Ask the Best and Brightest: What's Your Fly/Drive Threshold?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask the best and brightest whats your fly drive threshold

Thanks to embargo issues and a mild amount of player-hating among my so-called peers in the auto media, I cannot disclose my current location. I can, however, note that I had to fly there. I’ve come to utterly detest air travel in the modern age. As a child, I bounced around L-1011s and 747s, indulged by my parents and pinned with Eastern “junior pilot” wings by fresh-smelling, gorgeous young women, often flying alone among urbane, well-dressed fellow passengers, and being greeted by relatives right at the gate.

Today, of course, the story is very different. Modern commercial flight combines two of my least favorite experiences from the 1990’s: being processed into a municipal jail and riding an old Greyhound bus. In fact, air travel nowadays is exactly like prison processing followed by bus travel, with one critical exception: if somebody takes a picture of your, ahem, rooster in the county jail, you are about to be on the payoff end of a lucrative civil case. In the past year I’ve had my genitalia photographed so often I’m starting to wonder where my residual checks might be.

You get the point. Consider the baggage issues, the utter lack of personal hygiene displayed even by business-class passengers, and the fact that one must arrive 90 minutes before the flight to have a fighting chance of making it on board, and it’s no surprise that more and more people are telling me that they’d rather drive.

After some consideration, I’ve decided the following: Any time my business involves a flight of 400 miles or fewer, I waive the plane ride and drive. The total time involved in even a “one-hour” flight is closer to four hours, and by the time one finds a rental car and escapes the airport, it’s more like five. Better to take a six-hour, 400-mile drive in my own car, surrounded by companions of my choosing, any meal I can manage to consume while driving, and the God-given freedom to read Facebook on the move. I can take calls. I am not at the mercy of the weather or of unexpected traffic, with some minor exceptions. The Town Car carries enough luggage to crash a DC-10. I can bring a guitar without fearing — make that knowing — that it will be deliberately abused.

For trips of between 400 and 1500 miles, I will look at the complete travel schedule and try to see what I gain or lose by driving. Memphis is a better drive than flight in my opinion; I’d also prefer driving to Hilton Head over flying there. Over 1500 miles, I have to fly, primarily because although it takes all day to do so, it would takes two days to drive it.

Naturally, the future doesn’t look bright for either option. The minute Al-Qaeda hires someone intelligent enough to realize that security lines are actually the most effective place possible to leave a bomb, screening will no doubt become even more humiliating and “thorough”. Nor am I naive enough to think that we won’t see ten-dollar gasoline before 2020, particularly as China decides to use all the dollars we owe them to buy the resources out from under us.

Nope, the future sucks no matter how you look at it. Perhaps travel will eventually become sooooo expensive that it will revert to a sort of romantic, elite affair. In the meantime, though, I’m sticking by my guns. Four hundred miles or less, and I’m driving it. What about you?

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  • Radiohound Radiohound on Apr 16, 2011

    On the subject of private flying, being essentially swarthy, (and a dangerous dude in my own estimation), I found myself so hassled by the TSA antics that i frequently missed the flights I was on time for due to their additional "security" screenings. My response was to buy an airplane and learn t fly it. In the ensuring 10 years, the expense has been worth the ability to go where and when I want without the hassles of the TSA. Last week, I was forced to fly commercial in a half empty plane and was placed next to a very obese man who was flowing into my seat. He was sweaty, sneezing and coughing. When I asked to move into an nearby empty seat, I was told I could not due to "security" reasons. Well, the nation and the flying public is safer now that I have that man's cough and cold. The airlines have ruined the system, aided and abetted by the kibouki theatre of the TSA. Can't wait for the majors to go out of business. I will throw the worlds biggest party.

  • Sray_404 Sray_404 on May 14, 2011

    I am originally from Atlanta and have lived in Harrisburg, PA for the last 3 years. Almost all of my family still live in Georgia, so I travel south to see them at least twice a year. That being said, for the last 2 years I have decided to drive the 700+ miles instead of flying. There are several reasons why, first of all is Harrisburg's airport is very small and flights directly to Atlanta are not exactly cheap. I can drive to either the Philly or Baltimore airport within about 90 minutes (depending on traffic) for cheaper flights, but that is added travel time. The absolute best time I have made it from my front door to my dad's taking a flight was 11 hours. On that trip, I left my house at 6am, drove the the Harrisburg airport, caught the shuttle bus from the long term lot to the airport, did the security thing, caught my flight, arrived in Atlanta 2 hours later, made my way to baggage claim (it can take up to 45 minutes depending on which concourse you come in on), got my bags, caught a train the the rental car hub, another 30 minutes go by before I am actually in my rental and ready to fight Atlanta traffic? Long story short, it was 5 pm before I got to my dad's. The last several times I drove, it took me around 9 1/2 hours and cost the same. Less stress, less time, more control, and cost neutral. Easy decision to make

  • Fred I don't know about those big screens. Is there a way to minimize the display, so it's not so distracting? Especially at night the glow doesn't make it easy for me.
  • Arthur Dailey Toronto Blue Jays' games are only available on AM radio. As I am 'on the road' quite often when the Jays play that is my only option for listening to the game. So an AM radio is something of a 'must have' for me.
  • JMII My brother tracked one of these for several years... it will embarrass other sports cars. He sold it to someone who still rips it around on track days. Given my previous VW experience I wouldn't touch it but these are surprising quick and handle well for hatchback credit going to a decent AWD system. $16k seems crazy, but Rs aren't that common and this one appears to be in great condition and seems well sorted.
  • Arthur Dailey I meant the grille and the profile along the passenger area. Look closely and it is reminiscent of the Journey.
  • Daniel 16500 pesos