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My encounter with Ralph Lauren and his Bugatti Veyron

By Doug DeMuro

This week, my girlfriend, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, came to Colorado to visit. I wanted to show her the most beautiful parts of my state so in order to do that I took her to, among other places, the small town of Ouray, a beautiful southwestern Colorado town that refers to itself as the "Switzerland of America." We stayed there for two nights, and during the second day there, we decided to take a day trip to Telluride, about an hour away. In order to get to Telluride from Ouray, you have to take US Highway 550 to Ridgway, Colorado, and then from there, Colorado State Highway 62 to Placerville, Colorado, and finally Colorado State Highway 145 into Telluride. It is common knowledge in the area that fashion designer Ralph Lauren owns most of the land between Ridgway and Placerville along CO-62.

On the drive to Telluride from Ouray I told my girlfriend jokingly, 'be on the lookout for Veyrons and McLaren F1s - Ralph has them all registered here!' Common knowledge of the area also dictates that Lauren registered each of his supercars at his Colorado ranch in order to get car dealer status, meaning he didn't have to pay taxes on each of his cars. However, it's well-known that he doesn't keep the cars here.

With that said, as we drove by the ranch on the way to Telluride, we could clearly see at least fifteen or twenty garage spaces next to the main buildings. I told her it was 'scary' to think what he might have in there - considering his collection spends most of its time on tour in museums. Granted the spots could be empty, but who knows. We drove by the rest of his beautiful property and into Telluride, and, to some degree, forgot about Ralph.

On the way back, she had evidently forgotten my ultracar warning and promptly fell asleep as soon as we left Telluride. We started on the drive back and began going by Ralph's ranch. She was sleeping in the passenger seat and I was daydreaming, staring off at the beautiful ranch and glancing at the road every few seconds. Nearing the main buildings, it happened.

Immediately as I saw the Veyron coming toward me, I recognized it - which is odd because having never seen one before I thought I'd freeze or question my eyes or something. But I immediately recognized it and knew I had to give chase, as I've waited my entire car spotting career to see the thing - even though I never thought in a million years I would actually see the car on this stretch. I slammed on my brakes and pulled into opposing traffic and began screaming:

"KATE!!! KATE!!!" She woke up and was totally startled.
"What?! Where are we?! What's wrong?"
"I just saw a ****ing Veyron!!"

Now mind you at this point I am in opposing lanes and am coming to a stop. I made a three-point turn (on a 65mph state highway - to much honking from vehicles behind me) and put the pedal to the floor. I tagged 105mph before I caught a second glimpse of the vehicle. I made several daring two-lane passes and finally got directly behind the Veyron, which was doing the speed limit or slightly under. Realizing at any time he could floor it and be completely gone, I began snapping photos. Early ones turned out shaky because my hands were shaking from the excitement:

But eventually I settled down and was able to snap some clearer shots:

As you can see the Veyron's New York license plates read RLX 7, which I was mystified about, but based on the proximity to Lauren's ranch and the 'RL' in the tag - and that I knew he was from New York - it was a pretty easy jump to believe it was him. I knew I had to wait for some side shots of the car and I was ready to follow until that happened. So I followed...

...and followed...

...and followed...

...until finally we came to the junction where you can choose to take CO-145 to Telluride. I presumed he would turn and head into Telluride, although my own previous jaunt into the town showed me that construction was so bad there was no way he could get the Veyron in there. I knew this might be my best chance for a side shot so I steadied the camera, and just hoped. And...

Not bad! I was pretty pleased, but I wanted to see what would happen next. Thank god I did, because after a short drive...

...the driver turned into a small parking lot in the town of Placerville, Colorado, whose population can't be more than 50 or 60.

The driver then made a U-turn in the parking lot, revealing unquestionably that it was none other than Ralph Lauren piloting the vehicle.

At this point I was beside myself with shock and anticipation, not knowing what would happen next. And in this gravel parking lot next to a small house and some roadside shops, Ralph... parked. I didn't miss the opportunity. I got out and snapped away:

Now at this point both Ralph and his passenger, a bearded man some years younger than Ralph, had both waved to me, and naturally a small congregation formed around the car. Six or seven people came out with cameras - perhaps the entire population of the immediate vicinity of the parking lot. The passenger rolled down his window and I walked over. I later explained to my girlfriend, though she didn't understand it, that at this point I was not thinking of Ralph as a man worth nine figures or the man who made most of my clothes - I was thinking of him as a car guy and a Veyron owner. That made it easy to open with...

Me: What's it like, Ralph?
Ralph Lauren: (laughs and nods) It's incredible. I like your shirt. [I was wearing Polo.]
Me: Thanks, I like it too.
Ralph Lauren (to Kate): I like yours too. [she was wearing my Polo sweatshirt]
Kate: Thanks, it's his.
Me: How long have you had it?
Ralph Lauren: About a year now.
Me: Did you just take it out from your ranch?
Ralph Lauren: Yeah.
Me: Is it unlike anything you've ever experienced before? Is it just incredibly fast?
Ralph Lauren: Well you know, I obey all posted speed limits.
Me: I can imagine.
Ralph Lauren: What do you think of it?
Me: It's beautiful. Absolutely incredible.
Me: Sorry about all this. (referring to all the photographers taking pictures of the car from all angles)
Ralph Lauren: Don't worry about it.
Me: Thanks so much for bringing it out.
Ralph Lauren: Sure.
Me: Goodbye.
Ralph Lauren: Goodbye.

I continued to photograph as Ralph drove away, back to the ranch...

Not only did I see a Bugatti Veyron, I spoke to the owner. Not only did I speak to the owner, but the owner was Ralph Lauren. Not only was Ralph Lauren the owner, but he complimented my shirt. As I thought about it later, I realized I could've asked a few more questions - 'How does it compare to the McLaren F1?' 'What does insurance cost?' 'Do you keep it here?' - but in my view, what was said didn't matter. I got the pictures, and I got the story. As we drove back by his ranch later, the beautiful black Veyron was sitting parked in front of one of his leagues of garages, ready to go back inside. God only knows what else was sitting in there that day.

For the record, Ralph couldn't have been nicer to me. He seemed to be showing his passenger - someone I didn't recognize - the Veyron, as if the passenger was looking to purchase one. Ralph was incredibly good to talk to me about the car and be so cool about it, considering he was simply out on a drive and really didn't need to deal with people asking about it. But I wasn't asking about his clothes, or if I could get a picture with him, or for his autograph - it was about the car, and I think he knew that. Also for the record, the Veyron doesn't really sound that incredible. Granted, Ralph never floored it, but the sound was underwhelming - a throaty growl equal to a twelve-cylinder Ferrari or Lamborghini. Nothing spectacular - nothing like you'd expect such an alien car to sound. No turbine, no 'woosh' - just a mean exhaust note with no twist or surprise. At the Ralph Lauren store in Aspen, Colorado, we discovered 'RLX,' the initials on the license plate, are Ralph Lauren's winter clothing line.

I have always purchased Ralph's clothing on the grounds that he loves cars and lives in Colorado, same as me, and that he rose from virtually nothing to become so wealthy and famous. I will continue to do so in the future. But I will never look at that little Polo logo on my shirts the same way ever again.

Hope you enjoyed the story and the photos.


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