I’ve always liked driving. Since getting my licence I’ve loved getting behind the wheel and setting off somewhere. Feeling the tarmac roll under the wheels, the vehicle respond to the suspension bouncing off the rises and holes, the exhilaration of getting a sequence of corners “just right” with fleeting thoughts of being an F1 driver. The destination is often a means to an end.
In fact I like driving so much the vehicle isn’t really that important. Each has its own idiosyncrasies: vans where the front seats are over the engine making the rear-end really light; great if you’re a teenager and like a little bit of over-steering and not breaking the tire budget. Trucks with the rumble of the diesel revving out to 2,000 rpm and so much mass you have to remember to apply the breaks early. Sports cars that handle like go-karts yet on Australian roads can result in a jarring drive. All of them bring a different type of enjoyment as I learn how the vehicle responds to the terrain.
Cars, trucks, and motorcycles, which these days my primary mode of transport. A lovely BMW R1200RT. It gets me A to B, via Z. I love the sitting position with amazing visibility looking over the top of most vehicles. I find the lack of a protective safety cell, airbags, etc results in a much more connected driving experience.
In fact on a motorcycle you are the crumple zone in the event of an accident. As a result I think I'm much more attuned to risk: keeping an eye on the wheel track to ride in, the condition if the road, the behaviour of the drivers around me. I think it would be great if everybody had to do a little motorcycle rider training before they got their car licences as road awareness is a fantastic thing.
I think a love of driving has given me is an appreciation of distance and relativity. I think nothing of getting behind the wheel and driving for hours at a time. A quick drive from Canberra to Newcastle takes just under 5 hours to cover around 400 km which in Australia is nothing. I do 540 km round trips in a day to Sydney all the time. What’s amazing though is when you’re used to this sort of distances then you then drive oversees. In Europe a similar distance may cover multiple countries and languages. In Japan the same distance would take twice as long due to road speed limits and congestion. Australia is massive and driving long distances here makes other places seem relatively small.
I prefer the mountain roads to the highways. The Hume highway is very dull to drive and it’s always a risk of being too tired and dozing off. I think mountain roads have character. One of my favourite stretches is in the Snowy Mountains near Adaminaby. The tarmac is smooth, the road is twisting, and the view is majestic.
The best combination is a nice drive with destinations along the way. A favourite is the trip from Canberra to the coast near Batemans Bay. The trip is via Bungendore and Braidwood over the Clyde Mountain to the coast. I often stop at Braidwood on the way to visit the Dojo bakery. It’s a short journey, less than two hours one way, which means there’s plenty of energy left for driver and passenger to surf and swim at the coast.
One drive I’ll always remember is when I rode a Suzuki GS850, two up, from Brisbane to Mt Iza in two days. Over 900 km each day, with many dead animals scattered across the road due to the nightly passing of the road trains. The landscape was stunning. I found when on a motorcycle in the middle nowhere, having travelled for hours and seen no evidence of civilization apart from its impact with the dead animals, I realised just how little I was in the greater scheme of things.
Driving. It’ll remain a means to centre my mind and ground myself for hopefully years to come.