Journal: What’s Your Automotive Happy Place?

What’s Your Automotive Happy Place?

By Michael Banovsky
June 19, 2015

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.

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4 years ago

Sunset Boulevard/Mulholland/PCH/Malibu Canyon, etc…
It’s all good in L.A. — Malibu –L.A.

6 years ago

I have taken some good drives in my Porsche throughout Scotland and Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy etc) but probably the best two drives of my life were in much more mundane cars and in my experience the best drives are determined by the locations rather than the vehicle:

(i) 4 day drive in a Toyota Landcruiser across the Atacama Desert in Chile and Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia – my first proper off-roading experience and stunning scenery whilst dealing with the cold and high altitude

(ii) rental Suzuki Swift (great little car) from Reykjavik to Isafjorour in Iceland. The last 300kms or so on route 61 was probably the best ‘b-road’ I’ve ever driven, open flowing roads over the mountains and around the fjords (epic views throughout), almost zero traffic or populated areas and the little Suzuki was flat out for 3 hours – incredible. It brought back memories from my student days that a good little hatchback, when driven very hard, can often be more fun than a fast sportscar on normal roads (when you are often frustrated by traffic, speed limits and poor road surfaces).

Doug Escriva
Doug Escriva(@dougie)
6 years ago

Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest offers some of the most diverse driving topography imaginable. Snow cap mountains, dry high deserts plains, panoramic ocean shores, and sprawling river gorges make up this drivers paradise.
One of my favorite routes is through the Columbia River Gorge on the historic highway 30.
Here’s how it looks on a good day:

Rudolf Wesseln
Rudolf Wesseln(@wuseln)
6 years ago

So many good stories and roads to drive sometimes. Thanks to fact that we are living near the Alps we also do have one or two nice roads to remember. But when I red your stories one particular moment/morning came back to my mind.
Years ago on a sunny and warm Sunday morning my little son (back then 2 years) and I went out from home to get fresh bred in the bakery. So we started the Mini Cooper convertible of my wife, opened the top and decided to drive a bit around over small B- and C-roads until the shop finally opened.
I remember often him sitting beside me in his child car seat, smiling and laughing and giggling, enjoying himself, the open top, the weather and being out with dad. I remember me being proud of him, enjoying the drive and being as happy as I ever felt. Thirty minutes that will never happen again, unforgettable to me.

Today, sometimes I am driving around with my little daughter (7 years) in my Camaro convertible. She smiles, laughs and giggles too but unforgotten one moment on the autobahn: She ‘How fast are we driving, dad?’ Me ‘Around 245 km/h’. She ‘Go faster!’

George Millwood
George Millwood(@sputnik)
6 years ago

From Italy, over the Col du Mont Cenis and towards Chambery on a sunny day in 1974 driving a BMW 2002. I must go back and drive that road again. it was just perfect. In Australia, the Snowy Mountains Highway, an all time favourite.

6 years ago

George, you are still right, mont cenis is still so nice to drive
[url=””]Your text to link…[/url]

6 years ago
Reply to  Marc

the link go wrong
[url=””]mont cenis last year[/url]

French Frie
French Frie(@frenchfrie)
6 years ago

2003, the hottest summer in France… I drove from Paris to the South of France, using the Historic Nationale 7 route, in my TR3, during 10 days .
went to the top of the Mont Ventoux, in Provence, and the TR3 didn’t miss a beat, whereas the outside temperature was around 40°c !

ronaldo eduardo
ronaldo eduardo(@ronaldin)
6 years ago

BR 101 RJ, Brazil.
the north part is good but the south is amazing, near angra and parati.

Mac Sille
Mac Sille(@fb_100005492566810)
6 years ago

The Gillies Highway, North QLD, Aust.
MV Agusta F3
if the traffic is too much skip to after 5:45 for the curves…


Niko PetrHead
Niko PetrHead(@fb_100008979769173)
6 years ago

After all these brilliant stories, may I dare to add something as lame as getting back from work in my daily driver, a quite humble hairdresser’s FWD coupé?
Just a nice and hard working day in the mountains, scrambling up and down on feet or all four in steep slopes long away from any path, and then back from St Martin de Vésubie via Col de la Bonette-Restefond.
Deep blue sky with a few white clouds for good measure, and the perfect measure of fast winding curves in the lower Tinée, narrower switchbacks over Bousiéyas, leading into the higher pastures with sweeping corners, just fast enough to keep momentum but curvy enough to feel the g’s, seeing enough to anticipate the oncoming traffic…
Call it lame if you want, but that was really the Goldilocks road.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

Since so few are responding if I may , one more ;

One morning soon after breaking up with said ballerina I found myself at 3:00 am unable to sleep and so went out into the courtyard of my Condo complex to get some fresh air , sitting down under the stars thinking and staring at the world around me . Soon after I’d settled in a very dear female friend who also lived there that as it turned out had just broken up with her then boyfriend wound up coming out to do the same thing . Well . We got to talking , commiserating etc as one does after a break up when we noticed it was getting around 5:30 am . My [ then ] daily driver ( 77 Alfetta GT ) was in the lot so I recommended we do something a bit spontaneous and off the wall and drive to Aspen for lunch . No romance intended or implied . Just an excuse to get ‘ Out of Dodge ‘ ( Denver ) leaving our woes behind . Well .. we did . Had a great traffic free drive up . Took her to my then favorite restaurant in Aspen . Spent the day walking and talking , finally heading back down the hill back home taking a couple of scenic detours along the way . As I said : no romance at all . Just two good friends taking a long drive totally off the cuff and making each others day a little more pleasant in the process with an Alfa Romeo in the mix to make it all just a bit more special

6 years ago

Good topic! Must say, Mr. Lange, your effort will be hard to beat what with the mixture of car and family emotivity…

However, I for one am happiest when taking my (modern) 911 for a road trip. Ideally the road trip will be the means to an end, which is usually a nice hotel, good food and some form of sport. It gets even better when the road trip involves some mountain roads or passes and better still if there is a sense of “adventure” to the whole thing.

So, my personal recent “moment of happiness” was a few years ago driving through Switzerland to Austria via Alpine roads and passes in the middle of winter with snow in my beautiful 911 (thanking the 4WD) fitted with winter tyres and skiis on top, destination, a lovely ski hotel in genuine Tirolean style. Here is the proof, were it ever needed, of a great adventure and, I believe, in the ethos of enjoying motoring.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

Finally ! A PetroQuestion I can respond to simply and directly with one solitary answer ;

That being right here in my own backyard . Our Colorado mountain ‘ Blue Highways ‘ [ B-roads for you Brits ] back roads and high mountain passes . One of my favorite episodes ?

Back in the day before I-70 west of Denver became a mobile parking lot ; An early morning run to Aspen leaving before daybreak . Just as I was going over Loveland Pass in the 365 GTC/4 a favorite Pat Metheny tune came up on the mix tape I’d made [ yes Mr Lange I committed heresy by stuffing an aftermarket AM/FM Cassette in the GTC/4 … my moniker/profession being my excuse ] – the sun rising behind me – the mountains lighting up before me – the valley below just becoming visible – with [ this was before I’d met my wife ] the stunning prima ballerina I was dating/living with at the time by my side – that song becoming the perfect ‘ soundtrack ‘ for the moment . That tune and that moment forever sticking in my head . The lady ? Errr . Not so much ! Suffice it to say Prima Ballerina’s are … hmmn … difficult to say the least … even by my standards .. seeing as how I’m [ more than ] a bit difficult myself 😉

Don’t get me wrong . Europe is fine . Driving over the Col de Turini , CH mountain passes etc was wonderful . But for me nothing can top what’s right out my own back door . Y’all come on up ! Guaranteed you won’t be disappointed

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

No need to apologise for upgrading the head unit in a C4. MY Dad has done the same in all three of the C4’s he has owned, the current one has one of those retro looking Becker units that fits into the standard C4 radio slot.

I’ve had many great drives that stick in the memory, but as it was Father’s day yesterday a run out with my Dad last year seems the most appropriate story. I was in the Daytona and Dad was in his Daytona Spyder (Conversion), and we headed down to the excellent roads of the Surrey, Sussex borders about 40 miles south of London. Normally these roads are quite busy but a nearby triathalon had caused the roads to be largely empty (I think we were fortunate to be passing through just after they reopened), and we had clear roads to open up all 24 cylinders in the Ferraris. The best bit was the A272 between Midhurst and Billingshurst, it’s quite a fast road with some elevation change and could have been made for Daytonas. Best bit though was being out with my Dad, he’s none too well now so I’m not sure I will get the opportunity to go out for a drive like that (with us both driving at least) again. 🙁

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Here’s the Metheny tune if anyone is curious ;

And two thumbs up to Mr Lange both for both the journey and his relationship with his father [ mine is a bit contentious to say the least and more like non-existent ] well as to Riccardo for including a modern car in the conversation .

Wilson Thorburn
Wilson Thorburn(@ancienneecole)
6 years ago

Date: September 1997
Car: Lotus Elise
After a chilly and foggy trip across the Vercors in South Eastern France and following our nose towards our bed for the night we entered the damp dank tunnel at the top of the Col du Rousset. at the other end of the tunnel we emerged into a different world. The sky was azure blue (like the Elise) and the sights and smells of Provence surrounded us. The road descended steeply down a cliff face in a series of swithbacks, kids faces were plastered to the rear windscreens of local cars as we approached to overtake (the Elise is a rare sight now in 1997 it looked like nothing else). As the descent flattened out the twisting turning road could have been made for the car, you didn’t have to steer it, you just thought it through the sweeping bends. Eighteen years on I remember the drive like yesterday. Sadly a growing family meant the Elise had to go, but one day, one day maybe an Elise and I will return.