It’s January 1, 2020. Where are you driving today?
I ask because I discovered more than 20 years ago that the first day of the new year was an excellent day for driving, even in the snow belt, if you wanted to have the roads pretty much to yourself.
I’m not talking here about the freeways, but about those wonderful and rarely straight two-lane roads that driving enthusiasts enjoy so much, whether in a vintage vehicle or a muscular machine.
I think I stumbled on this discovery almost by accident. I was living in Michigan and working at AutoWeek magazine and either read somewhere or discovered on a map that there was a small city in Indiana named Cuba.
I knew there was California Township in Michigan and thought it might be fun to write about driving from California to Cuba in a single day, saving until the end of the story the fact that this California and this Cuba were only about 50 miles from each other.
To enhance such a drive, I was able to draw a Mercedes-Benz, it may have been a 500E or perhaps an AMG-tuned C-Class sedan, from the magazine’s press fleet.
Fortunately, though it was a cold Midwestern winter day, while the fields were snow covered, most of the roads were cleared and dry. It wasn’t until after I set off that I discovered two things that make January 1 such a great day not just for driving, but for driving enthusiastically.
Not only were the roads clear of snow, but also of other cars, including police cruisers. What I realized was that those who had been partying on New Year’s Eve were home sleeping it off, and so were the highway patrol officers who had been on alert the previous night. And it appeared that everyone else was comfy on a couch at home, watching the college football bowl games.
Basically, I had the roads to myself!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I did not drive recklessly, but from time to time I may have pushed beyond the maximum speed figure suggested by rectangular signs some government agency had posted along the roads I traveled.
I did this sort of New Year’s Day drive each subsequent year I lived in Michigan. At the turn of the century, I accepted a new job and moved to Arizona, where I met Bud and Stephanie Bourassa. Bud collected and restored and raced some wonderful sports cars and Stephanie was sort of the den mother of the Scottsdale car-collecting community.
Bud and Stephanie also had discovered the joys of the New Year’s Day drive and each January 1, they invited car friends to their home for an early breakfast in Bud’s Car Room garage, followed by a drive across the desert or up into the mountains with lunch at a resort restaurant before heading back home.
I moved from Arizona to Nevada just before Monterey Car Week 2018, and spent New Year’s Day 2019 driving from Nevada to New Mexico en route to Florida for Mecum’s Kissimmee auction and my Mother’s 101st (and as it would turn out, her last) birthday celebration.
And now it’s New Year’s Day 2020, and new roads await.