Sunday Driving

Posted on:
February 28, 2016
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There was an interesting question of the day recently on Jalopnik: What car would you recommend for someone who hates cars? In all honesty I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who hates cars.

I think that one difference between someone who isn’t interested in cars and an enthusiast is whether or not they can fantasize about driving a cool car. Almost to a person, the people I know who aren’t interested in cars are the ones who also don’t enjoy driving.

The Curse of the Daily Commute

It’s not hard at all to figure out why so many people dislike driving. Hell is other people, or – in this case – other drivers. I don’t believe for a second that my wife is put off by the notion of getting into a car, starting it, driving around, and then parking it. Her daily exposure to driving, though, is a frantic morning scramble through crowded local streets, falling apart from either neglect or botched utility work, and constantly changing detour routes over railroad tracks.

Commuting wears me down, too. What takes 15 minutes mid-day on the weekend takes me 45 every single morning and evening due to high-volume traffic slowdown. I’m constantly stuck in line or dodging people who refuse to either (a) use turn signals or (b) drive in one lane at a time.

If you know someone who isn’t interested in cars, ask them – do you like driving? And what’s your commute like?

The Real Housewives of Every City on Earth

After 8:00 pm, when my kid’s in bed and sleeping, my wife and I finally get to take a breath and watch some TV together. Most of the time, we watch the same stuff but on Sunday nights it’s Real Housewives night.

At some point, they were covering 6 locales: Atlanta, New York, Orange County, Miami, New Jersey, and Washington DC – if memory serves. This means that it never goes on hiatus. And thanks to my witty and insightful running commentary, it would be altogether better for both of us if I were to find something else to do for that particular time slot.

I would head off into the other room and load up some Top Gear on Netflix – and that’s when I came across Series 4, Episode 4 – London to Edinburgh and back in one tank of gas in an Audi A8.

The Act of Driving

In this episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson gets up before dawn to drive out of London (before the traffic) and into the countryside. He takes a moment while driving through the empty streets to comment about how pleasant it is to drive on a road that’s all your own. While I was watching that episode and it dawned on me:

I’d never just gone for a drive.

This was last year, when I was 33 years old.

It sounds odd, right? Clearly I’d driven before. I’d been to and from work basically every weekday for the previous decade. I log about 15,000 miles per year every year. I spend more than 1 1/2 hours in a car every single day. But it’s true. I’d never been out driving simply to enjoy the act of driving.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a license in high school or college. Maybe the time in my life where I would do something like that passed me by before I had access to a car. Maybe it’s because I’d never really had what anybody would consider a “driver’s car.”

Whatever the reason, it was clear now that I had a reliable car, gas money, and a solid hour of drive time every single week.

Choosing a Road

Finding a road that worked was easy for me because I know of exactly one fun driving road in my area and when I tried it out in Sunday traffic it was a perfect fit. I can drive out to the start of the road, drive it up and down, then drive home in an hour – almost on the nose.

I take the highway out to Oakland, NJ and then drive Ramapo Valley Road up to Ramapo College and back. I even found a little Starbucks at the start of the road with some outdoor seating, which added some extra charm to summer drives.

Get Out There

If it sounds like something you’d like to try, here are some things I would recommend:

  • Make sure your car’s in good working order. The last thing you need to be worried about is putting unnecessary miles on an unreliable ride.
  • Choose a time when traffic is light. Early morning or late evening. You will have to give up some other leisure time to fit it in.
  • Go alone. This is best done as a zen experience – you, your car, the road, and nothing else.
  • Turn off your ringer. No texting – ever – but also no hands-free calls. Be greedy with your alone time.
  • Drive the same route every week. You can relax a little when you’re no longer learning your way around.
  • Pick a 40 MPH road with 25 MPH turns. If you know a road in your area that has a lot of yellow signs warning you to slow down for turns, this is where you should start. You’ll be able to stick easily to the posted speed limit while taking the corners at what feels like high speed.
  • Don’t speed. First, it’s more relaxing if you don’t have to worry about being pulled over. Second, if you’re driving below the average speed on the road, you’ll almost never get stuck behind a slower driver.
  • Hands at 10 and 2. You’d be amazed how much this helps you focus – and that’s what you want. You want to be alert and present in the moment.
  • Turn down the radio. Again, you’d be amazed how much this helps you focus – but also hearing the engine gives you a better sense of what’s going on, especially where it’s hilly.
  • Be extra-courteous. Most rude drivers are rude because they’re in a rush. You, on the other hand, don’t want to rush this experience – you want to enjoy it. Give others space and always signal.

If you do take it up, hit me up on twitter and let me know how it went.