July 2, 2006

"The Pleasures of Merely Circulating"

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 ABOUT A YEAR AGO AND A LONG ROAD running south out of Nelson in British Columbia towards the US border. Lakes loom on the left embraced by the 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 and 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 and see laid down before us between the forests a slow rolling S-curve arcing down the valley and then up and over the hill beyond. My now ex-wife Sheryl, a game woman who can ride 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, 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 the road. 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."

Somehow, "Give it the photons" just doesn't have the same cachet.

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Posted by Vanderleun at July 2, 2006 8:22 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

No it doesn't. I too am in love with the internal combustion engine. My truck has a five-speed, and I always run at higher rpms than most people do. I love hearing an engine accelerate, the smooth climb in frequency and the increase in speed as the best part of the torque curve arrives, until it is topped out and a quick shift to do it all over again.

Thanks for bringing the life in life to life.

Posted by: Bill at July 26, 2005 10:43 AM

Telling the bus driver to 'floor it' doesn't have the same cachet either...

Posted by: P.A. Breault at July 26, 2005 3:47 PM

It will be a sad day. There's nothing like accelerating a modern sportbike off of a turn at full lean, feeling the rear tire squirm as it searches for traction while engine revs move into the sweet spot where it "comes on the cam" and power builds oh-so rapidly. It works all the senses: Sight, hearing and balance. And provides a nice shot of adrenalin too.

It is wonderful.

Posted by: MarkH at July 26, 2005 6:16 PM

And we'll have fun fun fun 'til Big Brother takes the T-bird away...

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at July 2, 2006 12:35 PM

A fine horse in full gallop. That is poetry.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at July 2, 2006 10:38 PM

You guys like the road and turbo engines for, heaven knows, your own good reasons.

But I like it because it leads me to things I love. And just as long as there's gas and tires and enough oil to prevent the engine from blowing up, well it's all the same to me and my little SUV. (And would you please tell Gwyneth and Cameron that, yes, I do like to sit up high!)

Today, for instance, I shall complete the last leg of my now familiar cross-country "circulation." There is a highway that leads through the only place in the US where the Continental Divide splits into a great basin. There, tens of thousands of meadow larks live and sing their heavenly songs. I shall pull my little SUV over and be baptized once again in the sweetest of waters before going on to the end of the trip. Where the best of friends--God fearing, flag-waving conservatives--await me with a bonfire and barbecue! Thank heavens for the internal combustions machine.

And God bless America.

My life, my SUV.


Posted by: Webutante at July 3, 2006 6:38 AM
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