Commuting. A single word that can bring about a shudder as images of endless tailbacks on the M4 return; an MGB overheating with just a couple of miles to go before finally emptying the contents of the radiator in protest; the feeling that you really should have stayed in bed and called in sick once you’d heard what ‘Sally Traffic’ had to say on Radio 2.
But of course this isn’t always the case. Okay, it’s fair to say that when things go smoothly, the commute isn’t exactly going to rival the keys to a Miura and a free run up the Stelvio – certainly for me, it’s more of a case of VW Beetle and the A339 north of Basingstoke. But that’s not to say that these trips aren’t capable of injecting the driver with a similar quantity of adrenalin and enjoyment.
In fact, although I wouldn’t ever claim that the road from the Basingstoke ring road up to the outskirts of Newbury is on anyone’s list of ‘dream drives’, there are occasions when it has provided me with the next best thing: the ‘cracking commute’. Despite the sensible speed limits, if you hit this humble bit of tarmac at the right time and are lucky enough to find that the truck drivers have all pulled in for a cheeky kebab at one of several roadside vans, it can become one of many roads in the UK that provide twists and turns, climbs and dips that are ripe for being exploited in a classic while the sun dips down behind the distant hills.
Another route home takes in a wonderful mix of tree-lined bends and mile-long straights which used to suit my Porsche 912 down to the ground – once I’d discovered the perils of driving a left-hooker that is. The elderly chap in front of me was doing about 30mph in a 60 and with a stretch of clear road ahead I slowly edged out with the aim of overtaking. I had failed however to realise just how impaired your sight is when you’re on the wrong side of the car for UK roads and suddenly found myself staring into the whites of the eyes of an oncoming BMW owner. Of course I quickly pulled back in, changed my trousers and from that day onwards remembered to hang well back.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that you drive like a loon. Speed cameras, blind exits and farm traffic all mean that you need to exercise the usual amount of caution, but that’s not to say that you can’t actually enjoy a drive – a rare thing it would appear.
There are literally thousands of similar roads across the UK, and I’m sure you will all immediately tell us of your favourites, but my point is that we can all have our best routes home, chosen detours and ‘long way rounds’ to the shops that keep the smiles on our faces. Those routes naturally change depending on which classic I’m driving on that particular day (not sure the Beetle would welcome the section of byway I often plump for on the way home in the Land-Rover), but I’m also sure that I’m not the only one who selects a particularly ‘nice’ bit of road on the way home and tries to drive it better each day. There is something particularly satisfying in mastering a handful of bends and gearchanges with smoothness and fluidity rather than being all over the shop, straddling the white line and constantly flitting between hard on the brakes and hard on the gas. Unless you’re pretending to be Ari Vatanen in a T16 of course…