Planes are for the faint-hearted. I drive. Even when going long distance. Being alone in the car is clearly an advantage. Join me on a drive by night over the mountains to Oslo, and you will understand why.
The last ferry from Dragsvik leaves at 01.25. It suits me well; better to make an early start than going to bed, are my thoughts when I am planning a trip to Oslo. My growing expectations reminds me of planning this summer’s vacation on Autohahn.
Expectations are kind of like a bouquet of flowers. The composition and color scheme right now, in midwinter Norway, differ quite a bit from those prior to a summer vacation with the family along free speed roads. This time it is not about driving fast, it goes without saying that I take the traffic signs into account.
The first feeling sneaking up on me as I buckle up in my well known 320d, rolling out of Høyanger at a comfortable speed, is one of luxury. Indeed, my F31’s leather wrapped dashboard and first rate sports seats probably contribute to this feeling, but first and foremost it’s the appealing possibility of something very rare to most parents of small children: Time alone.
The feeling is close to sacral driving through the 8 km tunnel out of Høyanger, and I pick what might be my weirdest music from the car’s hard disk: Bach’s mass in b minor, recorded by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Baroque choir music combined by tunnel lights flickering through the car’s panoramic roof leave an almost psychedelic impression.
The winding road along the Sognefjord makes it both fun and demanding to pick up speed if you are late for the ferry. Which I am not, so I fall into a comfortable pace. Rarely touching the brake before a bend, just gliding effortlessly through. I don’t even consider using the Sport mode for more throttle response, the motor’s torque effectively pushes me on, anyway.
The only living being I meet for the first miles is a wild goat, suddenly occurring in the middle of a curve. Even if I am in the midst of a mental bubble only containing Bach and BMW, the goat is never in any real danger. Being focused on the very act of driving the way I am, my response time is, in my opinion, impeccable.
Bach’s mass lasts me until I reach the Hemsedal Mountain. I turn off the stereo system. The thermometer shows zero degrees Celsius as I start mounting, snow and ice occurring in the road here and there. Turning into Sport mode, it feels as if I shift mode along with the car.
It is not about crossing the mountain as fast as possible, strictly speaking I am ahead of schedule. It is more like a modernist approach to the art of driving. Literary modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Wolf discarded the conventional plot in their stories, being more concerned with exploring how than explaining why.
Likewise, I don’t care about the time of arrival. I care about how. I feel how the front wheels are searching for traction entering the serpentine curves, enjoying the feeling of the car coming alive. To the BMW-purists out there, believing rear wheel drive and hydraulic steering servo is the only way to a driver’s bliss: The feeling of steering is not dead, even in a F31 xDrive.
The automatic transmission enjoyably chooses the correct gear in Sport mode, and the rear plays along splendidly when I accelerate from the middle of each curve. For a short while, I consider Sport+ to be able to go more sideways, but reconsider. I find balancing on the edge of slipping more in accordance with the atmosphere of the night, avoiding the blinking of the yellow lamp.
Actually, the climb up the mountain is a little on the short side. Or more precisely: The straight parts are too long at the expense of good curves. All the more important to fully enjoy the curves that are there.
Up on the mountain I switch back to Comfort. Rather to be able to meet new challenges I face, than to relax. Even if this is a year without much snow, the snow cowered road is polished and slippery and there is blowing snow. Speed must be adjusted according to visibility and before entering curves. The lampposts in the middle of the mountain are helpful, and I sort of enter a flow zone. I find myself having fun, even now.
The moon comes out as I approach Hemsedal, and I feel I have acquired a new understanding for a man like the Norwegian explorer Lars Monsen. Obviously not the physical challenges he puts himself through, I sit comfortably enough in a heated car. The longing, however, that I believe must drive him, is something I too feel.
There is something about taking time, being in the moment, undisturbed, in this time and age when experiences are supposed to be shared immediately. I think to myself, that for my part, and probably for Monsen’s part, too, mastering challenges is like an acoustic amplifier.
Therefore, a drive through Hallingdal at night, is more than efficient transportation. Driving the car demands my full attention, as I must take both road conditions and obstacles like wild animals into account. Simultaneously, it gives me time to think. Long thoughts. Thoughts that I seldom think, emerge in my mind. It is like playing slow chords on my own emotional sound box.
My 320d comes close to being the perfect vehicle for this mental journey. Having driven the new 5 Series, however, there is one thing in particular out of that honey jar one might miss on such a trip: The suspension. I usually like my F31 being firm, reacting promptly. Now, bad bumps in the road cause a great deal of motion to the car. A 520d would be considerably more comfortable under these conditions.
At daybreak, traffic is increasing. With it, the unique mood I have made an attempt at describing to you, gradually disappears, and I turn on the radio. The night show is succeeded by the morning show. Even so, long-term memories like this one occur:
I am young, eagerly learning how to drive with my old man in the passenger seat, when he says: “Well, boy, one day even you will get tired of driving.” I firmly deny this. I don’t remember whether we made a bet or not. If we did, I could certainly claim my victory by now. It is not that I haven’t put myself to the test, this four hundred-kilometer drive through the night is nothing compared to other excursions I have made by car. But no. I never get tired of driving.
Being stuck in traffic jam in Sandvika, on the outskirts of Oslo, definitely confirms this. I used to live here while working in Nydalen, so I have been in this situation numerous times before. Consequently, I am familiar with the ill feelings rush hour can stir in a driver. You would think a night spent in the car the way I just have, would make me both tired and grumpy, but I don’t experience any of those feelings now. I take in the beautiful sunrise above the Oslo fjord, oblivious to the jammed traffic and the road salt sprinkling my car.
How many other drivers in this jam have this focus? To my mind, this exemplifies the importance of mental focus. Both images are right there, appearing through your windshield at the same time. It is your choice which one to take in.
The bottom line is, after approximately six hours driving through the night, I am not overjoyed to finally get out of the car. On the contrary, I am grateful for the experience. Would I trade it for an hour in a plane? Never! Is a future world with Elon Musk’s idea of a hyperloop that might have catapulted me from Høyanger to Oslo in 20 minutes a tempting thought?
No. For my part, this kind of journey has value in itself. I am happy to invest time in my car. Others might spend the same amount of time at coaching in mindfulness.
Story by www.blaahvitblogg.no