Story by Harry Hemstreet
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the Dec. 2020 MSTA-CO chapter newsletter and has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
There were many passages in Matthew B. Crawford’s Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road that resurrected my gearhead memories.
I swapped my first car engine at age 16 and had multiple stacks of car magazines in my bedroom throughout my high school years. When a magazine stack became unstable, I would start a new stack.
I spent many weekends sorting through local junk yards and recall the distinctive smell of old grease and oil. I started the ‘Roadrunner’ hot rod club at age 16. Members displayed a cartoon roadrunner on an aluminum plaque on their rear bumpers.
The Roadrunners club met monthly in the parlor of the funeral home where I lived and worked in Iowa. The author’s motorcycle scenes are very reminiscent of my own feelings while on a fast motorcycle. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, I would highly recommend this book. Thanks so much, Dick Parker, for turning me on to author Matthew B. Crawford and his excellent book!
Excerpts from the book:
“Once we were drivers, the open road alive with autonomy, adventure, trust, and speed. Today we are as likely to be in the back of an Uber as behind the wheel ourselves. Tech giants are hurling us toward a shiny, happy “self-driving” future, selling utopia but equally keen to advertise to a captive audience strapped into another expensive device. Are we destined, then to become passengers, not drivers? Why We Drive reveals that much more may be at stake than we might think.”
“There are amazing roads through the Santa Cruz Mountains, minutes from where I am staying in California. I have been making a study of them on the powerful Yamaha, carving the canyons with growing confidence. There was one day in particular, on the road to La Honda from Alice’s Restaurant, when everything came together exquisitely. It was a slalom through the redwoods, dappled sunlight playing on perfect black tarmac as I came hard out of a corner, front wheel lifting off the ground. On this stretch of road, there are several serpentine sections where you can see, in a single take, a series of three corners ahead in their entirety, with nowhere for surprises to hide. These chicanes have a bodily rhythm to them that is sublime, when taken at speed. I have never been a good athlete, and can only admire those who move with natural grace. But on a sport bike on a canyon road, for a brief spell I feel raised up from my God-given mediocrity. By a machine! What a miracle.”