Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we all have a bucket list. For some, it’s places to visit or restaurants to cross off the list, while for the socially-challenged among us it may be “celebrities to get a restraining order from”. If you’re into cars and bikes, you probably have your own bucket list based on things that friends and family have done. Maybe you want to go to LeMans for the 24 hour race, just to walk in the footsteps of Steve McQueen. Maybe a pilgrimage to Imola, Italy is your thing, just to see where Ayrton Senna ran his last race. These are personal choices, but there are some universals that I’d recommend every driver or rider add to their own bucket list.
Drive in Europe
I’m a firm believer that international travel makes you a better world citizen, as long as you’re willing to embrace the local culture. Tourists who visit Germany and then seek out McDonalds for every meal, on the other hand, should be exiled to Nebraska and banned from any future travel. Driving in some EU nations, such as Germany and Austria, is an exercise in order and ability. Yes, it’s getting harder and harder to drive hammer-down on the Autobahn, but even on local roads you’ll find that Germans are serious about driving, and not about texting or chatting while behind the wheel. Driving in other EU countries, such as France or Italy, teaches you that it’s not just American drivers who suck. Navigate a rush hour in Paris or Rome, and I guarantee you’ll never complain about traffic in New York or Washington, D.C. again.
Take An Arrive-And-Ride Motorcycle Tour
The best vacation I’ve ever had, without question, was an Edelweiss Motorcycle Tour. The concept is simple: you fly to one of their Touring Center destinations with your riding gear, and Edelweiss handles the rest. You pick the bike you want to rent, and spend the next week or so riding the best local roads (at, um, “brisk” paces) under the guidance of their tour leader. At night, you eat gourmet food and sleep in a really comfortable bed; during the day, you ride. And eat pie, from the best local places you can possibly imagine. Are these tours expensive? Sure, but you can minimize expenses by renting a smaller bike or staying close to home. Whatever the cost, I’ll guarantee that the trip is worth every penny.
Go To A Formula One Race
Racing in the United States, even stock car racing, isn’t nearly as popular as racing in other parts of the world. To many Europeans, Grand Prix racing is more of a religion than a sport, and Formula One events are an interesting blend of extremes, where billionaires walk the same paths as laborers who’ve scrounged up enough to buy a ticket. There’s something about the pageantry and drama of an F1 race that no other form of motorsport can match, and if you’re going to go I say go big. Pick a race on another continent, slather yourself in the team livery of your choice and head off on the adventure of your lifetime. Just don’t forget the earplugs.
Pick A Classic Racetrack And Drive It
For many people, this is the “Green Hell” of the Nürburgring, but let’s be honest: driving the ‘Ring is an exercise in frustration and terror. No matter how many laps you’ve turned in Gran Turismo or Forza, you’re not going to remember the sections when you’re driving the track. At best, you’re going to ruin another (more serious) driver’s lap by blocking his line through a corner in your rented VW Golf. At worst, you’ll stack a rental car on the “ring, which will require you to write the rental agency a REALLY big check before you leave the country. Better to pick a more learnable track and figure out how to lap it as a tourist. It’s often easier to do so in Europe than in the U.S., since many tracks are open to the public as long as there are no scheduled events. Personally, I’d take multiple laps around Silverstone over a single lap on the ‘Ring any day of the week.
I’ve never restored a car in my life, but I have done a complete restoration on an early-1980’s Honda CB900F motorcycle. Any restoration project requires three elements (just like the fire triangle you learned about in grade school): you need time, you need money and you need a dedicated place to work. In my life, I’ve often had the money and the place, but not the time. These days, I have the place, but neither the money nor the time, and any missing element dooms the project before it even kicks off. A full restoration teaches you patience, and you learn the fine art of parts scrounging, especially if you’re trying to track down a component long out of production. Each victory brings you one step closer to the finished product, and finishing a restoration is a life-changing experience. Having done it once, you’ll never again wonder if you’re capable, but you will constantly ponder “what’s next?”