When was the last time you went on a calming drive to nowhere?
Alex Goy is a freelance motoring journalist who writes for the likes of Motor1, Carfection, CNET and DriveTribe.
Everything these days needs to be extreme. It needs to be the MOST EXCITING THING that’s ever happened. Each ad you see proclaims that your life is missing something without product X’s life changing properties, each TV show needs some sort of end-of-the-scale event to prove a point (usually that people are fallible, and that’s ok), and every blockbuster movie has to have a climax so laden with fireballs that you could easily mistake it for satan’s vinegar strokes.
Naturally, this goes for a lot car content as well. ‘It sits well on the M25’ isn’t what you want to read, and it’s not what journalists want to write – even if it’s what some (dreary) buyers actually want to know.
That’s completely understandable. The rest of life is so dull in comparison. No matter how many introspective life lessons are learned while solving horrifying murder 453 on Prime Suspect, or however many fist fights Peter Parker finds himself in, there’s still daily guff to deal with. Bills, washing up, hoovering, pants to hang up to dry. We crave vicarious excitement to balance out the drab.
Yet the other night I found some utter joy in something boring. I’m working away for a bit, so needed to take my Aston out to make sure its battery wouldn’t eat itself while it was sat at home. Previous experience has taught me that if you leave anything British and hand built on its own for about a fortnight without being plugged in to a trickle charger you have to call the AA. Calling the AA, as wonderful as they are, is faff. And faff can do one.
It was late on a Monday. I’d had a long day of replying to emails and trying to sort stories that’ll serve to make my life less dull. As such I was tired and not really in the mood to do anything other than curl up in a ball and do the sum total of sod all. However, faff avoidance is more important than napping, so out I went.
Helpfully, it was about 11pm, so my neighbours’ dreams may have been disturbed by the V8’s bark as it woke, but it soon quietened down. That night wasn’t about tearing ass around town, it was about gentle exercise anyway.
London was pleasingly empty as I headed out of town. Not to find my favourite bit of country road to kick the arse out, not to fart emulsified dinosaur out of the back with great haste, but simply to move. The plan was to go out for an hour or so and let the car move. No Waze bleating orders at me, no playlist playing loud music. Instead, I found Classic FM and let strings make noise. And the odd ad for pension plans.
I found myself on an empty A road. Unlit, unaccompanied, and untroubled by anywhere in particular to be. Though I should have been bored out of my mind, I wasn’t. It was a freeing experience. It made me feel calm. The speedo barely ticked over 65mph as I plunged in to the gloom. The odd blue sign showed me destinations I didn’t care about as I flew by. The car, and I, simply went forward without a care in the world, simply going out for whatever the V8 Vantage’s equivalent of a stroll is.
After I decent slug of time I found an exit and turned back towards the lights and the noise of London. Soon I was stuck at some lights waiting for no one to pass. Sooner still I was home again, unfussed, with no adrenaline pumping, but a sense of calm.
It’s easy to glamorise the late night blast as a thing that means triple figure speeds, perfectly controlled slides around tight country bends, and drag races with fellow drivers. But actually, there’s a placidity to be found in simply… being. Driving sedately to nowhere just for the hell of it to see and do nothing in particular. Much like any other drive it requires concentration to ensure you, y’know, don’t die, and focus on where you’re going, but it doesn’t involve any stress. It’s a private time for you to stay away from the light up rectangle in your pocket and whatever projections of perfection your friends want you to ‘like,’ providing them a fleeting, meaningless endorphin hit. A space to work out whatever you want to work out. Have the imaginary argument, hum along to a pension ad jingle, or simply just… go.
Being away from the silly black car will be a drag because I love its barks and its grumbles and its noises. But after that drive I’ll miss its calm the most.