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Westport Thrill-Seeker Ready to Take to the Sky

Although she prefers to motor down the scenic, twisting and challenging roads of Italy's Amalfi Coast, Westport's Juli Harlan is content right now to keep her seven-seater Denali at a ho-hum 35 miles per hour on the Boston Post Road -- or her Vespa tamed to a respectable cruising speed.

"It's got eight cylinders and lots of horsepower, and is perfect for three boys and a dog," she says of her child-friendly SUV. Retired from marriage, as she puts to it, Harlan is currently in a state of reinvention. While many post-divorced women opt for an art class or a real estate license, her mind is focused on a higher calling, of sorts. "I'm taking helicopter lessons because it sounds like fun. I love the feeling of being airborne in such a small, yet easily maneuverable flying machine."

Although she doesn't have her pilot's license ("yet"), Harlan does pack a motorcycle license for the Vespa on which she tools around town when the weather favors it.

A native of Newport Beach, Cal., Harlan traveled extensively throughout world, spending an abundance of time in New Zealand and Australia. She then landed a modeling contract in Greece and stayed there for a year before heading back to California. She moved to Westport in 1998 with her three boys, now 12, 14 and 16.

But throughout her world travels Harlan never lost her love of the open road, a passion that began at an early age. Her mother owned, on various occasions, a red Corvair , a gold Mercury Cougar convertible and a Corvette , which her father used to "put through its paces," she said. "My dad used to joke that he was driving fast to clear out the engine." When she turned 16 and got her driver's license, it was the beginning of her "true love for fast, sexy cars."

Cars have always symbolized freedom to Harlan. Her father, a Navy pilot during World War II, "Loved anything fast: roller coasters, cars airplanes and boats," she says. "We did a lot together and I believe I inherited his love of fast cars."

As to her dream car, she has a list that's topped by a 1950s Fiat Jolly and a 2011 Aston Martin Vantage . But for now, she'll take the high road – the really high one, without the stoplights – and continue seeking the thrill of a fast ride.

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