≡ Menu

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 and a long road running south out of Nelson in British Columbia towards the US border with autumn closing in. 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 late August. 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. Give it the gas.”

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 August 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.

I don’t care if my liver is hanging by a thread
Don’t care if my doctor says I ought to be dead
When my ugly big car won’t climb this hill
I’ll write a suicide note on a hundred dollar bill

‘Cause if you wanna run cool
If you wanna run cool
Yes if you wanna run cool
You got to run on heavy, heavy fuel

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thud November 3, 2017, 2:49 PM

    I hope to leave a couple of decent cars in the garage so maybe my kids will get a chance to enjoy some motor madness in our coming electric,self drive car sharing future.

  • Sancho November 3, 2017, 3:04 PM

    “This is a song about a car… this is called the Red Barchetta…”


    The lyrics echo your sentiment.

  • Gordon November 3, 2017, 5:55 PM

    Geez, they have to be able to actually drive a car. An amazing number of them don’t, these days. I can’t understand that. I got my license one month after my 15th birthday, that month because I had gotten caught taking out the family car one night when my parents were out in the other car.

    They only caught me the one time.

    I had friends who were driving the farm’s grain trucks from the field to the elevator when they were 12.

  • waltj November 3, 2017, 7:02 PM

    I had a Mercedes S430 back in the early 2000s, and I got the same pleasure out of that car that you did from your 560SEL. Smaller V-8, naturally aspirated, but willing to go hard if you let it. I did, and it did, and the results were exhilarating. It was a big, heavy car, but it felt about a ton lighter than it was, and went around corners at high speed like it was on rails. Unfortunately, I sold the car when I moved overseas to a right-hand drive country. I couldn’t have cared less about selling my money-pit house, glad to be rid of it, but the car I missed, and the used, RHD Saab that I bought in my new location didn’t come close to the Benz. Autobahn speed in a competent road car with no traffic around is a thrill I don’t get very often these days.

  • John The River November 3, 2017, 8:00 PM

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for the overthrow of the internal combustion vehicle by the lithiumheads…
    Ever looked at the stats on the amount of electric current that would have to be generated by an industry that is raising the costs of electric generation by stupid decisions to push Wind/Solar?
    The lethal toxicity of everything involved in Solar, batteries, and the total lack of planning or accountability by those industries on dealing with it all?

    Try getting elected after it becomes plain that only those elites that can afford a half million dollar set of wheels is going faster than 45 or farther than 50 miles between recharge stops.

  • GoneWithTheWind November 3, 2017, 9:47 PM

    In 1968 I had a 1960 Mercedes 220S in Germany. I was on the autobahn one day doing about 220+ Klicks in the left lane, light to very little traffic. One minute nothing behind me the next a Big new Mercedes was right behind me flashing his lights. Loved the autobahn.

  • ghostsniper November 4, 2017, 4:45 AM

    I blew up a brand new Oldsmobile Metro Ambulance on the Wurzburg autobahn going 135 mph. The woman patient in back was screaming at the top of her lungs and the surgeon on board was yelling “Go, Go, GO!” I had just pulled into the delivery point at the hospital when the engine caught fire. I used the extinguisher but it was inadequate for the task. Total loss. This was in 1977. FWIW, on this run a Volkswagon “Jeans” model passed me, it was a Beetle. It was going at least 140. Autobahn style driving wouldn’t work in the US because it requires extreme professionalism and german cars don’t have cup holders.

  • Firecapt November 4, 2017, 6:32 AM

    For an electric car, you just have to reach a little further back in time, and “pour on the coals.”

  • mushroom November 4, 2017, 10:48 AM

    I love my motorcycles. I would not mind so much if, when it’s time for me to go home, it happens with the roar of an engine in my ears.

  • Kevin in PA November 19, 2021, 3:51 AM

    While I never owned or drove a Mercedes, the thrill of speed is not foreign to me.
    Sadly, the t-shirt on the sidebar is true “what a shame it is to see that new Americans will never be as free as we.” This includes no travel to Canada for the unvaxxed. Nor can our friends living north of the flannel curtain come visit us if they remain unvaxxed. Freedom is kind of funny that way – many don’t appreciate it until it is gone.

  • brinster November 19, 2021, 4:42 AM

    What happens when the internal combustion engine is banned and there’s no effect on”climate change?” What happens to the 400 million or so internal combustion powered vehicles? How will they be disposed of? What happens to the people working in the auto industry and those its ancillary occupations? At least I’ll have the memory of Andretti hauling ass in the Ferrari 312B at Sebring back in ’69. A glorious 12 cylinder bit of mechanical music. The green new deal is another way to limit, or rather, obliterate our freedom. Fun times ahead.

  • H (science denier) November 19, 2021, 5:54 AM
  • Double XX November 19, 2021, 6:48 AM

    1960 in a 55chevy center post 302 v8 ran up on a 57 ford played with him for about 10 miles. what fun. Then 1968 in a 365 horse Chevy on I-20 came up on a mustang match 1 after passing him and smiling he left me in the dust and I had it pegged. not fun

  • John Blower November 19, 2021, 8:21 AM

    Yup. Know the feeling. Had an ’84 500 SEC. Been there. Done that. Bless

  • Dirk November 19, 2021, 8:41 AM

    We’re we’re invited to the newest Reno Nv, car museum yesterday, the Grand Opening. Simply Amazing. 300/400 perfectly restored cars from the beginning of cars. “ many were from the original “ Harrahs collection”.

    The Reno auto museum, located on Lake Street downtown Reno, right along the Truckee river. The collection is large enough I couldn’t finish the tour, due to major pain. Think we were told it’s 15.00 per person, with old folks discounts, vet and public safety discounts.

    Many of the cars, we physically owned and driven by historical figures. Those cars had a “ Bio” of the owner. Example, Elvis Presley’s Cadillac 1973 Caddy. The sign said he purchased like thirteen one day, gave em as gifts to folks.

    If your a car person, are in Reno, and looking for something to do, highly recommend this newest museum.


  • Dirk November 19, 2021, 8:50 AM

    Their will never be a time in my life wherein I don’t have and drive real cars and motorcycles. These fools can make all the dumbass rules they want.

    • Sirk November 20, 2021, 6:18 PM

      We’ll I got it wrong the car museum has been their for awhile. It is unclear to me why a ribbon cutting ceremony occurred. Regardless an awesome place to reflect on the past.

  • lpdbw November 19, 2021, 9:40 AM

    I lived in Spokane, WA for 10 years, and made the beautiful drive to Nelson, BC, a couple times. Breathtaking. This was before passports were required; my driver’s license got me back into the States.

    I’m involuntarily retired now ( I wouldn’t take the “vaccine” and got fired), and would be free to travel if the Covid Karens would just get out of my way. I want to go back to Nelson. I want to see Italy. I want to see Vienna, where Mozart and Beethoven lived. I want to see Salzburg again. And Wurzburg. And Rothenburg. And fly wherever I want in the USA without silly and pointless masks and Covid Karen flight attendants.

    It’s not just new Americans who won’t be as free as we were. It’s us, too.

  • James ONeil November 19, 2021, 9:53 AM

    Speed is fun but, in my opinion off road is funner.

    Having said that, I have enjoyed bringing my Jeep up over 120 mph, on road, of course. Having checked that no moose we in a position to be crossing the road ahead of me, of course.

    Bikes, I always preferred 250 cc or less, a rig that when you plant it (& if you’re doing it right, that’ll be at least thrice a year.) on or off road, it doesn’t take two men and a boy to get it upright and rolling again.

  • Todd November 19, 2021, 2:38 PM

    I grew up in the Muscle Car era of the mid 60’s early 70’s and I pretty much had all of the good ones. I have always had the need for speed and I will continue until I leave this mortal coil. I currently pilot a 2010 Benz E63 AMG modified with a CA legal Weistec Stage 1 Supercharger and supporting drive-line upgrades. It’s good for over 540 horsepower and 560 torque to the rear wheels. That works out to right around 200 mph if I ever find the right road, and it’s also a great under-the-radar sleeper, lol… I do not see the end of ICE in my lifetime and juice vehicles are about nothing but control and loss of freedom.

  • Wade Hampton November 19, 2021, 5:36 PM

    I love Wallace Stevens, but his work always makes me think of Marsden Hartley, mostly known as a painter but also he was a wonderful poet. Here is his “Fishmonger”.

    I have taken scales from off
    The cheeks of the moon.
    I have made fins from bluejays’ wings,
    I have made eyes from damsons in the shadow.
    I have taken flushes from the peachlips in the sun.
    From all these I have made a fish of heaven for you,
    Set it swimming on a young October sky.
    I sit on the bank of the stream and watch
    The grasses in amazement
    As they turn to ashy gold.
    Are the fishes from the rainbow
    Still beautiful to you,
    For whom they are made,
    For whom I have set them,

  • rocdoctom November 19, 2021, 7:06 PM

    There is no substitute for horsepower.