Carman II-On the road to nowhere

The tireless service of the horse towards man came only to an end with the beginning of the car. But before it did, we used this beautiful animal in every possible way and for the longest part of our history.
The horse’s tasks and labors, extended from that of personal transport, to the work on the field, for the purpose of hunting and as a charger in wars, for the dragging of all kinds of carts, for competition in sports…
And its service is not quite over yet…

Cars were… luckier than horses from early on in their career. Since almost from the start we did build engines into different types of carts, in order to serve us better according to duty. So, the tractor worked on the fields (where else would it feel comfortable?) the Jeep served in the wars, the track carried the goods, the racing  car could unleash its speed on the circuit, the Land Rover was send on exploration missions and the careless roadster took us for the  drive of our lives…
As I have mentioned before, and will not tire to repeat, the car as an invention saved man’s enormously much time and effort, to the point that it did set us free. But like in so many other occasions, we humans managed the unmanageable, by becoming bad users and gradually started to turn our own invention against us, equally maybe in as many ways as it did set us free.
Now we blame the car for the injury and death toll, for the pollution of its engine and for the destruction of the landscape, which is “cut” in slices in order to build more and more roads.
On top of it, when one country tries to pass laws that improve or at least control the situation, another new “blooming” economy goes back and repeats our mistakes right from the start. And here you have it!
It would seem that we are on the road to nowhere.

The tour
The ideal way to get the best out of a tour, which is taken by car, is to be “on the road to nowhere”. Well… but not like the one I mentioned earlier.
Let’s take a minute to think about that, but do so by going backwards in time. From all tasks and labors that the gallant horse took on its back for us, which one is still today fully active?
Is it the carrying of goods? No, unless you belong to a religious sect that forbids cars. Is it the plough of the fields? I guess not either. But it surely is the careless horse ride that one does just for the fun of it.
From all the “useful” activities that the horse once offered, that which survived into our times was the one that has no particular “use”. And as a matter of fact it looks to have a promising future ahead of it… As we will see later on, this is not totally accidental…
Speaking about horsemanship, whenever I am given the opportunity to have a ride, I just take a stroll along the fence and do the one thing that I could never do with a car. I let a horse… pick me, instead of the other way round (well… unless when I am seduced by a car counts as the same thing).

The first and easy conclusion to fall into, in taking a car tour without a specific purpose just for the fun of it, is to think that this is only one more step into the dead ends that we brought ourselves on the matter.
But let me ask you something. When was it the last time that you took a tour like I describe it earlier? And I insist that you make the effort to remember a careless, with no particular destination tour. Unless I am that lucky (and happy to meet you too) most of you have to think really hard to remember, isn’t it? But in the huge meantime you used your car like a service mule, so it did everything else for you, right?

It is exactly the absence in our lives of taking “the road to nowhere” and a careless tour, that brought us this far. One might say that this has nothing to do with our “car problems” but I say that it has everything to do with it.
It always is the little unimportant things, which work as catalyst and finally make a big difference. Take the following example for instance.
What is the ingredient that lacks to the million zillion of unsolved problems in an “expired” married couple? The couples with this unbearable personal situation, which is transferred to their entire surrounding beyond themselves, like to the rest of the family, their children, their friends… The same ones, who will go at each others throat, economically, socially and professionally?
Absent is the tiny, “useless”, non-serious, for free element, called “being in love”. One might say that this example is naïve, but what about the couples that are in love, with that unbeatable attitude of “taking world” with only that?!  
No wonder that from all of the horse’s works through a period of thousands of years, it is the “useless” ride for fun, that remained in the end.

As in so many fields, so it is with cars. We need a change of attitude that we all well know it will never come. But I’m still free to write about it, and above all, continue to take my own tours…

My “dream car” that turned into a… dinosaur!
The fun of a small practical “jeep” that could go anywhere and at the same time would be great to drive on the road, died right after its birth. It was never given the chance to follow its own evolution and development, while remaining true to its original principal and idea. Today, cars known under the general term as SUVs have nothing to do with the intelligent proposal that first saw the streets at the end of the 80s until the mid of 90s. SUV’s became huge dinosaurs of the worst kind. They are too big, too heavy and too energy demanding in order to just move about. They promise to include everything and go everywhere, but in the end they end up doing pretty much nothing… And this comes from a man that still “believes” that SUV’s are maybe the best way to go around with…
Cars like Suzuki Vitara and Toyota RAV4 (both in their first generation) showed the way, and what followed was unbelievable and still goes on to this day. In no time many car companies came up with their own original idea on how an SUV should be build, putting into production fresh inventions of 4wheel drive and new applications on suspension, which would combine both on and off road abilities. Honda’s HRV and CRV, Subaru’s Forester did not copy anything, but kept true to the concept of a “light, small, practical, fun to drive, all-rounder” all this in a design never seen before. Note that this revolution was entirely done by the Japanese… And it was so successful that the market went wild…

But soon enough manufactures did go after the “bigger is better” concept and here we stand today… With a very limited exception to the rule, SUVs took the wrong turn and you will allow me to put it in an emotional way and say that today’s SUVs simply suck.
In order to prove my point I once took a top of the line SUV, that was expensive as a… house, and drove its owner right out from the street and into a terrain with rocks and trees and ups and downs and mud and stones. And every time I approached a passing through all this, leaving room from colliding as far as a finger, I said to my turning pale friend “see, I can’t get through here we are to fat” “see, I can’t approach this part we are too heavy”.
You want the results of this? He will buy a bigger one that just came out, I will congratulate him because I love my friends as they are and that’s the end of it.  

So far I have given names to all of my cars… Christine, Jolly and now Blondie! Even if they gave me a monster SUV for free, what would I call it? (At least until I have gotten myself to the nearest dealer in order to sell it)
Jumbo? Piggy? Rhino? Beats me!
Last desperate idea was just to sit around and wait for “dinosaurs” to be extinct. But time goes by and these monsters simply… refuse to die.
For a driver that takes more often long tours and dares to take a destination into unknown land (Romans called it “terra incognita”) it is only natural to go after a car with… extra capabilities.
Choosing a “normal” car is an art that one has to be good at. Nevertheless the reward of this right choice is… beyond description.
But choosing an SUV is twice the art, and thus a nightmare. Since a car like this is trying to combine two different and opposite things into one, the outcome can be a car that… fails on both parts. So the possibilities of choosing wrong are… endless. But still, the fact remains that with an SUV you can go further where a “normal” car will have to retreat…

There can’t be a comparison between those two… (and there should not). For a true connoisseur it would never be right and I would like to explain why in the simplest form there is…
Almost from the very beginning of cars, there where two ways of car racing and car competing.
Racing on a closed circuit and racing on the open roads (like the early Rally) that would include all kind of… terrible terrain and conditions. These are two different fields, that each demands a different approach and solution. And while a “normal” car is called to perform well on a track, the “rally oriented approach” is better suited in order to “build” an SUV.
Brace yourselves, hilarious example follows:
If a horse is a normal car and a donkey is a classical 4X4, we are on the look for a… mule. But please, let the Dinos die! 

Carman’s travel tips
*There are no good or bad times in taking a tour. Neither there are good or bad conditions. Feeling the urge of exploring the unknown has been within us since the dawn of time. From all primitive instincts, this one is and remains the most noble of all. This is the one we don’t need to control, to “civilize” suppress or get rid off. There is a horizon somewhere calling you. Yield to it! 
*It is said that in the Arts that are called “esoteric” travel is of no importance. One is called to take an inner journey with vehicle his own Art. So, (innuendo included) I practice… wherever I go.
*Fold your map, unplug your navigator! Find your orientation by looking where the sun is, or the northern star lies. Smell the distant sea or ocean, keep an eye on “that” mountain peak. Awaken your inner compass!
*On a cross section of your journey, if you feel doubt, throw a coin in the air, to decide the mystery of your destination.
Remember than in “Yojimbo” the drifter Samurai does the same thing by throwing a stick in the air. By repeating the act yourself, you will ensure that this was the…Martial thing to do.
*The “whom to take along” tip. This advice is worth a million bucks. Please transfer your money into my account immediately! But since the stock-market is to its knees at this point we can do this another time, but remember that you owe me this one…
I was just about to say, take nobody with you along the tour, but “Nobody” is my official nickname by now and I don’t want you to think that I am looking for a free ride. Just remember that long journeys by car, bring out the best and worst in any relationship. A tour is one of the strongest test-drive of… characters. Children are excluded to the rule, since they are by nature adventure beings. 
*Treat your car like you would treat your horse (or mule?!). Would you leave your horse unattended? Make sure that you always have it in your eye-site or leave it in a controlled facility.
*Being attentive is the first line of defense. When on a tour you will be everywhere a stranger, thus, you will have to be twice the warrior. You never know what the road will bring, always be ready to… hit the road.
*Taking a tour is a different concept than taking a drive. Exploring your driving skills on a tour is far from intelligent. Contain yourself.  
*What are you still doing here? Are you packed yet?…

                                                                                For the dedicated voyager
                                                                the final destination of his journeys
                                                                           will always be someplace else

October 14, 2008