Why January 1 is wonderful day for a drive

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driving
An open road, and scenery worth the visit | Larry Edsall photos

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.

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An open road and snow-capped mountains await

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.

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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. 

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Had a great ride on New Year’s Day last Jan 1st north of Boston. Temps were mild early in the day, but got progressively colder during the day. There had been snow/salt on the roads, but late December brought rain to wash it all away in time for dry, salt free roads Jan 1st.
    Got back to my street to find the road closed, as someone had veered off the road and knocked down a telephone pole at the end of my street, bringing down the wires. Had to find back way back into my street to get home and get out the big generator to keep the furnace and sump pump running as the phone, cable, and electric companies had to shut off power for 4 hours to put up new pole and re-hang the wires!

    • January 1st is exactly the same here in New Zealand – except here in the Soutjern Hemisphere it’s the middle of summer.

  2. Back in the early 80’s, I asked a friend if he would like to join us in a New Year’s Day ride to celebrate our 1934 Ford’s birthdays. All cars get a year older on January 1 st. Thus began
    the PinMAR Antique Cae Club’s annual event. They still do it nearly 40 years later, sometimes
    drawing 60 or more vehicles for the ride and New Years dinner out, in the Tampa Bay area.
    They did it today while I led the Second Annual Birthday Tour in the Smoky Mountains.

  3. The 1st is a great day and we make it a fun outing. Depending on the car chosen is how we dress. This year was the 49 Buick. The TX weather was a nice 55 degree’s in the morning which made for a nice throw back drive to the diner.

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