Slivers of Reality
There was a turning point for me last year during the Overcrest Rally where the tumblers of the universe clicked into place, a riptide of newfound love and wonder pulling me in like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb & Dumber ("The most beautiful woman alive. I drove her to the airport. Sparks flew, emotions ran high. She actually talked to me man...tractor beam. Sucked me right in"). Many of you know and recognize the shot that came out of that moment - Kris Clewell absolutely shredding up the Moki Dugway at 7:30 in the morning, going full tilt into a switchback power slide. For me, it is one of the purest photographs I've ever taken. There's also a very specific reason I happened to be on that overlook at that exact point in time, which is a story for another day and probably one best served over ice cold beer and tacos.
What came out of those 60 some-odd seconds was an epiphany, a reframing of how I believed older cars could be used. I knew that when I got my 1989 3.2 Carrera I'd want to actually drive it vs. doing a full cosmetic overhaul, keeping the new-to-me mileage to fresh blacktop only. But my definition of 'driving' was wholly different from what I witnessed for that first time in the Valley of the Gods - an early 70's aircooled flying up a gravelly road in the morning light, tach near the redline, rocks spraying everywhere, a je-ne-sais-I-don't-give-a-f smile plastered across the driver's face. If I'm being honest, it reminded me of certain other first moments as a teenager. Some things only happen once, and afterwards the world looks completely different, a distinct before/after demarcation indelibly inscribed into your life's history. The sun shines a little bit brighter, the birds sing a little sweeter, and you spend most of your waking moments thinking of one thing and one thing only. Cue the homeroom teacher asking if you're paying attention as you stare into space in a near catatonic state.
These are the hero shot moments everyone has in mind when we wax poetic about the joys of owning these vintage cars, and yet for as much airtime/viewtime as these Instagramy shots get, there is another, simpler reason why I love taking the car out more frequently these days. Behind the wheel of a 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s vehicle, you have little choice to spend a fair bit of your time plugged in to what's going on around you and the car. Was that weird suspension creak there a minute ago? Is that oil gauge reading right? These brakes feel squishier than they did a week ago...I wonder if I need to get those checked out. Gosh I'm low to the ground in this thing - can that guy in the Ford Raptor even see me? Please don't lane change, please don't lane change, please don't lane change... The only distracted driving you end up doing is when you drift off imagining yourself in a dusky noir film zipping around the streets in search of adventure and danger.
I will sheepishly admit that I'm guilty of pulling up the phone to check an email or fire off a text when I'm in our X3, stopped at a stoplight or snarled in a snake of midday traffic on the 405. But for whatever reason, that never seems to happen at the exact same light or on the same stretch of highway when I'm in the 911. You sort of need to understand what is happening around you at all times - or, in the case of roadtrips long and short, you want to.
Some of my favorite images from the Overcrest trip in the fall of 2021 had little to do with the rally itself, at least at face value. Scenes of the Arizona landscape flashing by on the far Eastern part of Route 66, my inaugual trip on that famous road coming to an end far too quickly. The grandeur of Monument Valley the first time we pulled in, becoming absolutely mesmirized by the tall spires of rock standing sentry over the dusty plains. Central Utah shrouded in pitch black at 5:30AM as I raced home after four days of non-stop driving. These are throwaway photographs by most standards, but to me they are the moments from the trip that pull at my heartstrings most - memories of being alone, watching a new world around me go by, listening to the car, the road, the thoughts in my head.
Next time you're in the car, however new or old, it's worth shutting everything - the radio, the GPS, your phone, most of prefrontal cortex - off for a moment, rolling down the windows and just being one with what's around. Slivers of reality passing by, slipping through your fingers as soon as you've grasped them, but you've held them for a moment nevertheless. Now excuse me while I go look for the car keys...