By on December 10, 2011

I used to love driving aimlessly around the South. The rural South offers enthusiasts an amazing array of beautiful winding one lane roads, and true to it’s reputation, you never know quite what you will find by the end of the day.

One time I found a bar that raised mongooses. I got to ‘feed the geese’ while watching what can loosely be called a marksmanship contest.  Thankfully there were no flesh wounds. But I did quickly leave after the first ricochet.

The next week I decided to wander off to the most rural county in Georgia, Taylor County. A nice little hamlet of the old South where everyone walking in the town square was dressed up in army fatigues.  It was hunting season and the only places open at 8:00 PM on a Saturday were the pizza shop and the liquor store. Just enough for a fun evening!

But then gas prices went swiftly to the nether regions… and soon… well…

It now costs a helluva lot more money to explore the USA these days; especially if you drive an old gas guzzler. As a result of the brutality that comes from the gas bumps, I’ve had to limit my Sunday rides for these last several years.

It’s been a big time bummer given the road cars I’ve had access to. A 1977 Mercedes 350SE in silver, restored, was all ready to go for a night on the town back in 2008. Except it rarely went out at all because gas stayed at around $3 to $4 a gallon. During that summer I watched the gas lines. Drove mainly for work, and hoped for some relief.

The same soon went for a 1985 Lincoln Town Car with 45k miles. A brilliant midnight blue in Reaganesque glory,  which went through such long stays on my driveway that I began to see tire dirt marks after the all-too-rare moving of it. I drove it a few times. But was glad to let it go.

I now have a lot of nice road trip cars… with nowhere to drive them. An old Volvo 240 wagon with a hardtop carrier on the roof and a 5-speed. Great car. But it would cost over $30 just to drive it one way to that old rural county. Back in the day it was only $10. An old 1992 Buick Roadmaster with leather seats thicker than the accents I encountered in Taylor County? Fuhgeddaboudit! The cost of driving it would be more than a day of parking in Manhattan.

I’m limiting my Sunday Drive cars to an old Miata and the wife’s Malibu. But what about the folks here at TTAC? Are you still going out for a Sunday Drive? What are you driving these days?

 

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42 Comments on “Sunday Drives...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Last “Sunday Drive” I took ended up in an extended make out session at the end of a dirt road in my F150 with the lady I’m now engaged to. I need to take more Sunday Drives…

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      That’s when you needed an Oldsmobile instead of a truck!

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Sunday drives are supposed to be relaxing. Driving with a minivan filled with preschoolers isn’t. A drive longer than ten minutes usually requires the patience of a saint. That requires special medication for me, which on the bottle says that I am not to operate machinery or drive while taking.

        If I cough up enough cash for our wonderful sitter, my wife and I romanticize a drive as we used to do before our numerous blessed events required we hire a sitter. Instead of wonderful drives in the country, we end up shopping close to home, knowing we have a deadline and wondering how our children are behaving with the sitter. I don’t know why we worry, but the idea of being 30 minutes from home in case of an emergency prevents us from taking a luxurious drive.

        Sunday drives require cooperative, mature children for full enjoyment, and I don’t imagine that happening for many years.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I’m normally not an advocate for the big pharm companies but VanillaDude, there are many medications you could take for your worry and depression although my personal perscription is to get that sitter and get some vigorous matress exercise a few times a month.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        @VanillaDude

        You have no one, that you can trust enough to leave your children with to be more than 30 minutes away from home? I’m not sure I’d trust a sitter, but you and the wife must have some friends or family who would be willing to give you a weekend off.

        I have nephews and I consider it a pleasure and an honor to spend a few days with the boys while Mom and Dad get some time to themselves.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I like to cruise the Gulf beaches (Clearwater to St Pete) in whatever I’m demo’ing that’s appropriate – last weekend, it was an ’82 380SL. This weekend, its my very own ’76 LeSabre. Its nice to just cruise.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    This is one of my favorite activities. Lazy, aimless drives on rural roads.

    I’m not such a big fan of drives here in the South and avoid getting out of the car. There’s places here 30-45 minutes out of DFW where I can walk up to a gas station/convenience store counter and be completely ignored for quite some time, just so I get the point that I’m not so welcome.

    Southern hospitality. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Actually, the only place I can recall that happening to me was on US Rt. 1 in Eastern Maine. After 4 or 5 minutes, walked out without buying anything.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        We Mainahs are not exactly know for our warm and friendly demeanor, and we can spot “someone from away” and/or a ‘summah complaint” at 20 paces. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        I’ve had nothing but good experiences in Maine. Mostly because the couple times I’ve been there, it was during the winter.

        As for the South, this kind of thing has happened to me enough on a regular and frequent basis that I believe that the pattern is not just a figment of my imagination.

        Like I said, YMMV. If we all had the same experience, we wouldn’t be individuals.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Compared to the cost of owning a car, I still don’t consider gas prices so extreme as to keep me from using my vehicle, and I live in Canada, where gas prices are a good 20% steeper.

    My Miata, itself a safety and practicality compromise from the sport bikes I used to own, exists primarily as a toy. Public transit gets me around my city with less drama and cash outlay than a car would. As such, I don’t hesitate to use the Miata for whatever excursions strike my fancy in the summer months, including an impromptu run through Adirondack park totalling over 600 miles in a single day.

    I have the luxury of not *needing* a car, so my view is that a car I can’t afford to enjoy as I want is a car I can’t afford to own.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Meh, gas is too cheap to even factor into my car fun plans. Nothing like a drive along the shore in the Alfa Spider on a fine day with the top down, or whipping my Spitfire up twisty back woods roads.

    Near $200 tanks in Europe last summer make you think about it some though…

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I love recreational driving, and often do it with no particular route or agenda in mind. It’s fun to explore.

    The incremental cost increase that $4/gallon gas imposes on a 300-mile drive is negligible.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Definitely.

      It’s $3 around these parts lately. Per hours spent of entertainment, it’s really not so bad, even in the Dodge 1500 I’ve been driving. For me, the alternatives in that bored state of mind involve consumption of inebriants (alcohol, etc), so fuel at $3-4 still works out cheaper. It’s definitely cheaper calorie-wise.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    My main recreational drive these days is to meet friends for a day hike in Virginia at the Shenandoah National Park, about a 250 mile round trip.

    While it’s a lot more expensive than it used to be, the $35-$40 for gas doesn’t keep me at home. At the same time, I will be looking for about 50% better gas mileage in my next car to make sure it stays affordable.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Sunday drives with my parents were a ritual when growing up, as we were working poor, and that’s about the only recreation we could afford, usually day or afternoon drives to some destination for a picnic or to visit someone out of town. I looked forward to all of them. Dad and I went to church, mom stayed home on those occasions and cooked lunch for our picnic. Dad and I stopped at an ice vendor and bought a 10 lb block of ice (that’s why you owned ice picks), brought it home and chopped it up, pack up the steel galvanized cooler, packed sodas and stuff and changed and took off. Picked up grandma and headed for the hills, as it were.

    Later, I took Sunday drives, even short ones, as a ritual, especially when in the service, all over the Sierra foothills or other rural roads – there were lots of them in that area. Plus, I had nothing better to do!

    Now? Why do you think we own a convertible? Not so much for Sunday drives, but when wifey and I go out on Saturdays. We try to take the “long way” to our shopping and dinner destination and make a nice cruise out of it.

  • avatar

    I am a second generation Sunday driver, following in my father’s footsteps with this recreation. He drove for a living, but a Sunday drive was a completely different animal for him. The Sunday drive was simply for relaxation and exploration of roads not previously taken that were off the beaten path. Everyone who posts on this topic gets the concept. Let’s hope that real roads don’t get placed by cyber-roads for future generations.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Hell yeah! There are a ton of great routes outside of Portland. The maze of back roads in the Bull Run area is my favorite.

    I don’t do it on Sundays though, usually weekdays when I sneak out from work early. On weekends the country highways are too clogged with RVs and trucks towing big toys.

  • avatar
    Broo

    When I was single and had my RAV4, I would spend a few hours exploring the dirt roads around my native town every weekend. Also would go out and seek for unplowed roads during snowstorms.

    Nowadays, I spend some peaceful time alone driving my old Supra on Sundays, but on paved roads.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Its has to be one of my favorite things to do. Nothing like a Sunday here in Southern Ont for a nice little cruise. Spring, summer and fall. A convertible Mustang, Miata, or what ever floats your boat. Maybe a lakeside bar, for a quick drink. Your lady at your side….life don’t get any better.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Back when I had a toy car or two, the family and I used to do Sunday drives a lot, even if only for an hour round trip. At one time I had both a 64 Imperial and a 29 Model A, both of which made for fun cruising.

    More recently, we have gotten out of the habit. Reading this makes me want to get back out there. Actually, with one son in college about 60 miles away, we have periodically driven down to visit and take him out for a meal. It makes for a nice day, and we get a nice drive in as well.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    For one-day and two-day weekend excursions the rig of choice is a Ninja. I’ve taken lots of interesting trips I likely would not have otherwise. Any excuse to take the bike out will do…

  • avatar
    threeer

    When the better half and I are within the same state lines, we try to still get out and enjoy a drive…sometimes we meet half way (I work in Alabama, she still holds the house down in South Carolina) north of Atlanta and enjoy driving up to Helen to spend a day. A tank full of gas (even in my less-than-stellar mileage Lancer Ralliart) is still not much worse than a night at the movies, and usually much more entertaining. I’m with others here and hope that the long and winding road always remains within our reach to get out and explore.

  • avatar
    tuckerdawg

    I wish I could afford to do that but Sunday drives are mostly done on my bicycle. Don’t have to use gas and I get some exercise out of it. No passengers though unless you count handlebars and air conditioning depends on your rate of speed.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Bah! Mileage is never a good reason to stop doing Sunday drives! Of course, my choice of vehicle was predicated on doing just that whenever and wherever the mood strikes. There’s nothing like knowing that you can go 1000 kms in any direction before a fillup to give you a nice feeling of freedom.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Sunday drives used to be putting Patti on the back of the Springer and heading down into Richmond to spend the afternoon at The Dog House. Usually met up with the brothers in the M/C and we’d roll out from there to The Sportsman or Bubba’s (local Pagan’s hangout).

    The Dog House closed in 2008. After a particularly nasty run-in with the Angels (something about my Outlaws family ties), I turned in my club colors that fall. Patti’s failing health took her off the pillion seat the following year, and she’ll never be on a motorcycle again.

    Now, my Sunday rides are on one of my racing bicycles, with one to three of my closest friends. Usually a nice 30-40 miles for the morning, get home in time for the nursing aide to call it a day and I take over.

    And, on a nice Sunday afternoon, I can still bundle her into the Porsche and we go out for an hour or so.

  • avatar

    Shall we take up a gas collection for Steve?

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I have generally had economical cars. Now is no different. We own a Nissan cube as our primary car. Big enough on the inside to haul four obese americans in comfort and carry them at 30 plus mpg.

    What has changed now is that we seldom do our drive on Sunday. Being retired we normally have more fun at the type places we like to frequent on a weekday.

    When I can’t afford to drive a car I don’t know what steps I will take but I will take some. Possibly build something like a trike or electric vehicle. Who knows where the future will take us but I’m still planning on driving there.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Sydney

    Cars are for commuting, transporting kids, carrying shopping or travelling long distances on holiday. Sundays my wife and I throw a leg over the Kawasaki Concours 14. Riding we get to enjoy the sounds and smells of the outdoors and when we get numb bums we pull over for a latte somewhere we’ve never been before. Love it. Fuel cost is negligible.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      I’m a rider. I hear you. I’ve ridden on four continents.

      OTOH, the way I’ve been doing it lately, in a pickup truck on Texas back roads with my dog, music and a bottle of Mexican Coke (made with real sugar)…

      Can’t say one’s better than the other.

      • 0 avatar
        ghillie

        Australian Coke has real sugar too. I’ve been in the US three times this year and the corn syrup Coke is no good. I don’t know how you put up with it. You need to have a revolution or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      ++. My sunday drives in the summer consist of me & the gsx-r and consist of 100-300 mile round-trips. Now in the winter, I take the STi, but not nearly as much as the gas mileage/cost is double+. I actually went for a drive yesterday to take my nieces from Brazil. “Hey do you guys want to go to the beach up in Milwaukee?”. They did & quickly regretted it as they stepped out of the car into 34F weather with 20-30mph winds. I’m thinking of picking up a ninja 250 or rebel 250 next summer to take those long trips due to gas prices. I have only filled up one single fillup < $3/gal this entire year. Gas here is about $3.15-$3.20/g for regular, and near work $3.50-$3.60..

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Right now with my income not really keeping up with the cost of living and still driving a very old Ford Ranger that’s getting quite long in the tooth these days, I don’t do much in the way of day drives these days.

    In fact, I can barely keep the truck in more than barely half a tank these days and often relegate my commute by truck to 2 times a week or so and bus in the rest of the time and the only longer drives are when I have to come to my Mom’s place in Tacoma, which is about an hour’s drive south of Seattle where I live (or more like 1.5 Hrs from my job in Bellevue) or do errands to multiple places such as to Costco etc and those are once a month or so necessary excursions.

    I think if I had a small car that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to fill the tank and got close to 40 or 40 or more MPG, I’d be driving much more than I do.

    Tis sucks being a working poor single guy right now, but in this economy, I’m just thankful I have a job with bennies.

  • avatar
    redav

    Factoring in inflation, gas hasn’t tripled in price in the last 30 yrs. It’s about twice as expensive as it was through most of the ’80s.

    My parents used to be the ‘Sunday drive’ type. My memories of those drives were sitting in the back of the car with nothing to do or see for an hour or two.

    • 0 avatar
      Broo

      When I started driving in the mid 90s, gas was $0.56 per litre up here. It’s now $1.25.

      My parents were not really into Sunday drives, but my grandfather was. When he was babysitting me, we would go for a drive 30 minutes to an hour in his green ’77 Ford Granada. For as long as I knew him, he only got Fords and Mercurys and enjoyed Sunday drives as long as his health allowed.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    It costs about$75 to fill my Citroen with diesel 52 litres but that will return aprox 1000kms of open road cruising so Sunday drives definitely still happen

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Oh yeah, I used to go riding around a lot. Don’t do it much anymore for two reasons:

    1. I’ve already done most of the roads I can get to and back in an afternoon without going through civilization.

    2. Buying a house and some older vehicles means I spend most of my free time working on those.

    Gas was never much of an issue since I always had vehicles with good mpg in the first place.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Sunday drives was an activity my father (and other people) use to do in the 60s and 70s. Nowadays i take my convertible out for a drive every other sunday, if it´s sunny.

  • avatar

    It is ironic that I read this just as I am about to take my Sunday drive. My vehicle of choice today is my 98 Subaru Legacy GT 5MT. Gas mileage in the mid 20’s has been keeping my Sunday drives going. Today is a trip to the base of the mountains here in NC on all back roads (coaxing Google Maps into helping plan this route took forever.) I’m glad that people do still drive semi-aimlessly on Sunday, gas prices be damned.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    At the same time, I will be looking for about 50% better gas mileage in my next car to make sure it stays affordable.

    Me too. Meanwhile, if I’m in the mood for lumbering numbness to view the beautiful Texas hills, I’ll take the Trooper (that’s also my road trip vehicle. Barely engage the brain.) If I want to actively participate and drive on the edge with the music flowing, I’ll take the Saab. Two completely different animals.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    I like to ride my Chinese-made, deathtrap of a scooter to the local Starbucks on cold, wintery Sunday nights. I bundle up just enough to avoid hypothermia. A carmel machiato never felt so earned as it does when you brave Oklahoma’s winter weather to get to it.

  • avatar
    afuller

    Just yesterday I took the Guzzi out for a short Sunday ride to get some lunch. Before I knew what was going on I had ridden 140 miles through some lovely wintertime desert country and one of the twistiest roads in the area. I stopped at the Gadsden Coffee Company in Arivaca, had a sandwich and a coffee then road home. Five hours on the bike but it was good to get out.


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