It was a perfect hot August summer night. My foot was pressed flat on the accelerator of a small green Italian sports car. I was too scared to look at the speedometer to see how fast I was driving, convertible top down to the open air, wind ripping my hair, summer music blasting on the radio. I was 16 and learning how to drive.
The car belonged to David, an 18-year old guy I met who was teaching ice-skating at an outdoor rink in Center City Philadelphia the winter before (just a friend, but a good one).
I grew up in Medford Lakes, New Jersey, a lovely, wooded lake-filled village with no sidewalks 20 miles east of Philadelphia. We were about an hour from the Jersey shore.
We locals knew better than to take the highway to get there. We had the coolest back roads, absolutely nothing on them except for the New Jersey Pine Barrens which are miles and miles of endless pine trees. No street lights, no houses, no stores, no buildings, no nothing.
The only “town” between Medford Lakes and the shore was a hamlet called Chatsworth (population hardly anybody except for some hermits living in the woods).
Except for a left turn at Chatsworth, it was a straight shot to the shore. Straight road 17 miles to Chatsworth, turn left and then another straight road for 32 miles with nothing to see but pine trees will get you to Long Beach Island, which is where I was headed.
Best driving back roads in the world.
It was a road that was most likely to be completely deserted at night.
David drove us to a spot where no one was around, got out and had us switch places so I was in the driver’s seat. He showed me the accelerator and the brake and taught me nothing about shifting gears. He said, “Just put your foot on the clutch when I tell you to and I’ll do the shifting.”
Easiest lesson I’ve ever had. When he got us into high gear he told me, “Okay, now go for it. Floor it.”
I knew what he meant and I did.
It was pure high school crazy freedom. And it felt so good.
I was thinking about it today, when I was thinking about what a wonderful sensation it is to do something completely unleashed. To be wild, to be free.
There’s still something inside me that refuses to be tamed. Feels so good.
I hope you too have something inside of you that refuses to be tamed and feels so good. Something wild. Something free.