The decision of whether or not to drive has always been as easy for me as falling down. Long before my fascination with BMW and from the very moment my learner’s permit arrived, everyone knew that if we were going somewhere, I’d be the one with the keys. Driving became a part of my identity.
Legendary humorist Steven Wright once remarked, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” This could be just as easily applied to driving. Employing this philosophy when traveling for work caused my colleagues to question my frame of mind. And I grew weary of defending my preference for the roadway over the runway.
Door to door, can you really go 350 miles by plane in less time than in a car? I maintain that driving a comparable distance is actually faster than flying, and certainly more convenient when you consider the many limitations of flight. As car enthusiasts, aren’t we supposed to be hardwired to appreciate our experience behind the wheel anyway?
If you doubt my assertion, let us assume an hour to the airport and then another to check in and survive security. Flight time is perhaps another hour as well, then an additional 60 minutes to get to the rental counter and clear the airport. Finally, it’s an hour to the remote destination. My grade-school math tells me that this is a minimum of five hours.
I’ll admit that driving the same distance might take me as much as six hours, but I’ll arrive refreshed, in my own car, while maintaining control of the environment as well as the route. When flying, there might be half-a-dozen lines between the parking garage and an aisle seat—and each one of them comes with the anxiety of further delay.
All reasons why I’d rather drive.
Most everyone has an arbitrary threshold of how far they will go before they are willing to fly, take a train, or abandon the trip entirely. Some will allow for a few hours behind the wheel; others can measure their tolerance in as many miles. There are rare exceptions, but I’ll always opt for the car over a flight if I can do so between sunrise and sunset.
As enthusiasts, we proclaim that we love to drive; think back roads, a gorgeous day with the windows down and Golden Earring playing “Radar Love” from the Harman/Kardon sound system. Sure, we often prefer the car when conditions are ideal, but how many of us will suffer bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Interstate in a downpour if we can avoid it?
You may also question my sanity, but I’ll take that traffic jam (and the lousy weather) all day long. My BMW is my sanctuary. It is preconditioned by me, and for me. The seats and steering wheel are exactly where I left them (after incessant initial adjustments to get them perfect).
I have my favorite stations programmed with music channels and MP4 playlists teed up just waiting to set the mood (although the sound of the engine is often all I need for entertainment). When my wife tells me we are low on Cheerios, I’m off to the store before she can finish her thought. And I’m very creative in how I get there, too.
Unfavorable conditions won’t dissuade me, either. I have a reserved space in my garage, and I never have to worry that I’ll get soaked, burn my legs on a hot seat, or wrap my fingers around a frozen steering wheel. My BMW is xDrive-equipped with all-season rubber, and nasty weather only means fewer drivers with whom to share the road.
What about accrued miles? Friends are gravely concerned about my lack of respect for the odometer. I’ve never understood this philosophy of preserving mileage. BMWs are designed to be on the road for prolonged periods of time—otherwise they wouldn’t have set such a high threshold for their new-car warranty and maintenance plan.
In fairness, some of these same folks are either self-proclaimed collectors or automotive aficionados, and I’ll admit that part of my perspective relates to the fact that both of our BMWs get us to work, run us on errands, and are used for all of our activities and appointments. I can’t imagine thinking of them as investments.
Driving for me is not just a journey, not a means to an end. While often a functional necessity, it is first a satisfying and expressive experience. Even when I am just finding my way to work or managing the weekend errands, I do so with a certain eagerness and satisfaction.
I will always drive as long as I can do so safely, and I can tell you that I dread the day when I have to turn over the keys. None of us is immune to the degradation of our own capacities, but until that time arrives, I’ll be behind the wheel—rarely a resident in the passenger seat.
It might be a little weird, this obsession with piloting a machine to endless destinations. But it’s not something I’ll outgrow or get bored with. I’m close to retirement age, so I doubt that it’s just a passing temperament. Experience tells me that it is genetics: You are born with the driving gene, or you were left off the list.
After years of reflection, I finally realized that in this world there are car enthusiasts and driving enthusiasts. They are not the same, and ultimately all of us align with one or the other. While certainly interrelated, my car friends argue that we are both, and I accept their sentiment, but when pushed, we all know what we really are inside.
If I posed this quandary to myself—would I rather be winding down a country road in almost anything on wheels, or wandering around an exceptional car show on the very same beautiful day?—I know where I would be (as much as I enjoy a good display of automotive hardware).
So, in the spirit of self-awareness, I’ll ask you the same question. Do you want to drive or not? —David Newton
[Photos courtesy of BMW.]