What’s Your Automotive Happy Place?
I have no idea what road it was, but in an instant, everything was perfect.
We’d just watched the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and, as my very first time in Europe, I noticed that the Nürburgring Nordschleife was little more than an hour away…why not try and squeeze in a few laps?
The day was perfect, thankfully, and a helpful local suggested we’d make great time if we stuck to the B-roads and avoided the post-race traffic expected to clog up the highways. In broken English, his directions consisted of reciting every town on the route to the ‘Ring—all that we had to do was a) know how to spell the town name, b) know where the signs were, and c) not take the wrong turn from the ever-present roundabouts. And no—the gas stations we visited didn’t have maps.
Within five minutes, we were lost. So lost, of course, that finding our way back to our starting point was impossible.
“Use my iPhone,” I said to my friend Andrew, and we not only quickly back on track but also—I’d later learn—racking up a ridiculous $900 data charge.
Anyway, after some time winding our way through the countryside in a borrowed Mini Cooper Countryman Diesel, the narrow B-road I was hustling the car along dipped sharply into a valley, revealing the most exceptional scene I’d seen from behind the wheel.
Race tracks are fun, but the open road inspires feelings of freedom that a closed course can not. The vista before us contained a wide-open valley, the odd well-kept farm, some wind turbines, and—of course—an electric blue sky filled with Simpsons-like puffy clouds.
The only problem, of course, was that I was driving a diesel economy car and not, say, one of my own machines. But that road, falling into the valley…
It’s been 6 years and I’m still happy thinking about it.