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San Antonio

It’s All Rubber and Metal and I Love it

If you’ve ever sold automobiles you’ve probably walked into your sales manager’s office to ask for the price of the used car he took in trade just hours ago. Used cars actually made me quite a bit more money than new ones and if something good came in I’d get really excited about it. I’d practically skip into the office with a, “How much are we asking on the conversion van/convertible/coupe?” And, “Isn’t it wonderful?” Then I’d talk about some feature of the vehicle that I just loved. Because there is a part of almost every vehicle on the planet that I just love. My manager invariably would look at me and say, “Rubber and metal.” and then grumble out the sticker price and the mini price.

In my first few weeks and months I was annoyed by this. I felt like they were ruining the experience, the joy of matching cars with their owners (and me with a paycheck). I knew that at some time these men had loved cars and wondered what happened, how they got to be so unhappy. A few months in and I learned what every salesman on the floor already knew, to ignore them. I kept selling, I stayed excited, they grumbled and the rubber and metal left the lot with new owners every day. It was a game and I loved playing it.

I started blogging because I needed the community that it offered me during a difficult chapter in my life. I continued blogging because I came to enjoy the community it offered and though I no longer needed it in the same manner I relied on it in other ways. I missed working but our home isn’t set up so that a second person could work a job outside the home. I missed talking about my passions. I love my kids and I love hearing about your kids but a relentless focus on parenthood can make every day feel like Groundhog Day.

So I write a bit about this and that but he real joy in blogging has come in travel and automotive work. Every time a new car is dropped off at my house for review I find myself joyful even when it’s a vehicle that is completely impractical for my personal lifestyle.

I say no to most blogger trips. For the most part I really want to be with my family and it’s tricky to get me out of town. I called home just a few minutes ago and Mr. G sounds like he needs a day off. To have back to back weekend trips is a terrible thing for my family and it’s never happened before and is unlikely to happen again but last week’s trip with Hyundai was irresistible and I’m sitting in a hotel room in San Antonio after spending a day with Continental Tires that defies description.

In the last 12 hours I’ve done drifting hot laps with a BMW driving instructor in an M6 (the video of his hands on the wheel is amazing), driven four cars on wet track, flown in a helicopter, braked on a wet track and measured the 50-0 mph time and distance, driven a 200 meter wet/dry track and turned the vehicle sideways, passengered in a dune buggy with a driver from a NASCAR Family, shot at skeet (but didn’t actually shoot a skeet) and caught a fish.

The driving was all done at the Continental Tires Proving Grounds in Uvalde, Texas. When the day was over I didn’t want to leave. I was like that jerk kid who is always melting down when it’s time to leave the amusement park. She’s screaming and crying that it’s open or that the sun is still up and she can’t remember the best parts of the day because she’s so pissed that the day is ending. I was almost her but I waged a battle in my head and had success. I allowed myself to enjoy what I had without bemoaning my fate that there was only seven hours of driving cars in a manner that would have you arrested on the streets of LA.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll talk about what I learned with Continental Tires. When I throw numbers at you, you’ll see the import of replacing tires before they’re terribly worn out and selecting a tire that performs well on wet as well as dry roads. Perhaps Monday I’ll have a video to share, maybe it won’t be done until Tuesday.

What I know is that when I’m writing about vehicles and vehicle performance they’re so much more to me than rubber and metal. They’re about excitement, our relationship with the cities we live in, the safety of the people we love and transport in them and the thrill of driving fast then coming to a screeching halt. There’s a very American love affair to be had with our cars and I’m coming off of two very indulgent weeks where I’ve been allowed to talk about nothing but speed, safety and comfort.

It’s basically perfect.

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