitely one of those times one wonders if this should even be brought up. Kobe's activities in Eagle County, Colorado, ultimately left countless victims - including the members of his own family. But then our driver mentioned that THIS was the very hotel, and suddenly everyone was guessing if he or she was in "Kobe's Room."

When There's No Snow, Vail is Nothing But Kobe Bryant and Hybrids

Once a spy, always a spy - and I just couldn't resist: I had to find out which room Kobe had rented. It started with an internet search, and then with a hike across the property to find the room.

It turned out that Kobe's room on the night of June 30, 2003, was room 35. But shortly afterwards, likely because of all the media attention and countless curiosity-seekers, The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera renumbered all of their rooms, and every bit of furniture in Room 35 was reportedly sold to a used-furniture dealer in Denver. Today room 35 is now 156! (No big secret here ... any amateur sleuth could of figured that out!)

So who was in Kobe's suite this evening? I'll never tell (perhaps I was paid-off!), but regardless of the unusual events surrounding the Lodge at Cordillera it was well worth it to be a part of the Highlander's launch.

When There's No Snow, Vail is Nothing But Kobe Bryant and Hybrids

But I had to hurry back to my 1940s-era motel (in an undisclosed location, of course) because BMW had an X6 sitting across the street, and the Scirocco was just screaming for pictures!!

Brenda Priddy