It’s finally here.
Tomorrow I’ll be setting off on my long-awaited Eurotrip, encompassing two of Europe’s greatest racetracks and – hopefully – some of Deutschland’s finest derestricted autobahn. It’s been a long time coming.
Despite all the excitement and (lack of) preparation, I recently experienced a great surprise at the hands of one of my oldest friends. I was asked about my holiday plans, as you’d expect, but then I was momentarily struck speechless by their next question – ‘But why are you driving? That’s not a holiday.’
This post is, I guess, my formal, romanticised defence of The Road Trip. Let me start off by stating that road-tripping, as a method of travel, falls flat financially in today’s world of cheap air fares and, well, Megabuses. No-one chooses to drive long distances because it’s cheaper than a train or plane, as that is rarely the case. As the well-worn cliche goes, though, a road trip really is as much about the journey as the end destination. You have the freedom to stop whenever you wish to and change your course as often as you’d like. There are quicker, or cheaper, ways of getting from A to B. A road trip, however, allows you to scale that distance in a fashion entirely to your own choosing; even if you do accidentally end up visiting C en route.
If you have even a modicum of interest in motoring, you’ll also be familiar with The Road Trip’s status as a synonym of freedom. Look at some of the most culturally-striking aspects of motoring media: Cannonball Run‘s brash decadence and fragrant lawlessness is aped by a crop of modern-day playboy/playgirl supercar rallies led by the Gumball 3000; even car magazines collect the newest Maserati demonstrator from the factory and opt to review it whilst driving back to Britain. Mainstream media outlets also utilise the road trip motif as a symbol of both escapism and heroism; that’s why we don’t question James Bond’s decision to drive M from London to a remote castle in the Scottish Highlands in a fifty year-old DB5 in Skyfall. As an audience, we’d have understandably been less impressed if he’d hopped onto an overnight sleeper instead.
Whilst these reasons in part explain why I’ll be driving over 3000 miles in the coming week, they don’t fully address a point that is particularly important to me. With the way that current emissions and infrastructure legislation is progressing, soon we may not be able to travel long distances by car so readily. Make no mistake; the petrol-powered car is facing ever-greater constraints worldwide, as countries, car manufacturers and governments are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint and discourage the use of personal transport. As running costs rise, it may not be practicable for people to take a long journey by car much longer. Soon, we won’t even need to drive the car there, either.
We live in an era of ceaseless, breathless technical progression, where speed is king. In my opinion, it seems very fitting that I’ll be experiencing two of Europe’s oldest, most dangerous and infamous cradles of motorsport via the very medium that endowed them with such fame. I’m hoping that the time I spend on my road trip will be beneficial; almost like a less-pretentious gap year-ish experience of happiness, anger, pain and (hopefully) some Nurburgring Nordschleife track time. I’ll be taking my time to explore the arteries of central Europe – all from the right-hand side of the road, of course.