Long Road Trips Make You Think (Or Crazy)

At the beginning of this month, my dog Ellie and I made the arduous drive from Austin to Hilton Head, SC. The occasion was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary and my mom’s 75th birthday. It was a drive I was both looking forward to and dreading. I had a new route picked out to avoid the nightmare that is I-10, and it was 100 miles shorter. Yet a chunk of it was on non interstate roads, so the time was going to be the same: about 18 hours of driving, 20-23 hours of being in a car.

Due to wanting air conditioning (at first it was out of concern for Ellie, but then realized I wanted to be comfortable as well) I rented a car for the journey. I ended up with a Nissan Altima S. Looked like I was going to travel in the lap of mediocrity. I ended up renting the car due to me not finishing my Jag head gasket replacement in time. But that is another story.

Ellie is a great navigator, but wasn’t too impressed with scenery of Rte 79 in Texas heading towards I-20.

So while I was driving all night (with a brief nap in Selma, AL) I got to appreciate some of the Altima. In a nutshell, it’s good at what most people want it to do. Shuttle a few people and their bags in relative comfort. The range is insanely good (630 miles to a tank of gas at 75 mph), it has an ok stereo, and it’s easy to drive. After hour “why do I still have xhundred miles to go?” I started to think and debate some things about cars in general.

We hear car people say that some car has no soul or personality, and I’m as guilty as anyone of this offense. But what if someone doesn’t want personality in their car? Maybe they want it to be as innocuous as a dishwasher in their life: useful, kind of blends in, almost always works. It dawned on me that is the target of most brands now, with a model or two full of spice for those who want that. At mile 300 something in the dark, almost to somewhere, I realized, on this roadtrip, I wanted a car that was a utensil, not an adventure.

You have to be kidding me. We still have 8 hours to go?????

As we drove on into daylight again, my mind wandered to what kind of car do I want to buy soon? I have my Triumph Spitfire. That will be retired soon to be refreshed and finally repainted all one color, then only be used for Triumph club events and Triumph autocrosses. I have the 87 Jag XJ6 that I will be putting up for sale once I finish the head gasket. I’m selling my 71 MGB, returning the 62 TR4 to dad once I finish the restoration, and am getting his TR8 in return.


So I have an autocross car when I want it (though I’ve swapped to co driving my friend’s 2002 Miata), the TR8 will be good to go to shows or events when I want to be comfortable (AC and over 200 HP at the ground with a 5 speed), and I plan on replacing the Jag with another XJ6. Don’t forget the 1968 Honda CL350 scrambler motorcycle, either. Yet this leaves me with one problem: what modernish car should I get?

I just want something to use on a regular basis as a runabout. I kind of like the Toyota Yaris hatchback with a 5 speed, but have no idea why. My dad said he’ll disown me if I buy one. Mazda 2 is another potential vehicle. Someone suggested Miata, but I already have a few 2 seat convertibles. Heck, maybe a Honda Accord. Like I said, maybe all the driving alone at night got me crazy.


When Ellie and I arrived we got ready for the big celebration weekend, and between the 50 guests, the dinner, the informal get togethers at my parent’s, and spending time with friends and relatives somehow my dad and I found time to talk cars. The very talk of why cars do and don’t appeal came up. Dad had some good insight.

“First the alligator is a no show back there, and now you guys are just talking cars...again.”

“The biggest question is what are you looking for from a car? You can afford several, so you can specialize. Not many people have that luxury.” With that, a light bulb went on in my head. What if I treated this like I could only have 1 car? Maybe that would help me. Nope. Thankfully I have a few months before I need to make my decision, but jeez, this is weird. All my life I’ve had a short list of cars I’d like to buy. The one time I want to buy something I end up totally drawing a blank.

The rest of the trip was great, and the drive back was, well, the drive back. Though I did see some stuff I’d like to stop and look around at next time through. I wish I had stayed longer, but next time. Hey, this time I got to the Kazoobie Kazoos factory tour and museum, so that’s one more thing off my list. Enjoy some more pics.

A pic of my parents on their wedding day 50 years ago. Pretty proud of them to make it all these years.

When I returned to Austin it was way too hot, but then the rains came. Somehow I got a few hour window the first Saturday back and brought my motorcycle home from where it was living at work. But that’s another story.


Of course, I could always just buy a trimmed out golf cart....

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