It’s said that the only constant in life is change, and my experience certainly backs this statement up. Since college, I’ve lived in four states, worked for the Americans, British, Japanese, Italians and Germans, and have gone down no less than four separate and distinct career paths. I’ve traveled throughout Europe, mostly on business but sometimes as a tourist, and have even been to Japan on a corporate expense account. Those days are gone, and I’m not sure they’re ever coming back, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, my income is a fraction of what it used to be, but so is the level of stress that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Still, there are things that I used to take for granted, car wise, that are now no longer possible or part of my life. Below are the five car and motorcycle related things that I miss the most.
1. Riding Left Hand Canyon, Outside Of Boulder, CO
I lived in Colorado for about 8 years, and didn’t own a car for nearly four of them. My daily transportation was a motorcycle, and my primary form of recreation was also a motorcycle. Left Hand Canyon Drive winds through the canyons and pine forests about ten miles north of Boulder, and it remains one of the most scenic and entertaining roads I’ve ever driven. It’s relatively narrow and filled with blind corners and changing road surfaces, so it really doesn’t forgive mistakes. It’s not heavily travelled, which means that it’s not heavily policed, either. The road eventually joins up with the equally stunning Peak To Peak Highway, which does see more than its share of speed enforcement, especially on weekends. If you live near Boulder, you know the road. If you don’t, it’s definitely worth adding to your “to drive” list.
2. Driving The Roads And Autostradas Near Brixen, Italy
I spent about a year working with an Italian company based out of Brixen, Italy. Brixen lies in the north, close to the border with Austria, and it remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Nestled in an alpine valley and surrounded by mountains, Brixen is a drivers or riders paradise. The people are friendly, but most don’t speak a word of English; you’ll need to know either German or Italian to get around. Local roads can be no wider than a driveway, yet residents navigate them at speeds that would give most Americans heart failure. If you go, rent a car, but my advice is to rent something small since parking is an issue and the streets were paved when horses were the primary form of transportation. Bonus points if you can tour the area on a motorcycle, since you could spend months here and never run out of passes to ride.
3. Racing At Second Creek Raceway, Denver, Colorado
I spent a year club racing in the SCCA, and have to call Second Creek Raceway my favorite track. It was close enough to home that you could sleep in your own bed and eat decent food at night, instead of sleeping at a Motel 6 and eating bad fast food. The track itself was easy to learn but difficult to master, and the ever-changing track surface meant that morning laps would feel much different that afternoon laps. There was no such thing as “car setup” back then (at least not at my budget level), so turning consistent lap times meant adapting your driving style to adjust for track conditions. I can’t say that I miss the time commitment required for racing, and I can’t imagine having the kind of money required to hit the track these days, but I do miss the drop of the green flag and the charge into turn one.
4. Riding Bear Mountain
If you wanted to catch me on a Sunday morning ten years ago, your best chance would have been to look for a silver Honda CB900F at Bear Mountain State Park in New York. The park was probably forty-five minutes from my house, on roads that wound through hills and forests in northern NJ. After a stress-filled week at work, a blast up to the Perkins Tower was always a good reset button, especially if you worked the road to Kanawauke Circle into the loop.
5. A Secret Road Through A Secret County Park, Northern NJ
You know those magazine articles that refer to “undisclosed locations”, usually high in the desert? I had one of those, about fifteen minutes from where I used to live. It was only about ten miles of road, but it was ten miles of lightly traveled county road designed just like a racetrack. Want off-camber corners? This road had them. Decreasing radius corners? Check. Blind corners, complete with elevation changes? Also check. It even had blind, decreasing radius, off-camber corners with elevation changes, kind of like the driving equivalent to a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. I’ve never found a better road for suspension development, since this one was quick to illustrate any flaws in your setup. The remote location and lack of nearby residential areas ensured that the longest you’d have to wait for a good run up or down was five or ten minutes, and I don’t recall ever seeing police shooting laser or radar. It was as close to having my own personal test track as I’m ever likely to get, and I’m not giving up the location, just in case I do move back some day. Some secrets really are worth keeping.
I’m guessing that I’m not the only guy to go through some changes in the past decade or so. What are the five things you miss the most?