The last time I was this excited to start my car, I was 16, a newly licensed driver of a rust red Subaru GL wagon made the year after I was born.
Its engine sounded like a hundred rocks rattling in a coffee tin. That was if it started. Sometimes, it didn’t.
For me, driving often is relegated to commuting, a necessary part of my career and life. Steering a vehicle can sometimes be a delight, too, like during a short road trip to the Gorge or Hood Canal.
Lately, it’s become one of my more thrilling activities. It helps that it’s one of the few activities I can partake in, besides moving from one couch to another, going on a solo bike ride or walking around my neighborhood.
Public health concerns over the new coronavirus indefinitely barred me from my beloved third places (I MISS YOU, Buzz Inn, Soundview and White Buffalo) and kept me from visiting family and friends in person. The weather took the weirdest turns this past week (what the hail?), so I wasn’t up for a long bike ride. Once I started queuing “The Office” for an 18th watch on Netflix, it was time to do something else.
I fired up my commuter car Nissan Sentra, a hand-me-down from my dad, and hit the now-open roads.
There was no destination, just the drive.
Others with far more impressive vehicular bonafides know that joy well.
Modern Mopars of Snohomish County, a club for enthusiasts of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles, hit the road for a long and winding tour of Chuckanut Drive in late March. That last joyride was before Gov. Jay Inslee told people they should mostly hang out at home.
“Before the stay-at-home order everybody was getting stir crazy,” said Steve Myers, who co-founded the club in 2013 with his wife, Keri.
As usual, they brought their sons, ages 4 and 2. Recently, the Myers traded in their 2012 Dodge Challenger for a Durango SUV. They’ll need the extra room once their third child is born.
The club mostly organizes on Facebook and doesn’t have membership dues. Of the 500 members, 150 are regularly active, Myers said. About 30 meet up every other week, often at the Kohl’s parking lot in Marysville. When it’s nice out, more assemble for more distant destinations, such as to Diablo Lake.
The club takes part in several charitable events. Members host the Dreambuilders Car Show at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, which has raised more than $300,000 over the past six years for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Snohomish County. They also put on the trunk-or-treat Halloween car show and trick-or-treat night at the Kohl’s in Marysville. Modern Mopars of Snohomish County chauffeurs students for the Young Life Capernaum prom — a highlight of the year for club members, Myers said.
For now, and until the state changes its orders, the club’s engines are cold.
“We’re fully in support of that order and don’t want to be seen as a group that is at all putting anybody’s lives in jeopardy,” Myers said.
The Seattle Rod-Tiques classic car club, the group behind Everett’s Cruzin’ to Colby for the past few years, also is on hiatus. It has a couple dozen members, who don’t even need to own a car to join.
“Now you can’t even really get together,” club president Wayne Soderquist said. “I guess you’ve gotta stay apart.”
For anyone who hasn’t hit the freeways and highways around Snohomish County, they are eerily empty. I love it.
“It was noticeably, at least the drive up on the freeway, a lot less people,” Myers said of his club’s cruise to Chuckanut Drive in March.
Soderquist also noted the spacious byways.
“We usually try to stay off the freeway as much as we can,” Soderquist said. “I guess now the freeway is pretty well open. It’s more fun being on country roads.”
When the drive from Everett to Marysville is under 20 minutes, I see why people yearn for the open roads of yesteryear.
Driving has a toll beyond the cost of gas, insurance, maintenance and vehicle registration tabs. When I’m igniting the combustion engine, I’m spewing carbon into the air, which contributes to climate change and poor air quality.
I gave myself permission to delay that guilt and whatever carbon offsetting option I choose for another day, because I just wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, other than the couch again.
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