By Dom Cioffi
I drove my family to Florida recently for a week’s vacation on the beach. We opted for driving instead of flying so we could afford a better hotel with better amenities.
I do most if not all of the driving on trips like this while my wife and son watch movies and play video games. Driving that many hours can be arduous, but as long as I have the proper support on my back and my noise canceling headphones wrapped around my ears, I can handle it fairly well.
While I drive I generally switch from informational podcasts to my library of music to keep me engaged. I find that losing myself inside an intriguing story or rocking out to my favorite tunes really helps pass the time.
One of the podcasts I listened to on this trip was about a guy who had dreamed his whole life about owning one particular car. He had seen it in his youth and had coveted the vehicle throughout his adulthood. Now retired and figuring he didn’t have many valuable years left to spoil himself, he decided to sink a significant chunk of change into purchasing the now-antique model.
The guy spoke fondly of this car and how sitting behind the wheel seemed to jettison him back into his childhood. You could hear the aging man’s voice fill with youthful cheer when he talked about finally locating the make and model that he was sure would complete his life.
And then everything went to hell.
First the car needed immense repairs and bodywork to make it drivable. Then he talked about the stench – like a long-dead animal – that he could not seem to cleanse from the innards. Then he spoke of the discomfort to his spine that he experienced while driving in the old fashioned seats. And finally, he examined the freak accident that all but ended the vehicle’s usefulness as a mode of transportation.
But I give the guy credit; he had an impressive attitude about the whole thing.
While I was listening to this podcast, my eyes starting scanning the hundreds of vehicles I was passing (I tend to drive a little faster than the normal highway pace) and imagining which ones I could see myself driving.
At one point I became fixated on a lime green Mustang GT with black rims and some impressive racing stripes.
The guy driving the car looked to be my age and had the same lead foot as me so it was easy to picture myself behind the wheel. I assumed it was a fun vehicle to drive with its low-to-the-ground chassis and road hugging radial tires. I could see the guy tapping on his steering wheel as he drove so I assumed he was rocking out as well. The only problem was that the color was way too Kermit the Frog for my liking.
Later I caught sight of a Jaguar. For some reason I have always loved the sleek look of a Jaguar, but I can’t imagine driving one without a full head of white hair. I only followed this guy for a short time but he looked to be miserable – like he spent his entire life trying to earn enough money to buy a Jaguar and unfortunately lost his soul along the way.
About halfway into our trip I started following a beat-up old Datsun. The bumper was literally being held together by bungee cords and the color was so faded that it was hard to tell if the original paint was a maroon or brown hue.
However, the young girl behind the wheel was a true free spirit. Her windows were all rolled down (suggesting there was no working AC) and when I drove by, she shot me a tremendous smile – like she was just happy to be alive. It didn’t matter that she was scraping together pennies to pay for gas, she loved her little car because it was unique to her.
And then a Kid Rock clone pulled up next to me in his pickup truck, music blaring and rowdy girlfriend scootched over next to him in the front seat. This guy seemed intent on owning the road no matter who was driving.
This punk had a devil-may-care attitude and as much as I scoffed at his outward looks, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his total commitment to who he was (I’m just not sure my total commitment to who I am would involve such a Duck Dynasty appearance).
In the end, I guess I was pretty happy with the car I was driving. Sure, other vehicles can offer a different feel for life, but in the end it’s all about what’s on the inside and not the color of paint or stylish lines that really matter.
This week’s feature, “Furious 7,” also revolves around cars – especially fast cars that are capable of doing ridiculously impossible stunts.
The “Furious” franchise has hit paydirt again, not only with the most over-the-top auto stunts in history, but also because of the swan song of longtime star Paul Walker (Walker died unexpectedly in a horrible auto accident just before filming of this picture wrapped up).
And while this installment barely differed from the previous pictures in terms of story points, it was the tribute of its fallen star that made it so poignant.
Check this one out if you’ve flowed the franchise for years. You will be rewarded with a touching ending. However, those unfamiliar with the series and its characters will only see fast cars and highly unlikely scenarios.
A speedy “B-” for “Furious 7.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at email@example.com.