We take a short look back at the points raised in the theme of the month about to pass.
In the opening essay, I asked what are cars without roads to run them on. I also asked “What are those roads and why do they appeal? How do cars and roads relate? Is there a link between geology and the skills of a country’s chassis engineers?” We had some insightful comments from Sean, Eoin, SV and our regular guests, none of which answered those questions.
First to tackle the theme, five days into the month was Sean Patrick who described the Grossglockner pass in Austria, the kind of road whichdestroys brakes, challenges cooling systems and makes passengers sick. Opel bragged about using such a road to test the brakes of their Omega “B”, I recall. A discussion of motorways brought out divisions between romantics and pragmatists. I argued motorways were ugly and boring and that trains were better suited to long distance inter-city travel. Others felt motorways allowed one to carry a lot of things in your private vehicle, which a plane or train does not allow.
That seems to me, since I have the final word, a high price to pay for scarring the landscape with ugly gouges of sward and asphalt. Supporting my romantic ideals, I described the pains and gains of travelling the back-roads of Ireland (or any back roads) with suitable cartographic materials. Contributor Melle chipped in to mention “sat nav” as an alternative to paper. What next, electric ignition of motors?
We took a detour into the realms of the metaphorical with a piece about Kraftwerk’s album Autobahn and Chris Rea’s album Road To Hell. Of the two, I feel Kraftwerk’s had the more subtle and ambivalent message, hence its enduring appeal. We could have gone on to discuss music to listen to while on the road but perhaps that is a step too far from our main theme.
In his meditation on Britain’s longest road, Sean Patrick asked to think about the abstract notion of the “north” in Britain and also the changing physical character of the roads we drive on. SV Robinson’s description of driving in France lead to a vibrant discussion of what we were willing to pay for out of taxation.
Still in France Eoin asked us to imagine cycling up Mont Ventoux. This cycling-viewpoint of roads was the one that most concerned me when I was thinking on this topic but I never addressed it as Eoin did – really roads are wasted on cars. The nuances, details, smells even, are all screened from you in a car in the way they never are in a bike. Real connoisseurs of roads are probably those on two wheels.
A little digression on Rhodes’ roads (capital: Rhodes) led me to think about roads very few cars will ever go and the irony that to get there you need to spend a lot of time in a boat, with your car moving very little. We missed a chance to address the roads of Rhodesia, didn’t we?
The Guardian provided some inspiration for the ten best roads you never heard of. I have forgotten them already. It did allow Sean to suggest some other equally useless listicles such as ‘Ten 10 Best Lists To Avoid Compiling Unless You Want To Appear To Be An Unimaginative, Lazy Hack.’ I imagined that May, Hammond and C***kson were working on building their own roads in a suitably personal style. C***Kson would have to have a motorway.
That concluded, effectively, our ruminations on roads which covered a lot of ground but not by the route I had imagined, which is perhaps appropriate for the theme.