There's something rather majestic about driving a car. Not driving for the sake of reaching a destination, but rather driving to enjoy the drive. It's a liberating feeling, regardless of the vehicle. Every time I get behind the wheel of a car I hark back to that very first time I drove a car, I was 13, home alone and hopped in the family minivan and drove around the neighborhood. Terrified, but even in those 15 terrifying minutes the feeling was evident, I was free. That's why I love driving, I get to relive the thrill of being 13, dumb, carefree and stupid all over again. Now a days the cars have changed, the location has too, but the feeling is all the same.
Note: All photos have been publicly sourced to protect author's privacy and by author's privacy...I forgot to take pictures.
I never drive up the Coast, for the most part I'm usually just too busy. Between life and career and other commitments taking a day to myself is almost unheard of, but sometimes a man's just got to do it. Pack a backpack with some water, a jacket, and some tunes, throw it in the passenger seat, carefully take down the joke of a soft-top, and just drive away. Drive away from life, from worries, from all the responsibilities that we as adults have to deal with, mortgages, family, work, bills etc. Just enjoy the extremely visceral act of maneuvering a machine at speed to no particular destination. Let go of all the chains that may burden you and simply drive.
I like to consider myself a gearhead, but other than routine maintenance and repairs of my cars I rarely, if ever enjoy them. When I was a teen I'd just hop in my car and drive for an hour on the back roads just to get away from my family, instantly feeling better about my life and the silly little concerns that bother all 17 and 18 year olds. This drive was my chance to reclaim the title, to waste some gas in the passionate pursuit of absolutely nothing. To clear my head and to to come back ready for another go at the grind we call life.
The drive was an unmitigated disaster to start. The old Morg, as plucky Brits are wont to do, decided not to start. Jangling the Lucas Electrics got it going again, but not before the carburetor decided to spout off like an old man with COPD. A bit of carburetor cleaner and I was on my way. I'll be honest, after those two issues I almost decided to just can the whole drive, but the old voice in my head told me to plant my butt in that seat and go for it. So go for it I did.
It's hard to describe what happened next, somewhere between leaving Los Angeles and getting on Highway 1, a smile crept onto my face. Not the type of smile that you give to people you meet on a day to day basis, but a genuine smile that comes from those rare moments of true joy in your life. I don't really know why it happened at that exact moment, there wasn't anything particularly wonderful about the drive thus far, but I'm almost certain it had something to do with the happiness of being behind the wheel of this unreliable little beaut. It truly was a magnificent feeling, like a hearty laugh, I was completely lifted from my body and elated and it only strengthened as the day went on. This was true driving emotion. I was finally old enough and mature enough to understand that this is the feeling that we as gearheads clamor for. Automakers try and market this feeling to us at every given chance, but it's not something that can be told, it can only be felt. It is pure, unadulterated, joy. I started to think back to the conversations I used to have with my late uncle, the whole reason I even have this Morgan. The way he'd describe driving his spitfire on the British A roads in the 60s, not going anywhere in particular, just enjoying the feeling of going, eventually finding some pub to grab a pint and some grub and drive home. It sounded wonderful, and now I was doing the same. When I lost my uncle earlier this year, it was these memories of him that I remembered most. The stories of the moments when (I didn't realize at the time) he was truly happy. Of course he had other moments of great happiness, but there is something to be said of the private happiness that a man shares with himself, I was understanding that feeling with every mile I traversed towards the vineyards. Oh what a lovely feeling it was!
I pulled into a vineyard and had an exceptional Reuben sandwich and a glass of pleasant Merlot and sparkling water. I wasn't terribly hungry, but it seemed wrong to drive this far and not sample the local fare. I paid my debt and walked back to my car, and suddenly there was a pitting feeling at my core. Almost as if there was despair in my body, but I knew what the feeling was instantly: the let down. I felt like an addict coming down from his high, the thought of going back home and back to reality was almost too much to bear. I aimlessly traveled in my car along the town trying to rationalize the trip back home to my brain, not an easy task if I'm honest.
Eventually I turned the car back onto the 1 and back to my life, decidedly less happier than when I started this journey. I couldn't even enjoy the sprawling stretches of open, traffic free road. My mind was working overdrive, trying to process the past day, week, month and year of my life. I don't live an unfulfilled life, nor do I have any major stresses at the moment, I do not want to leave that impression. But this escape from the day in and day out groundhogs day that many of us live was a hint at what could be. I think that realization was hurdle I needed to get past to start enjoying my day trip again. I called my father, talked to him about the "plan" and how he managed to stay the course when he had immeasurably more to deal with than I could ever imagine. Without getting too specific, my dad humbled me to no end, just the push I needed to realize that this pitting feeling was extremely silly and rather selfish. I thanked him and put on some Boy Hits Car (rather ironic band name no?) and that joyous feeling quickly returned to my body.
So what did I learn? Twist my arm and I'd say that I learned how to live in the moment, and not worry about life for small stretches of time. We can only control what we can control, we're not all powerful. Do what you can do to the best of your ability and let the rest happen. If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that life is too short. It's fragile and can be taken from you at any moment, so live it. Don't let the fear of the unknown take away from the wonders of what is real and right in front of you. In my almost three decades of life I've been taught this lesson numerous times, but sometimes the only way to truly understand something is to experience it for yourself. For that I'm glad my uncle's voice told me to get in that car and make this trip because a day is only well spent if you learn something new, and I'd say that was quite the profound lesson to learn.