Journal: The Rugged Individualist

The Rugged Individualist

Avatar By Jonathan WC Mills
February 11, 2014
17 comments

So get yourself a car and drive it all night long

Get yourself a car and ride it on the wind

-Chris Cornell, Audioslave – “Getaway Car”

Some people prefer to travel with passengers. After all, most automobiles are built with two or more seats and for a great many people the desire to share the automotive experience with others is important.

I’m not one of those people.

For me, the car remains a refuge, an escape hatch, an Irish exit. I have long since preferred to get in a car by myself and drive into the mountains, the desert, or up the coast to be alone with my thoughts. My best musings have often occurred on these rambling journeys of introspection. I have found sudden inspiration in the long miles falling away beneath my tires. Sometimes it’s the discovery of a new vista, a new set of curves, a friendly coffee shop that makes the journey complete. Using my car as an escape vehicle factors strongly into my own personal narrative and I will always choose the solo journey over driving with a friend.

There is historical precedent at play. The American West I grew up in has a long-standing love affair with the rugged individualist. The lone cowboy on the range, the solo driver blazing across vast desert vistas. It’s an iconographical part of the American, if not world’s, psyche. The cigarette company Marlboro successfully used this image with its lonely cowboy motif for decades. It’s also harder and harder to achieve a sense of the individual in the increasingly urbanized world we inhabit. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that so many of the current of crop of automotive television commercials traffic on this theme. They focus on the car or truck as an extension of a unique personality, not as a communal experience. Think Chevrolet’s recent, “A man. A man and his truck…” commercial as an example.

To provide a counterpoint, and establish that I am not a complete loner, I do have great memories of road trips with people. I’ve taken amazing journeys with friends and family that were unique and powerful. For example, after 9/11 my family was stuck in South Carolina. With air traffic halted, we rented a car and all four of us struck out across the country. We listened to David McCullough’s brilliant book John Adams and traveled together across a shell-shocked nation back to Idaho. It remains a trip that I will always recall with a mixture of sadness and amazement, made more substantive for having experienced it with family. I’ve also driven on epic mid-winter ski trips through raging blizzards with good buddies that still remain highlights of an adventurous youth. I have wonderful memories of trips with girlfriends, and later my wife. But the older I get, the more pressing my responsibilities, the more complex my scheduling – the more I long for the pure experience of driving alone.

As a vintage car enthusiast I’m given the opportunity to disconnect in a way that drivers of modern cars cannot. Simply turning off your phone, or leaving it behind, means the absence of distractions; texts, emails and phone calls disappear and the open road, beckons. A trip alone represents freedom. When I settle into the leather seat on an early weekend morning and idle out of the garage, I have a sense of mounting excitement. I can drive where I want, when I want and whatever speed I want. I am no longer beholden to a passenger, I am not required to pick a destination…I am the captain of my tiny metal ship.

So, if you see me, fellow traveller, barreling down a dusty, lonely road going nowhere fast, please make sure you tip your hat.

I’ll probably be alone.

Photography by David Marvier for Petrolicious and Jonathan WC Mills

Join the Conversation
Related

Leave a Reply

Tsvetan Tsekov
Tsvetan Tsekov

The best article ever! Not just about cars, but in general. And the only one that sits bookmarked in all my browsers. Reading it feels like it came out of my heart and mind, not somebody else’s. And I reread it every few months. Thank you, Jonathan! 🙂

Jully Pham
Jully Pham

[url=”http://nhacaivip.com/vaobong/”]vao bong[/url] Art Pictures [url=”http://vbet79.net/”]ket qua da bong[/url]

Adam Fairfax
Adam Fairfax

I so much agree with Guy. I have a rather stressful job, three very young kids and a Wife that is not really into cars. For years i’ve gotten up very early on the odd Sunday (about 5.15am or so) and taken my cars for fast runs all by myself. To start, it was an 85 930 Porsche (US Turbo Carrera). Once I sold that, I bought a 71 240Z to restore, which tool five years, so in the intervening time I bought a 2.7 MFI Carrera and used that. Now the Carrera is gone, the 240Z is finished, so… Read more »

Beck
Beck

Another great read, Jonathan’s metaphor of a rugged cowboy of the west is quite fitting. Although I do organize group cruises once in a while with my buddies, driving out alone is a totally different experience imo. There is no communication except the multi-senses connection with the car, nor there’s a need to accommodate/slowing down for your friends and whatnot. Given a soothing route/rest stop location, one can be in absolute peace inside a capsule that embraces you with such familiarity. Here’s a post card I’ve taken from one of my glorious dawn drives. Quite memorable since it was a… Read more »

Daniel Evseev
Daniel Evseev

I am just very thankful for a place on internet such as Petrolicious. Fantastic article, and the pictures…well each worth thousands of words, most of us can relate to. Going for a 1700 mile trip in a few days, perfect timing for this piece to be published. Thank you.
another Tasteful Driver.

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram

Reading through the comments, the casual reader might get the impression we’re all closet loners! But like everyone else here I can relate to the words above entirely. I’m lucky enough that most of the trips I do are alone, albeit in modern cars, but I enjoy every one whatever the vehicle. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to cruise and listen to the radio, others it’s just you and the road. All the better if there’s little traffic, too. Some of my best journeys have been in the least likely vehicles, simply because I’ve had the car to myself, an empty… Read more »

Roland Alfonso
Roland Alfonso

Reminds me of Jeremy Clarkson of TG, UK. “When was the last time you went for a drive? Not to anywhere; not for anything. Just to go for a drive… This is brilliant. No phone, no kids, no interruptions. Time to think. Time to work stuff out. Just me in my little metal shell. No wonder crabs are so wise…”

JsT Fartin
JsT Fartin

Rebuilt a motor – for the first time – last year in my Volvo ’71 142S. Used my friend’s 50th birthday as an excuse so I drove solo and non-stop 1700 miles from California to visit him in Iowa. That worked out well so I just kept going, eventually 40 days and 9500 miles, all the way to NYC and back visiting friends and family. I knew my wife wouldn’t go (she won’t go _anywhere_ in _that_ car) and my son couldn’t make it. In retrospect, it was definitely better being alone on the road for exactly these reasons –… Read more »

Scott Smith
Scott Smith

I could not agree more. One of the most significant events in my life was a cross-country motorcycle trip, alone. I was about 24 and just finished college at UCLA and was headed back home to Rochester, NY. My parents flew out and drove a truck with all my stuff in it back to Rochester for me. I remember my Dad, a big fan of the AAA TripTik, asking me if I had planned my route. I responded, “I’m going north till I hit Oregon, then turning right and going east till I get to Rochester.” What if you get… Read more »

Matt Van Horn
Matt Van Horn

Easily one of the best articles I have read so far. There’s nothing better than hitting the road by yourself very early on a weekend morning. Just the road, your thoughts, and the car. Pure bliss. Awesome.

Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert

I have been restoring cars now for about 14 years. My wife just does not like to ride in these old cars. I take several long road trips each year and end up driving by myself mostly. One of the biggest joys I have is good weather, a dry road, full tank of gas and one of the old cars under me. Life doesn’t get any better!

Adam Holter
Adam Holter

Wonderful. And I couldn’t agree more; when I want to drive, nine times out of ten, it’s alone. What a great article.

Daniel Kelly
Daniel Kelly

Just…awesome. 🙂