Two years ago M bought his dream car, a 1964 Ford Mustang. I was skeptical to say the least that a three-gear, AC-free, 50-year-old car would be a suitable choice for the hills of San Francisco. While that’s true (there are parts of the city we can’t drive to because the hills are too steep for the car to cope with) we have also used the Mustang as an opportunity to explore far beyond the city limits.
Our trusty steed has taken us to National Parks, across multiple state lines and for weekends away with friends. M has committed himself to learning the ins and outs of the engine, troubleshooting problems and fixing it where he can. To date it has only let us down once, not long after these photographs were taken.
For last year’s 4th of July weekend we decided to drive up the coast and inland to Mount Shasta, but the car had other ideas. On day two of our trip a light on the dashboard came on, some unexpected noises occurred, and before I knew it we were in the middle of nowhere (bar a tiny gas station) waiting for roadside assistance. Typically, the car started working again – at least, just enough to get us home – after a five hour wait for the AAA guy…
Last month we drove down to San Diego and back through Death Valley and Sequoia National Parks. The desolate landscapes and lack of phone signal were a reminder of how ill-equipped we could be if something went wrong, but if anything, having an analogue car in a digital world has sharpened our survival skills. I can finally read a paper map with ease, M can tinker under the hood to diagnose problems, and we always make sure we have spare gas and lots of water in the trunk.
Granted, the car is uncomfortable on long drives – not least because of the lack of air conditioning – but coping with the quirks contributes to the overall experience of the road trip. If we had GPS, a sound system and cup holders galore, we would still have memorable trips, but the journey would undoubtedly be different. Getting lost, the (sometimes grumbling) sounds of the car and an element of the unknown are all part of it and, for now, I wouldn’t change a thing.