The garden flew round with the angel,
The angel flew round with the cloud.
And the clouds flew round and the clouds flew round
And the clouds flew round with the clouds.
— – – Wallace Stevens
A clear day and a long road running south out of Nelson in British Columbia towards the US border. Lakes loom on the left embraced by forested mountains that rise up displaying more greens than can be counted. The air, as it slips by the window, is crisp even in July. Somewhere up past the first two ranges of mountains, snow lingers. It’s a perfect day and the road goes on forever.
We come over a rise in my red Mercedes 560 SEL and see curling out before us between the forests a rolling S-curve of smooth asphalt arcing down the valley and then up and over the hill far beyond and gone. My passenger, skilled in racing very large motorcycles very well, looks at it and says, “That’s the road motorcyclists dream of. Perfectly banked and perfectly curved with a long, long sight line and no oncoming traffic.”
I nod and give it the gas. The turbocharger kicks in. The car leaps forward with a growl. The forest outside becomes a green blur. We sweep down and around, up and over the hill.
We pin the speedometer.
And we’re gone.
I pity the future for a lot of reasons, but I really pity that future that will no longer be able to know the pure pleasures of personal speed. As Jack Kerouac knew,
“Man, you gotta go.”
Say what you like about our poor beaten-down gas guzzlers, they’ve given us over a century of thrills for everyman.
I pity that future that won’t ever experience the sweet feeling of motoring in a vehicle with a large internal-combustion engine running on heavy fuel. A vehicle with a glutton’s diet of pure petrochemical byproducts. A car that turns the sunshine that fell to Earth on some antediluvian day 500 million summers gone into a surge of pure speed on this fine July afternoon.
I pity my descendants who will never be able to look out at some sweeping mountain road, perfectly curved, perfectly banked, with no oncoming traffic and just “Give it the gas.”
“Give it the photons” just doesn’t have the same cachet.