The picture on this page is worth a thousand words. OK, maybe just 854. It was taken six days after the SEMA show, the day before the start of the Goodguys 16th Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona, and five days before the 100 percent copy deadline for this issue. Photographer Robert McGaffin and I are at a rest stop on Interstate 10 somewhere in Western Arizona, and we are enjoying a beautiful sunset, the type of which you rarely see outside the region. Rather than flying, we are driving our project cars to attend the Goodguys event, ostensibly to gather "content" for future stories.
Within our company, there are administrative people who perform millions of invaluable yet thankless chores, one of which is arranging travel. I always find it funny that they think we want to fly on planes. Around here, planes are for ad sales guys and people with VP in their title. Personally, I'd rather drive, or even walk, than get another dose of backscatter radiation from the TSA porn box. Running a kickass car magazine gives me the perfect excuse to drive kickass cars, so that's the way I roll whenever possible.
Those of us who make car mags/websites/videos didn't get into the biz to make money, we got into it to build and drive cool cars, and to share that experience with other like-minded people. Notwithstanding, you could probably guess that in a company our size, there are a great number of people who are motivated about a variety of non-car things, like spreadsheets, software code, sexual harassment prevention training, financial reports, page views, performance reviews, and search engine optimization. These corporate activities provide a dense set of hurdles that on top of an editor's many nonautomotive operational duties really test exactly how passionate we are about cars. Translation: I've got to put up with a mountain of nonsense just to arrive at the precious moment depicted in this photo.
Notice that McGaffin isn't smiling. His Project Olds has a minor oil leak, and problems with his parking brake caused him to miss out on the Optima Challenge the weekend prior. Like I told McGaffin, sometimes a car is like having a German girlfriend—you love her, but she doesn't love you back. Unlike McGaffin, I am smiling. The Nova is running fine, its new Edelbrock E-Street EFI is getting fantastic fuel mileage, and I am putting the corporate cube farm further in the distance with every passing mile. Ten minutes after this pic, we were hammer down, Flowmasters bellowing off the k-rail, staring the remnants of a liquid sunset in our sideview mirrors. My spirit was soaring and my heart bursting with joy—I dare say, cube workers back in Irvine would've hardly recognized me.
I really needed this day to happen...I was just two bad decisions away from becoming another post office gunman.
These are the moments we live for, the ones we put up with intense pressure and deadlines to experience. I'll bet your life is similar, whether you work within the industry, or you stamp out plankton wafers at the Soylent Green factory. You circle that day on the calendar for some hot rodding activity, and wait for it to finally come. When it does, it's like coming up for air, and you feel more alive than usual. Turn the key in the ignition and the colors seem more vivid. It's just you, your friends, your car, and the open road.
I really needed this day to happen—my Nova was like a lifeboat that saved me from a burning ship in the middle of the ocean. My email was on fire, my calendar was bleeding at least three shades of ink, my blood pressure was through the roof, and my phone was blowing up (in my case, literally). I was just two bad decisions away from becoming another post office gunman. When the engine fired up the first time that morning and I heard the wicked lope of that Big Mutha Thumpr COMP cam, it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
As I listened to the hypnotizing thrum of the 400-inch small-block ricochet off the rocks, I regained some perspective. I had just come from the world's most awesome automotive spectacle—the SEMA Show in Las Vegas—and I was now headed to the Goodguys Autocross Finals in beautiful Scottsdale. The country's fastest and most agile muscle cars would be there letting it all hang out for $10,000 in prize money, and I had a front row seat to both—and to think I was getting paid to see it all. Suddenly, I felt like an ungrateful asshole. I'm the last guy who should be complaining. There were still hundreds of poor cubicle workers back in the office who couldn't escape.
In the coming weeks, the schedule doesn't get any easier for me—but I will gladly suffer through mind-numbing quantities of email, impossibly short copy deadlines, new corporate edicts, software that doesn't work, and training videos that make my eyes glaze over, just to get to the next moment like this. In the end, this isn't a job, it's an adventure that you just can't beat, and I'm glad you're along for the ride.