Friday, June 28, 2013

All by myself... The Car Game

It's a big country. If you have never driven across the United States it's hard to explain facing a wide, broad valley in the middle of Nevada or Wyoming, the highway ahead disappearing over a ridge miles in the distance. It can be lonely, but it can also be invigorating. A chance to drive, see, and think all melded together... along with a chance to sit nearly motionless for hours, and that is always fun.

I've driven cross-country alone four or five times, twice from nearly coast to coast. But I built up to it. My parents twice circumnavigated the U.S. from California to Florida, up the the East Coast and then returning west. The first time they took me along in the VW bus and a few years later they drug my sister Kelly and me along in the dungeon that was the back seat of the Ford Falcon station wagon. In college I made a few long drives of 350 miles or more. So when it came time to begin my Army career and drive to Fort Knox, Kentucky from California, I was ready.

And after a couple of hours crossing Nevada en route to my first stop in Salt Lake City I was bored out of my mind. Music helped, but I would have needed a trailer to carry enough cassettes to cross the country in 1985. The "license plate game" is for children, I needed something else. So was born the Car Game.

Here is how it works: First, choose a car from those you see around you, any car. Then, over the next hours or days, you trade up. Say you start with a Toyota Camry. A few miles later you see a Jeep Wrangler. Maybe you would rather be bouncing along in a Jeep than quietly gliding along in the Toyota. So you trade up. And so it goes, changing cars, looking for opportunity. It is a game you can forget about and return to anytime. I will admit it is a bit trickier to play at night.

Getting started: I would go with the HUMMER here... or maybe the
blue Toyota pickup. Hope something better comes along quick! 

If you are a car enthusiast this can occupy hours. It also forces you into real choices: found a nice Audi A6 but then you spot an old 240Z... do you change? Practicality vs. style; performance vs. comfort, etc., etc.

I taught my car crazy daughter Anna the game and she developed a two-player version. Here you announce what you are driving, trying to one-up the other player. And in a nasty variation, she also added relegation! One moment you have settled in to a nice Mercedes, the next minute the other player puts you in a rusty '88 Hyundai Excel wagon with a Baby on Board window cling. Dump trucks are her particular favorite.

Anna and her husband now live in New York and recently drove down to North Carolina for a visit. Along the way we played a new variation of the game, by text message!

Yes, that is a dilapidated, rusty Ford Pinto on a flatbed trailer. She is without mercy. Of course I put her in a dusty beige minivan a few minutes earlier.  I guess I started it.

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