Enjoy Driving More
As social networking grows and our lives are filled with constant status updates, tweets, and texting, the simple joy of driving a car is dying. Many recent statistics show teen interest in driving has steadily dropped and a new smartphone interests them more than a car. Part of the reason is because connecting no longer requires going to the same location, so a brooding high-schooler can complain about their parents while grounded.
Driving is a thing we now have to do when the digital world hasn’t found a way to transport us. There was a time when getting behind the wheel signaled freedom, and now it’s just a chore. But for those of you who want to know why some of us still crave a drive, here are a few suggestions to rekindle your own love for driving.
<strong>1 – Learn to Drive a Manual Transmission:</strong>
Eventually the manual transmission will cease to exist. Dual clutch automatics are already faster and more efficient than the best stick-shift driver. But nothing connects a driver to the engine and movement of a car more than a clutch pedal and rowing through the gears. Learn to do this well and you’ll appreciate and feel things in an automatic which you never noticed before.
<strong>2 – Let your car talk to you:</strong>
Cars have become distracting places. With great stereo systems, touch screens and navigation there’s very little motivation to feel what’s going on with our two-ton automobile. Unfortunately it’s easy to go numb to the experience until something unexpected starts to happen. But before you lose traction or find yourself struggling to stop in a sudden traffic stop, go out and drive undistracted on an open-road or open parking lot. Feel the weight shift of the car when you change directions. Notice the dip of the nose when you slam on the brakes. Find the place in the RPM where you really feel the engine surging. Every car, no matter how boring, gives off information and learning the language of your vehicle will make you safer when things go wrong and happier when you have an open road.
3 – Drive a great road:</strong>
With Google maps and various mobile apps, it’s now easy to find a squiggly line on a map for fun driving. Just as traffic can sour even the greatest car, winding down an empty scenic road can make even a mini-van more fun to drive. BMWs “Ultimate Drive” App allows users to add their own ideas, taking the pressure off of doing the exploring yourself. And once you find a potential road try going for a drive around 8pm on a weeknight, or before noon on a Sunday.
<strong>4 – Clean your car:</strong>
Just like a date with your spouse can remind you why you first fell in love, a clean car can remind you why you bought it in the first place. When a car is cluttered and dirty it seems run-down and uninteresting. And inexplicably, clean cars seem to suddenly run better than they did before the wash. This is a great mystery of the universe, but see for yourself if it isn’t true.
<strong>5 – Take a Driving Course, or try AutoCross:</strong>
Driver’s Ed may be the only driving instruction most people will ever receive, and that’s like learning to play chopsticks on the piano. Like everything else, more experience and instruction allows you to get more out of driving. Most of us learned the basics of car control, but the capabilities of a car are far beyond the average driver. Most race tracks offer single or half day courses which can safely introduce anyone to high-speed driving. And for an even cheaper alternative, find a local car club hosting an autocross. These park-lot hosted mini-racing events are safe, low speed, and generally welcome anyone in any car that runs. But if you go, find the best driver there, ride along with them and get them to ride with you.
Bonus points: Learn to Heel-Toe:</strong>
Car reviewers talk about “heel-toe” shifting like the holy grail, but it really isn’t some mystical art. Simply put, when a car has properly spaced pedals it’s possible to hit the brakes with most of your foot and nudge the gas at the same time. While this might sound dangerous to some, it allows the engine to be revved and prepared for whichever gear the driver chooses. The dance of a good downshift, with clutch, brake and gas all in play as the driver finds a gear with one hand and turns with the other is not only graceful to watch, but simply satisfying and fun to do well.
The Awarning is this: If all we ever do is commute in our cars, we'll forget the reasons driving is fun. Enjoying driving more makes each of us ambassadors for the automobile, the stick shift, and the canyon road. Use it, or lose it.