Yesterday was one of those days where I was thankful to be in Alabama. If you follow me on twitter you saw the photo I tweeted that said "this is my office". What you see is blue sky with pillowy white clouds, an interstate, and mountains and trees everywhere (see pic). INVIGORATING! I had the sunroof open, the windows down, and Pink Floyd's "Leanring to Fly" blasting from the H/K sound system. As I soaked up the 68 degree winds, sun on my face, smiling, I looked down at my "cockpit". Black cube trim, black leather sport seats, alcantara accents, and a 6 speed manual gearbox, I was in the most purpose built drivers car BMW ever made short of an ///M car, and I was HAPPY. Does it get ANY BETTER THAN THAT? The answer is a resounding NO!
And so I spent the better part of 3 hours just driving. I found some old back roads I used to race as a kid and cruised them for a bit. Not trying to drive faster or harder, but rather going slower. In fact, had I had a Delorian I would have gone back in time. Back to the memories of my Mustang days, 5.0 liter engine screaming in the wind, tire smoke and black marks, jumping in the river to cool off, and skipping school to go rock climbing. Yes, it sounds like a country song doesn't it. I wish I could go back to those days and tell the young man I was to "slow down" and enjoy the moments as they came. Tell him to stop looking forward and live in the moment, knowing I never can and trying to remind myself of those words for the man I am now.
Perhaps only a true car guy can appreciate the scenario. The excitement, the freedom, the passion you get when behind the wheel of a car that you truly love. Looking for reasons to go somewhere, anywhere, and when finding none just go drive anyways. Back in the old days it was Fox Body Mustangs with Nitrous. Today it is the ultimate (non-M) 4 door saloon, the BMW E46 ZHP. Regardless of the car the feelings are very much the same as when I was 16. When I was 16 gas was $1.05 a gallon and it was common to spend $10 the following way : $7 gas, $2 for smokes, $1 for a coke. What that $10 bought me was memories and freedom I still remember to this day and likely the rest of my life. I dare say when I only have one or two marbles left rolling around my bald head, I won't remember my name but I'll remember those Mustangs!
Road trips were a common past time for my friends and I and, unfortunately for my studies, all too common during the school day. I'll never forget the time I went to another city to goof off and I pulled up at a red light next to my mom! You can't buy memories like that! But even that couldn't dampen the spirit of freedom and fun you get when taking your favorite car for a drive. I used to roll the windows down and turn on my favorite music (again, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Ratt or some other hair band) and just drive. I had no particular place to go, no reason to go there, and no real want to go back. It allowed me to escape. Much like alcohol or drugs are an escape, this is an escape that AWAKENS your senses instead of dulling them. It is the feeling of actually LIVING life. An old Garth Brooks song called Standing Outside the Fire has a verse that says "Life is not tried it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire". The gist of the song is to live life to the fullest, and for me, behind the wheel of a car I could do that.
And so we move back into today. The young man described above is long gone. Lost to the worlds system, to a wife, to kids, to a mortgage and a job. He made his mistakes, lived his life and has become "a man". And yet, deep down, under the suits and ties, underneath the labels of "dad" or "honey", underneath the quota having business guy, beats the heart of a hardcore gear head. He craves only gasoline and the open road. He smiles when he sees a kid burn some rubber at a stoplight, he rolls his window down when next to a muscle car so he can hear it better, and he still looks at catalogs like Jegs and Summit Racing looking at parts for a Mustang he doesn't even own but hopes to again some day.
And during those moments when he can, rolls the windows down, cranks the music up, and lets the sunshine hit his face. And as he remembers his youth and those fast cars, he smiles and is truly happy.