Take my Husband (for a drive). Please.
My grandparents used to go on Sunday drives, which I never understood. I mean I get driving aimlessly if you live near Skyline Drive in Virginia or the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, but a Sunday drive in Trenton, New Jersey? Not so breathtaking. Unless shuttered dry cleaners and abandoned tire stores take your breath away in which case, get off at Exit 7A on the New Jersey Turnpike and knock yourself out.
So when the good folks at Honda North America invited me and my darling husband – known far and wide as “Poor Larry” because in addition to being my soul mate, he is my Number One source of comedy- to test-drive the 2015 Acura TLX I was a little nervous. Not because of the driving. I LOVE driving. And I pride myself on my exquisite passenger skills. I always have a tote full of plums, bottled water and Purell which I happily share with my driver. I also have excellent observational skills and gladly point out Billboard typos, roadside stands selling anything edible and cows. Because I was once told cows stand with their butts to the wind and lie down when it’s going to rain, another of my passengerial skills includes cow-based weather reports.
But driving with Poor Larry? If it’s longer than 20 minutes and there isn’t a meal or at least frozen yogurt as the destination, we have problems. I tell him the route he’s driving has 30% more traffic lights than the route I suggested. He tells me that I’m driving too close to the car in front of me. I tell him he ran a red light, which he contends turned red when he was midway through. He randomly screams: “Watch out, there’s a cop!” as if I’m driving with a car full of heroin instead of toilet paper from Costco. Like that.
The TLX test drive put PL (Poor Larry) and me together for a full day of driving through the beautiful countryside of what is confusingly called the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. What could possibly go wrong?
The day was planned like a car rally with a specific route for us to navigate. Things like: “Go 0.9 miles and turn left at the second unmarked road. If you see a Stop sign, you’ve gone too far.” And “Loop 4.625 miles around Cheboygan State Park. Bear slightly right at the ridge or you’ll end up in on a ferry to Mackinaw Island where you’ll have to stay forever because they have spotty cell service.”
The morning of the rally, I discovered that the majority of the automotive press – meaning everyone but me – loves these drives. They eagerly decide who’ll drive the first leg and who’ll navigate: it’s like Christmas morning for gear heads.
We decided that PL would drive first because I wanted to look out the window and check local real estate prices on Zillow. After a bit, he asked me when our first turn was and I realized I hadn’t been paying any attention – although I did find a darling vacation cabin with 3 bedroom/2.5 baths and a private boat slip that was a steal.
I thumbed through Acura’s rally book – such pretty pictures! – but when it came to actually reading the directions, my stomach flipped and I started feeling woozy. PL kept saying: “Where do we turn? Are we lost?” while I hung my head out the window and tried to focus on the horizon. PL weighed his enormous enjoyment being behind the wheel against pulling up to the first Official Check Point with a wife and passenger seat plastered with sick and decided to pull over. Now he was the navigator and I was the driver.
By some miracle, PL was able to decipher the Rally Book or, as he said: “Read.” Everything was going along swimmingly. He was telling me how the combustion engine works and I was watching “Dirty Dancing” in my head when I thought I heard him say something that sounded like “Left turn ahead. Turn left at the next corner. Turn left now. YOU MISSED THE LEFT TURN!” “Oh,” I thought: “I’m supposed to turn left“ so I did, without the benefit of braking. For a second it really looked like we were headed into the trees but three cheers for the TLX! I made the turn and we were back on course. PL’s pulse returned to normal in 5 minutes, give or take.
PL was feeling a tad on the queasy side himself, allegedly because my driving was “all over the place” which it SO wasn’t; I was just pretending I was driving a getaway car on a TV show, you know, where the driver keeps turning the wheel back and forth while the background stays the same.
It was time to trade again. We pulled up to a particularly scenic spot where lots of our fellow drivers were also parked. PL announced that this where Acura suggested we take pictures. I thought “Great idea!” and took many selfies – Surprised! Pensive! Alluring! – until I realized that everyone else was taking pictures of their cars. My bad.
After about 4 hours and only 7 actual fights (the rest were spats, disagreements and quarrels), PL and I pulled into our lunch destination. It was a quaint Inn on a beautiful bay where we caught up with our fellow drivers and where I ate my weight in chocolate mousse. Who knew that driving worked up such an appetite?
Everyone was paging through the afternoon’s route; it was to be 4 ½ hours through lush farmland and around crystal-clear lakes. PL and I knew it would be the trip of a lifetime. We also knew how good a nap would be, and “hotel nap” SO trumped “America the Beautiful.” We got on an uninteresting highway and made it back to the hotel in no time. We made a pact that if anyone asked, we’d lie and say the reason no one saw us drive up is that we came the back way. And then we prayed that there WAS a back way.
That night at dinner, a few folks commented on how refreshed I looked. I told them that there was nothing as exhilarating as 8 hours behind the wheel with my husband. And then I turned my head so none of them would see the giant pillow crease across my cheek.